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Midweek Monochrome 07-01-20

Back in springtime, we had some days that were absolutely beautiful for hiking. No, not the sunny ones. The ones with clouds and rain threatening, even if hardly producing. Those were also great days for photographs, especially in b&w.

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

Hitting The Pause Button

As with most of the world, Las Vegas came to a screeching halt this spring. Getting out of the house for exercise was encouraged, and as I mentioned before, bike rides were part of that agenda for me. The weather was still cool for much of the stay-at-home period, but riding around my immediate neighborhood leaves much to be desired. I realized it wasn’t much of a ride to get someplace that most of us avoid like…..well…..the plague.

Las Vegas Blvd, aka The Strip, is usually very crowded and noisy and no place for a bicycle. Now, the wide open sidewalks (not to mention all those open traffic lanes) made for great pedaling. There was still some traffic, sequenced into tiny parades controlled by the traffic lights, and never enough to be a concern for riding on the asphalt.

The Strip, quarantine, Las Vegas, Steve Bruno

The Forum Shops at Caesar’s Palace, which once held the distinction of being the most expensive retail space in the US, had a mostly empty sidewalk, with some occasional joggers, pedestrians and dogs. You would never see this most times of the year. Just down the street, Fashion Show Mall was just as quiet.

Caesar's Palace, Forum Shops, Las Vegas Blvd, lockdown
Las Vegas Blvd, quarantine, Forum Shops, Nevada
Las Vegas, quarantine, Fashion Show Mall, Nevada

There is one spot that is almost always guaranteed to be busy, no matter what the temperature or time of day. The infamous sign. Other people were here when I took these, casually taking their time with lots of photos and videos, a luxury not allowed when there are 50 people waiting their turn. And yes, I was standing in the middle of the road with a tripod for the street view. This was only around 9 o’clock at night!

Welcome Sign, quarantine, Las Vegas, Steve Bruno
quarantine, Las Vegas Blvd, Steve Bruno

When I first started my LV Blvd bike rides, I was mostly alone. There were a couple joggers, pedestrians, and another bike or two. There was a very pleasant period where the temperatures and cloud conditions made me opt for hiking instead, and when I returned, all of a sudden, bike riding the Blvd had become a thing. Hundreds of other bike riders were filling the sidewalks and spilling into the street. The mall had even opened up a parking lot to accommodate the riders. Still, it was a far cry from the usual volume of this road.

quarantine, Las Vegas Blvd, Steve Bruno
quarantine, Las Vegas Blvd, Steve Bruno

Construction was deemed necessary business during the shutdown, and shortly after my first ride, cones and zones became abundant. A short distance off the Blvd, the Las Vegas Convention Center was working on an expansion. This is the most scaffolding I have ever seen in one setting, and I think this photo would be a truly maddening jigsaw puzzle.

construction, Las Vegas

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 5-27-20

Around this time last year, I managed to get away to the White Mountains of eastern Arizona. I was in the vicinity of the Blue River, and trying to locate a section I had visited about 20 years before. Nothing looked familiar, so I just went exploring to see what else was out there. A small side canyon had some intriguing shapes and kept me hiking and photographing until the sun moved higher in the sky and shade was no longer an option. Here is one photo from that morning.

Midweek Monochrome 5-13-20

Hard to believe this was just three weeks ago.  Snow flurries were on the mountain, thunderstorms were rolling through town.  Now the spring/summer temperature yo-yo has begun.  Not for long, I’m sure, as summer is inevitable.

Brothers, not twins

 

Red Rock Canyon has a bit of a deceiving name.  Unlike Zion or Grand Canyon, there is not one distinct canyon running through the middle of the park.  Instead, it is a long linear steep cliff with canyons that disect the cliff in several places.  From the road, the geology gives the impression that these canyons would be much the same.  Venture in, however, and all the differences become apparent.  Some have water beyond the mouth of the canyon, but can be dry well into the canyon.  Year round water in some, but dry creek bottoms are more common.  Waterfalls can be found in most canyons, seasonally, but there are no real similarities between them.  Brothers, not twins.

 

Red Rock Canyon, Nevada, cliffs, Steve Bruno

 

The trails into the canyons are similar – hike about a mile or so in open desert until you reach the mouth of the canyon, then follow the path of least resistance.  The official trails don’t really go into the canyons, so following the wash bottoms is the route further in.  Eventually, there is a bunch of rock hopping, tree branch ducking, and sliding between boulders.  Just the kind of workout someone on the mend needs.  Like me!  Even with restrictions in place, getting out for exercise has been allowed here.  The road to many of these canyons has been closed to vehicles, making it more work for people to access, thus keeping the crowds down.  A demanding workout with fresh air, beautiful scenery, and almost no people has been a win-win-win scenario.  For me, healthy legs means healthy heart and lungs, and less chance of getting sick.

 

 

creek, Red Rock Canyon, Nevada

 

All the images here are from my two recent hikes into neighboring canyons.  On one, I had cloudy conditions most of the day, and the soft light was essential for getting the photos I did.  On the other, clouds were predicted for most of the day, but soon vanished.  Temperatures down in the desert were pushing triple digits, but a breeze was coming through and it was very comfortable here.

 

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One of the things I’ve noticed through the years is the change in the water into springtime.  After the snow has melted, and the creek flows decrease, algae forms in the pools, and as these pools dry up, green tinted rocks remain.  I even found algae forming on a waterfall.

 

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On the second hike, I started getting photos of something I don’t normally come across – tiny critters.  I was sitting in the shade of a large tree cooling my feet in the water when I observed a brightly colored dragonfly.  It had chosen a tiny exposed root as its perch, and after ten minutes, it was still there.  It would fly away occasionally, but always return within three seconds.  After clearing away some larger rocks so I could lay on my stomach somewhat comfortably, I inched closer with my favorite macro lens.  By the time I finished, I was about 3 inches away and could now observe that the dragonfly was in the middle of lunch.  Every time it jumped away and returned, it had some tiny insect in its mouth.  He could have cared less about me.  Shortly after leaving that area, I came across a lizard on a rock.  I knew it wasn’t going to have the same tolerance for me as the dragonfly, but I managed a few close-ups without it moving a millimeter.  It has also been frog hatching season, and I managed to capture this tiniest of frogs.  I could have picked up any one of these rocks with one hand, but the pine needle in the back really gives it a frame of reference.

 

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For now, the creeks still have water but the levels have been diminishing with each passing week.  My favorite part of spring has to be the redbud trees in bloom.  I wanted to capture them with partly cloudy skies, but the full sunshine actually worked well.

 

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Stay healthy everyone!

 

Earth Day 2020

“There are more important things than living”

That quote comes from Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick yesterday.  Judging by the protests to reopen the country, and the crap I’ve seen on social media, I’m sure there are thousands (or more) in the US who share this opinion.  If only we could communicate with the dead, I’m sure we would change some minds.

What this really boils down to is selfishness.  Thoughts of “this isn’t my problem” and “let someone else clean up after me” are prevalent in all aspects of these people’s lives.  This goes beyond any virus, and extends to how they treat our planet.  They don’t believe science as it pertains to the virus, and certainly not when it comes to global warming.  We’ve had other virus scares in recent years, but since none of those had the transmission rates of Covid-19, these people just pass this off as a hoax.  Similarly, the earth has had periods of global warming before, none of which had the acceleration that our carbon footprint promotes, so the disbelievers write this off as natural occurrence.

During this time of social distancing, our state has closed the popular outdoor recreation areas, but left some parts open.  One such area has access on a road closed to vehicles, making it a much longer hike than usual.  The photo above comes from there during yesterday’s hike.  You would think that people who come out to breathe some fresh air and make the effort to connect with nature would be respectful of nature.  I was so disappointed to be coming across freshly deposited trash along the way.  I make an effort to clean up when I find this trash, but people like me can’t be everywhere.

Instead of using this quarantine time to get upset and wish for a return to a normal life, maybe we should examine what brought us here.  The earth has shown that it is capable of keeping us in check.  Our normal life needs to change to be in tune with the planet while listening to science.  In the long run, there really is no one coming to clean up after us.

Sunday Gratitude

“Whatcha’ cooking, honey?”

“Oh nothing…..just the planet!”

This petroglyph deep in the middle of the Navajo Reservation always intrigued me.  Very few non-native people have been to this location, and I feel fortunate to have witnessed the land and its people.  My interpretation of this rock art has always been that the planet was being cooked.  Did our previous culture know what mankind was about to do to the planet?

It seemed just a short time ago that it was only Al Gore and a handful of scientists warning us of global warming and the actions we needed to take to reverse this trend.  Even if Washington DC and large corporations still behave as though we’re living a century ago, large numbers of people have taken to the streets to demand change.  There are many cities throughout the US that have adopted clean energy policies, and society’s awakening gives me a feeling of gratitude.

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