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.
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.
Another shot from about a week ago, but a pulled back perspective. I loved the shapes created by this branch along with its reflection, in the Salt River. The bird – a Black Phoebe, part of the Kingfisher family – kept returning to a couple points on this branch to search for its next prey. The image from this series in my previous post is an uncropped full frame image; that’s how persistent this bird was in returning to the high spot on the branch.
As most of you know, when I’m outdoors taking photographs, I concentrate my efforts on the details of the landscape. In recent days, I have made trips with the primary purpose of capturing the animals and birds of the environment. This requires faster thinking and slower movement than with my traditional subjects, and has been an interesting change of pace.
As in photography, so goes life. While Covid still has prevented much of what I might have otherwise been doing, I have been making a point to not just sit around Netflix binging. I probably won’t be presenting the things which I have been learning on this site, but I have been using this newfound spare time to take on challenges which I never would have attempted years ago. As my recent birthday was one in which both digits changed, I’m glad to be pushing my limits at a time when many people stop doing that.
Additionally, I wanted to point out that while I have photographed more birds in the last few months than I have in the rest of my life, I really never knew which species most of them were. I tried identifying them via websites, but wasn’t getting results. Then I downloaded an app called Merlin Bird ID. The only downside to this app is if you don’t have memory space on your phone to download the databases for your region. This app has made life simple for someone like me who’s not a birder.
Finding running water around here is getting tougher, but there are some places that always come through. A normal water level here would be covering most of those rocks, and the algae has dried to leave a crusty white cap. I’m learning to make the best of cloudless skies, as that appears to be the trend this winter.
The Navajo Nation has imposed more restrictions on travel, so it might be another six months before anyone can visit here the way Covid cases are going. I’m glad I’ve had opportunities to see many places on the reservation, including some not available to most. This is one of those photos that I think most people would show in color (with the saturation boosted as well), but the details are perfectly suited to black and white.
Every once in a while, I’ve come across a place where the seasons didn’t seem to be in alignment with the rest of the world. Sycamore Canyon was one of those places for me. It was late in the year and I was expecting all the trees to be leafless and the general mood to be winterish. To my surprise, all the trees were still holding on to green leaves and the mood was very energetic. The original of this photo is on color film, but with a new “scan”, the details in black and white make it difficult to favor the original.
Yes, we’re starting to feel like Bill Murray’s character in Groundhog Day. Mother Nature has succeeded in issuing a stay at home order more potent than any Governor’s. The only time to be comfortable outdoors is first thing in the morning, but the smoke throughout the west has reached unhealthful conditions in many places, defeating the purpose of going out.
In case you missed this week’s news, record setting heat in Death Valley reached 130 degrees, a mark not seen there in over 100 years, or over one pandemic ago. The photo below is from the National Park Service Instagram page. Think of it like a bank thermometer, but the official reading is the third highest ever recorded on Earth. Phoenix has had a record number of 110+ days, as well as a record number of 115+ days. It could snow there this week, and it would still be the hottest summer on record. Las Vegas tried to end rainless streak of 89 days, but could only squeeze out a trace of rain. The people who study these things say we have been in a long term drought which historically last 30 years, and we are about 25 years into it. I hope in 5 years from now Californians are back to complaining about all the rain. It beats the hell out of all these fires.
Perhaps the most important news of the week comes from Greenland. Scientists now say that the ice cap there has reached the point of no return. People weren’t paying attention to Al Gore twenty years ago, so perhaps news like this will get people listening to scientists now. If you want to see how we’ve destroyed the polar ice cap, you can click on the link below.
While driving through the desert a couple weeks ago, I departed under the same clear skies we’ve had for most of the summer. After a couple hours, I noticed a tiny cloud or two on the horizon. I was headed in that direction, but didn’t think the situation would be the same in two hours. When I arrived, there was an hour or more of daylight remaining, and to my surprise, the cloud cover appeared to be getting better. I stuck around until sunset before continuing on to my destination, glad I had my camera along.
The Comet Neowise has been making its way through the nighttime skies recently, and last week I made several short trips away from city lights to view this rare sight. On my first night out, I didn’t know what to expect, so I only packed a couple fast lenses. I achieved some nice results, and went out the next night trying to get this shot with a very long and very slow lens. That was a disaster, and just reaffirmed that it’s not a nighttime lens. I went back the following night to the same spot with a much faster medium telephoto lens. I made the switch to a mirrorless camera not very long ago, and this was my first attempt at nighttime photography since. I didn’t find it easy to frame the image using the mirrorless, so I ended up taking handheld shots with my old camera and 50mm f/1.2 lens as a spotting device to find the part of the ridge I wanted as a foreground. Then I set the tripod in place for the telephoto shots.
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.