Ochava Solstice – Things that go wrong

November 19, 2010

I tell people that when I’m photographing an Ochava Solstice, if everything goes right, I’ll take just a single photo all day. On a couple of occasions I have been able to photograph two buildings because they were oriented slightly differently towards then sun, allowing me some time to travel to the second building. Those are very luck days. Often, things go wrong.

You only get the shadow in bright sun so I don’t go out if it’s cloudy. Several times it’s gotten cloudy in the hour or so it takes me to travel to these spots. These days I check satellite weather images prior to leaving, just to see if some giant storm is about to rage up out of the Pampas [or even some lazy clouds that will totally ruin my shot].

Another factor I have no control over is cars that sometimes park illegally on the corners. For aesthetic reasons I’ve wanted all my ochava shots to be car free. Spending an hour on a bus only to find a car or truck parked on my corner is a bummer. A couple of times  people have parked while I was setting up my shot, like the guy in the photo below.

Ochava Solstice with illegally parked car

I asked him if he could move his car. He said he’d be gone in just five minutes. I tried to explain that I’m a conceptual artist dealing with the sculptural qualities of light and architecture and if he didn’t move his car he’d ruin my shot. He seemed confused and insisted he just be a short while. The five minutes turned out to be more like 15 and, well, you can see the result above.

Security guard obstructing my view of an Ochava Solstice

Surprisingly I don’t get harassed that much while I’m out photographing. People will yell at me occasionally but laziness trumps paranoia and most people just can’t be bothered. This particular corner had one of those little security boxes right there on the intersection. The guard came over explained that I wasn’t allowed to take pictures of houses or buildings, which, being a public street is total BS. If I had been photographing my Chalet series, which I shoot hand-held with a medium format camera, I’d have already taken the picture by the time he told me to stop. Unfortunately this project has me using a 4×5 inch camera on a tripod with very precise framing. The guard simply stood in front of the camera, blocking the view. We stood there on the corner for about 15 minutes in our absurd stand-off. People walking by made jokes. I was hoping that something would happen that would cause the guard to leave the frame before the minute of the solstice. It didn’t. I took the photo anyway.

The picture does look kind of cool, though, doesn’t it?

Lately my big problem has been my own inability to accurately forecast the time of the solstice. On three separate occasions in the last couple of weeks I’ve arrived after the magic moment, with no one to blame but myself.

Post-solstice ochava shadow

Fortunately the building isn’t going anywhere. I just have to come back on another sunny day. And hope there’s nobody parked on the corner.

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5 Responses to “Ochava Solstice – Things that go wrong”

  1. Roberto Says:

    La foto del guardia es genial!

  2. Daniela Says:

    Tom, this series is really interesting!! sometimes the gaze of somebody from another city helps the locals to see what sorrounds them since always in a very different way.
    Congrats! hope you enjoy buenos aires.

  3. hsien loong Says:

    Hi Thomas! found out about your work from too much chocolate. You certainly “don’t suck”! Ochava Solstice is stunning and I love all your architectural photos. All the best to you!


  4. […] I’ve also written more about this project in these two blog posts; Ochava Solstice and Ochava Solstice – Things that Go Wrong. […]


  5. […] I can’t control, the 2nd to last Ochava in the series is this one, which I’ve written about before. Ochava Solstice #48 – Zapiola & […]


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