Library of mariachi images vast, growing

•August 7, 2016 • Leave a Comment
Father Charles Rourke and Los Changuitos Feos

Father Charles Rourke and Los Changuitos Feos

Click image to enlarge

The catalog and category features of Adobe Lightroom are among my go-to tools.

Every input added to the still imagery collection is broken down into individual categories. The system is highly versatile, so the same image can fit several categories.

For example, a particular panoramic assemblage might be added to the landscape, panorama, desert, sky and weather categories. And so it can be easily found under each.

Maya Arce of Tucson High School's Mariachi Rayos Del Sol performs at the 2015 Tucson International Mariachi Conference.

Maya Arce of Tucson High School’s Mariachi Rayos Del Sol performs at the 2015 Tucson International Mariachi Conference.

Images appear sequentially by when they were shot. This is particularly helpful when I have several cameras on tripods shooting the same action simultaneously. It’s easy to find multiple angles of the same moment in Lightroom.

Another handy feature is a cumulative number letting the user know exactly how many images are in each category. It’s not something I look at often but recently it caught my eye on the mariachi and folklórico dance category. Having shot for years, and voluminously adding to that collection as I work on The Mariachi Miracle I suspected it was growing rapidly. But even I wasn’t prepared to discover that the collection was now in excess of 123,000 images.

They start, as one might expect, with photos of the early members of Los Changuitos Feos from the 1960s, and end with shots I took last week at the Pueblo High School mariachi summer camp.

MY Music mariachi summer camp

MY Music mariachi summer camp

Like everything else in Lightroom they can be subdivided, allowing me to easily catagorize mariachi and folklorico content from historic, professional, student, private group, school group, festival and conference, rehearsal and other sources. Even a “favorites” sub-category will make finding the best images a snap. This will be key in work for The Mariachi Miracle film and book.

Ballet Folklorico Tapatio

Ballet Folklorico Tapatio

Clicking on an individual images pulls up its name, appended metadata, what hard drive and folder it’s located in and other important information. And if it needs some adjustment, most of what I’d need to do can be accomplished right there in Lightroom without opening Photoshop.

Pretty powerful stuff.

After The Mariachi Miracle project is complete, copies of the photos that I have shot will be turned over to the Arizona Historical Society and to the University of Arizona Library Special Collections division so that others can consider them for use in their projects, and as a historical body of photography. Arrangements will be made at that time to facilitate the permissible uses, fees, etc. for these images.

Perfect light, reflective pools make mural shot glow

•August 6, 2016 • Leave a Comment
Goddess of Agave - mural by Cyfi Rock Martinez, c/o Tucson Arts Brigade

Goddess of Agave – mural by Cyfi Rock Martinez, c/o Tucson Arts Brigade

Click image to enlarge

The first time I saw CyFi Rock Martinez’ mural Godess of Agave at sunset I knew a very special time would come to photograph it.

Created on the west-facing giant fascade of the old Tucson warehouse and Storage building, this epic artwork absolutely glows in the “golden hour” light near sundown.

In summer it is particularly luminous.

Long before Rock started work on this giant canvas I noticed a wonderful feature of the parking lot just west of the building.

There are amorphous divets in the concrete that are beautiful in and of themselves.

concrete-puddle_DSC5089-sw-dbaI first photographed them about three years back, partly filled with rain water, when I parked there one afternoon to shoot stills of people preparing for Tucson’s All Souls Procession.

The minute I got out of the car i glanced down and had to stop to photograph them.

And though my back was killing me by the time I returned to my car – the spoils of a herniated disc – I felt obliged to shoot more of them in the dying light.

About a year back I returned after another monsoon rainstorm, and that night the sky lit up.

Sunset-reflection_DSC3294-sw-dbaI had gone primarily looking for a wide view of the sunset but discovered that the depressions made for beautiful irregular mirror surfaces, reflecting the colors of the setting sun.

In early June I found myself back in that parking lot again, this time with the mural finished and signed.

I’d already shot it fairly recently so I passed for that moment. But right then the idea of a post-monsoon portrait of the mural was hatched.

It took until the second of August for the ingredients to come together.

But early that evening, after repeated storms during the day, I thought it might be worth a trip back.

The clouds were still pretty thick when I first arrived. I wasn’t sure the warm glow I was looking for would happen. But the puddles were large and numerous.

I parked by the dirt on the south side of the lot and walked around, checking out the various reflection points before setting up the tripod and camera.

mural-front-water_DSC8835-sw-dbaI was so excited at what I was seeing that I skipped from puddle to puddle at first, not really focusing on the larger composition. I was just enthralled at the random revealing qualities of the puddles.

Suddenly the sunlight poked through below the clouds, flooding the mural with a golden glow.

I knew it wasn’t going to last long so I moved to a few different locations, making careful exposures and moving along quickly. At times the tripod wasn’t perfectly level. I was in a hurry. Too much so, in retrospect. Thankfully that could be fixed in post.

But near the end of the glowing moment I managed to get the composition pretty close to the way I’d envisioned it, with the eyes of the goddess in reflection, along with the tree immediately to the south of the mural. Lush and green from the recent rain, it made the perfect color complement to the predominantly orange colors of the mural.

Mural-front-ripple_DSC8816-sw-dbaAfter the glowing moment was over I continued shooting in various reflection points, sometimes tossing a pebble into the water to create ripples and distort the reflected image.

Eventually I turned my camera around and shot a few of the sunset and the passing train. But I was so excited that i left before the big red glow bloomed after sunset.

Oh well. I’d caught my quota of light for the day.

The Mariachi Miracle has a new home

•April 20, 2016 • Leave a Comment

MM-TMY-banner_DSC5984-swDaniel Buckley’s film and book project, The Mariachi Miracle, now has its own website!

Click here to reach www.mariachimiracle.com

Artists of Arizona and America unite!

•March 2, 2016 • Leave a Comment

Gov Arts w Ira, ChristinaArtists, musicians and everyone involved in the arts. The Arizona Governor’s Arts Awards are coming up later this month. Last year our governor showed up and spoke of how important the arts are to Arizona – this after slashing arts funding from his budget. There is no sign of arts funding in this year’s governor’s budget either, and so it is time for us to remind our governor, our legislature and every other elected official that we are voters, we are educators, we are the creative forces that drive tourism as much as the natural beauty of the state.

Artists in education develop the kind of critical thinking and relational understanding that is fundamental to developing young minds in science and mathematics, and ultimately in building the 21st century skills an Arizona worksforce will need to attract the kind of high paying jobs our leaders give lip service to trying to attract, but do so little to fundamentally ensure that they can be obtained. The arts are what drives downtown’s revitalization.

We have power as a voting block. Demand of your elected leaders that they recognize this and restore funding to the arts and arts education at every level of government in our state and our nation.

Get behind our elected officials who support the arts, arts education and public education. Put the feet to the fire of those who do not. Your vote matters, and ours collectively matter a lot. There is something all of us can do. Vote! Send emails! Make phone calls! Make some noise! Do not quietly accept what elected officials do!

Artists, artist educators and educators in general unite! It is time for fundamental change.

– Daniel Buckley, Artist of the Year, 2014 Arizona Governor’s Arts Awards

Young mariachis cute but so much more

•February 4, 2016 • 1 Comment
Students of Tucson's Davis Elementary School's Mariachi Las Aguilitas watch director Jaime Valenzuela for cues.

Students of Tucson’s Davis Elementary School’s Mariachi Las Aguilitas watch director Jaime CLICK IMAGE TO ENLARGEValenzuela for cues.

CLICK IMAGE TO ENLARGE

Traveling from school to school and private program to private program as I gather footage for The Mariachi Miracle, the words of Los Changuitos Feos founder Father Charles Rourke keep coming back to me – “You can be cute for five minutes, but after that you have to know how to play your instrument.”

No doubt, the little ones in Davis Elementary School’s Mariachi Las Aguilitas are cute as all get out and represent the multicultural tapestry that is Tucson. But watching them dig into some of the most complicated folk orchestra music on the planet, dissecting it, putting it together and making it crackle, is what makes seeing these groups such a thrilling experience.

Davis-players_DSC3139-sw-dbaIn many ways Davis and the other elementary school programs that feature mariachi programs are the incubators, and you can often guess which kids went through these programs, just by how prepared they are musically, as they progress through the grades. Watching Jaime Valenzuela work patiently with 100 small kids, keeping them focused, demanding of them in an inspirational way, and helping them develop the tools to solve each musical problem that comes along, is simply inspirational.

Clearly this is not a chore to these young kids. They love it. The more challenging the piece, the more they rise to it. They are confident, outgoing and expressive. And clearly they are motivated and engaged.

Jaime Valenzuela leads Mariachi Las Aguilitas de Davis Bilingual Elementary in concert.

Jaime Valenzuela leads Mariachi Las Aguilitas de Davis Bilingual Elementary in concert.

Mariachi Las Aguilitas was begun many years back by beloved teacher Alfredo Valenzuela. His work in creating the program earned him an honorary doctorate from the University of Arizona. Following the retirement of Dr. V., his son, Jaime ably took over the program.

The Valenzuela family mariachi educational dynasty continues with Jaime’s siblings Rudy and Myrna Salinas, who teach at Roskruge Middle School and Summit View Elementary School, respectively. I’ll be filming their programs at work in the weeks ahead.

Alfredo Valenzuela, aka Dr. V, tunes violins at a Christmas performance by Mariachi Las Aguilitas de Davis Elementary at the University of Arizona.

Alfredo Valenzuela, aka Dr. V, tunes violins at a Christmas performance by Mariachi Las Aguilitas de Davis Elementary at the University of Arizona.

And Dr. V is typically not far when any of these young groups perform, pitching in to tune instruments, encourage the young players and cheer them on wherever they appear.

God knows how many thousands of young mariachi students have come up through the Davis ranks. The work continues much as it always has, with hard work that builds teamwork, discipline, confidence and so much more.

Richard and Reuben Carranza with Dr. V in the 1980s.

Richard and Reuben Carranza with Dr. V in the 1980s.

All of those who came up through the Aguilitas ranks will tell you that it was a transformative experience in their lives that gave them skills they use well into adulthood. Doctors, lawyers, captains of industry, educators, musicians, scientists, engineers and more all credit the boost that sent them off to do great things to these youth mariachi programs. Brothers Reuben and Richard Carranza, pictured to the right with Dr. V from the days when they arrived at Davis speaking no English, went on to become Group President: R+Co & V76 Luxury Brand Partners and Superintendent of Schools for the San Francisco school district, respectively.

Beginning violins at Davis

Beginning violins at Davis – the next genration of Aguilitas.

And the music making and skill building continues, not just with those in the current Agulitas group but in the beginners classes that wait in the wings for their chance.

Daniel Buckley in the media

•October 2, 2015 • Leave a Comment

 

2015

Daniel Buckley, photo courtesy of Arizona Daily Star.

Daniel Buckley, photo courtesy of Arizona Daily Star.

• Stories from Dan Buckley, Tucson Renaissance Man (The Tucson Edge, October 2015)

• Neto’s Tucson: The Mariachi Miracle of our town (Arizona Daily Star, June 2015)

• Dinky Reunion: Little Dinks (Tucson Weekly, August 2015)

• Mariachi Madness (Tucson Weekly, June 2015)

• Marathon concert to boost ‘Mariachi Miracle’ documentary (Tucson Sentinel, June 2015)

• Desde Tucsón: Mr. Buckley, una autoridad en el mundo del mariachi (Arizona Daily Star, June 2015)

• The Mariachi Miracle – Documentary film (KGUN9, June 2015)

• Mariachi Alegre De Tucson – Tucson International Mariachi and Daniel Buckley! (Tucson International Mariachi Conference website, March 2015)

• Editor’s Note: Documenting Our History (Tucson Weekly, June 2015)

 

Buckley talks about The Mariachi Miracle, KUAT Arizona Illustrated

Buckley talks about The Mariachi Miracle, KUAT Arizona Illustrated

2014

• Semillas Mariachi Los Changuitos Feos de Tucson celebrates 50 years and the mariachi movement (Tucson Weekley, August 2014)

• The Mariachi Miracle (Arizona Public Media radio, August 2014)

• Tucson Throwback Thursday: Daniel Buckley and Dolly Parton (Tucson Weekly, July 2014)

• AZ Illustrated Arts: Thursday, May 22, 2014 ARTS ROUNDTABLE: Is there a war on art? A discussion with three local guests about the perception that cuts to arts education and funding are symptoms of a cultural “war on art.” (Arizona Public Media television, May 2014)

• Why Does Art Matter in Tucson? (Arizona Public Media, May 2014)

• Daniel Buckley: Cutting funding for the arts in Tucson is bad for business  by Daniel Buckley (Arizona Daily Star guest opinion, April, 2014)

• Governor’s Arts Awards (AZ Red Book.com, April, 2014)

• Three of six Governor’s Arts Awards go to Tucson (Arizona Daily Star, April 2014)

Daniel Buckley’s Governor’s Arts Awards “Artist of the Year” Acceptance Speech (Video, March 2014)

Daniel Buckley gives acceptance speech at Governor's Arts Awards.

Daniel Buckley gives acceptance speech at Governor’s Arts Awards.

• Daniel Buckley and UA Poetry Center Recognized at Governor’s Arts Awards (Tucson Weekly, April, 2014)

• Kickstarter: La patada de la suerte en Internet (Tucson Weekly, February, 2014)

• Y, JANUARY 9, 2014DO THIS! La Fashionista Showcases Local Artists on Second Saturday (Tucson Weekley, February 2014)

• Tucson Favorites Los Lobos Dissolve the Age Barrier (Tucson Weekly, April, 2014)

• R.I.P Ralph Gonzalez (Tucson Weekly, March 2014)

• A Worthwhile GoFundMe Campaign for Ballet Folklórico Tapatío (Tucson Weekly, August 2014)

 

2013:

• All Souls Procession 2013 (YouTube)

• The Power of the Crowd: Business borrowing crowdfunding idea from arts, but will SEC rules ruin it? (Tucson Business, Novemeber 2013)

• “Why Linda Ronstadt Still Matters to Tucson” by Daniel Buckley (Tucson Weekly, September 2013)

• J.C. Scott: Filmmaker facing funding deadline for mariachi documentary (John C. Scott radio show, June, 2013)

• Dan Buckley wants to Kickstart mariachi documentary (Tucson Sentinel, June 2013)

Buckley talks about El Casino film at Confluence Center Show & Tell

Buckley talks about El Casino film at Confluence Center Show & Tell

• Documentaries and Community Service: Dan Buckley at TEDx Tucson – YouTube, May 2013)

• Buckley: My first and last days at the Tucson Citizen | Guest opinion (Tucson Senyinel, May 2013)

• The Big Ask (Tucson Weekly, April, 2013)

• Arizona International Film Festival : Tucsons Heart and Soul: El Casino Ballroom (Arizona International Film Festival, March 2013)

• Show & Tell @ Playground: Tucson’s Heart and Soul: El Casino Ballroom | Confluencenter for Creative Inquiry (University of Arizona Confluence Center, March, 2013)

• Every Little Bit (Tucson Weekly, December 2013)

• Cowboys and Vaqueros: A Multi-Cultural Event (Tucson Weekly, June 2013)

 

Producer Daniel Buckley

Producer Daniel Buckley

2012:

• Video: Tucson history: El Casino Ballroom (Arizona Daily Star/Starnet, 2012)

• ‘Tucson’s Heart and Soul’: El Casino Ballroom Re-Debuts ‘Fiesta El Casino’ | The Range: The Tucson Weekly’s Daily Dispatch (Tucson Weekly, December 2012)

• Tucson’s First Family of Music | Tucson Area Music Awards | Tucson Weekly by Daniel Buckley (Tucson Weekly, September, 2012)

• El Casino film screens Saturday (Arizona Daily Star, December 2012)

• “Espectacular concert lives up to its name despite audience’s odd lack of enthusiasm” by Daniel Buckley (Arizona Daily Star, April, 2012)

• El Casino Ballroom in Limelight – (Arizona Public Media, November, 2012)

• Documentary features historic and colorful El Casino Ballroom (Arizona Daily Star, June 2012)

• A Beautiful Tucson Sunday: Documentary and Acosta Encuentro | The Range: The Tucson Weekly’s Daily Dispatch (August 2012)

• T Q&A | T Q&A | Tucson Weekly Daniel Buckley (Tucson Weekly, May, 2010)

 

Write in Daniel Buckley for Tucson Mayor

Write in Daniel Buckley for Tucson Mayor

2011:

• ‘Hello Gabby! Well, Hello Gabby!’ | The Range: The Tucson Weekly’s Daily Dispatch (Tucson Weekly, February, 2011)

• The Skinny | The Skinny | Tucson Weekly Daniel Buckley for Mayor (Tucson Weekly, August 2011)

• Back to the Barrio (Tucson Weekly, June 2011)

• Martinez v. Huppenthal: Can We Say ‘Ass Whooping’? (Tucson Weekly, January 2011)

 

2010:

• BACK TO CLUB CONGRESS’ ROOTS (Tucson Weekly, October 2010)

• Blind Lemon Pledge gets the dust off (Tucson Weekly, October, 2010)

Daniel Buckley (center) with Associate Producers Ralph Gonzalez and Julie Gallego

Daniel Buckley (center) with Associate Producers Ralph Gonzalez and Julie Gallego

• Counter Club: ‘Relive the Strange and Potent Magic!’ | The Range: The Tucson Weekly’s Daily Dispatch (October 2010)

• 2nd Saturday: Concert Honoring Cele Peterson | The Range: The Tucson Weekly’s Daily Dispatch (Tucson Weekly, August 2010)

• Festival en el Barrio Viejo: A Barrio Exorcism (Tucson Weekly, April, 2010)

Mariachi Miracle video samples

•September 24, 2015 • Leave a Comment

The Mariachi Miracle is currently in production.

Here are several sample clips to illustrate some of the material being gathered in this project:

The Mariachi Miracle is a book/film project, currently in production, tracing the impact of youth mariachis on the social, political, artistic, economic and educational landscape of America. The film focuses on Tucson, Arizona as an example of these trends and shows how the city has been transformed in the 50 years since its first youth mariachi, Los Changuitos Feos, came into being. The film is being produced and directed by former Tucson Citizen journalist turned documentary maker Daniel Buckley, and is the 6th in his Cine Plaza at the Fox documentary film series. A sneak preview of he film will be shown at Tucson’s Fox Theatre in April, 2017. For more go to http://www.danielbuckleyarts.com .

 

 

 

This 4 minute teaser for the documentary film, “The Mariachi Miracle,” now in production, focuses on the creation of Tucson’s Mariachi Aztlán de Pueblo High School, and how that group became transformational for both the students who played in the group and the man who created it, Richard Carranza. Carranza currently is Superintenent of Schools in the San Francisco School District, and credits his decision to become a school administator to the creation of Mariachi Aztlán. For more on the film go to http://www.danielbuckleyarts.com or look up The Mariachi Miracle on Facebook.

 

 

 

Early members of Mariachi Los Changuitos Feos Jerry Gay, Frank Felix and Bob Gastellum discuss how their time in the group impacted their life’s work. Felix would go on to become the youngest state senator in Arizona history and a vice president at the University of Arizona. Gay would become an aerospace engineer and was part of the team that designed the Hubble Space Telescope. Gastellum became a teacher and financial consultant, and head of the Elisa Gastellum Foundation. The clips are from Daniel Buckley’s documentary The Mariachi Miracle, now in production, which will be released in spring of 2016. This vignette debuted at the 50th anniversary concert of America’s first youth mariachi, Los Changuitos Feos de Tucson, Az.

Founded in 1964 by Father Charles Rourke – a jazz pianist – as a CYO program intended to connect Mexican American youth with their culture, the grup has now gone through 13 generations of players and given away nearly half a million dollars in college scholarship funds. You can lean more about the group at http://www.loschanguitosfeos.org.

 

 

 

San Francisco Unified School District Superintendent of Schools Richard Carranza talks about his meeting in March 2015 with President Obama to discuss education policies, and how being a mariachi from childhood helped prepare him to advocate confidently for English Language Learners, arts education and more. The interview was conducted for Daniel Bucley’s film and book “The Mariachi Miracle,” currently in production for an April, 2016 release.

 

 

The Tucson International Mariachi Conference becomes the site where singer Linda Ronstadt fulfills a childhood dream, and in turn inspires a generation of young mariachi students. Linda Ronstadt shares her story, along with commentary from Becky Montano and Richard Carranza.

 

 

The 2015 Tucson International Mariachi Conference was dedicated to the late Nati Cano, leader of Mariachi Los Camperos de Nati Cano. For roughly 25 year Cano lead the workshops at the conference, building an unshakeable bond with his students in the workshops, and with his partners on the stage. Here is a short reel of Nati in his own words describing what is most important to him.

 

 

A quick look at the Mariachi Aztlan de Pueblo High School (Tucson, Az) visit to the San Francisco Unified School District.

 

 

Monica Treviño performs “Ave Maria” at the funeral of Armando C. Gonzales. Mr. Gonzales was a beloved figure in the mariachi and folklorico communities of Tucson, Arizona and beyond. For over two decades he was the stage manager of the Tucson International Mariachi Conference. His funeral was held at San Augustine Cathedral in Tucson January 29, 2015.

 

 

The traditional Mexican “corrido” is a ballad – a story song, typically taken from real events. Backed by Mariachi Sonido de Mexico, Tucson’s Ballet Folklorico Tapatio takes on “El Corrido de Rosita Alvirez,” bringing the corrido to visual life. This excerpt was shot at the group’s 17th anniversary show at Pima Community College West Center for the Arts, 11/07/14.

Esta Es Mi Ciudad series continues

•September 3, 2015 • Leave a Comment
Maya Arce performs

Maya Arce performs

CLICK IMAGE TO ENLARGE

 

Back in 2013 I formally started a photographic series titled “Esta Es Mi Ciudad” (this is my city).

 

The series is focused on Tucson, Arizona – the city, its landscapes and people, cultural practices, artists and happenings.

 

It was both a means to delving deeper into photographing processes, and a vehicle for celebrating the extraordinary microcosm of the world that is my city.

 

La Casa Cordova

La Casa Cordova

I find myself looking at Tucson in a different way as I go about my daily life. I notice color and light and shadow in ways I never did before. I see things I barely glanced at before and now recognize their importance.

 

I’m not someone who carries a camera with me everywhere I go. I should, but Tucson in summer is a hot experience. Besides, I prefer to make carrying my camera a deliberate and focused act.

 

Cactus-Valley-3252-8-sw-dbaYes I miss many things along the way, but that makes the ones I capture more special.

 

UA Agricultural center

UA Agricultural center

I am now entering my 45th year of life in Tucson. I know the rhythm of the seasons in a general way. Photography teaches you much more about that. You notice the tracking of the sun from month to month, and the way the quality of light changes throughout the year. In summer you practically need a welder’s mask to deal with the intense sunlight. In winter it is more muted.

 

Hotel Congress in fog

Hotel Congress in fog

I try to capture a mix of ordinary and special times. Work I have conducted in conjunction with the Arizona Historical Society, as well as my documentary film work, has made me cognizant that the images I capture will speak to generations to come about what life was like in Tucson. Even in a couple of years, shots of the same street tell a story of how the city is evolving.

 

The photos also become a chronicle of my personal and artistic evolution. Older photos are worse than the ones I create now. And those that I create now are not as good as the ones I will create in years ahead.

 

Sometimes I return to an older image with new tools in the hip pocket to fix some of their flaws.

 

Cowboy-statue-DT_DSC4040-sw-dbaI never capture all of the changes my city is undergoing, nor would I want to try. There are many photographers in Tucson. Collectively we capture a good deal of Tucson’s evolution.

 

Tucson is said to be the longest continuously inhabited place in North America. Vestiges of all of the tribes and nationalities that have called Tucson home still exist. Mistakes have been made in preserving our city’s history, which is part of why photography is so important to current and future generations.

 

 

 

Sunset-UA-PG-6787-06-sw-dbaAt 62 years old, and with a herniated disc, my body doesn’t bound around the way it did in my 20s and 30s. So I have learned to plan more and exercise more care.

 

Finger-Rock-Fire_DSC1977-sw-dbaSummer is an especially wonderful time in Tucson. The monsoon rains create their own light shows, and sometimes spark wild fires that can be seen from many miles away. The desert is lush and green. The iconic saguaro cacti sometimes look like they might pop.

 

Church-sunset_DSC3808-sw-dbaFor desert rats who work in the day or just want to avoid 100-degree-plus temperatures, the nights are pure heaven. Tucson’s network of orange-ish street lamps, institutionalized to benefit astronomical observatories nearby, generate a signature light palette on the streets. In older neighborhoods some of the original street lamps still are found.

 

San Xavier Mission at dusk

San Xavier Mission at dusk

The moody textures of buildings in fading light are always inspiring. And the long exposure times needed to capture them invite ghost elements as people and traffic travel through while the iris is open.

 

One of the things I enjoy most in night shoots is meeting fellow night creatures. Sometimes it’s a homeless man or woman. I always say hello and try to have at least a brief conversation, no matter who passes by. I typically don’t photograph them, but may in the future.

 

Ballet Folklorico Tapatio

Ballet Folklorico Tapatio

My ongoing effort to produce a film about youth mariachis and folklorico dancers, and their impact on our city (titled The Mariachi Miracle), means that I am also capturing a focused slice of imagery related to that cultural phenomenon.

 

Tucson has long had a sizeable Mexican American contingent, dating from the days when the city was part of the Mexican state of Sonora, prior to the Gadsden Purchase, and to Tucson’s Presidio days when it was part of New Spain. The art, architecture, food, music, dance and culture of the Mexican American community is among Tucson’s most attractive features.

 

Saguaros_DSC6063-sw-dbaSimilarly the Tohono O’odham and Pascua Yaqui tribes continue to leave their indelible stamp on the city.

 

Moon-over-hill-dark_DSC8508-sw-dbaIt is early September and already I am seeing a significant body of work, intentional or not, that will find its way into this year’s chapter of Esta Es Mi Ciudad.

 

 

This is a small taste of what the year has presented so far.

 

 

Monsoon saguaros in black and white

•September 2, 2015 • Leave a Comment
When Saguaros Dance with Shiva

When Saguaros Dance with Shiva

CLICK IMAGE TO ENLARGE

 

For old desert rats, the summer monsoons are a religious experience, and the giant saguaro cacti are its priests.

To the Tohono O’odham (desert people) tribe, which predates the arrival of the Spanish and holds the second largest tribal reservation in the United States, the saguaros are ancestors.
Desert-frame_DSC3020-GS-sw-dbaThe are treated with the reverence one typically reserves for one’s ancestors.
Saguaro-sky_DSC3137-GS-sw-dbaThe monsoon rains of summer in the Sonoran Desert mark the beginning of the new year for the O’odham. They gather the fruit of the saguaro cacti using long poles crafted from saguaro ribs and wire. From the fruit they make jams and jellies, and a special ceremonial wine which is drunk over a period of a day or two. After that it spoils in the desert heat. It is considered a cleansing ritual and it will literally clean you out.
The desert in the time of the monsoon is a lush experience. The Sonoran Desert is the wettest desert on earth. The heat can be epic. As the desert floor heats up, air rises, creating a low pressure area that draws moisture in. As the air rises, it cools, and if it reaches the dew point, rain may fall.
Saguaro_DSC3143-sw-dbaIt can yield flash floods as walls of water sweep down canyons, and river beds that are more often than not dry. The associated lightning often sparks wild fires that clear the brush and make for healthier forests in the mountains around the desert floor. These fires in the mountains look like volcanos suddenly erupted.
The rains cool the desert floor, and the sweet smell of creosote fills the air. It is an experience every desert dweller comes to cherish, and the scent is synonymous to falling rain.
Sky_DSC3156-GS-sw-dbaThe cycle starts early in the day. Clouds build to epic towers, particularly above the ridges of the mountains. What start out as isolated islands of clouds by late afternoon have often surged together into a dark mass that blots out the sun. Fierce lightning, rain and sometimes hail erupt as isolated storms sweep across the landscape.
This batch of photos was shot in early afternoon one monsoon day in late August along a two lane state road north of Tucson, Arizona.
Saguaros-monsoon_DSC3015-GS-sw-dbaThe stretch is densely populated with saguaros, some of them up to 50 feet tall.
This particular area is home to many very old saguaros. The older they are, the more arms they produce. The shapes and twists of these cacti seem like the work of a celestial artist.
Growing from the parched earth, arms upstretched toward the sky, they seem to beckon the summer rains.
Though originally shot in color, I have chosen to make most of these images black and white in order to create the illusion that they were shot in moonlight.
Saguaro_DSC3033-GS-sw-dbaI do so to emphasise the magical character of the desert in monsoon time.
Photoshop allows me to manipulate individual colors when converting to black and white. By removing most or all of the cyan and blue I create the jet black portions of the sky.
In some shots, no clouds were included. In others they give the sense of the building torrent to come.
Saguaro-arm_DSC8274-sw-dbaBy using the Photoshop sliders to add emphasis or dampen the amounts of green, yellow, red and magenta in the image during the black and white conversion I am able to lead the eye through the image and create more striking balances.
On the particular late-August day when these were shot, it was over 106 degrees, and quite steamy. Fast as I drank water, I became more dehydrated as the shoot continued. After a couple of hours I called it quits for the day and headed home.
Saguaro-arm_DSC8274-GS-sw-dbaIt has taken days to create these first images, and will likely take weeks and months to get them just they way I want them to be.
These are just starting points toward what will come later.
Saguaros-dance_DSC8229-GS-sw-dbaThe experience teaches me more about how to look at my desert world and envision new photographic possibilities.

Summer fire and monsoon photography

•August 20, 2015 • Leave a Comment
Patagonia looking east, 7:16 p.m. 08/0715

Patagonia looking east, 7:16 p.m. 08/0715

Click image to enlarge:

 

Even as The Mariachi Miracle rolls along with shooting of interviews, select performances and so on, my various photography series have continued.

 

Patagonia lightning 7:44 p.m. 08/07/15

Patagonia lightning 7:44 p.m. 08/07/15

I haven’t gotten a lot of lightning images this summer, but I haven’t really tried either. Typically when the great storms have come I have been occupied with other projects.

 

But we did have a spectacular fire in the Santa Catalina Mountains and I spent some time trying to work out how to shoot such a beast, with mixed success, naturally.

 

Finger Rock Fire, 10:45 p.m., 08/05/15

Finger Rock Fire, 10:45 p.m., 08/05/15

In shooting the fire I worked much the way I do landscape work – big blocks of time punctuated by frequent shooting of the same areas, over and over. The work is about process, and fires are very a transformational subject.

 

Finger Rock Fire 08/06/15 1:15 a.m.

Finger Rock Fire 08/06/15 1:15 a.m.

In the first two hour segment, the fire was building rapidly, and the photos are quite spectacular. It looks like the long dormant fault-block Santa Catalina Mountains suddenly sprung a magma leak and turned into volcanoes.

 

I returned a few hours later, after midnight, and recorded a pulsing phase in which the fire would rhythmically blaze up and calm down.

 

Finger Rock Fire 08/06/15 9:58 a.m.

Finger Rock Fire 08/06/15 9:58 a.m.

By daylight the fire seemed less restless. I photographed isolated curtains of smoke. The rains a couple days later extinguished the blaze.

 

Patagonia 08/07/15 2:58 p.m.

Patagonia 08/07/15 2:58 p.m.

On August 7 I traveled to Patagonia, Arizona to shoot developing storms from the front porch of Adrienne Halpert –  longtime friend and owner of Patagonia’s Globals Arts Gallery. An artist herself, Halpert had her home and studio built on a spectacular piece of land overlooking most of the town and with a stellar view of the surrounding mountains in multiple directions.

 

 

Patagonia 08/07/15 3:43 p.m.

Patagonia 08/07/15
3:43 p.m.

I brought several cameras – a wide-view full frame SLR to shoot the main panoramas of what was transpiring to the north, a broadcast quality video camera to shoot cloud transformations over the Santa Rita mountains, a telephoto-equipped SLR to shoot details and capture panoramas on the eastern horizon (this was the only camera not tripod-mounted) and a GoPro camera shooting video in 4k on the east side.

 

I spent more of the day shooting periodic panoramic shots with the full frame camera, running around in between with the telephoto camera to make other observations. From time to time I would check the two video cameras as well.

 

Patagonia 4:11 p.m.

Patagonia 4:11 p.m.

The heat was a bit much for the GoPro camera and it shut itself down often. I would restart it from time to time, but its role was more of a contingency player in the larger scheme of things. The panoramas and the time lapse broadcast video were the main objectives.

 

Patagonia 4:36 p.m.

Patagonia 4:36 p.m.

From roughly 2:30 to 7:30 p.m. I kept the cameras rolling, stopping sporadically when Adrienne returned from work to visit, help her with a few chores and have dinner. But over the course of the day, serious storms blew in one after the next, gratefully close enough to be easily picked up by the cameras but far enough away to keep the equipment dry. The sky was spectacularly transformational. And the succession of panorama cells captured the evolving sky.

 

Patagonia 5:02 p.m.

Patagonia 5:02 p.m.

I say “panorama cells” because the SLR involved in shooting them doesn’t have a panoramic mode, nor would I use one if it did. The object is always to create huge, detailed panoramas, And the only way to do that is to shoot each frame, left to right, in quick succession to capture a horizon to horizon view, then stich them together later electronically using Photoshop.

 

Patagonia 5:20 p.m.

Patagonia 5:20 p.m.

There are limitations, even within that technique. A Photoshop image is currently  limited to around 8200 pixels in any direction, which yields a pretty healthy composite with a lot of detail but still “throws away” a huge amount of content. Nothing, of course, is actually thrown away. I keep and back up all of the Camera Raw images used to assemble the panoramas.

 

Patagonia 5:53 p.m.

Patagonia 5:53 p.m.

Over time I have developed a particular nomenclature that helps me reference the original source material. The first word in the title is the place it was shot of subject matter. This is followed by the date as a series of six numbers. Thus August 7, 2015 becomes 080715. Next is the four digit camera sequence number of the leftmost cell in the composite. And connected to it is a 2 digit number indicating how many frames were used to create the total panorama.

 

Patagonia 6:12 p.m.

Patagonia 6:12 p.m.

If the framing is wide, it takes fewer frames to create the panorama of the horizon. If the shooting is tight, many more will be needed and the resulting panorama will be long and thin.

 

There are limitations as well in current Photoshop technology for assembling these panoramic composites. The file size of the Photoshop document can’t currently exceed 2 GB. Again, this is part of why I maintain a library of all of the original materials. There will come a time when I may be able to revisit them a create even larger, more detailed images.

 

Patagonia 6:31 p.m.

Patagonia 6:31 p.m.

When I shoot panoramas I mount the camera carefully on a tripod and make sure that it is level. If you don’t, when it comes time to assemble them portions of the composite image will dip and rise, leaving a smaller usable continuous panoramic image area. A level tripod ensures the best margins.

 

 

Patagonia 7:21 p.m.

Patagonia 7:21 p.m.

Once I am ready to shoot, I pan the camera across the horizon, looking through the view finder, and note the intensity of the brightest light is in the succession of shots to be made. I set the camera for that one bright frame in the series and don’t change it for the rest of the shots in that pan. In this way the light is balanced and shows its natural range over the view width.

On days like that particular Saturday I don’t vary the light level much, if at all, over the day’s shooting. I know that as clouds roll in, the images will get darker. And since I want to show how the light is changing over the course of the day, this is how you get it done. All manual controls with consistent levels. Using Camera Raw allows you to bring up the lighting if needed later.

Next I adjust my field of depth (usually between f11 and f16 to ensure the best clarity and depth across the images. After that the focus is set, fine tuned and the lens is restored to manual focus, with vibration reduction turned off.

 

Patagonia 7:48 p.m.

Patagonia 7:48 p.m.

Now I’m ready to shoot. I have a consistent focus, a consistent light level and a steady depth of field set up. I set up the first shot in the sequence as far left as boundaries will permit, often including those boundaries in the end images. I use a wired or wireless  camera trigger to release the shutter. This further prevents vibration and yields a crisper image.

 

As the first image finishes, my eye is back in the viewfinder, locating a “landmarks” roughly 1/3 from the right edge. I pan the camera to the right until that landmark is located roughly 1/3 of the frame from the left side (to created an overlap) and shoot the next frame. This continues until I reach the right-most possible frame.

 

Patagonia 2:58 p.m.

Patagonia 2:58 p.m.

Generally every 5-10 minutes for the rest of the day, I check the light again and add new frames to the succession, capturing the movement and transformation of clouds, the buildup and decline of storms, and the shadows at play with the moving sun and cloud patterns.

 

I leave a day like this will 700-800 frames in the main cameras used for panoramas. Typically I also shoot 3 or more hours of video at the same time, and many stills of details using a telephoto-equipped camera.

 

Patagonia 3:26 p.m.

Patagonia 3:26 p.m.

As some point during the day I open the navigation software of my camera, locate my latitude and longitude and set the phone directly under the camera. After a few minutes of the GPS adjusting I shoot an image of the phone displaying the GPS coordinates in case I want to return to that vantage point.

 

Once home, it takes many hours to input all of the photos and video to the computer, and hours more (sometimes days) to get everything backed up, apply basic metadata, and catalog a big day’s catch.

 

Patagonia 3:56 p.m.

Patagonia 3:56 p.m.

The photos are smaller, space wise, and input much faster than the video. While the video continues to ingest I use a slideshow software app to get a first glance of the images. If I’ve done my work right they are crisp, colorful and full of visual information.

 

But I generally don’t start assembling panoramas just yet.

 

Patagonia 4:20 p.m.

Patagonia 4:20 p.m.

More often than not I take the video footage of the day, put it on an editing timeline and bump the frame rate up 5,000 percent. This makes the video 50 times shorter and 50 times faster. Now those moving clouds reveal their complex evolution, and shadows rolling across the landscape add to the changing images.

 

This tells me very quickly what I can expect in terms of the day’s panoramas, and helps me roughly locate the most spectacular moments.

 

Patagonia 4:30 p.m.

Patagonia 4:30 p.m.

With that in mind I go through and assemble a first version of a couple of representative panoramas. It’s a little bit bewildering sometimes because on your Adobe Bridge palette you’re viewing the individual cells that will become the panorama. But you recall what your beginning and end areas were, often using such boundaries as the end of a building to help ID the elements of individual cells.

 

Daniel Buckley, Adrienne Halpert and Danielle Gilliland at Global Arts Gallery

Daniel Buckley, Adrienne Halpert and Danielle Gilliland at Global Arts Gallery

One opens up the succession of images one by one, from left to right in the pattern. Each time dialogs regarding options  within Photoshop for camera raw settings appear. I often open the brightest cell first, make whatever parameter adjustments are needed, and make note on which sliders and dialogs have been changed, and what the new settings are. Then I close that first image, go back to the leftmost image, open it, apply the chosen parameters for the bright image to it and all successive L-R images in the sequence and prepare to make the panorama.

 

Patagonia 4:43 p.m.

Patagonia 4:43 p.m.

When all of the cells for an individual panorama have been opened and adjusted from left to right, go into the Photoshop File menu and scroll down to Automate. Enter its dialog and choose “Photomerge” from the options.

 

This opens up a new dialog. Press the button to import the photo cells you opened before, and let the fun begin.

 

Patagonia 4:57 p.m.

Patagonia 4:57 p.m.

The initial stitched together panorama might be slightly oblong and a bit higher in the middle than on the sides. Use the crop tool to create the largest possible boundary for the panorama, and/or emphasize composition, and make the crop.

 

 

Now you can really have a look at what has been made. Use curves to bring out a bit more contrast, and perhaps vibrance to make the image pop a bit. And of course this is really the jumping off point. Get creative and have some fun. But don’t forget to save and back up your work.

 

Patagonia 5:11 p.m.

Patagonia 5:11 p.m.

After a few days I usually return with fresh eyes to start looking at the bulk of the work. It can take a day or more to assemble the first versions of all of the panoramas. It is grunt work intended to give some sense of the scope of what was shot. But some beautiful things come from this phase.

 

I post some on Facebook or elsewhere on line, then set it aside again for a few days.

 

Patagonia 5:40 p.m.

Patagonia 5:40 p.m.

Always in the process of assembling the first composite panoramas, some situation-specific techniques start to bubble up. After a few days rest, it’s time to explore that for a while and fine tune the images. This brings out a new batch of discoveries, that progresses down the line.

 

And another pause for a day or two.

 

Patagonia 6:02 p.m.

Patagonia 6:02 p.m.

Now it’s time to revisit the panoramas and start making grayscale versions of them (B&W images). A spectacular photo in color can yield even more in Grayscale if one takes advantage of Photoshop’s tools.

 

I generally do two versions of each image initially. The first is a well-realized B&W image. The second experiments further to generate something vivid and borderline surreal.

 

Patagonia 6:12 p.m.

Patagonia 6:12 p.m.

When I finish first versions each way from all of the images I close overnight.

 

The following day I return and make fine refinements of each image, again using skills that evolve in the creation of the originals. I adjust the various color frequencies within the grayscale image to make details pop or recede. I examine contrasts, and work settings multiple times to get the best image I know how to make.

 

Patagonia 6:34 p.m.

Patagonia 6:34 p.m.

Then they are set aside another few days before a final review process. Each image from the series – color or B&W – is examined closely, refined if needed, and categorized for quality and image impact.

 

Only then do I have a good idea of what has been created.

 

The process contributes on multiple fronts. It adds to my process-driven body of art, helping me better understand our dynamic world. It helps me advance my craft. And now and then it produces an extraordinary image.

 

Patagonia 7:25 p.m.

Patagonia 7:25 p.m.

Like all artists, I am a work in progress. So is the world I shoot photos in. That is a very comfortable symbiotic relationship for me.

 

This work is very different from the film work.

 

Patagonia 7:48 p.m.

Patagonia 7:48 p.m.

It is typically solitary. It takes me out of my usual environs. It puts me in areas of beauty and desolation. It carries my eye to new vistas.

 

But in the end it makes me a better film maker. It rests me from the chore at hand. It improves my eye as a videographer. It helps me stay focused on human time scales, develop proper chronologies and find the beauty in all that is shot.

 

Patagonia-P8011208-09-sw-dbaMore about Daniel Buckley, Photographer.