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.
There have been a number of times in the last couple years – most notably during my recent injury recovery – where I didn’t pack a camera for a hike. Using only my iPhone for pictures, even with an app that allowed for manual control and RAW capture, ultimately left me disappointed. A friend suggested I look into a newer phone, but after much research I realized that even the latest and greatest still have the same root of the problem. A tiny sensor.
When I have an image that I really like, I want to print it, and want to see it large. I had not looked at point-and-shoot cameras for many years, and thought I should check out that market. A larger sensor and a real lens was what I was interested in, and eventually found what I was looking for in a Panasonic Lumix LX10 with a Leica lens. I was looking to replace using a phone, but the results of this camera could almost make me stop using my real camera. Almost.
In comparison to an iPhone, there really is no comparing, so I’m looking at results next to a full frame DSLR. There is a slight amount of noise that I don’t get with full frame, but that can be easily fixed in processing. The lens is somewhat wide angle, but doesn’t have the coverage of the extreme wide angle lens I use most of the time. And the macro capabilities of this lens don’t get as close as my favorite macro lens. That’s about all I can think about on the cons of this camera, unless it’s possible to be too small or too light.
I have already posted some photos taken with this camera, including some of the nighttime shots on a recent post. Those, and all on this page are hand-held. It also takes some excellent quality 4k video. Now when I go on a hike where I wasn’t expecting to see something photo-worthy, I won’t be disappointed because I packed light. My friends have never been too vocal about it, but every time I’ve stopped and pulled out a tripod, they were probably thinking, “Go small or go home”
Yesterday I was out at Red Rock Canyon for the first time in a while…..with my car, that is. The scenic loop drive, closed to vehicles for over two months, has reopened. The new hours are from 8-4:30, also known as skin cancer time. Yesterday was the last time until October that anyone could be out during that time and not melt within an hour. At the entrance station, I asked the ranger why they even bothered opening the drive. I had arrived around 4 and he told me that if took a short hike, I probably wouldn’t get ticketed for after hours violation. Not feeling very comforted by those words, I stayed close to my car…..and waited. These photos were taken well after closing time, and I saw several other vehicles, but no ranger. It gave me an opportunity to play with camera settings I’ve never used before, but in the end, I used RAW images to get the results I wanted. I realized yesterday that we’ve been so spoiled by having bicycle access during the closure and for most of the day, making the drive kind of a letdown.
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.
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.
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!
No matter what the temperature, I will rarely head out to take photographs if there are cloudless skies. Sometimes clouds just add an element to the skies that reduce the sterility of the scene. They always reflect light, and usually soften the light to some degree. When the clouds are thick enough, they can provide a natural light painting to a landscape that cannot be duplicated in post-processing. In the photograph above, a little bit of direct sunlight was hitting the cliffs in the middle-ground, while some filtered light was reaching a little further back to highlight the ridgelines. Heavy clouds were lingering beyond, making for a dark mood in the back of the canyon. I also had a brief cloud darken the foreground, helping to bring the attention to the cliffs. I never would have pressed the shutter had this been a sunny day.
This is my contribution to Leanne Cole’s Monochrome Madness this week. To see what other photographers have contributed, or instructions to join in, please visit Leanne’s website.
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.