Arcosanti Morning and the Solar Heating Tube

Continuing my series of photos from our overnight stay at Arcosanti in Cordes Junction, Arizona in March 2010.

After a great night’s sleep, I awoke early and decided to take the camera out on a morning hike.  Our guest quarters faced out onto a deep ravine, into which a hiking trail descended.  I set off on my hike, stopping often to get shots of the property in the early morning sun.  As I was walking along the gravel road on the back of the property, I would occasionally come across golf balls that had been left in the most unlikely spots:

I’m not sure if these were some new type of trail marker or if someone was using this rock as a golf tee, but it was pretty whimsical.

After I returned from my hike, Andy had finally woken up, so we showered and dressed and headed up to the main building for breakfast, which was included in the $50/night price of our guest room.  The sidewalk leading up to the building entrance was lined with a selection of the Solari bells which are hand-crafted and produced at Arcosanti by the residents as a way of helping fund the operations there:

The bells are quite heavy and it takes a lot of breeze to make the larger ones “ring”, but they are quite beautiful and are collectors’ items.  Also outside the main building were various fruit trees that are grown on the property to provide fresh fruit for the residents.  These were in full bloom while we were there, providing some beautiful spring color to contrast with the brown and green of the desert landscape:

Inside the main building’s cafeteria, we found a tempting selection of breakfast foods on the all-you-can-eat buffet.  It was completely self-serve, and included bagels and toast with various toppings (cream cheese, peanut butter, butter, jam, honey); various kinds of cereal, including the best granola I’ve ever tasted, with various types of milk (skim, almond, soy, rice); fresh fruits; boiled eggs; juice, tea, coffee.  After the meal was over, everyone picks up their own dishes and takes them back to the kitchen and puts them into the proper bins (plates in one, silverware in another, cups in a third, paper in the trash, etc).  Great way to keep the overhead low!

You can’t beat the view from the cafeteria, especially when it’s framed by the circular shaped doorways and windows that Arcosanti is known for.  They are also known for their “green” living.  Notice in the photo above the orange tube hanging from the ceiling.  This tube extends all the way up to the ceiling a couple of floors above.  At the top of the tube is a skylight and a fan.  During the winter the fan blows the solar-heated air down the tube into the cafeteria to provide heat to the lower floor.  During the summer, the skylight is whitewashed to reflect the sunlight away from the building.

I think it’s a brilliant idea, besides the fact that the tube itself is pretty cool to look at.  It makes a great artistic statement when you enter the building, where each floor has the open atrium space in the middle that allows the air flow to move up and down the tube as needed.  The concrete structure has a beautiful simplicity to it, with the unpainted surfaces providing needed insulation to keep the space as cool as possible in the summertime.  The bells hanging throughout the space just add a sort of peaceful Zen-like ambience that invites visitors to hang out for awhile.

These photos were all shot with a Nikon D5000 dSLR, and processed in Paintshop Pro X3.  I’ll have more photos to share in the coming days.  In the meantime, you can view the entire Arcosanti series on my Flickr page, in the set titled “Arcosanti – March 2010“.

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Arcosanti – Experiment in the Desert

I’m still going through photographs from our weekend excursion to the Verde Valley area of Arizona on March 20-21, 2010.  I’ve already shared photos from Montezuma Castle and Sedona, and now I’m starting to go through the shots from Arcosanti.  Arcosanti is kind of hard to explain, so if you’re really interested, I’ll just point you to their website at

The series of photos that I took at Arcosanti were not meant to be arty or beautiful–instead, they were meant to try and document the architecture, the landscape, and the eclectic soul of this experiment in the desert.  They were all shot as single exposures, handheld without a tripod.  None of these shots would be suitable for framing, but I hope that they help convey what we saw and experienced during our stay there.  I’m processing the images in Paintshop Pro X3, using the raw NEF files.  I’ll be posting the photos a few at a time on my Flickr site in the set titled “Arcosanti – March 2010“, so I hope you’ll check out the entire collection.

Here’s an example of the type of photos in the series.  This is one of the first structures that was built at Arcosanti.  It houses the cafeteria, gallery, bakery, administrative offices, and a couple of residences.  This shot was taken early in the morning as I hiked around the grounds at sunrise.

I can’t begin to go into all the details about Arcosanti, but I hope the series of photos will pique your interest, and that you’ll make plans to visit there, if just for a daytrip if you’re in the Phoenix area.


Easter, Springtime, Butterflies and Renewal

Springtime reminds us that, in the cycle of life and death, there’s renewal and regeneration after the long, dark winter.  One of my favorite symbols and reminders of springtime is the butterfly.  On this Easter weekend, as we celebrate resurrection and renewal, I offer you this image of a butterfly that I captured at Arcosanti a couple of weeks ago.  I believe he was on the payroll at Arcosanti, because he was an excellent model, pausing on each flower and spreading his wings wide for those of us who were lucky enough to be standing close by with a camera.  Not much processing here, I just added a rough frame to the JPG in Paintshop Pro X3 to soften the edges a little.

Today, Andy and I spent several hours at Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix.  Of course, I have a ton of pictures to sort through and process (156 to be exact), and I’ll be sharing some of those later.  Part of our tour was through the Butterfly Pavilion, where we were able to see around twelve species of butterflies and moths up close, including the luna moth.  However, none of the butterfly shots that I got in the pavilion were even close to the one from Arcosanti, which was a little disappointing, but I did capture some great images of some of the desert flora that’s blooming right now.  If you have never visited Desert Botanical Garden, I highly recommend it.  This was our first time there, and I will definitely go back–I especially want to visit there at night with my tripod.


Toilets still have to be scrubbed

Since I bought this new camera back in December, I’ve spent a lot–a whole lot–of time taking photos and editing them on the computer.  It’s a blast to be outside in the fresh morning air, watching a beautiful sunrise, or chasing the setting sun before it slips below the horizon.  And it’s so rewarding to sit at the computer, click the mouse a few times and see those photos change before your eyes into works of art (at least in my own opinion!).

Unfortunately, I’m not independently wealthy so I don’t get to spend nearly as much time with my Nikon as I would like.  And sometimes, real life comes knocking and you remember that other things need to be done.  So tonight, I had to leave my camera in the bag, and spend my evening vacuuming, dusting, mopping and cleaning toilets.  Not nearly as much fun, but I’m pretty sure it was the right decision.

But I did manage to spend a few minutes revisiting some of the photos that I took at Out of Africa a couple of weeks ago.  I promised Adam that I would post a photo of the python without somebody’s foot in the picture, so this is for “High Dynamic Reality Photography”:

I took tons of pictures at Out of Africa, but most of them have a lot of wire fence in them.  In some cases, the wire was in the foreground and the telephoto’s depth of field disguised it pretty well.  Here’s a shot of some of the tropical birds from the aviary that illustrates this:

The wire is most visible on the middle bird, but overall I still like the picture.

So now it’s time to start thinking about a shooting project for the weekend.  I have a couple of ideas, but I also have to get the oil changed in the car, and I need to get a new set of tires put on it as well.  There’s also rain in the forecast for Saturday, but that could lead to some really interesting shots if I plan it right.

We’re also planning an overnight trip to Arcosanti in Cordes Junction.  I contacted the guest relations person there and they do allow photography with tripods, especially if you stay overnight.  I’ve emailed them to see if they have a room available in March, and I’m just waiting to hear back.  If you’ve never heard of Arcosanti (and most people haven’t), stay tuned and I’ll fill you in on our visit.