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.
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.
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.
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.
A few years back, I went to Colorado over Memorial Day Weekend. I awoke to fresh snowfall one morning near Wolf Creek Pass. I spent the entire morning wandering through the deep snow and taking lots of photos. I finished the day north of Durango with more of the same conditions, and it was a truly awesome day. I’m going to be thinking cool, wet thoughts to get me through the rest of this summer, as I’ve given up trying to go out in this heat.
On my last springtime hike into Red Rock Canyon, things had changed dramatically in just two to three weeks from the previous journey into the same canyon. The plants had taken over, making the trip more obstacle course-like than before, and water levels in the creek had dropped with even some pools completely gone. There was plenty of life around, including these butterflies feeling spring in the air. This shot was somewhat challenging, as I had to use my body and hat to shade sun hotspots that were dotting the frame otherwise, while autofocus was not seeing things as I did.
All this hot weather has me reminiscing about a couple months ago. This photo was from behind one of the waterfalls in Red Rock Canyon. It was late into springtime, and the flow was diminished from earlier in the year, but refreshing nonetheless.
The desert seems so magical in springtime because in most years, there is an abundance of water flowing through the creek beds. The normal lack of rain through late spring and the inevitable rise in temperatures deliver a one-two punch that just makes it tough to want to get back out there. I couldn’t choose one photo from this hike in April, so this week I have two.