New Year’s Eve: Back Up Those Files!

Ice, #285 (Hanging Gardens). Boulder Creek, Colorado, 2016
Ice, #285 (Hanging Gardens). Boulder Creek, Colorado, 2016

 

If you procrastinate, like me, it has been way too long (an entire Ice Age!) since you have backed up your digital photo files. Am I right or am I right or am I right?

In an ideal fantasy world, many photographers might advocate something similar to this:

–Back up all images on a weekly, or at least monthly, basis. If you have just shot an important event or just captured and created once-in-a-lifetime landscapes, back up immediately after the shoot.

–In addition to having your images readily accessible on your desktop hard drive, back them up on at least two other separate drives as well.

–Seriously consider keeping one backup drive off-site in case of natural disaster or theft.

–Also consider keeping your extra special images and important portfolios on separate DVDs or on additional, smaller, portable hard drives.

–Label everything accurately.

Do I do all of this? Well…uh…can’t really say as I do. But I try! I really do!

I have all of my images duplicated on two separate portable drives–just finished my end o’ year update. I keep more recent images I might need on my desktop computer hard drive as well.

Yes, the end o’ the year (Happy New Year!) is certainly a good time to make sure everything is organized and backed up.

There really isn’t much excuse to not do this when you can pick up a 5TB Seagate Desktop External Hard Drive for around 135 buckaroos at Costco or Amazon.

 

May the year 2017 not be a disaster–for you personally, for your digitally-archived photographs…and, yes, for our country and the entire spaceship Earth as well.

Christmas at the Hotel Boulderado

The Christmas Tree. Hotel Boulderado, Boulder, 2016
The Christmas Tree. Hotel Boulderado, Boulder, 2016

 

In 1909, this was the first “luxury” hotel to open in Boulder and it is still going strong as one of Boulder’s most famous icons. Many historic items, furniture, signs, the cherry woodwork, etc. are all still tastefully preserved inside.

Come on out during the Christmas season to see a decorated tree that, at 28-feet, is taller than even the official White House tree! And it is a live one at that!

Some say this is the best place in Boulder to celebrate on New Years Eve (the hotel opened on New Years Day, 1909). So, you have just a couple of days to get your tickets to the party.

A few random images from our visit…

The ceiling was replaced in 1960 after heavy snow collapsed the original:

Boulderado Ceiling. Boulder, Colorado, 2016
Boulderado Ceiling. Boulder, Colorado, 2016

 

Probe around a bit this time of year and you just might encounter an entire Christmas village, complete with train service:

Christmas Village. Hotel Boulderado, Boulder, Colorado, 2016
Christmas Village. Hotel Boulderado, Boulder, Colorado, 2016

 

Be sure to check out the catacombs in the basement–now a quite fashionable bar (License No 1 Liquor Bar) offering live music, spread throughout a maze of darkened and cave-like rooms:

The Billiards Room. Hotel Boulderado, Boulder, Colorado, 2016
The Billiards Room. Hotel Boulderado, Boulder, Colorado, 2016

 

Did I say bar? Liquor?

The Liquor Cabinet. Hotel Boulderado, Boulder, Colorado, 2016
The Liquor Cabinet. Hotel Boulderado, Boulder, Colorado, 2016

 

Looks like a rather daring…nay, scandalous!…wedding dress from the flapper era:

Wedding, circa 1920s. Hotel Boulderado, Boulder, Colorado, 2016
Wedding, circa 1920s. Hotel Boulderado, Boulder, Colorado, 2016

 

Direct from the shrinking glacier up on the Continental Divide above Boulder:

Glacier Water. Hotel Boulderado, Boulder, Colorado, 2016
Glacier Water. Hotel Boulderado, Boulder, Colorado, 2016

 

Dang, what the heck are these weird old machines? (Texted the twenty-something to the other twenty-something):

Writing Machine. Hotel Boulderado, Boulder, Colorado, 2016
Writing Machine. Hotel Boulderado, Boulder, Colorado, 2016

 

Cash Register. Hotel Boulderado, Boulder, Colorado, 2016
Cash Register. Hotel Boulderado, Boulder, Colorado, 2016

 

Dial Telephones. Hotel Boulderado, Boulder, Colorado, 2016
Dial Telephones. Hotel Boulderado, Boulder, Colorado, 2016

New Series: The Trump Collection

Just added a new portfolio of 12 images under the Galleries tab.

Here are three, to give you an idea. The message should be quite clear, I would think.

 

The Trump Collection, #1 (Vagitarian). Boulder, Colorado, 2016
The Trump Collection, #1 (Vagitarian). Boulder, Colorado, 2016

 

The Trump Collection, #7 (Interrogator). Boulder, Colorado, 2016
The Trump Collection, #7 (Interrogator). Boulder, Colorado, 2016

 

The Trump Collection, #10 (Savior). Boulder, Colorado, 2016
The Trump Collection, #10 (Savior). Boulder, Colorado, 2016

 

The difficult part with these photographs is deciding which images should be layered together, then finding the “just right” placement of one over the other.

Most of these pictures came from files that were originally quite small (some were from my iPhone). I ran them through Topaz Impression to give them an effect I liked in addition to converting them to black and white. I have them currently sized at 18″ x 12″ but they could probably go to 30″ x 20″ quite easily.

I mention this somewhat technical information because it seems that many photographers get caught up in squeezing out maximum sharpness from their 24 to 36 to 50 megapixel super-machines when sometimes it isn’t really necessary. Yes, for a classic landscape, you likely do want that sharpness. But, if there is a specific concept in play that involves social or political commentary or story-telling, then the compositional elements and whether they are successful in communicating with the viewer are way more important than high definition and pixel resolution. 

Happy Holy Holly Days to All!

Happy Holidays. Boulder, Colorado, 2016
Happy Holidays. Boulder, Colorado, 2016

 

Overheard at a shopping mall today somewhere in this fine country:

Shopper 1: “Wait just a damn minute! Did you just say ‘Happy Holidays’?”

Shopper 2: “Well…uh…yes. Why?”

Shopper 1: “Are you one o’ them damn libtards that’s wagin’ war on Christmas? Prolly a Muslim-lover, too, eh?”

Shopper 2: “Well, then, Merry Christmas to you, then! I was just trying to be all-inclusive. Not everyone in our country is a Christian, you know.”

Shopper 1: “Well, it’s a Christian country and, dammit, everyone should say ‘Merry Christmas’!”

Shopper 2: “I take it you are a Christian then?”

Shopper 1: “Yer goddamn right I’m a Christian! And I’m packin’, too, so ya better stop with that ‘Happy Holidays’ crap right now!”

And so it goes…(sigh)…

Diversity (and the food that goes with it!) is so much more interesting, don’t you think?

December 8Bodhi Day

December 12Milad un Nabi

December 15Dhanu Sankranti

December 21Winter Solstice

December 23Festivus for the rest of us!

December 24Hanukkah (through January 1)

December 25Christmas

December 26Kwanzaa (through January 1)

December 26St. Stephen’s Day

December 26Boxing Day

December 28Holy Innocents

December 31Watch Night

January 6 – Epiphany, or Día de los Reyes

Arizona in December

While the hills above Boulder, Colorado look like this these days…

Second Flatiron, Winter Snow. Boulder, Colorado, 2016
Second Flatiron, Winter Snow. Boulder, Colorado, 2016

 

You can still find fall colors on lower Mount Lemmon above Tucson, Arizona:

December Color in the Catalinas. Mt Lemmon, Arizona, 2016
December Color in the Catalinas. Mount Lemmon, Arizona, 2016

 

Agave and Ocotillo. Mount Lemmon, Arizona, 2016
Agave and Ocotillo. Mount Lemmon, Arizona, 2016

 

No wonder the populations of Tucson, Phoenix, Yuma, etc. swell so much during the winter months! What a contrast!

Arizona Horizons, #7. Tucson, Arizona, 2016
Arizona Horizons, #7. Tucson, Arizona, 2016 (Sunset and contrails behind the Tucson Mountains and Baboquivari Peak.)

Arizona Summits: Ragged Top via the North Gully (3,907′)

The Road In. Ironwood Forest National Monument, 2016 (Ragged Top in the background)
The Road In. Ironwood Forest National Monument, Arizona, 2016 (Ragged Top in the background, Terra the mountain dog and Brian in foreground.)

 

If you have never heard of the Ironwood Forest National Monument in southern Arizona you could be forgiven. This 129,000-acre preserve in the Sonoran Desert was created very recently–in the year 2000 by President Bill Clinton.

It was news to me, too!

Indeed, we were there last Saturday (Dec 17) for a “Three Brothers” climb of one of the most prominent peaks in the Monument, Ragged Top, and we never saw another sapien soul…just a white-tailed deer and plenty of fresh bighorn sheep droppings. So, I guess the word has yet to get out amongst the more intrepid of us human beans.

There is plenty of info online about how to get to the base of Ragged Top, so I will dispense with redundant navigation directions–you can figure it all out. And the pictures that follow will give you plenty of bread crumbs to follow once you are in the area.

One key recommendation: Make sure you pick a cool day to minimize the amount of water you have to carry. With highs in the 50s and calm winds, we chose the perfect day. This is definitely a winter season hike if you are in to reasonable comfort.

Other minor recommendations: Wear long pants, long sleeves, and sturdy boots. There is no defined trail, lots of loose rock, and the catclaw will ambush your every move, especially once you are confined to the narrow gully high on the mountain. Tweezers, a comb, and/or pliers wouldn’t be a bad idea, too, for pulling out those Cholla cactus needles from your boots, calves, and shins.

From the main dirt road, plan on 4-5 hours to cover the roughly four-mile and 1,700′ vertical out-and-back trip. There is a bit of Class 2+/3- in the last 50′ to the top, but below that it never really exceeded Class 2 if you chose your route carefully.

Conditions were not great for photography–this was a mid-day trip and there were almost no clouds in the sky for miles around. So, what follows is not so much “art” as it is helpful beta for your trip.

The object of our affections for the day…From the road the peak looks spectacular and quite improbable to ascend, but have faith as the massif will retreat into apparent simplicity the higher you climb up its slope:

Ragged Top Portrait. Ironwood Forest National Monument, Arizona, 2016
Ragged Top Portrait. Ironwood Forest National Monument, Arizona, 2016

 

A roadside oddity. I am hoping it was not due to human abuse:

Hanging By A Thread. Ironwood Forest National Monument, Arizona, 2016
Hanging By A Thread. Ironwood Forest National Monument, Arizona, 2016

 

From the main dirt road, the walking is pleasant and innocuous enough at the beginning, but gets more difficult as you climb higher. There is no trail, so pick your way toward the North Gully (see arrow below) as best you can using washes, sections of game trail, and more open areas:

Along the Wash. Ironwood Forest National Monument, Arizona, 2016
Along the Wash. Ironwood Forest National Monument, Arizona, 2016

 

The slope begins to steepen and the hardy Sonoran Desert vegetation–all of which scratches, sticks, pinches, pokes, or stabs–begins to thicken:

Cholla Forest. Ironwood Forest National Monument, Arizona, 2016
Cholla Forest. Ironwood Forest National Monument, Arizona, 2016

 

Ragged Top is quite am imposing mass of rock, but it is actually composed of many separate walls and spires. The standard route goes up the North Gully to that U-shaped low point in the middle of the picture:

Ragged Top Spires. Ironwood Forest National Monument, Arizona, 2016
Ragged Top Spires. Ironwood Forest National Monument, Arizona, 2016

 

Nearing the base of the North Gully, here is the view behind you. Greg (photographed there for scale) has stopped to fix his camera:

Saguaro Forest. Ironwood Forest National Monument, Arizona, 2016
Saguaro Forest. Ironwood Forest National Monument, Arizona, 2016

 

Looking up at the gully and wondering if it “goes”. It does, but expect some scrapes and cuts from rolling/sliding rocks, and the palo verde and catclaw:

Scanning the Route. Ragged Top, Arizona, 2016
Scanning the Route. Ragged Top, Arizona, 2016

 

A cold front had just moved through dropping the temperatures from the 80s the day before to the 50s on this day. I am not sure if the haze was residual humidity or a generous gift of gas from the lovely Los Angeles basin:

Hazy View. Ragged Top, Arizona, 2016
Hazy View. Ragged Top, Arizona, 2016

 

Greg works his way up the easy Class 3 rock of the last fifty feet to the summit, GoPro in hand:

Approaching the Summit. Ragged Top, Arizona, 2016
Approaching the Summit. Ragged Top, Arizona, 2016

 

Brian collects a few summit photos…and displays on the back of his shirt our increasingly common refrain. Note the vintage 1970s era water bottle. Yeah, I am probably being slowly poisoned by the toxic plastic:

The Older I Get. Ragged Top, Arizona, 2016
The Older I Get. Ragged Top, Arizona, 2016

 

There are bighorn sheep somewhere in them thar hills. Not many, but they are indeed present–the only endemic herd left in Arizona and numbering maybe 75-100 sheep souls in total:

Hazy Horizons. From Ragged Top summit, Arizona, 2016
Hazy Horizons. From Ragged Top summit, Arizona, 2016

 

On the way down, the sun had moved a bit so I was able to get better images of the route:

Coming Down the North Gully. Ragged Top, Arizona, 2016
Coming Down the North Gully. Ragged Top, Arizona, 2016 (Brian and Greg)

 

North Gully Beta. Ragged Top, Arizona, 2016
North Gully Beta. Ragged Top, Arizona, 2016 (Brian and Terra)

 

A closer look with the telephoto at 200mm. Take care working your way up and down all the loose rock:

North Gully Up Close. Ragged Top, Arizona, 2016
North Gully Up Close. Ragged Top, Arizona, 2016

 

Looking through the haze and into the Silver Bell Mountains:

Ironwood Forest National Monument, Arizona, 2016
Ironwood Forest National Monument, Arizona, 2016

 

Saguaro detail:

Saguaro, #5. Ironwood Forest National Monument, Arizona, 2016
Saguaro, #5. Ironwood Forest National Monument, Arizona, 2016

 

A nice sunburst as we come out of the shade of the mountain and the slope lessens. The North Gully is actually on the very far left (wide-angle lens distortion here). That main gully just left of center with the white debris slide is not what you want unless you are looking for a longer and more mysterious adventure:

Solar Halo. Ironwood Forest National Monument, Arizona, 2016
Solar Halo. Ironwood Forest National Monument, Arizona, 2016

Arizona Summits: Picacho’s Peripheral Basalt Plug

Pink Desert Sunrise. Near Picacho Peak, Arizona, 2016
Pink Desert Sunrise. Near Picacho Peak, Arizona, 2016 (That’s “The Plug” sitting in the right half of the photo, with the Picacho Mountains in the background.)

 

This is not much of a summit as far as mountains go. In fact, the total climb barely exceeds 50 vertical feet–maybe as high as a good fire department extendable ladder.

Still, the formation is geologically veddy, veddy interesting.

When you zip by at 75-per on the nearby busy autobahn, you can see its dark turd-like countenance not far away on the east side of I-10 (opposite Picacho Peak), contrasting sharply with the light-colored, flat, and over-grazed desert. 

From the summit of “The Plug”, looking west toward I-10 and Picacho Peak:

Picacho Peak View. Picacho Peak, Arizona, 2016
Picacho Peak View. Picacho Peak, Arizona, 2016

 

A more artistic view of Picacho Peak from the railroad culvert:

Culvert View. Picacho Peak, Arizona, 2016
Culvert View. Picacho Peak, Arizona, 2016

 

Here I’ll offer up two more “beta” images for you, taken on another day (18 December) from what I would call the East Summit of Picacho Peak (a sub-peak of that massif).

In this first one (pre-dawn), you can clearly see the red and white tower (a good reference point), the culvert under the railroad tracks (a place to park and the best/safest way to cross the tracks), and the flat desert leading over to the plug (even an old concrete foundation can be seen just before the plug).

The Basalt Plug. From East Picacho Peak, Arizona, 2016
The Basalt Plug. From East Picacho Peak, Arizona, 2016

 

In this one (taken just after sunrise), you get a slightly bigger picture of a similar scene in which the oddness of the basalt plug is obvious:

East Summit, #3. From East Picacho Peak, Arizona, 2016
East Summit, #3. From East Picacho Peak, Arizona, 2016