With all this time to catch up on things, I finally went through my collection of 35mm slides and disposed of most of them. While the favorites have been scanned and/or printed many years ago, most were in slide boxes and pages. These were mainly duplicates and outtakes from assignments, being held onto just in case. There was a time when referrals would come up from someone who knew I had covered certain events or places, but those days of out-of-the-blue stock sales are long gone. There were a few hidden gems amongst the thousands which hadn’t seen the light of day for decades. Below are two of those from Yosemite and Bryce Canyon.
Today in the US we have set aside a day to remember those who have made the ultimate sacrifice to ensure the rest of us have a life of freedom. Wars have been a part of human history since we managed to make our first weapon. In WWI and WWII, there is little doubt our presence was necessary to keep power-hungry leaders in check. Since then, most notably Vietnam, our role in these wars has been questioned by some portion of the public. For those enlisted in the Armed Forces, politics has no place. Armchair quarterbacking is not allowed.
Growing up, I remember watching war movies where people died. Perhaps they grabbed their stomachs and fell over, or they lied in their buddy’s arms and shared a poignant moment before they passed quietly. It all seemed so honorable. Television shows like Hogan’s Heroes and McHale’s Navy made war seem like a vacation. As did most boys my age, I played with G.I. Joe’s. Cowboys and Indians. Cops and Robbers. Nobody ever wanted to be on the losing team. The good guys always win, everybody knew that.
I have four older brothers. They started up the draft again for Vietnam, just around the time the oldest turned 18. Seeing my mom crying while watching the draft was the first time I thought about the reality of war. The oldest brother’s birthday came up in the first twenty dates drawn. A year later, the same fate was true for the next brother. Two years later, a repeat for the next brother. Vietnam ended, but then a mandated draft registry came up in time for my eighteenth birthday. I was never called, but the thought of it weighed upon me as unrest in the Middle East was becoming more prominent.
Recent war movies have become a lot closer to reality. Bullets hit, and blood and body parts go flying. They don’t use .22’s on the battlefield. People die painfully. Those who survive are likely to be in even more pain. The glory has been removed. Thank you, Hollywood.
Just when I thought the glorification of war was a thing of the past, here they come again. The United States Space Force. You can find the promotional trailer on YouTube. Looks like fun, the only thing missing is the slogan “It’s not just a job, it’s an adventure” Oh wait. That’s another branch’s slogan. Copyright infringement. Can’t use that.
If we’re preparing a military division for space, you have to ask, “who are our enemies out there?” I’ve thought this through, and clearly there are only two answers.
- Aliens. This can’t be the answer, because for 70+ years, the government has been telling us they don’t exist. If they did, I’m sure our weapons are no match for theirs. Unless we’ve figured out a way to reverse engineer technology that has crash landed on this planet. Oh wait, I keep forgetting, that doesn’t exist. That, and the government would have to admit they’ve been lying all this time.
- Other humans from other countries. This must be the answer by default.
Are we really going to take our shitty war-mongering habits beyond this planet? And what kind of weapons will we be using up there? If we fire a missile at something and it misses the target, does it continue on its trajectory until it does eventually hit something. Space is a big place, but what if that eventual target is another planet? With people? Will this start a Universal War? There’s an asteroid belt between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter which some scientists feel may have once been a planet. Have we taken this path before?
I think we have enough problems to solve at home, like paying teachers what they’re worth, or this coronavirus thing? Let’s stop glorifying war.
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.
Last winter/spring was one of the wettest that California has ever seen, and was declared a drought-buster by several accounts. Now, about a half year later, we have seen the most devastating fires to ever hit that state. What happened to all that water? Did the drought really go away?
Intense, out-of-control fires have occurred in places that you would not normally expect these to take place. Oregon, Montana, western Canada, and now Portugal have all been in the news for their fires this year. A reasonable person would have to look at this situation and wonder if there is something we can do for long-term fire prevention. The White House says global warming and climate change is a hoax. More FAKE NEWS!
My photo is from several years ago, and is one of my favorites from a springtime trip in what used to be a normal weather year. I know fires have threatened Yosemite National Park in recent years, and I can’t help but wonder if the next one is the one that leaves the park in ashes.
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.
Mesa Verde National Park is one of the best preserved examples of the Ancestral Puebloan culture that once thrived in the American Southwest. More commonly referred to as Anasazi, which is a Navajo term meaning “enemy ancestor”, these people created structures which were the largest in North America until Europeans settled here and industrialization began. This civilization vanished around 700 years ago, and experts have various opinions as to how this happened. A major climate shift started in the mid 1100’s with multiple periods of drought, and would have severely impacted the food supply. There is also evidence of warfare which may have occurred with nomadic groups.
My photo is of Cliff Palace, the largest of the ruins at Mesa Verde, and is my contribution to Leanne Cole’s Monochrome Madness, which had the theme this week of culture. Instructions on how to participate, and the contributions of others can be found on her website.
Quite a few years ago, my brother and I went on a weekend trip through northeastern Arizona. One afternoon, we went hiking in at Petrified Forest National Park. The trail was difficult to follow, so we gave up trying, and just started heading off into the backcountry. Petrified Forest NP, which lies in the middle of the Painted Desert, has hills that can look the same very quickly, and is not the place for an inexperienced hiker. After about a couple miles of this, we knew it was almost time to turn around, when something caught our attention. As we got closer, we couldn’t believe our eyes. There were two standing petrified trees! Although one was more like a tree fragment, the larger was about 9-10 feet tall.
As you take the driving tour through the park, you will see the petrified logs laying on the ground, with some I’ve seen 40-50 feet in length. I haven’t covered every square mile of Petrified Forest National Park, but I’m pretty sure these trees were the last ones standing. That day was a complete adrenaline rush, but both my brother and I knew we had to come back and see this again with different skies.
It was almost a year later when our schedules coincided and we had dramatic skies to photograph this rare find. It had been a wet winter, and the washes still had water as we headed into the backcountry. Like I said earlier, the hills can look alike, and we were having trouble locating the trees. We were joking that we were losing our tracking abilities, but then we discovered why we were having difficulty. The taller of the trees was no longer standing.
As I mentioned, it had been a wet winter, and the soft soil of the Painted Desert captures impressions very well. When we arrived at the fallen tree, there was a lone set of footprints that wandered towards the tree in an almost drunken fashion, stopped at the tree (easily in arms reach), then continued onward. When this tree eventually fell, I figured it was going to be towards the right (top photo), but it had fallen to the left. More importantly, it fell away from the footprints.
I find it highly improbable that this tree stayed upright for so many centuries, then fell on its own within the next year. The footprints and the direction of the fall lead me to believe it had assistance. This seems like the senseless destruction that only a young male would do, but then the story about boy scout leaders toppling a boulder in Goblin Valley, Utah a couple years ago makes me wonder. They were both in their 40’s, and supposed role models, but look like immature teenagers in the video. Their excuse was “we didn’t want the rock to fall on someone and hurt them”. Sounds like the bullshit their lawyer fed them.
In the case of the petrified tree, the footprints wandered further into the backcountry. I honestly hope that the asshole who did this was drunk and couldn’t find their way back, and ended up being a good meal for the coyotes and buzzards. At least there would be some purpose for this waste of life.
Even with the photos I did manage to get on the first trip, it took a couple tries before I had one published. Ironically, on the day after the magazine came out, I received a phone call from a photographer who gave me a long winded story when I inquired about one of his locations. For a brief moment, I felt like sending him on a wild goose chase, but I was still disgusted over this, and just told him how there was nothing left to go back to.
This week’s Daily Post Challenge is Opposites, which presents many possibilities. The above shot was taken on the Navajo Indian Reservation, and doesn’t need an explanation.
Not far from there, I spent a day at the Grand Canyon where it was fogged in. At one point its opposite, complete sunshine, made an appearance on the distant cliffs.
When you have a positive and negative charge, you get a spark. Opposing charges created in the magnitude of a thunderstorm produce lightning.
In northern Michigan, land and water come together in a serene setting.
For this week’s Daily Post Challenge, I’ve found a few shots where the emphasis came from the curve in the photo. The top shot comes from Great Sand Dunes National Park in Colorado.
Rainbows made me think of curves, whether in the skies over southern Arizona, or frozen in sandstone at Rainbow Bridge National Monument, Utah.
Curves in the road also came to mind, and this one has plenty. It’s called the Swift Trail, and it heads up the Pinaleno Mountains of Arizona. As you can tell, there’s nothing swift about this drive, but it can be a lot of fun, and takes you into a beautiful mountain range.
Also in Arizona, you will come across many of these Saguaro cacti. Although the younger ones are a single column, the older ones develop arms that often curve gracefully.
The Grand Canyon is one of earth’s special places, and even in special places you come across spots that are extra incredible. The photo above is the confluence of the Little Colorado and Colorado Rivers in Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona. During the majority of the year it looks like this. The turquoise colored waters of the Little Colorado, coming in from the right, are fed from a highly mineralized spring about six miles upstream. The Colorado’s waters come from Glen Canyon Dam, which filters out most of the sediment, leaving a deep green hue to the water, when the sunlight hits it. If there is a flood in the vicinity, either, or both, will turn muddy before returning to this two tone mix.
For this week’s challenge, I thought the changing of the Little Colorado’s waters after mixing with the larger volume of the main river showed the visual aspect of change. But there’s a far deeper issue of change at stake. The photo above is in National Park property, but about a mile east, just outside the right edge of the frame, is the boundary with the Navajo Indian Reservation.
A project called the Grand Canyon Escalade is still being considered to be built in the Navajo lands at the edge of the national park. The project’s main feature would be a gondola estimated to bring up to 10,000 people a day into the canyon. At the bottom would be restaurants, shops, an amphitheater and elevated riverwalk. You can also add toilets and garbage to that list. On the rim would be hotels and an RV center plus more of the previously mentioned items. They seem to have omitted where the water supply would be coming from.
The Escalade idea came from developer R. Lamar Whitmer, with the project offices based in Scottsdale, Arizona. Mr. Whitmer has several arguments for his cause, including making this area “accessible to those who might never get to enjoy the tranquil isolation at the bottom of the canyon”. Have you been to Mather Point on the South Rim, Mr. Whitmer? There can easily be a thousand people there at sunset, and the words “tranquil isolation” are the furthest thing from my mind. I can’t imagine experiencing tranquil isolation with thousands of strangers in this tight little pocket of the canyon. That is where raft trips fill the need quite well.
The major selling point of this project was jobs for the Navajo Nation, where unemployment is incredibly high. Nobody could possibly be against that, or could they? Written into the contract is a non-compete clause for 40,000 acres along access roads. It seems all those jewelry stands run by nearby families would have to go, among others. And how about that corporate address? I would have an easier time believing that the Navajos’ best interests were at stake if it was based in Window Rock, or Cameron, or even Flagstaff. Are the Navajo workers supposed to move or commute to Scottsdale? Or are the Navajos not even being considered for corporate level jobs?
This project is completely in the hands of the people of the Navajo Nation. There is nothing that US citizens or the US government can legally do to prevent this from becoming reality. The nearby Hopi tribe has no say in the matter, either. The spring which feeds the Little Colorado is one of the Hopis’ most sacred sites. Fortunately, newly elected Navajo President, Russell Begaye, is against the Grand Canyon Escalade. This is probably the best news to come about since this idea first started. His predecessor was completely for it.
In addition to the impact in the immediate area, this eyesore will be visible from many points along the South Rim, and those points on the eastern drive of the North Rim. The spot I was standing, even though considered backcountry, used to have a rough road leading all the way out to the overlook. Very few people knew of this, but it only took a couple of disrespectful people, having bonfires and leaving trash, to make it so you have to walk the last five miles now. I wonder what the impact will be when the numbers are in the thousands?
I really don’t want to add this to my historical photograph collection.
In response to The Daily Post’s weekly photo challenge: “Change.”