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landscape photography

Let’s See Now…..Where Was I

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.

Midweek Monochrome 07-15-20

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.

Go Small Or Go Home

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.

flowers, sunset, desert

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.

Red Rock Canyon, Nevada, Steve Bruno

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.

flowers, moonrise, Red Rock Canyon, Nevada

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”

Red Rock Canyon, clouds, Steve Bruno, landscape photography

Midweek Monochrome 6-10-20

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.

Midweek Monochrome 6-3-20

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.

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.

Midweek Monochrome 8-28-19

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.

Midweek Monochrome 8-21-19

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!

desert, yucca, Arizona, flowers

bees, flowers, desert

Monochrome Madness: MM 209

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.

Monochrome Madness: MM 203

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.

Monochrome Madness: MM4-25

My photo for this week’s Monochrome Madness comes from the closest forest to my home, on Mount Charleston.  Australian photographer Leanne Cole hosts this event, and at the start of every month there is a theme week.  In September, it was trees.  I had several images for that category, and this was one that I didn’t include back then.  My schedule became very hectic for a couple weeks, and I didn’t post my photo on my blog, even though you can see it on Leanne’s site.

Next week will be have the theme of in the open.  If you’d like to participate, you can find instructions here.

Monochrome Madness: MM4-23

I love this time of year when the air gets cooler and the leaves change color.  Occasionally, cold fronts come through with a little moisture, and hopefully, not much wind.  That was the case for this photo from the San Francisco Peaks, near Flagstaff, Arizona taken a couple years ago.

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 her website.

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