Neo-Topographics Continues

A few images from this evening. The storm clouds were brewing…in the figurative sense, too, as these pictures show how we continue to plow up and pave over our ecosystem.

New Pipes, 95th St and Hwy 52. Weld County, Colorado, 2016
New Pipes, 95th St and Hwy 52. Weld County, Colorado, 2016

 

Silver Peaks Subdivision, Maroon Peak and I-25 Frontage. Weld County, Colorado, 2016
Silver Peaks Subdivision, Maroon Peak and I-25 Frontage. Weld County, Colorado, 2016

 

Abandoned Homestead, Grandview Blvd. Weld County, Colorado, 2016
Abandoned Homestead, Grandview Blvd. Weld County, Colorado, 2016

 

Pumpjacks and New Subdivision, Dacono. Weld County, Colorado, 2016
Pumpjacks and New Subdivision, Dacono. Weld County, Colorado, 2016

 

Welcome Home, Legacy Parkway, Dacono. Weld County, Colorado, 2016
Welcome Home, Legacy Parkway, Dacono. Weld County, Colorado, 2016

 

Frederick's Builders. Weld County, Colorado, 2016
Frederick’s Builders. Weld County, Colorado, 2016

On “Free Stuff”

Catalina Cataract, #12. Near Tucson, Arizona, 2016
Catalina Cataract, #12. Near Tucson, Arizona, 2016

 

I have heard this term bandied about here and there in the media lately. Typically, it is associated with the politics of Bernie Sanders. As in, “That weird socialist who just wants to give out ‘free stuff'”.

Like so many things in politics and Life, this “free stuff” phrase is clearly an oversimplification, a slogan, a catchy sound bite, that doesn’t really capture much of the truth. Naturally you (or the government) can’t simply give out “free stuff” and stay in business for long.

I think most of us agree that whatever services we decide that our government ought to provide, those services should be paid for by the tax monies coming in. No “free stuff”. Balance the damn budget, Congresspeeps.

Yep, I, like damn near all of us, am a fiscal conservative (if socially progressive and liberal).

I am pretty sure Sanders realizes this, too. So, I think what Sanders is really after is not simply “free stuff” (or the promise of “free stuff” in order to get elected), but a re-prioritization of what we value in our society. That is, a re-prioritization of where we want our tax dollars to go. Click here for the rest of the post!

Curves, Shadows, and Hills

Everyone and her great aunt always seem to harp on the importance of only sallying forth avec camera during the “golden hours” around sunrise and sunset. True, the light is often spectacular during these times…but, with black and white imagery, many times you can get away with some mid-day excursions as well.

Those dark shadows and deep contrasts you find under a high sun often lend themselves to interesting monochrome photographs. Give it a try sometime.

Three example mid-day images from last week’s visit to the Audubon Appleton-Whittell Research Ranch

The Barn. Audubon Appleton-Whittell Research Ranch, Arizon, 2016
The Barn. Audubon Appleton-Whittell Research Ranch, Arizona, 2016

 

The Tank. Audubon Appleton-Whittell Research Ranch, Arizon, 2016
The Tank. Audubon Appleton-Whittell Research Ranch, Arizona, 2016

 

A very dry Turkey Creek:

Arroyo View. Audubon Appleton-Whittell Research Ranch, Arizona, 2016
Arroyo View. Audubon Appleton-Whittell Research Ranch, Arizona, 2016

Quadcopters!

The media likes to call them drones. They could also be called UAVs–Unmanned Aerial Vehicles. Or…a Phantom quadcopter, in this case.

These machines have really come into their own as incredible video and still photography platforms. They have worked out a lot of the camera stability and distortion issues, they have added more megapixels with each iteration, the batteries last much longer, and the GPS system allows for pre-programmed flight paths and the easy return of the vehicle.

Possible uses? The list is endless, including of course some rather shady paparazzi-ish options (or worse).

Out at the Audubon Research Ranch this past week (see yesterday’s post), I watched an excellent example of how these quadcopters might be used in a very positive way…

  1. To capture low altitude video of a nature preserve’s most scenic areas for publicity use on their website.
  2. To monitor the seasonal or annual changes in the flora of a specific area or ecosystem. Key to this is the ability to program a specific altitude, an exact search grid flightpath, as well as precise spots at which to take still photographs (and/or video). The same route can be precisely reflown each time and the changes in, say, grassland condition and coverage due to drought or grazing, can be monitored.

Here are some sample images, with a special bonus rock climbing video at the end…

The launch. My brother, Greg, is flying this one as another brother, Brian, looks on. The entire flight system can be carried easily in a very reasonably-sized daypack (that’s the tote pack, lying open just in front of the car):

Quadcopter Flight. Southern Arizona, 2016
Quadcopter Flight. Southern Arizona, 2016

A beautiful touchscreen interface allows the controller to select various flight options and views. On the screen you can see exactly what the camera sees, and/or you can select a bird’s eye view of the flightpath. Flight parameters–groundspeed, altitude, battery status, signal strength, and more, are also easily monitored. The two stick controls are visible next to Greg’s left thumb:

Monitoring the Flight. Southern Arizona, 2016
Monitoring the Flight. Southern Arizona, 2016

 

No need to actually land the quadcopter. Just let it hover its way down until you can simply grab it, as Brian is preparing to do here:

The Catch. Southern Arizona, 2016
Brian Makes the Catch. Southern Arizona, 2016

 

As a nice addition to your aerial video, consider a few stationary wildlife cameras throughout your zone of interest. They can take video and still images as well as night infrared footage:

Servicing the Critter Cam. Southern Arizona, 2016
Greg, Servicing the Critter Cam. Southern Arizona, 2016

And, finally, a bonus video by someone who happened to be out filming across the highway when my old climbing buddy Jim D. and I were working our way up the iconic Praying Monk on Camelback Mountain in the midst of the Phoenix, Arizona metropolis:

The Audubon Appleton-Whittell Research Ranch, Southern Arizona

My brother Greg worked here for a time, tagging birds among many other duties, so he, along with the conservation program director Roger Cogan, gave us a tour as well as plenty of background info on the Ranch and the current political/environmental issues of the area. We also followed Greg around as he visited various strategically located critter cams to swap out batteries and memory cards–a volunteer duty he continues to fulfill with enthusiasm.

The Audubon A-W Research Ranch covers some 8,000 acres of relatively high elevation grassland near Elgin, Arizona, but it looks like it could have been beamed over direct from the great savannas of Africa. You almost expect to see herds of elephants, giraffes, antelope, wildebeests, and so on, grazing across the landscape.

What’s more, there are reports and pictures of at least one jaguar moving from northern Mexico into the surrounding mountains, which would be a wonderful development in this constant and depressing war of Busy Human Beans versus Ma Nature’s Ecosystem. Greg, with his various camera traps, has high hopes of catching an image of the jag within the boundaries of Research Ranch property at some point.

This austere landscape, of course, would look very, very different under snow or a massive monsoon thunderstorm, but here are two sample images of the current winter look on the day of our visit…

High Grasslands. Appleton-Whittell Research Ranch, Arizona, 2016
High Grasslands. Appleton-Whittell Research Ranch, Arizona, 2016

 

The Watering Hole, #2. Appleton-Whittell Research Ranch, Arizona, 2016
The Watering Hole, #2. Appleton-Whittell Research Ranch, Arizona, 2016

Potty Pet Peeve

Tree Bark Textures. Tucson, Arizona, 2016
Tree Bark Textures. Tucson, Arizona, 2016 (An early form of toilet paper?)

 

Why is it they insist on hanging the toilet paper dispensers in public restrooms barely a foot off of the floor? It makes it a major squat and dexterity challenge to find the paper and pull the gossamer-thin stuff out without having it fracture into so much confetti.

Some of these stalls look like the entire local community held a ticker tape parade within, the floor is so covered with shredded bits of white.

From now on, folks, lets hang those things above the hand support bar–that would be at about shoulder level as you sit regally on that great white throne.

Shining the Light on Trump

First Light on Tenmile Peak. Near Frisco, Colorado, 2016
First Light on Tenmile Peak. Near Frisco, Colorado, 2016

 

 

I just read the results of a new NBC/Wall Street Journal poll…Trump continues to dominate among the Republican candidates.

Yes, this does say a lot about the frustration of many voters. And maybe it says even more about their fears…specifically, the fear of a new America that is not majority white, Anglo-Saxon, and Protestant.

To me, the mere fact that he has gained any traction at all anywhere in this country is a very scary commentary on the basic educational level and thoughtfulness of American voters…their capacity to discern, to analyze, to use logic, to judge arguments on merit, to understand history, to recognize purely emotional appeals, to distinguish truth from outright lies…

They often say that a nation gets the government they deserve. (Often said when referring to some Latin American or African country, or Iran, Iraq, etc.) If, in the USA, that government turns out to be Trump as President and his supporters in control of both chambers, I really do fear for this country.

We all look at the surprising rise of the National Socialist German Workers (Nazi) Party in Germany in the 1920s and 1930s (to make Germany great again!) and we ask ourselves…”How could such an educated, cultured people go down such a horrible path?”

Maybe we should look in the mirror, mirror, on the wall?

No, Trump, is not a Nazi. But the seeds of fascism are definitely there. He encourages the fascist element. He foments hate and division. He has identified scapegoats. He drapes himself in the flag, but it is a nationalism of but one color: white. Then you have his incredible hubris….His willingness to distort facts for emotional propaganda effect.

What makes us think we are better able than the Germans of the 1930s to resist the seemingly easy answers vomited up fascist rhetoric?

Note that Trump gets plenty of support, sympathy and/or outright endorsements from the far, far right: The Daily Stormer, National Policy Institute, League of the South, American Renaissance magazine, the American Freedom Party, and David Duke, to name the most publicized. That ought to be a warning shot across our political bow.

Yes, what happened to the Germans could easily happen elsewhere–even here. We only went part way with the internment of the Japanese during WWII…Would Trump take us all the way with Muslims and illegal immigrants?

I am hoping that all this Trump-eting publicity of late will whither away once we get past the primary season and the nominating conventions are finally (phew!) over. If, miracle of miracles, the man does make it as the Republican nominee, and there isn’t a huge landslide vote against him in the general election…well, I will be seriously wondering about our future.

“There once was a man who was so poor, so poor, so poor, that the only thing he had…was money.”  

Something I heard somewhere once. Seemed apropos.