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Steve Bruno Photo

Month

May 2015

Historical Photographs, part 1

First off, I would like to wish all the mothers out there a Happy Mother’s Day.

The photograph above was taken when I took my mother along with her mother on a several day excursion around northern Arizona and southern Utah.  My mom has joined me a couple times since, but it was the only time for my grandmother.  I kept the trip very ‘touristy’, and we all had an enjoyable time.  Thank you, mom – for everything you’ve done for me and wanting to see my world.

Now, about the title.  This photo was taken in July, 1983 when the waters of Lake Powell were at historically high levels.  Winter snows had been abundant, and the temperatures stayed cool well into spring.  Then, over a period of about a week, summer decided to move in.  Although the authorities knew how much snowpack was in the upper Colorado River Basin, they hadn’t anticipated it melting this quickly.  As they released water from the spillways of Glen Canyon Dam, they were losing ground to the inflow at the upper end of Lake Powell.

The spillways had never been worked extensively until 1983.  They were run before for testing purposes, but never at full capacity.  After a couple days, people noticed that the dam was vibrating.  Engineers below the dam had observed chunks of concrete with rebar being ejected with water from the spillways.  Water flows had to be cut back so as to not damage the spillways any further, and plywood sheets were attached to the top of the dam to potentially hold back the rising waters of Lake Powell.  The Bureau of Reclamation contends that the dam was never in danger during this period.  I’m not an expert, but I’m pretty sure a 710 foot high dam holding back trillions of gallons of water, which was now vibrating, was headed for disaster had they maintained the flows.  After the floodwaters receded, repairs were performed on the spillways which ended up going full throttle again the following year.

Needless to say, there is still a Lake Powell.  If the Sierra Club had their way, we wouldn’t.  The organization fought the initial construction of the dam, and has even made recent campaigns for its removal.  It was around 2000-2001 when I remember seeing billboards around Phoenix where the Sierra Club was asking to ‘restore’ Glen Canyon.  This falls under the category of ‘be careful what you wish for’.  In 2005, several years of drought had brought the lake levels down 150 feet.  Parts of the canyon that hadn’t been seen in over 30 years were now accessible.  Forecasts are still predicting long-term drought, and this is something we may see again.  For now, if you want to see what it was like pre-Glen Canyon Dam, check out the book “The Place No One Knew” with the photographs of Eliot Porter.

A little closer to present day we have the photograph below, taken in 1996.  I had no intentions of duplicating the above photo.  In hindsight, I wish I had taken one from near the same spot.  If I had turned the camera the other way, you wouldn’t see much water.  A small trickle and some pools in the creek bottom, and that was it.  This time I hiked in, on what is one of my favorite hikes in the southwest. That’s Rainbow Bridge spanning the horizon.

rainbow bridge 1996

WPC: Forces of Nature – Grand Falls

It was difficult to choose just one shot for this week’s challenge, but I’m going with a very unique display of nature’s power.  Grand Falls on the Little Colorado River doesn’t flow year round, or very often, for that matter.  It’s most predictable in spring when the snow is melting.  You might look at this photo and think it looks like a place that doesn’t receive much snow – and you are right.  The Little Colorado River starts high up in the White Mountains of eastern Arizona, and by the time it gets to Grand Falls has dropped around 5000 feet in elevation.  The last stretch goes through the Painted Desert, where any chance of the water remaining clear has perished.

At 185 feet, they are taller than Niagara Falls.  If you look close at the pool at the base of the lower falls, and along the bank in the lower left portion, you will see logs.  That’s quite a journey from the White Mountains, the only place those could have originated.  There’s not a tree for miles from here.  Not a real one, anyway.  Occasionally the falls will become active when a significant thunderstorm happens upstream.  It can be mostly sunny here and you would never know it was coming.  If it rains very close to the falls, you might be stuck on the road for a while.  The best way to know if the water is running is to cross the bridge on Highway 89 near Cameron, Arizona.

In response to The Daily Post’s weekly photo challenge: “Forces of Nature.”

One Word Photo Challenge: Storm

storm clouds

The summer storm season in the southwestern US is my favorite time of the year to photograph.  I figure it is the reward for enduring the summer heat.  Ironically, it is the intense heat that helps trigger the ‘monsoon’ flow.  As temperatures top 110 degrees Fahrenheit for days on end, a thermal low pressure is created, helping to steer moisture from the tropics.  The start of this transition is usually the most miserable part of the summer as the stifling temps now have a touch of humidity joining the party.  At this point, photography isn’t much fun.  The skies tend to be hazy, and cloud cover builds early, usually blocking any golden hour light.  The start of the monsoon also brings a small amount of lightning strikes.  These bring on wildfires because the rains haven’t had a chance to counter the effects of the hot dry temps of early summer.

Once the flow gets going, however, the photography can become sensational.  Building thunderstorms tower into the deep blue skies, often creating spectacular sunsets.  Along with the thunderstorms come vivid displays of lightning, and the occasional wall of dust.  You’ve seen those on Youtube or the CNN highlight clips.  As annoying as they might become for those stuck on the roads, I never tire of the experience.

The storm clouds in the above photo near Phoenix, Arizona were catching the sunset as the city was about to get pummelled.

Sunday Stills, the next challenge: Danger

lightning in the desert skies

I was always fascinated with trying to capture lightning, and tried to maintain a safe distance – relying on the power of various telephoto lenses to close the distance.  As I set the camera up on this night, the storm had been very concentrated with downward strikes, but soon started to lose strength.  The flickering overhead made for a great photograph, and was one of the last of the storm, but was the point where I felt uneasy being out there.

WPC: Intricate

I was out early on a winter morning, and discovered I wasn’t going anywhere until I scraped the frost off my windows. While my windows didn’t have much in the way of patterns, my neighbor’s car had these intricate designs on its moonroof.

In response to The Daily Post’s weekly photo challenge: “Intricate.”

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