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Phil Douglis | all galleries >> Galleries >> Gallery Six: Vantage Point makes the difference > Campo Santo, El Rancho de las Golondrinas, Santa Fe, New Mexico, 2003
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Campo Santo, El Rancho de las Golondrinas, Santa Fe, New Mexico, 2003

One of the most historic ranches in the American Southwest, Santa Fe's El Rancho de las Golondrinas offers insights into the town's Spanish Colonial culture. The ranch's windswept cemetery -- known as a Campo Santo-- and its old Penitente Meeting House, took me back in time more than any other place I've visited in New Mexico. To capture the essence of the scene, I placed my camera and its 24mm wideangle converter lens on the ground only a foot or two behind a teetering wooden fence enclosing a 19th century grave, and moved my position a few inches to the right to include the old Meeting House in the background. This low vantage point also emphasizes storm clouds that would soon sweep the area with much needed rain.

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Phil Douglis05-May-2005 05:32
Thanks, Anna for noting my use of the entire frame here. I look at my frame as real estate, and let none of it go to waste. As you say, if this shot was not made from the ground itself, it would not work. And if I did not use a wideangle lens, I could not get this close for this kind of emphasis, and still include the entire cross as well as the church beyond. The 24mm wideangle focal length is my most expressive tool -- more important than my camera itself, because it allows to create profound emphasis that changes perspective and adds the dimension of depth to my images. (See my new gallery on wideangle usage at: )
Anna Yu05-May-2005 05:01
Apart from what others have said, I like the way you use up the whole frame. The vantage point lifts the cross into the sky, which would otherwise have been just a boring overcast one. I think it's often difficult to fill the frame in landscapes. This is magnificent. But needs a really wide wideangle lens. Hmm.
Phil Douglis29-Mar-2005 18:14
Thanks for clarifying what you meant here by "weight," Benchang. The image is indeed grounded, solid, and substantial, with a sense of balance as well.
Benchang Tang 29-Mar-2005 08:31
Sorry sometimes I would use words a little freehand when I fail to express myself. Here "weight" means weightness,and besides the meaning of "emphasis" it means the triangle which, with the house as the lower right corner, makes the picture very balanced, solid and substantial.
Phil Douglis29-Mar-2005 04:47
I like your phrase "the picture gains weight,"-- I translate that as gains emphasis, right? Weight is an elegant word for emphasis. Living grass growing about the rotting, leaning wood that frames the dead does indeed add a touch of vitality to the scene. Thanks, Benchang, for these observations.
Benchang Tang 29-Mar-2005 01:10
The vantage point in this picture changes the proportion of the fences and the meeting house effectively and with the house in the right the picture gains its weight again. The grass, especially in front of the fence, draw our eyes into the present and make the picture more lifelike. Thank you for teaching.
judy sidonie tillinger21-Jul-2004 17:00
Phil -
Just back from New Mexico and wondered if anyone had anything posted from Las Golondrinas. You're shot is spot on, natch.
Phil Douglis11-Dec-2003 18:44
Glad you are learning from these, Jill. That is the purpose of my postings on pbase -- to extend my teaching to the Internet. As for Ms. O'Keefe, you are correct -- churches such as this one figure prominently in her paintings.
Jill11-Dec-2003 13:34
The church in background reminds me of a Georgia O'Keefe. I am learning much from you today.
Guest 15-Oct-2003 04:11
thanks for your kind words in our gallery. this image is one of my favorites. it captures that feeling that i have tried to capture in some of mine. i'll continue to work towards something like this. :)
Phil Douglis28-Sep-2003 21:49
BZ, I think isolation is a perfect word to describe how I felt as I made this photograph. Gray skies overhead, a strong wind moving rain into the area, an old grave surrounded by a weathered fence in a state of collapse. To make it work, I bring grave and sky together through my low vantage point to stress these symbols of death, remembrance, and isolation.
Bailey Zimmerman28-Sep-2003 18:13
I'm taken by the quality of light...and isolation!! One of my favorite images!!
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