“The Fence” (Navajo Land)

You never know when a quick photo op stop might turn into a much deeper visual investigation.

And so it was with this strange and otherworldly section of fence line on the lands of the Navajo Nation. You’ll find it–if you are paying attention–along U.S. Route 89 in Arizona, north of Cameron but south of the turn toward Tuba City.

Here is my collection of images from this meditative session. What questions might they imply?

Navajo Fence, #1. Navajo Nation, Arizona, 2017
Navajo Fence, #1. Navajo Nation, Arizona, 2017

 

Navajo Fence, #3. Navajo Nation, Arizona, 2017
Navajo Fence, #3. Navajo Nation, Arizona, 2017

 

Navajo Fence, #4. Navajo Nation, Arizona, 2017
Navajo Fence, #4. Navajo Nation, Arizona, 2017

 

Navajo Fence, #5. Navajo Nation, Arizona, 2017
Navajo Fence, #5. Navajo Nation, Arizona, 2017

 

Navajo Fence, #6. Navajo Nation, Arizona, 2017
Navajo Fence, #6. Navajo Nation, Arizona, 2017

 

Navajo Fence, #7. Navajo Nation, Arizona, 2017
Navajo Fence, #7. Navajo Nation, Arizona, 2017

 

Navajo Fence, #8. Navajo Nation, Arizona, 2017
Navajo Fence, #8. Navajo Nation, Arizona, 2017

 

Navajo Fence, #11. Navajo Nation, Arizona, 2017
Navajo Fence, #11. Navajo Nation, Arizona, 2017

Fingernail Moon at Windy Point (A Metaphor)

Fingernail Moon and Hitchcock Pinnacle. Windy Point, Mount Lemmon, Arizona, 2017
Fingernail Moon and Hitchcock Pinnacle. Windy Point, Mount Lemmon, Arizona, 2017

 

To photograph a fingernail moon at dawn up on Mount Lemmon, you need to hoist your fanny perpendicular early–while it is still inky black outside–and get to your chosen photo-op site at the first indication of light.

Why?

Well, a fingernail moon is a very fragile thing and will disappear rapidly as sunrise approaches and the sky on the eastern horizon travels the painter’s palette from a deep and starry black, to indigo, to cold blue, to delicate pink, to yellow, to orange, to blazing white…and finally, with the Sun alive once again , the heavens settle into that familiar, washed-out, daylight denim of the high winter desert.

In the above example, it was almost…almost…almost too late. A few more minutes and Mother Moon was just a faded Fig Newton of my imagination…invisible to my hairy human eyeball as well as to the sensor in my camera.

A fingernail moon.

Ah, yes, another fine metaphor for the fragility and cyclic nature of Life itself.

Nikkor 200-500mm f/5.6E ED VR (Sample Images, Part 1)

OK, a few days back I promised some sample images from the relatively new (2015) Nikkor 200-500mm f/5.6E ED VR telephoto lens.

It will be hard for you to tell true image quality looking at these small files on your smudgy computer screen, but I will tell you I am quite pleased with the wall-to-wall sharpness even when pixel-peeping. The lens will certainly work for my personal landscape purposes when attached to my now very-banged-up Nikon D800 (and even on whatever succeeds the “aging” D800, I’m confident).

Three things I have not yet tried are hand-held shots of beasts and birds, exposures with smaller apertures, say, f/11 through f/22, and shots using the 1.4 teleconverter (which will make it an f/8 lens). I’ll post more sample images as I continue to experiment in those areas.

So, on to the samples…Here is one photograph taken on a tripod (this big lens comes with a tripod collar, thankfully), with mirror lock-up and shutter delay (I don’t use a separate remote), at 200mm (the min), f/8, ISO 100, and 1/50th of a second:

First Light on Thimble Peak. Tucson, Arizona, 2017
First Light on Thimble Peak. Tucson, Arizona, 2017

 

And here is a second photograph as I probed deeper in to same general area on Mt. Lemmon (those towers up at 8,000′ look mighty frosty!), on the tripod with mirror lock-up and shutter delay, at 500mm (the max), f/8, ISO 100, and 1/25th of a second:

Ice Towers. Tucson, Arizona, 2017
Ice Towers. Tucson, Arizona, 2017

2017 Women’s March On Washington (and Tucson, and the World!)

Yesterday’s “Women’s March on Washington” turned out to be a march on the world.

Yes, there were several hundred thousand women in D.C. for the main event, but there were some 600+ other protest marches all across the United States and many others around the globe…from Rome to Nairobi to Sydney, and even to Antarctica.

A whole lot of people–and not just women–are pissed. And they have all pulled out their magic markers, knitted their “pussy hats”, and strapped on their marching shoes to express their fierce sentiments.

The March in Tucson was expected to attract a couple of thousand protesters, but the number likely came in quite a bit higher at 8,000 to 15,000 depending on who you believe.

Here are a few images from yesterday’s event in downtown Tucson (using the Sony RX100iv in VERY unforgiving and contrasty light)…

 

The crowd gathers under threatening skies:

Women's March, #16. Tucson, Arizona
Women’s March, #16. Tucson, Arizona, 2017

 

A young patriot at her first protest:

Women's March, #2. Tucson, Arizona, 2016
Women’s March, #2. Tucson, Arizona, 2017

 

Pink was the color o’ the day:

Women's March, #3. Tucson, Arizona, 2017
Women’s March, #3. Tucson, Arizona, 2017

And the pink “pussy hats” were for all ages. Imagine this Mom having to explain all this to her kids:

Women's March, #7. Tucson, Arizona, 2017
Women’s March, #7. Tucson, Arizona, 2017

 

Here is a pretty original costume that certainly attracted attention to his issue:

Women's March, #6. Tucson, Arizona, 2017
Women’s March, #6. Tucson, Arizona, 2017

 

The dog’s name is “Miranda”, rescued from Afghanistan. I should have talked a bit more with this woman to get the rest o’ the story:

Women's March, #8. Tucson, Arizona, 2017
Women’s March, #8. Tucson, Arizona, 2017

 

A few rain showers rolled through on the blustery west breeze, but it didn’t seem to dampen the enthusiasm of anyone at the rally:

Women's March, #9. Tucson, Arizona, 2017
Women’s March, #9. Tucson, Arizona, 2017

 

Another young supporter of women’s (and human) rights:

Women's March, #15. Tucson, Arizona, 2017
Women’s March, #15. Tucson, Arizona, 2017

 

I loved the Princess Leia reference:

Women's March, #17. Tucson, Arizona, 2017
Women’s March, #17. Tucson, Arizona, 2017

 

All kinds of themes, topics, and issues were addressed by the protesters:

Women's March, #20. Tucson, Arizona, 2017
Women’s March, #20. Tucson, Arizona, 2017

 

The Dr. Suess poem (right) was a most excellent original idea:

Women's March, #21. Tucson, Arizona, 2017
Women’s March, #21. Tucson, Arizona, 2017

 

Recording history:

Women's March, #18. Tucson, Arizona, 2017
Women’s March, #18. Tucson, Arizona, 2017

 

The Tohono O’odham Nation was well-represented, with the border wall being one of their central concerns:

Women's March, #22. Tucson, Arizona, 2017
Women’s March, #22. Tucson, Arizona, 2017

 

A “Nasty Woman”, her partner, and their two patriotic canine companions:

Women's March, #23. Tucson, Arizona, 2017
Women’s March, #23. Tucson, Arizona, 2017

 

I am Woman, hear me roar, in numbers too big to ignore…” (Helen Reddy):

Women's March, #26. Tucson, Arizona, 2017
Women’s March, #26. Tucson, Arizona, 2017

 

Outraged and two of them already wearing their pink “pussy hats”:

Women's March, #30. Tucson, Arizona, 2017
Women’s March, #30. Tucson, Arizona, 2017

 

Our future:

Women's March, #31. Tucson, Arizona, 2017
Women’s March, #31. Tucson, Arizona, 2017

 

These ladies were assigned the job of being at the tail end of the march–last in a line of thousands:

Women's March, #33. Tucson, Arizona, 2017
Women’s March, #33. Tucson, Arizona, 2017

Storm Clouds on the Horizon

Once again, a big-ass Pacific storm has steam-rolled in to the parched American West bringing with it more heavy snow to the high elevations and rain to the valleys.

Colorado’s snow pack is already at somewhere around 150% of normal while in California they are at about 115%. This is all good news and a welcome respite from so much drought in these here hills. (Although we still need several years like this to really recover.)

Farmers and skiers, rejoice!

Then, of course, as heralded by today’s grand event in Washington, D.C., we now must consider the possibility of being battered by a another, more elusive but no less powerful, monster-storm of quite a different  stripe.

What, pray tell, awaits us from beyond this last foggy horizon?

Tree in Fog and Snow. Mt. Lemon, Arizona, 2016
Tree in Fog and Snow. Mt. Lemon, Arizona, 2016

 

Seven Cataracts, Santa Catalina Mountains

For most of the year, this locally-famous drainage is dry, or nearly so. Then, after a lightning-infused and spectacular summer monsoon storm, or a sloppy-wet winter snow and rain storm, and for a few weeks in the very early spring (February-March, maybe April if you are lucky), it becomes a torrent. 

This is when you go out to get the pictures.

Below is a telephoto view, shot two day ago from somewhere down the steep slope below the standard tourist viewpoint along Catalina Highway (9.2 miles up the road from the base of the mountain). For scale, the section you are looking at is about 150 feet high–just a small bit of the 1000+-foot drop of the Seven Cataracts complex visible from the viewpoint.

I have no idea who came up with the original total of seven. It seems pretty arbitrary to me. Depending on the flow and how you count, I think there is a good case for calling it “Fifty Cataracts” just as easily.

Also, don’t confuse this drainage with “Seven Falls“, a popular Sabino Canyon hiking destination some four miles farther down the canyon.

If you are a canyoneer-type adventurer, Seven Cataracts might just be right up your narrow slick-rock alley. For detailed info on this, try THIS LINK.

Seven Falls, #7. Santa Catalina Mountains, Arizona, 2017
Seven Cataracts, #7. Santa Catalina Mountains, Arizona, 2017

The Nikkor 200-500mm f/5.6 Five Pounder

Thimble Peak Sunset, #4. Catalina Mountains, Tucson, Arizona, 2017
Thimble Peak Sunset, #4. Catalina Mountains, Tucson, Arizona, 2017 (at 200mm focal length)

 

What a behemoth of a lens, this Nikkor 200-500mm thing…definitely for car camping, car-based photo shoots, very short hikes, and NOT for hauling up to the top of a Colorado 14er. It certainly dwarfs my itsy-bitsy, teeny-weeny, sub-two-pound, Nikkor 70-200mm f/4, my longest tele lens up until now (and the one I used for the above image).

Not being a bird or wildlife photographer, I have never owned any photographic equipment of such honking dimensions. I am sure the Nikon pros out there with their 300mm f/2.8 (6.4 pounds) and 500mm f/4 (8.5 pounds) lenses are chuckling away at me…probably muttering something like: “That’s not a lens. THIS is a lens!

But, I finally broke down and bought one. The reviews were excellent, the price very reasonable for what you get, and I thought it might come in handy for future projects. (Within a few days, I’ll post some sample images made from this new Nikkor brick. So far, it is living up to expectations.)

Yes, I am sure I’ll try my somewhat impatient hand at shooting a few critters here and there, but I thought it might be most useful–given my style and inclination–for landscape and urban abstracts. I have always liked the compression effect when shooting at 200mm. Well, now I have up to 500mm, and if I stick it on a DX body, or throw on a 1.4 teleconverter, I can go up to 750mm! Wow. That should give me some really extreme perspectives.

Lets see if over the long haul it really turns into a lens I use a lot.

This may also be the last time I buy any piece of photographic equipment so gangly and heavy. The other half of my photo personality has been pretty happy shooting with an iPhone or the tiny Sony RX100. As the gear gets better, smaller, and lighter (and my back gets weaker), that is surely the most likely direction I will go.

A note on the photograph above: I was obviously playing with the aforementioned compression effect which, in this case (shooting at 200mm), flattens Thimble Peak right up against Kitt Peak the latter being actually some 60+ miles farther west. One cool thing I failed to notice until I looked at the enlarged image on my computer monitor is that you can actually see the Kitt Peak observatory domes and even the inclined shaft of the solar observatory on that far ridge-top–at least I can in the full res file. (And at 36 megapixels these details are amazingly sharp!) With the above low res image, though, YMMV and it may be hard to pick out anything but the big 18-story telescope dome (which houses the Mayall 4-meter scope).

A close-up snippet of the above photo to help you out:

Observatories - Labelled, #2. Tucson, Arizona, 2017
Observatories – Labelled, #2. Tucson, Arizona, 2017

Winter Storm, Southern Arizona

Trees in Fog. Mt Lemmon, Arizona, 2017
Trees in Fog. Mt Lemmon, Arizona, 2017

 

Southern Arizona is the land of “islands in the sky“, that is, a land of many smaller isolated mountain ranges that poke high above the surrounding low-lying deserts. 

The Santa Catalina Mountains on the north edge of Tucson is one such “island”, rising well over a mile above the surrounding Sonoran cacti and dry desert arroyos. The high point of the Catalinas is Mt. Lemmon at 9,171 feet above mean sea level. Tucson swelters (at least in summer) down below at about 2,400 feet MSL.

This near 7,000-foot change in elevation is the equivalent of many hundreds of miles of latitude change and the corresponding huge change in geographic life zones. But, here in southern Arizona, you can cover those vast distances, and life zones, in a mere 30-minute drive up the Catalina Highway (or a couple hours of hard cycling!).

Dry desert and cactus to aspen and fir in 30 minutes!

In summer, this trip makes for a welcome respite from the extreme heat down low.

In winter, the trip can take you from shorts and sandals weather up to an icy snowscape where folks (many seeing snow for the first time, me thinks) can be found building huge snowmen in the backs of their pickup trucks…a fun novelty to haul back down the mountain to show Aunt Hilda, dontcha know!

The above image, from yesterday, was made while the latest storm was still covering the mountain with wet snow and fog.

Down low, just below the fog line and at about the same time, the water poured off the slopes via myriad arroyos that are normally bone dry for most of the year:

Post-Storm Runoff, #3. Catalina Highway, Arizona, 2017
Post-Storm Runoff, #3. Catalina Highway, Arizona, 2017