Working with some older files recently, this image struck me as one that I needed to convert to black & white. Even in subdued light, the natural contrast of the fungus against the pine bark had to be toned down slightly. This was taken in the forests of eastern Arizona.
There’s a local spot I like to go when I just want to get outdoors for a little fresh air and exercise. It’s a moderately steep hill with no real trail and pretty much nothing but sandstone and some small plants. Most of the rocks are typical sandstone, with minimal definition. Then there’s this little pocket along the route. Everything has a kind of animal print design where stripes tried to develop, but some disruptive force came along during the process. I had to bring a camera along on one of my hikes to capture this anomaly.
As I mentioned in my last post, we had an unusually nice run of cloudy days and rain this summer which is starting to feel like a distant memory. On one of those days, I headed out expecting to get wet. No, make that I was hoping to get thoroughly drenched. At least, that’s how it looked when I started. Mother Nature changed her mind as she often does, but this day turned out to be fantastic for hiking. The big storm lost its energy and in its wake left a couple hours of heavy overcast, light drizzle, and temps around 78 degrees. Technically, the subject in my photo could be called a waterfall, but that’s a stretch. There were tiny pools at the bottom, and several drops trickling down the wall, and that’s about all you might ever see here. The problem with this location is the lack of drainage to feed enough water over the top, unless of course, you were here getting thoroughly drenched by rain. I’ll keep trying. In the meantime, the contrast of the wet black streak against the sandstone and the soft light made for a nice image. Further up, wet plants and continued soft light made for lots of subjects later that day.
The monsoon season has been a good one this year, but for the most part, appears to be over. Sunny and hot dominates the upcoming forecast once again. We had almost a month straight with cloud cover, many small rains, and some downpours. Sadly, from a photographer’s standpoint, most of the big rains happened at night. There are a couple spots with normally dry waterfalls that have safe access no matter what the weather, and I’ve been wanting to capture those in full force. Two weeks ago, we had a daytime thunderstorm in the right part of town, and I headed out to see some waterfalls. As I got closer, I realized the rain had missed the area I hoped to see, so I kept driving. When I came upon this canyon, I could see a waterfall going. I knew I wouldn’t be able to get closer before the flow ceased, so I had a moderate telephoto lens along for that reason. Errant raindrops were still coming down as well as thunder rumbling from somewhere overhead, without seeing any lightning. Despite that, I could see blue skies about to take over. I took a photo from this same spot five minutes earlier that shows all the waterfalls because of the soft light. When I saw the sunlight coming through, I knew this was going to be a b&w. All those cliffs were still very wet, and in this shot you can still see one waterfall clearly. If you’re seeing this on a larger screen, you might see a couple of the other ones.
I’ll admit I haven’t been very motivated to take photos lately. I’ve been out hiking and had my camera along, but there haven’t been a lot of WOW moments. The thing that has captured my attention is new (to me) software. I demo’d a previous version of Topaz Labs software a couple years ago, but didn’t think enough of it to purchase. Advancements in their product made the decision different this time.
I have hundreds of photographs that I never considered printing because of slight flaws. I have now spent weeks testing the potential for many of these shots. The image above is one of several no longer going by way of the delete button. It was taken when I was still recovering from an injury, so I only had my camera with a smaller sensor and smaller megapixel size. Cropping of the original frame was further reducing its printing potential. Some images, mostly old film shots, are beyond recovering to the point I would like, but there are more than enough that have come through extremely well.
The top photo may not come across on screen like it does in a larger print. At first glance the rocks in the creek bed are the most obvious. Moving closer to the print, all those tiny branches capture the viewers attention, some clearly reflected off the water, some seemingly bonded to the stone. This is what I first saw when I pressed the shutter and am glad I was finally able to bring it out of the digital capture.
When the Covid lockdown came along in spring of 2020, I had no idea my life was going to see some changes. I was actually looking forward to some time off and opportunities to go hiking once the authorities realized fresh air was helpful in battling Covid. My leg was not completely healed from an injury months before, and I felt I could use the time for more therapy.
The one thing I was certain of in spring of 2020 was that I was going to be changing residences. By spending a lot more time at home, I was constantly being reminded of all the things that bothered me about that place, especially with all my annoying neighbors being home all the time too. Only two obstacles stood in my way. Every job I had lined up had cancelled, so I had no proof of income. Secondly, nobody would let me go in to see the places in person – only virtual visits were allowed.
With that in mind, I packed up almost everything I owned and put it in storage. I spent a fair amount of time eliminating things I no longer used by either selling, trashing, or finding a new home for those items. I thought (like many) that the pandemic would blow over in a few months, so I would just go hang out with family for a while. My mom had been asking me to visit for some time, so I spent the majority of my time off there. I had visions of traveling more, but with the west on fire much of the summer of 2020, I kept my driving to a minimum.
A few months off became many months off. Somewhere along the way I got a weird flu-like sickness I thought was Covid, but when I took a test, it said negative. When the vaccines came out in 2021, the second shot gave me the same weird symptoms I had months before, so I’m convinced I had it. My mother, now 88, had become less active and less independent. It was good timing that I was still available to help her out. Shortly into 2021, she had a hospital visit. This was a planned trip with several follow-up visits, but then there were more trips to the hospital. The last two trips were through the paramedics. During this time there were plenty of tests, but no answers. Shortly after my last post here, there was finally a test that had the answer. Unfortunately, by that time, it was too late for any options for recovery. She passed within the month.
It then became my responsibility, along with my next closest brother, to handle her post-life details. My brother still had his same job in a different state, so his time to help was on a more limited basis. I was the one handling maintenance of her house and small possessions she had acquired through the years. After several months of cleaning house (literally and figuratively) it was time to get the house sold and back to my life. People were calling about upcoming work and I needed to find a place to live again.
When Covid first shut everything down, I thought there were going to be a lot of people hurting financially with higher numbers of housing foreclosures and lower rents when the dust settled. In fact, the opposite was true. Housing costs had jumped up and availability was scarce. Then I got a reality check when they started to ask about what I had been doing during the last year-and-a-half. Nobody was willing to sign a lease with me without recent paychecks. I even offered to pay the entire year up front, with no takers. My only option was to move into a weekly rental apartment, and the only place to find those are sketchy neighborhoods. Not only was I not unpacking my storage locker, I was now adding more possessions (like my computer and camera) into it.
Word got out to friends of friends that I was living in the hood, and about a month later I had an offer to move in with some people I knew vaguely. They were both smokers, but the place seemed large enough to be able to have my own space without the smell dominating. After a week or two, I noticed that boxes, backpacks, clothes, etc were all beginning to pick up the cigarette odor even though I was keeping my windows open and blocking off vents. Although the place was quiet and the roommates are great guys, I had proof of income at this point and resumed my housing search. I soon became aware of how competitive the market was and I was getting frustrated in my search and feeling like I had to be like a Black Friday shopper at Walmart if I wanted to get a new home.
Finally around the holidays I was able to move into a place of my own. Christmas actually felt like Christmas as I was opening up boxes I had packed up a year-and-a-half before and wondering what was inside. It has taken a while to go through my stuff, but that is behind me now. My patience paid off as I found a house that is comfortable, quiet and odor-free. While many people say that 2020 was a horrible year, I’m looking at 2021 as the year I don’t want to see again. Photography has been on hold for most of the time since last posting here. Last week I went out for the first time in a long time for a hike with photography in mind. A couple days ago I was able to get out for another hike, even though this was with my small on-the-go camera. Here are some shots from the last two trips, a year since my last post.
A couple weeks ago, I was driving through the desert of western Arizona. The clouds were quickly changing and various degrees of light and shade were trading places upon the landscape. I wish I could have set up a tripod for time-lapse video, but by the time I walked to this spot, all the good stuff was gone in about a minute.
The first camera I ever purchased was a beloved entry level Pentax K1000. It served its purpose very well, and before too long I upgraded in the Pentax line. It only took a couple years until I discovered that I needed to be using a large format camera for the type of photography I was doing. After about a decade of that, I found that there were times a downsizing was ok, and for that I had a Pentax 6×7 camera. When the time came to go digital, I resisted, but then eventually caved in where it made sense to get a Pentax DSLR, so I could continue using some of the lenses I still owned.
At the time, Pentax had not developed full frame sensor cameras, so the only thing I needed was a wider lens for the smaller sensor. That Tamron lens had some nice results, but after a couple years I noticed there were focus inconsistencies. I was still using film around then, happier with those results overall.
Annoyed with the lens issues, I thought it was time to believe the rhetoric that only Nikon and Canon made real cameras. I purchased a Canon camera that produced horrible results, so I returned it. Then I bought an entry level Nikon. It came with a kit lens, but I thought at some point I would go full frame, so I also bought an extreme wide angle zoom capable of covering the larger sensor. The focus was great, but the files seemed to be noisy, even at 100 ISO. I started to take both the Nikon and Pentax out together and compare them side-by-side. To my surprise the results from the Pentax were nicer than the Nikon, using the older Pentax lenses. I soon sold off the Nikon. So much for the hype.
After a couple more years, Pentax finally got with the program and had a full frame sensor. They never had ultra wide zooms when I used film, so that was the only addition to shoot with that camera. Although I was happy with the results, the lens is one of those that has no filter threads. I wanted to use ND filters where the light was too much for the situation, and that wasn’t an option. When I sold off the Nikon, I still had the wide zoom. I had tried a couple times to sell it, only to get some lame offers.
Pentax and Nikon mounts are very similar, but mount in opposite directions. It is possible to insert a Nikon lens into a Pentax body, but not to the point where it locks. I have carefully taken a couple photos with this combination, but there is no aperture control. The reverse situation of a Pentax lens on a Nikon body does not mount at all.
Early last year I was looking at my unused Nikon lens and decided it either had to go or become useful. I was intrigued by the direction of digital cameras towards mirrorless, but didn’t want to invest in a whole line of lenses. When I saw that Nikon had made an adapter for its DSLR lenses, they got my attention. The real game changer came from someone else, however. Due to the narrowness of the camera body on the mirrorless, there is room for an adapter now. Thank you, Fotodiox!
So I haven’t really figured out what to call my hybrid system. Is it Niktax? Or Penton? The Nikon body is even small enough to fit inside an old Pentax lens pouch. Eventually I will probably replace the Pentax lenses with Nikon equivalents, but I’ve been using manual lenses most of my life and have no problem operating that way.
I was going through my media storage the other day, and came across this shot from a trip to New Orleans a couple years ago. I never got around to putting this one out, so here it is finally. It must have been quite a sign when it worked, and this was definitely the more preserved side of the sign. Only a few neon tubes remain and the paint has long since faded, but from top to bottom it reads, “Union Foreign American Parts”. Sounds like an identity crisis, or they were just trying to appeal to everyone.
I always liked this photo in color, and never really thought of it in black and white until I was playing around with some files last week. Some effects can be achieved in Photoshop, and sometimes you just have to wait for the right moment to press the shutter. I’m sure I’ve talked about it before. I call it Mother Nature’s dodge and burn. A storm was clearing over the Superstition Mountains just as it was getting late in the day. Shafts of light were sliding around here and there, then a large opening in the clouds allowed for the Saguaro cactus forest to be illuminated while the cliffs above were waiting their turn.
As we approach springtime, it’s becoming clear that we really haven’t had a winter here in the southwest. One big storm came through, but in a week’s time, that was already in the rearview mirror. There have been some years where spring has produced several good storms, and salvaged what was otherwise a dismal water season. I’m hoping this is one of those years, because we really need the water.
I like exploring nature to find the features that haven’t been posted on social media over and over again. If I sent this one out with a location tag, I’m afraid it might join that not so elite group. As with an image I posted a couple months ago, this one is loaded with color, but I’m more inclined to this rendition.
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