Search

Steve Bruno Photo

Memorial Day

Today in the US we have set aside a day to remember those who have made the ultimate sacrifice to ensure the rest of us have a life of freedom. Wars have been a part of human history since we managed to make our first weapon. In WWI and WWII, there is little doubt our presence was necessary to keep power-hungry leaders in check. Since then, most notably Vietnam, our role in these wars has been questioned by some portion of the public. For those enlisted in the Armed Forces, politics has no place. Armchair quarterbacking is not allowed.

Growing up, I remember watching war movies where people died. Perhaps they grabbed their stomachs and fell over, or they lied in their buddy’s arms and shared a poignant moment before they passed quietly. It all seemed so honorable. Television shows like Hogan’s Heroes and McHale’s Navy made war seem like a vacation. As did most boys my age, I played with G.I. Joe’s. Cowboys and Indians. Cops and Robbers. Nobody ever wanted to be on the losing team. The good guys always win, everybody knew that.

I have four older brothers. They started up the draft again for Vietnam, just around the time the oldest turned 18. Seeing my mom crying while watching the draft was the first time I thought about the reality of war. The oldest brother’s birthday came up in the first twenty dates drawn. A year later, the same fate was true for the next brother. Two years later, a repeat for the next brother. Vietnam ended, but then a mandated draft registry came up in time for my eighteenth birthday. I was never called, but the thought of it weighed upon me as unrest in the Middle East was becoming more prominent.

Recent war movies have become a lot closer to reality. Bullets hit, and blood and body parts go flying. They don’t use .22’s on the battlefield. People die painfully. Those who survive are likely to be in even more pain. The glory has been removed. Thank you, Hollywood.

Just when I thought the glorification of war was a thing of the past, here they come again. The United States Space Force. You can find the promotional trailer on YouTube. Looks like fun, the only thing missing is the slogan “It’s not just a job, it’s an adventure” Oh wait. That’s another branch’s slogan. Copyright infringement. Can’t use that.

If we’re preparing a military division for space, you have to ask, “who are our enemies out there?” I’ve thought this through, and clearly there are only two answers.

  1. Aliens. This can’t be the answer, because for 70+ years, the government has been telling us they don’t exist. If they did, I’m sure our weapons are no match for theirs. Unless we’ve figured out a way to reverse engineer technology that has crash landed on this planet. Oh wait, I keep forgetting, that doesn’t exist. That, and the government would have to admit they’ve been lying all this time.
  2. Other humans from other countries. This must be the answer by default.

Are we really going to take our shitty war-mongering habits beyond this planet? And what kind of weapons will we be using up there? If we fire a missile at something and it misses the target, does it continue on its trajectory until it does eventually hit something. Space is a big place, but what if that eventual target is another planet? With people? Will this start a Universal War? There’s an asteroid belt between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter which some scientists feel may have once been a planet. Have we taken this path before?

I think we have enough problems to solve at home, like paying teachers what they’re worth, or this coronavirus thing? Let’s stop glorifying war.

Midweek Monochrome 5-13-20

Hard to believe this was just three weeks ago.  Snow flurries were on the mountain, thunderstorms were rolling through town.  Now the spring/summer temperature yo-yo has begun.  Not for long, I’m sure, as summer is inevitable.

Mother’s Day 2020

To all the mothers out there, Happy Mother’s Day!

This year will probably be different for most of you, but hopefully all the sons and daughters will be able to show mom some extra appreciation today.

A number of years ago, my significant other was in a routine of visiting antique shops.  While I went through hoping to God that none of that stuff was coming home with us, something actually caught my eye one particular trip.  There was a small stack of predominantly black & white photographs.  Subjects were mostly people, some in uniform.  Almost all had older buildings and many included vintage cars.  Most had borders, including a few with the textured edges.  Some had hand written notes on the back, some had dates stamped on the front.  Three had the Kodak Lab stamp on the back, with dates going back to 1945.  Every single one of them was older than me.  Although these were taken by everyday people, they all seemed to capture a moment in time.  Perhaps because it cost money to click the shutter back then, people put more thought into what they were shooting.  I think the stack was $10, so I had no hesitation in buying them.

 

mom 03

 

Just one more thing guys, in case you’re taking mom on a hike.  Don’t take her on a steep trail with steps cut into the rock, and handrails on the sides, and tell her it will be like walking through the mall.  Give her a chance to dress appropriately.

 

mom 01

Midweek Monochrome 5-6-20

When I was about thirty years old, I thought I was in pretty good shape, as most thirty year-olds would.  Then, one day, I got a dose of reality.  I had an assignment to photograph a hiking trail further north.  The trail started at an elevation around a mile high and finished close to 6000 feet.  It was about as smooth and evenly graded trail that you could ask for.  I had a backpack full of camera gear and a tripod, but nothing I wasn’t used to carrying.  It didn’t matter, because this mountain had kicked my ass.

The following week, I was determined to get in better shape.  There were two nearby mountains in the city that had trails to the top and were fairly close-by.  I started with the easier of the two, and the first few times felt like an effort, but then got easier.  Soon, I was reaching the summit and didn’t feel I needed to rest.  I saw that some others were repeating the hike, so I started doing the same.  One day, I did it three times, and got comments from almost everybody I had lapped.  To me, this environment wasn’t real hiking, but it didn’t matter – I was building my endurance.  Afterwards, I concentrated my efforts to the other mountain, which turned out to be far more demanding.  This one even involved some upper body work, especially on the detour routes.  It took many times before I could make the summit without stopping.  After a few months, my endurance was vastly improved, and I started doing this hike twice.  A few months later, I started throwing on a backpack filled with forty pounds of weights.  People looked at me and asked, “Are you getting ready for a Grand Canyon hike?”

“No, just preparing for life.”

Somewhere along the way in those years, I also started doing something I hated in high school.  Jogging.  Much like my hiking routine, this started quite pathetically.  The block I lived on was exactly one mile around according to my odometer.  It felt like five.  Eventually, I made it around the block without stopping.  Then twice, then thrice.  I ran in some 5k’s and a couple 10k’s.  The running built up different muscles and endurance than the hiking.  I never once set foot in a gym, but I was as close to being a professional athlete as anyone might get.

About a year later, I was asked to photograph a story on mountain biking in the mountains of eastern Arizona.  There were two men who joined me there.  One was a professional mountain bike racer.  The other was his best friend, riding partner, and writer for the story.  I had gone to a local bike shop and rented what was probably a $300 bike, they both had titanium framed bikes costing about ten times that much.

The elevation was about 9000′ above sea level. One morning we headed out for the trails, and for whatever reason, I was the lead bike.  The trail started up a moderate hill, and after several minutes, I heard them talking, but all I heard was my name and the word fast.  I really thought I was holding them back, so I stood up on the pedals, and proceeded a little faster.  There was a loud collective moaning behind me.  I stopped and turned around and repeated what I heard and thought.  “No”  they replied,  “We were trying to figure out how someone who has never mountain biked, and riding a pos bike, could be making us work this hard to stay even!”

Shortly after that trip, I purchased a mountain a mountain bike, which I have not really used like it was intended.  I like uphill rides, but would ride the brakes most of the way downhill.  Even before YouTube existed with its plethora of bike ride fails, I knew this law of physics:

Speed + Gravity = Pain

I once had a dog that could run at forty mph.  I knew taking him on a ‘walk’ was not what he needed, so a lot of my bike riding experience was taking him through the neighborhood.  Fortunately, we had some open spaces and dirt paths, so the bike was perfect for this situation.

Fast forward a few decades to my situation a couple months ago.  As I started physical therapy, they put me on a stationary bike.  I couldn’t operate it as it was, so they had me pedaling from a chair at the back of the bike.  It wasn’t until about week four that I was on the proper seat.  Another couple weeks and I was back on the real thing.  Yes, I still own that same bike.

About the photograph.

I now live in a neighborhood that is mostly flat.  No dirt roads.  No dog.  Although most would prefer a street bike to a mountain bike, I look at it differently.  The tread of my bike offers more resistance, providing a better workout.  I deliberately lower the air pressure for even more resistance.  I have discovered during this quarantine, that empty parking garages make great hills for a workout.  On one early morning ride, I took a different route and came across this garage of a building that was closed.  There were a couple cars in the bottom level, so I had a feeling I might attract some attention.  Up near the top level, the sun was streaming in and created long shadows.  I took this with my iPhone because I had a feeling I wouldn’t have the opportunity again.  Sure enough, as I reached the bottom, security was there asking me to kindly leave.  That’s ok, I know of several other garages where I can still ride.  With stay-at-home restrictions probably coming to an end soon, my bike rides will likely become a little less adventurous.

Brothers, not twins

 

Red Rock Canyon has a bit of a deceiving name.  Unlike Zion or Grand Canyon, there is not one distinct canyon running through the middle of the park.  Instead, it is a long linear steep cliff with canyons that disect the cliff in several places.  From the road, the geology gives the impression that these canyons would be much the same.  Venture in, however, and all the differences become apparent.  Some have water beyond the mouth of the canyon, but can be dry well into the canyon.  Year round water in some, but dry creek bottoms are more common.  Waterfalls can be found in most canyons, seasonally, but there are no real similarities between them.  Brothers, not twins.

 

Red Rock Canyon, Nevada, cliffs, Steve Bruno

 

The trails into the canyons are similar – hike about a mile or so in open desert until you reach the mouth of the canyon, then follow the path of least resistance.  The official trails don’t really go into the canyons, so following the wash bottoms is the route further in.  Eventually, there is a bunch of rock hopping, tree branch ducking, and sliding between boulders.  Just the kind of workout someone on the mend needs.  Like me!  Even with restrictions in place, getting out for exercise has been allowed here.  The road to many of these canyons has been closed to vehicles, making it more work for people to access, thus keeping the crowds down.  A demanding workout with fresh air, beautiful scenery, and almost no people has been a win-win-win scenario.  For me, healthy legs means healthy heart and lungs, and less chance of getting sick.

 

 

creek, Red Rock Canyon, Nevada

 

All the images here are from my two recent hikes into neighboring canyons.  On one, I had cloudy conditions most of the day, and the soft light was essential for getting the photos I did.  On the other, clouds were predicted for most of the day, but soon vanished.  Temperatures down in the desert were pushing triple digits, but a breeze was coming through and it was very comfortable here.

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

 

One of the things I’ve noticed through the years is the change in the water into springtime.  After the snow has melted, and the creek flows decrease, algae forms in the pools, and as these pools dry up, green tinted rocks remain.  I even found algae forming on a waterfall.

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

 

On the second hike, I started getting photos of something I don’t normally come across – tiny critters.  I was sitting in the shade of a large tree cooling my feet in the water when I observed a brightly colored dragonfly.  It had chosen a tiny exposed root as its perch, and after ten minutes, it was still there.  It would fly away occasionally, but always return within three seconds.  After clearing away some larger rocks so I could lay on my stomach somewhat comfortably, I inched closer with my favorite macro lens.  By the time I finished, I was about 3 inches away and could now observe that the dragonfly was in the middle of lunch.  Every time it jumped away and returned, it had some tiny insect in its mouth.  He could have cared less about me.  Shortly after leaving that area, I came across a lizard on a rock.  I knew it wasn’t going to have the same tolerance for me as the dragonfly, but I managed a few close-ups without it moving a millimeter.  It has also been frog hatching season, and I managed to capture this tiniest of frogs.  I could have picked up any one of these rocks with one hand, but the pine needle in the back really gives it a frame of reference.

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

 

For now, the creeks still have water but the levels have been diminishing with each passing week.  My favorite part of spring has to be the redbud trees in bloom.  I wanted to capture them with partly cloudy skies, but the full sunshine actually worked well.

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

 

Stay healthy everyone!

 

Earth Day 2020

“There are more important things than living”

That quote comes from Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick yesterday.  Judging by the protests to reopen the country, and the crap I’ve seen on social media, I’m sure there are thousands (or more) in the US who share this opinion.  If only we could communicate with the dead, I’m sure we would change some minds.

What this really boils down to is selfishness.  Thoughts of “this isn’t my problem” and “let someone else clean up after me” are prevalent in all aspects of these people’s lives.  This goes beyond any virus, and extends to how they treat our planet.  They don’t believe science as it pertains to the virus, and certainly not when it comes to global warming.  We’ve had other virus scares in recent years, but since none of those had the transmission rates of Covid-19, these people just pass this off as a hoax.  Similarly, the earth has had periods of global warming before, none of which had the acceleration that our carbon footprint promotes, so the disbelievers write this off as natural occurrence.

During this time of social distancing, our state has closed the popular outdoor recreation areas, but left some parts open.  One such area has access on a road closed to vehicles, making it a much longer hike than usual.  The photo above comes from there during yesterday’s hike.  You would think that people who come out to breathe some fresh air and make the effort to connect with nature would be respectful of nature.  I was so disappointed to be coming across freshly deposited trash along the way.  I make an effort to clean up when I find this trash, but people like me can’t be everywhere.

Instead of using this quarantine time to get upset and wish for a return to a normal life, maybe we should examine what brought us here.  The earth has shown that it is capable of keeping us in check.  Our normal life needs to change to be in tune with the planet while listening to science.  In the long run, there really is no one coming to clean up after us.

The Path To Recovery

About a half year ago, I suffered a severe leg injury which kept me from being outdoors with my camera.  A couple weeks of being mostly bedridden and using crutches to get around eventually gave way to being able to do some work and the start of physical therapy.  My physical therapist was hesitant about me hiking at first, so my first couple trails were relatively flat.  No backpack filled with tripods or cameras either, just a phone.  Earlier this year, I finally made a hike with all the gear on a trail that had more difficulty involved.  I could feel the difference of the terrain versus just being in therapy.  I can’t imagine how long I would have been out if I wasn’t taking care of myself before this accident, and now that we’re all being asked to stay home, I realize I need to keep moving more than ever.

red rock canyon, nevada, las vegas, rain, hiking, fine art, Steve Brunored rock canyon, nevada, las vegas, rain, reflection, hiking, fine art, landscape photography

While many National Parks and other recreational areas have closed, there are some which remain open.  These may not be the desired locations which attract social media throngs, but those who’ve seen my work know I don’t really go there anyway.  The first location (above) was after some areas had shut down, making this a more crowded parking lot than usual.  Despite that, I had very few people on the trail I was on, and getting here requires a scramble, so I enjoyed the place to myself.

That area has since become off limits, as has the next spot, on a hike taken in March.  While this area starts on a popular trail, it soon takes off to an old trail, which quickly fades and becomes a scrambling route.  Again, social distancing didn’t apply here because there were no other groups.

waterfall, red rock canyon, nevada, las vegas, Steve Brunowaterfall, nevada, desert, creekdesert, nevada, hiking, red rock canyon, Steve Bruno

One of the remaining open trails has plenty of open space to absorb a higher number of hikers keeping distance between them.  Leaving the trail and boulder hopping the creek also provides more privacy and the best views.

water, red rock canyon, nevada, las vegas, Steve Brunored rock canyon, nevada, las vegas, hiking, fine art

Higher up, this canyon becomes more rugged and takes on different characteristics.  While most would have a different opinion on what constitutes a waterfall, I’m going to state that this is southern Nevada’s largest waterfall.  It had been raining earlier, but only a light amount, and had been snowing above.  This probably won’t be noticeable at this size, but there are small streams of water coming down on almost all the canyon walls in this scene.  While the wall to the left is the most obvious, the water can be seen in many spots when standing here (and on my computer screen in full size).  Waterfall or not, I like how this one came out.

red rock canyon, nevada, las vegas, rain, hiking, fine art

Sunday Gratitude

“Whatcha’ cooking, honey?”

“Oh nothing…..just the planet!”

This petroglyph deep in the middle of the Navajo Reservation always intrigued me.  Very few non-native people have been to this location, and I feel fortunate to have witnessed the land and its people.  My interpretation of this rock art has always been that the planet was being cooked.  Did our previous culture know what mankind was about to do to the planet?

It seemed just a short time ago that it was only Al Gore and a handful of scientists warning us of global warming and the actions we needed to take to reverse this trend.  Even if Washington DC and large corporations still behave as though we’re living a century ago, large numbers of people have taken to the streets to demand change.  There are many cities throughout the US that have adopted clean energy policies, and society’s awakening gives me a feeling of gratitude.

Midweek Monochrome 10-2-19

Cooler weather has made its way to the desert, and soon it will be time to start climbing around these sandstone hills again.  This unique perspective of Red Rock Canyon is a panorama stitched from four frames.  I was always pleased with the way it came together, but just recently tried converting it to b&w, and I think I like this outcome better.

Midweek Monochrome 9-25-19

I made a return to the upper Midwest last week, and although I didn’t have time to explore the region, being there was enough to make me wish the trip was planned a little differently.  The photo is from a previous visit, from one of Minnesota’s State Parks.  Although I make my home in the desert, and love it, the area around Lake Superior still ranks very high on my list of extraordinarily beautiful places in the US.  If I could only put up with the winter…..

Midweek Monochrome 9-18-19

Slot canyons are amazing places in the way water can cut so deeply and intricately without removing the materials further out and above.  They are also great places to hang out when the temperatures are soaring.  Fortunately, we are heading into fall, and the relief factor is yielding to the fun of just exploring the desert.  This week’s photo comes from Cathedral Gorge State Park in eastern Nevada.  Unlike slot canyons in sandstone, these crevices don’t run very long, and are so narrow you have to side-step in a couple places to get through.

Midweek Monochrome 9-11-19

September 23rd marks the first day of autumn this year, but that is normally an irrelevant day in this part of the US.  This morning I had the air-conditioning turned off and the doors open for the first time in a while, so perhaps this season will be different.  I read a few months ago that the El Nino currents were still in place, which would account for a lack of a summer monsoon season.  Another wet winter and spring would certainly be welcome, especially if followed by another spectacular wildflower season.

The cooler air also means we’ve made it through the worst of forest fire season.  Our forests have been spared from significant sized fires.  Surprisingly, of all places, the worst one this season was in southern Arizona.  The Woodbury Fire lasted for about a month and consumed over 120,000 acres.  Rugged terrain, inaccessibility, and summer heat were the contributing factors keeping that one from being extinguished quickly.

My closest mountain retreat, pictured above, did not have to deal with closures or fires this summer.  Every autumn, I keep feeling like we just made it through another round of Russian Roulette.  So many dry years, and just enough careless people visiting the forests push the odds in favor of the fires.  Let’s hope for a few more El Nino winters.

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑