As with most people, I’ve had some time to catch up on a few things lately. I came across this photo in my files and thought it was perfect for a b&w conversion. This is a glimpse of some of the many pinnacles that decorate the summit of the Superstition Mountains near Phoenix, Arizona.
Around this time last year, I managed to get away to the White Mountains of eastern Arizona. I was in the vicinity of the Blue River, and trying to locate a section I had visited about 20 years before. Nothing looked familiar, so I just went exploring to see what else was out there. A small side canyon had some intriguing shapes and kept me hiking and photographing until the sun moved higher in the sky and shade was no longer an option. Here is one photo from that morning.
“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.
I find that many photogenic boulder locations tend to be in lower deserts here in the southwest. Joshua Tree National Park comes to mind when I see what other photographers like to cover. The boulders there may receive more attention than the tree the park is named for. There are much better Joshua Trees to see than the ones there, so I completely get this one.
The subjects of my photo come from the cooler, higher elevations of Prescott National Forest in central Arizona. The tree at the back is what caught my attention here. It provides a nice contrast and an element of scale for these massive rocks. The clouds drifting into the frame completed the scene for me.
As summer drags into its last month (in theory), we here in the desert are looking forward to a change. Normally the seasonal monsoon rains have their rhythm going by now, and lowered the fire danger and temperatures (ever so minimally). Even if the rains are few and far between, the clouds offer some relief as well as photogenic backdrops. On the occasions we have had clouds and rain, the storms started early, and were finished early.
This time of year, it’s nice to get away to the mountains for some relief. A lot of other people have the same idea, so when I go, I usually find some rough, isolated road to get further from the crowds. Because the fire danger throughout the west remains high, and most fires are human caused, I no longer feel comfortable doing this. I never make campfires wherever I go for environmental reasons, and I don’t understand why anyone would need a fire when it doesn’t get below 50 degrees. I think this was a tradition started by people in old western movies that needs to go away.
For now, my photo trips have been limited in number and almost exclusively on paved roads. These photos are from late spring in the desert of western Arizona. The yuccas are the last thing to flower in the desert, with the blooms taking place over an extended period, depending on the right conditions for each plant. As I approached the plants below, there was a definite buzz in the air. The bottom photo is a crop of the one above it, so you should be able to see the bees more clearly. Ive photographed these plants in spring before, and never remember encountering a single bee. About 100 feet away was a similar plant with fresher blooms, but no bees. I guess this is what happy hour looks like if you’re a bee!
I’ve been crazy busy lately, so I’m trying to get caught up here. In the final installment of the Daily Post Photo Challenge, they put up the topic of All-Time Favorites. While I have posted some favorites before, these are mostly new to my blog. I purchased my first real camera over 40 years ago, and moved into large format 5 years after that. I have some favorites from way back then, and some that have made the ranks within the last year. Choosing definitive favorites throughout the collection would be impossible, so here are a few from the top of my lists in various categories.
Living in the desert, flowers are a limited subject for me. The top photo comes from the North Rainbow Trail along the Arizona-Utah border. We had just dropped into a canyon whose entire bottom was layers of sandstone, when I spotted several Indian Paintbrush in bloom. Who needs soil anyway?
One of the difficulties in photographing poppies is that they open up when the sun is stronger, then close by the end of the day. Secondly, they appear in surroundings that are often not very photogenic. Then, if those two come together, there’s the third variable of decent light. I think I hit the trifecta when I photographed these poppies in the late afternoon, below a saguaro cactus studded hillside in the desert east of Phoenix, Arizona. Just as I was setting up, a thin wave of clouds moved in as though someone were pulling a fine lace curtain over the desert.
Although I’m partial to the desert, my travels have not been limited to the warmer regions. Anyone who has been to the Rocky Mountains in summer knows that you can almost set your watch by the afternoon thunderstorms. On this mostly clear day, somewhere south of Telluride, I captured this favorite mountain scene as the sun was getting low.
While the desert does contain a few, there are better chances of finding waterfalls in the mountains. I think I always had a special place for this one because it was the first time I was able to get behind the falls without getting a wet lens. Oh, and the light is pretty good, too! From Rifle Falls, Colorado.
Another place having thunderstorms with clocklike predictability is southeastern Arizona. While spending a couple very wet afternoons on Mount Graham, I woke up very early the last morning to capture the sunrise coming up over a fog-filled Safford Valley. I have seen hundreds of sunrises and sunsets from beautiful locations, but this one still ranks high.
Seeing mountains from an aerial perspective can be breathtaking, but often too distant to see great detail. However, mountains and commercial airplanes in close proximity is a bad thing. Many routes out of Seattle pass close to Mount Rainier. I was fortunate on this almost cloud free winter Seattle day (yes that sounds like an oxymoron) to capture one of my favorites from an airplane.
While many tend to think of Arizona as hot and dry, there are a few riparian zone gems to be found. One of them, West Clear Creek, is a photographer’s paradise, as well as a great place to escape the heat. This is one of my favorites for reflections, and pretty high on the list for canyon photographs.
The reason it could not take top honors for canyon favorites is because of the next place. I have hundreds of Grand Canyon photos from various trips, and have seen many different faces that it puts on, but there’s nothing like being in the bottom and really appreciating its scale.
Water in the desert is special, but certainly not the norm. The counterpart to creeks and rivers would probably have to be sand dunes. This is truly impossible to pick a favorite, so here is one I have posted before. From Death Valley at sunrise, I have never seen arcing ridges like these at other dunes I have visited.
Despite all the time I’ve spent photographing nature, with many great days, I have one that I still refer to as best day ever. I left Las Vegas around 3 in the morning to head to Zion National Park. I arrived just in time to get a glimpse of sunrise hitting the freshly snow covered mountains. Once I started photographing, there was something to capture my attention around every corner. Despite great light in the middle of the day, I had to force myself to go down to Springdale for some lunch before returning to keep clicking all the way until the sun went down. I don’t think there were more than 20 people in the park all day long, and the rangers said they had never seen that much snow before. Somehow, with the lack of people, I came across one scene that was up about two miles along a trail that someone had walked in the middle of for no apparent reason. It was the most surreal image I had seen that day, and I was cringing because someone walked through it. This was slightly pre-Photoshop, and if I had any idea of the changes that were about to happen, I would have captured that image and waited for technology to catch up. I have no “outtakes” from that day. If I had a digital camera, I can only imagine the volume of images I would have taken. Perhaps it was the time-consumption of each setting with a large format camera that placed me in the right moment as I approached the next location at the perfect time. One of my early morning shots made a cover of a national magazine, but the truth is they’re all favorites, so here’s one the world hasn’t necessarily seen yet.
I am always intrigued by desert plants and how they grow and bloom. The agave (above) grows from a tightly packed center. As the leaves peel outward, they retain the lines of the leaves they grew adjacent to. The plants provides great lines and textures and photograph well from many angles, but I always liked this one showing the core.
Bolts of lightning always leave fascinating lines, whether a single strike, or a multitude. This was probably the most potent and tightly concentrated thunderstorm I ever photographed.
Another weather situation that can provide great lines to photograph are icicles.
I’m always looking for trees to photograph, mostly based on their lines and the shapes they create.
Sometimes, I don’t even have to look upward to see the photograph I want from a tree. Ponderosa pines are one of many types of trees with great bark patterns.
I find that landscape photographs are often best when there are lines that take you through the frame. The southwestern US has many locations with powerful lines.
The canyons near Escalante, Utah streaked with desert varnish, or the twisted sandstone of the Vermillion Cliffs are just two examples of that.
Antelope Canyon is one of the most photographed spots in the southwestern US. As you wander through this tight canyon, you can’t help but eventually look towards the sky which is no longer visible. Light tries to find its way to the bottom, and as it does, highlights the textures of the smooth, twisted, sculpted walls.
This is my contribution to Leanne Cole’s Monochrome Madness this week. Being the first one of the month, there was a theme of From Under. To see what other photographers have contributed, or instructions to join in, please visit Leanne’s website.
I’ve seen many beautiful sunrises and sunsets, with most of those happening in Arizona and New Mexico. Many times I have been in exquisite surroundings, only to have a faint hint of color, or to have the color burst through in a different part of the sky than I was hoping for. There have only been a couple occasions where the entire sky has lit up and I’ve been in an excellent spot to capture it. This was one of those moments from Chiricahua National Monument, Arizona.