Tuesday, March 20, 2012


Old Adobe Mission is a small Catholic church located in downtown Scottsdale.  It was built 80 years ago to serve a small Latin American congregation.  In 2000 it was decided that the church was in need of restoration, which is still underway today.

Even though the church is small, its simple lines are elegant.  Moreover, in bright sunlight the recently painted exterior presents striking contrasts of light and shadow.  Monday, March 19, was the first day after a late winter "storm" that passed through the Phoenix area, and the sun was in and out of the clouds. For most of the shots I took, the sky was mostly cloudy.  Fortunately there was enough difference between the white of the clouds and the white of the adobe surfaces of the church that the church was not "lost" in the cloudy background.  I did take some shots when the sun was hidden by the clouds, but all of those came through as relatively "flat," and most of the shots I kept were those with full sunshine.

There were other challenges to photographing the church.  There were cars parked outside, power lines extending across the street in front of the church, as well as the ubiquitous street and traffic signs, all of which I wanted to avoid.

Here is how I dealt with one of the shots that I took.  Following is the shot as originally taken.

There were cars in front, a street light, part of a tree in the upper righthand corner, as well as miscellaneous other distractions in the lower right.  There were some lovely flowering plants outside the church behind the cars, but it just was not possible to incorporate the flowers into the scene.  I finally decided to crop this shot to eliminate all of these extraneous elements.  I also brightened up the shot a bit (this was one of the few shots not taken in sunshine that I kept) and did a little straightening.  Here is the result.

Not a great shot, even after I turned it into a B&W.

Here is another shot taken in direct sunlight and from more of an angle.  

The light and shadow and the angled perspective add a lot more power to the shot, I think.

Here is the same shot in B&W.

I also wanted to take some photos from the front of the church.  Again, I ran into the street signs, power lines and cars.  I found that the only shots that escaped these problems were ones looking up at the church from close range.

Not bad, actually.  Here is the same shot in B&W.

One of the attractive elements of the church was the simple cross adorning the roof.  Trying to include the cross was a problem for me because I do not have a wide-angle lens that would make its inclusion easy.  I did manage to include it in the following shot.

Here is the same shot in B&W.

Finally, here is another shot from the front of the church that has a more exaggerated upward tilt and was taken at more of a wide-angle setting (27 mm).

And in B&W.

I placed my favorite shot at the very beginning of this post.  It took advantage of the sunlight, included the interesting roof lines on the left, and captured the church tower at an angle to show the contrast between the lighted and shadowed sides of the tower.  Here is the same shot in B&W.

Although the simplicity of the white exterior of the church seemed to cry out for B&W treatment, some of the B&W shots worked better than others.  In general the color of the church's exterior was just enough off from white to add to the overall effect.


I am adding to this post because on Tuesday, the 21st, Geri and I found ourselves back in front of the Old Adobe Mission, and I took a few more shots of the church, this time handheld.  Nevertheless, because of the bright sunshine, I had no trouble getting sharp photos.  Here are a couple of those that I took, this time viewing the church from the northwest.

Even though the sky was nearly clear of clouds, there was a small cloud in the upper right of this shot and one directly behind the cross.  I would really have liked there either to be copious clouds or none at all, but that is what I had.  I especially liked that I was able to show the fence in front of the church in this shot, as well as some of the lovely flowering shrubs on the north side of the building. 

In this second shot I was able to incorporate more of the fence, although the shrubs are not as prominent.  Also, there is a portion of a palm in the upper left.  I like this shot a lot, although it perhaps would have been better to have tried to get more of the palm in the photo.

This shot looks good in B&W also.

We also took a tour of the inside and met a church member who had grown up in Waukesha and who gave us a hard time for being from Wisconsin.  Nice guy.  We were free to take whatever photos we wanted in the interior of the church also.  However, the interior was very simple and did not have the qualities evident on the exterior.  I did take one shot of a stained glass window.

1 comment:

  1. John, I would like permission to use the photo at the top of the page of your Old Adobe Mission in Scottsdale for an Adult Education booklet I am putting together for the church in Scottsdale where I am employed. We will have someone speaking about contributions of the faith community to Scottsdale over the years. I would like to use your photo next to the brief description of the class. The booklet is printed for the use of our congregants (about 1400 copies). We will not be selling the booklet. Please respond to cskewes@pinnaclepres.org Thank you, Carol Skewes