Monday, December 31, 2012

Just Desert

Panoramic View
Sabino Canyon
Tucson, AZ

It doesn't take long to discover the real charm of Tucson. The city is surrounded by majestic mountains and rock formations. Both mornings and evenings are graced by spectacular views in the skies as the sun emerges and vanishes lighting the horizon like a glowing ember. This is Arizona a western frontier state. Descriptive words come to mind like spectacular, magnificent, and majestic. Feelings also come to mind such as the likes of awestruck and spellbound.

Each day, either on my way to work or coming home from work, I gaze contemplatively at ridges outlining the city. On occasions they are dusted this time of the years with what appears to be confectioners sugar. It's mother natures own blanket. She drops snow at those higher elevations. The snow quickly melts and races down the likes of Sabino Canyon providing water to the parched Sonoran desert. 

Here three elements, fire, desert and water provide a virtual harem of diversity and joy. If you are a photographer this place is for you. If you love nature and the outdoors you must come here and enjoy the views. If you need to feel alive again the mountains and high desert invite you.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Been A While

Still Waters Of Sabino Canyon
Tucson, AZ

It's been a hectic end of season. My travels took me back to Texas to celebrate Christmas with my family and then again back to Tucson. What was suppose to be a straight flight back, thanks to bad weather, turned out to be a hopscotch trip which included a flight to El Paso and a rental car drive back to Tucson. Weary but glad to be able to make my final destination, I limped back to Tucson by midweek.

A Desert Oasis: Sabino Canyon
Tucson, AZ
An abbreviated work week and the stresses of a new job added to my anxieties. By the week's end, I sorely needed not to think and to recompose. Someone mentioned Sabino Canyon to me and I thought about getting away for a hike.

The canyon lured me in with its many trails and the promise of higher elevations and outstanding topography. Even on a contrasty day, it's a photographer and painter's paradise. My eyes were open wide as was my heart and I was able to absorb what nature had to offer. What sweet visual and mental repose I was able to capture. A half-day and over ten miles of hiking later, my tired body meandered down the canyon side back to my parked car.

A note for the those who have followed my work, given that I didn't know what to expect and the fact that I started my adventure by midday, I chose to keep my photography simple by design. All I brought with me was two iPhones. It wasn't my intention nor did I believe that I would find images worth taking. Within a short distance Sabino Canyon proved me wrong. Thanks to my friends Dan Burkholder and Harry Sandler, I didn't let the limitations of equipment come into play. The iPhone proved to be an adequately sufficient too.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Enlightened in the Desert

Down The Road at Dusk
South of Tucson, AZ

Have been in a zone lately. It no longer matters to me which camera I use my iPhone or my Canon 5D Mark II. Most of my focus has been strictly composition. The equipment is second. Post processing plays a significant role but without composition, there's no story to tell.

Every day I am inspired by what I see. I've become a student not only of the desert but of the light. I tolerate having to go into work before 7AM just so I can be home to catch fabulous light. Each day, I measure its intensity and open my senses to the myriad of image possibilities. My compulsiveness has found its value as has my sensitivity.

This stage of my life is not about what I have but rather of the images that I dream of still taking. It's all I want besides my family. It provides me with boundless joy. So as a fellow sojourner, I share my experiences with you. A photographic John The Baptist or Moses in the desert, either one, you chose. As I am awakened by my senses, I also invite you to see and know as I am reminded: we are here for the purpose to enjoy life not merely to toil, suffer, and endure it.

There are many more sunsets to catch and more light to see. Welcome to my new series Enlightened in the Desert.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Cleansing Rain

View From Down the Road After the Rain
Tucson, AZ
I've missed you so much now I'm whole againCome, come tonightJust hold me tightThis desert rain you're my guiding light-Edward Maya

Like a bachelor I cleaned up my space just in time; before my girlfriend of twenty-five years arrived. Nature did it's thing too providing us with a cleansing rain. Dusty roads and desert alike needed the rinsing as did the late autumn sky. Rainbows ended and filled the skies at the end of the first passing storm.

A pair of neighbors dropped by before I finished my Saturday chores. They brought their rescue dogs and much needed cheer. For whatever reasons I've felt as if I been on the remote fort in Dances With Wolves. I found myself isolated from the world and listening for signs of civilization. Instead I found my self surrounded by the company of nature and few humans. My humans friends disrupted my cleaning but it was a wonderful break to speak with enlightened folks.

Headed to Bisbee again today, this time to share my discoveries with Kim. It's good to have the companionship of your best friend. Wont need to listen to the coyotes howl tonight to keep me company. Suppose it's true, we males were meant to be accompanied. My puzzle piece is here. I've got to run, she's not woke up and I have a coffee cup or so to drink before we start our day.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Desert Inspiration

View from Casita
Drexel, AZ

You don’t take a photograph, you make it.
-Ansel Adams
It seems like my creativity has come back. The countryside surrounding Tucson makes it difficult not to inspire. You don't have to look long and hard. It's a matter of sitting back a spell and enjoying the natural landscape that surrounds like a fully furnished home. Inspiration requires an open receptive mind.

While a full time job occupies most of my wake time, I do find the time to sneak a few images in between the workdays and weekends. The iPhone makes that both plausible and possible for me. There's no need to carry my fancy gear around. All I do is keep my iPhone handy and use its many photo apps to render what i see on the fly.

Misson San Xavier del Bac
Tucson, AZ
Yesterday was a tedious day for me. It seemed like nothing was going to get ccomplished. Rather than sit and wait for something to happen, I set out to meet and greet a few more customers. My drive took me just south of Tucson to Suaharita. Along the way, I found a prize, Mission San Xavier del Bac.
While Arizona is known for its desert and bright clear skies, this afternoon mother nature blessed me with the advent and promise of rain. The skies were cloudy enough to provide wonderfully diffused lighting.

There's an expression amongst photographers: "f8 be there." It's cryptic for seize the moment or be prepared. The best photography is with whatever camera you have available and a state of readiness. After waiting for the tourists to remove themselves from my view, I bracketed two exposures with my iPhone. Later I merged them in my iPhone. The results were extremely pleasing given the equipment and obvious contrast.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Utilizing Light

Bisbee Doors
Bisbee, AZ
The higher elevations provide a bright and intense contrasty light. While its perfect for those with seasonal disorders, its super challenging for photographers. A bright sunny day is great for somethings. Here in the desert southwest you learn to work promptly both in the early morn and at dusk. 

On my recent trip to Bisbee, I looked for opportunities to even shoot in the taboo photographer forbidden mid-day. The various allies afforded me the luxury that I needed enough light bouncing off of walls to take decent shots without harsh lighting.

My walks in the late afternoon also give me a chance to study light. The light moves quickly as a magnet drawn to steel behind the mountains that surround my temporary lodging.
Referee Cactus Keeping Score
Outside of Tucson, AZ

Truthfully, I've no axe to grind with the sun. It's simply an adjustment to my style. We walk both in shadows and in light. Our journey takes us through both. We react and adapt accordingly. To capture the images we think we see, we must do both.

Life is a journey they say, an adventure. There are times where I pine for the status quo but thats not what the journey has in store. The road is not straight it has many curves, detours, and dips. And in my case, I find myself going down unpaved roads to get to my final destination. 

In some ways, Robert Frost's trees have become my cacti. Either way, I still have "promises to keep" and "miles to go before I sleep."

Monday, December 10, 2012

Welcoming Staircases of Bisbee Arizona

Just a Step Away
Bisbee, Az

Spent a fantastic Sunday finding adventure in Bisbee, Az. Everywhere I looked seemed like a visual cornucopia. Although I anticipated a quaint mining town of hills and small homes, I was overwhelmed by the beauty of this town and the large number of artists who now call Bisbee home.

Staircase in Full Sun
Bisbee, Az
Arizona is a land of contrast and contrasty skies. The high altitude and bright sun makes photography a challenge most any day except for at dawn and dusk. In order to capture many of my images, bracketing with my camera was a must. 

Everything about this town appealed to me. From dining to shopping for art, Bisbee in my mind has all that someone like me wants. In fact, I enjoyed it so much that I will head back next weekend, but this time with my wife.
For those who have been to both Santa Fe and San Miguel, you should add to your bucket list Bisbee. You will be glad you did and surprised by what you will find.

Tread Lightly

Tread Lightly
Bisbee, Az

Spent all of yesterday in Bisbee, AZ a place that artists and left over hippies alike call home. It's akin to Santa Fe,but real, it's a kin to San Miguel de Allende. This old mining received a renaissance about a starting in the '70's and again in the 90's it is awash with color and colorful people.

As I walked across the town and sought nooks and crannies to photograph, I happened to spot this bumper sticker on a beat up old truck. The wording drew my attention: "I am not the enemy". 

At a time when patriotism is questioned by virtue of which party you are aligned with or which gender you choose to marry, I found that these words resonated with me. The flag next to it made the point further. 

Patriotism comes in all sizes and colors and transcends our personal political preferences and even, for that matter, sexual preferences. That fact that we can be different and can vote differently makes me proud to stand beneath our flag on any given day. We may not agree on most issues but on one we can: we are Americans.

While this is not one of my prettiest images, there's a story to be told. Americas history is behind it but it's future is right square ahead of it. First and foremost we are Americans. Americans can set aside their differences and rally around this flag. Our flag like the statue of liberty in the New York harbor is inclusive. It's important that we not forget. We should tread lightly and respect each other and in so doing we honor those that paid the greatest sacrifice, their lives.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Refresh Your Cache

Saguro National Park West: Petroglyphs
Tucson, AZ

After two dynamic weeks, I took some time this weekend to enjoy the surroundings near Tucson. Let's face it, Dallas/Fort Worth has many things going for it but natural beauty is not one of them. If you enjoy outdoor photography and landscapes the terrain of Arizona beckons.

Petroglyphs: Saguro National Park
Tucson, AZ
Andrew Ford,the gentleman who owns my casita, shares my same passion for the outdoors. He was kind enough to act as my guide recently at nearby Saguro National Park West. He told me how the native American relied 100% on their senses to determine their bearings. By expanding their peripheral vision and allowing their senses to guide them they developed very strong reliable internal compasses. They also learned to rely on the information their animal companions provided. Animal tracks and sounds all proved to a plethora of natural guidance.

Saguro Cactus Close Up
Today, few of us have developed these instincts. We certainly would be better off to listen to our own judgement than to accept blindly the guidance of others. Experience and nature willingly teach those who wish to receive and heed its advice. We should choose to listen if not observe.

The desert teaches more than patience. Its desolation enables to see further. The lack of detail forces actually forces us to notice them. We focus intently on everything thing we see. Our senses become sharper as we try to make sense of the barren landscape. In short time, we notice every bit of detail as is we were in a lush tropical rainforest. It takes an arid space to teach such valuable lessons. It takes an open refreshed mind to receive and process this information.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Photographer: Al "Long-Shadow"

Photographer and Shadows

After spending some time in the high desert, it dawned on me that I should consider adopting a name more descriptive and suitable to my environs.  Given that I shoot mostly early in the AM and right before dusk, the name that best suits me is "Long-shadow". This is me now.

The desert forces me to find different subject matter. To most its natures scrap yard, not very pretty. To me however, it makes me notice details even further. I work in the fringes of light before its either too bright or dark. In fact you might even say, I work in the shadows of the morn and dusk.

My work is swift and precise. There's lots to accomplish before the coyote's howl and their pups chatter. The light is warm gentle and sweet but it moves quickly and dances by the nearby mountain peaks. It's either get the shot now or try and wait for tomorrow, it's my choice and my preference to get it all today, while I can.

It's the desert now remote and barren. Perhaps I've too much time on my hands or not enough time left. So many questions to answer. I just have one to ask God himself, why? There's an answer out there somewhere for me. I'm sure it is as obvious as the thorns on the cactus I see.