Bees, Bugs, Buddha Beach

Posted in Arizona Images, Photography Tricks on June 7th, 2012 by MadDog
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One year and a week ago I arrived in Sedona for a visit. I’m still here. It’s going to be a very long visit. It makes my head spin to think that I’ve been here for a year. It seems impossible.

I’ve been enjoying the delights of my new Canon EF 100mm ƒ2.8 L IS USM 1-to-1 Macro Lens. A few days ago I hiked along the highway leading from Sedona to The Village of Oak Creek where we live. When the new highway was built the county agreed to plant high desert wildflowers along the way as a part of the deal for funds. Though we have had a very dry spring, it is still beautiful. We’ve had no rain since the last snow melted. Yellow flowers predominate this time of year and bees were busy everywhere:On the side of our house I saw the latest alien to vacate its flying saucer and to take up residence in Sedona:

It’s easy to see this as some sort of machine.

I found this incredibly tiny grasshopper, about 4mm long, crawling around on my Sweet Basil. It was very adept at avoiding my camera lens. I finally had to coax it out onto the pavement to get a shot:

While hiking down Oak Creek from Red Rock Crossing with Jo Noble, our visitor from England, we came upon a man who suggested we follow the trail for another mile to a place called Buddha Beach. There is a middling-sized pool there and a long sandy beach. Just inside the scrubby forest there is a large area of rounded river rocks. Visitors there have erected thousand of small stone cairns. The image below is a compilation of about eighty shots processed with Microsoft ICE (Image Composite Editor) and uploaded to Microsoft Photosynth:

I’ve heard some complaints that such activities ruin the natural beauty of the area. I think that’s a little picky. The next time Oak Creek floods, if we ever get any rain, these will all be put back into their proper places.

On the way I saw this tiny blue flower sticking up from the earth with no leaves of any kind, just the stem. It was about the size of a pencil eraser:I think I see the empty shell of some insect hanging from the lower petal.

Okay, things are getting pretty random now. Here is a Madang sunrise that will soon be printed out on a seven by two foot canvas to be mounted in the corner of our bathroom over the Jacuzzi. I’ll put up a picture of it when I get it hung. Gracie has art all over the house, so I’m presently consigned to hanging my work in the bathroom:I’ll have to make a point of offering  the “master” bathroom to visitors when they are of a mind to refresh themselves.

Wandering further afield, I’ll show you a picture from our visit to Glendale Glitters, a mid-winter festival held in Glendale, Arizona each year. What you see here is only a small portion of a large park set alight. I can’t even imagine putting up all of those bulbs. They are electronically controlled so that the light patterns change and move about on the trees:Finally, I’ll show you Jo’s nice legs, which she, quite unreasonably, says that she hates. I don’t get it:She was standing on some rocks in Oak Creek in her cute runners and her Air New Zealand freebie socks. I had to lay down on my side on the creek bank to get this shot of her with a few cairns in the background. I used the Oil Paint filter in Photoshop CS6 to give the image some interesting twisty-ness. It’s becoming my favorite. It’s easily the most versatile and amusing one-click artistic enhancement filter in Photoshop. Its combination of sliders offer a cornucopia of effects varying from subtle to goofy.

We’re off to Dallas tomorrow for a week of conferences and integration with the Media Arts Team who are my coworkers in my new job. I’ve been working on an assignment for a few weeks. It’s time to get the bugs out and produce the first project of my fresh start.

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Arizona Miscellanea

Posted in Arizona Images on December 2nd, 2011 by MadDog
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Since I have been on an extended R&R leave since mid-March, I have made some observations. I’ll take advantage of my pile of miscellaneous Arizona images to waste your valuable time with my folksy anecdotes and unsolicited opinions. I’ll begin with the notion that while one is recovering from a trauma is probably the worst opportunity for getting some rest. While I was moving, gypsy-like, from place to place grieving  for the loss of Eunie and wondering with alarm what the future might bring I was not feeling rested. It’s no small wonder that life seemed so utterly intense and constantly disturbing. Recreation consisted of anything which would distract me for a while from my distress. Only time and change of circumstance broke this pattern of misery.

So, when is a good time to kick back? Well, I’m as healed as I’ll ever be and grief has subsided to the level of an incipient toothache. I am once again married to a woman I love dearly and who is the best kind of friend one can have. I have a home again. I’m not broke, but still viciously frugal, a good combination for these times. I’m still on R&R until I start my new job in January. So, I reckon that I should be relaxing and recreating, eh? That would probably be so were it not for one thing. My wife is “retired”. What I want to know is how can there still be so much stuff to do, none of it is trivial, it seems? The primary necessary activity appears to be something called “shopping.” I confess that I do not get it.

When I need something I tend to go directly to the place where I can buy it. I go inside. I find what I want. I make a bee line to the nearest checkout station and make my purchase, being careful to keep my vision averted from the thousands of oh-so-tempting impulse items lurking in every spot where one’s eyes might fall. This thrifty and, I dare say, wise technique bears no resemblance to the ways of a “shopper.”

I’m learning that a shopper must properly “scan” the store, possibly making multiple rounds of every aisle, taking in the “scope” of the offerings, noting “newness” (sometimes “freshness”) and “cool.” Shoppers operate on a plane of awareness that is incomprehensible to me. I expend a good deal of psychic fuel avoiding being enticed by things which may arouse my desire to purchase them. Looking at things which tug at my consumer heartstrings makes me slightly nauseous, as if I’m experience the onset of buyer’s remorse before I even hand over the cash.

I am particularly annoyed by stores which sell exclusively to women, but provide not so much as a chair accompanied by a rack of magazines (NOT ladies’ magazines) for a man to sit comfortably while the spouse enjoys a leisurely couple of hours examining every item for tastiness. This is foolishness on the part of the store managers. I would be far less likely to distract Grace from her ecstasy if I were not tagging along behind her rolling my eyes every fifteen seconds. I will give it to her that she seldom spends much. It appears that shopping is mostly for entertainment.

Okay, enough of that.

Arizona has more than its share of strange little restaurants. In Black Canyon City there is an odd restaurant called Kid Chilleen’s. The sign outside proclaims the quality of its BBQ:

Kid Chilleen’s Steakhouse is family owned and operated by the whole Chilleen Family, including Daughter Aleah, Son Scott and daughter Cheyenne. Many of the recipes used were handed down from Jeannine Chilleen, Scott’s Grandmother. The clever use of the family name’s similarity to that of the character Kid Shelleen played by Lee Marvin in the 1965 movie Cat Ballo.

Inside you are greeted by a wall painting which depicts one  iconic scene from the movie:

Among the many quaint western themed items are several Cougar skins:

I felt sorry for the cougars.

Next to the restaurant is the saddest little motel I’ve ever seen. I assume that it’s not a joke:

I didn’t inquire about a room.

I shot multiple frames at the same exposure settings to get this panoramic view from the Haunted Hamburger Restaurant in Jerome, Arizona:

The work in progress was boring me, so I used some High Dynamic Range techniques to turn it into funky art. The Haunted Hamburger has, of course, a story. You can read about it here. The food is better than the story.

I began to play with the image of grace which I got on the day of our first snow.

I’ve been fooling around with cartoon techniques for a few years. I haven’t found any automated process which satisfies me. Someday I hope I’ll stumble on just the right combination of filters. The process I used here worked nicely for this shot.

Nearly done now.

I got this shot at afternoon twilight from near the “vortex” at the Sedona Airport:

Too bad I can’t show you the full resolution image. You can see the individual lights in Sedona.

This is my Zebra herd:

I’m hoping they’ll be fruitful and multiply.

And this, kiddies, is Mistletoe (Phoradendron flavescens):

I always thought that mistletoe was an exotic plant dragged out from some mystical place for Christmas decoration. It seems that it more like a weed.

If all goes as planned I’ll begin a four day trek back to Madang tomorrow morning. I’ll be there for six weeks to sell Faded Glory and all of the rest of my possessions there. There will be some great bargains for Madang residents. I have some very sad things to do in Madang, but I can always think of my goal – to get back to Grace and Sedona, my new wife and my new home. Visiting Eunie’s grave and saying goodbye to many friends will be difficult, but moving on is as necessary as breathing for me.

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First Snow

Posted in Arizona Images, Photography Tricks on November 8th, 2011 by MadDog
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There was a time in my life, before my annus horribilis, when I would brag, to those inclined to listen to such claptrap, that I had lived for a decade or so without suffering through a winter and I intended to keep it that way. I thoroughly dislike cold weather and bronchitis seems only a sneeze away when the sky is grey all day and the snow turns brown in the streets. Ugh!

So, it was with a bit of cautious curiosity that I approached the coming of winter in Arizona. Last Saturday morning we awoke to take a little drive to town and noticed the first snows of the season on the mountains surrounding Sedona. Grace’s amused smile tells the story:

Her amusement centered around my Michelin Man appearance. Two shirts, a sweater and a coat were barely keeping me defrosted. Though there was no snow in Sedona itself, we could see mountainsides only a thousand feet or so higher which were heavily dusted. In Sedona we pulled off the highway to climb the hill to The Church of the Red Rocks to savor the spectacular view. The entire front of the chapel there is glassed. While getting your Sunday morning sermon you can let you mind contemplate this view:

We left Sedona on the Oak Creek Canyon road and began to climb toward Flagstaff. Here the dynamic range of light values was so extreme that I had to abandon normal photography techniques to delve into the mysteries of High Dynamic Range composites. I derived this HDR shot from a “stack” of five exposures moving from very underexposed to very overexposed. The software takes the best exposed areas of each image and adds it to the composite. It takes a bit of fiddling, but it allows one to get reasonable images from impossible situations:

A single exposure would show a bright sky with a nearly black mountain in the foreground, since the mountainside was in the shadow of another higher mountain behind me.

This shot, showing the nearly six inches of snow that fell near 7,000 feet would also have been impossible without the HDR technique. A single exposure would show black trees against the white, nearly featureless snow:

As evening neared, the temperature dropped again and the sky appeared in turmoil with fiery accents from the lowering sun:

The new Canon 5D Mk II performs wonderfully at high ISO values. This was shot at 1600 ISO and had only the slightest bit of noise in the darker areas. A light massage by NoiseNinja Pro cleaned it up nicely.

As we approached Sedona on I17 from the North we paused for this wintery show across the intervening valley looking toward the Mogollon Rim:

The image above is a five frame panorama slapped together by Photoshop. As a photograph it was a flop, so I turned it into art. Sometimes imagination beats reality. I’m recalling to words of the classic Kodachrome from Paul Simon’s There Goes Rhymin’ Simon of 1973.

Kodachrome . . .
You give us those nice bright colors
You give us the greens of summers
Makes you think all the world’s a sunny day, oh yeah!
I got a Nikon camera
I love to take a photograph
So Mama, don’t take my Kodachrome away

Indeed, Kodachrome defined serious color photography for a generation of photographers. For decades major publications would accept photographs on no other media. Recently photographer Steve McCurry trekked through India with the “last roll of Kodachrome” in his camera. The results are far more impressive than any roll of K64 that I ever ran through any of my cameras. I’m glad I didn’t shoot the last roll.

It’s the end of an era, but I’m not looking back. Film is essentially dead, except in the hands of a few quaint eccentrics. The fundamentals of photography have not changed at all, but the media could not be more different. I still think of a digital image file as a “negative”.

How “old school” is that?

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Second Spring

Posted in Arizona Images on October 28th, 2011 by MadDog
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I invested considerable effort while I lived in Papua New Guinea to learn as much as I could about my environment and its flora and fauna. There are thousands of images here in my journal, which shall soon need a name change, of many hundreds of mostly accurately identified species. I don’t claim that as any kind of accomplishment, no more than a model railroad geek might brag about the scope of his layout. Hey, it was a hobby. The hobby now continues, except that I’m starting from scratch. I can identify nearly nothing. Oh well, it is  just a hobby.

I intended to write this post a week ago, but a “cooking incident” made typing painful. Last Friday night, with the aid of one of my fancy new ultra-sharp knives that I told Gracie that I must have if I were to be the primary chef, I neatly sliced off the tip of my left pinkie finger. Let me tell you, that knife was exquisitely sharp. I could tell. I felt it glide effortlessly through my tender flesh a full second before there was any pain. Fortunately, I withdrew the dripping appendage before the neatly sliced pile of hard, stinky Italian cheese was contaminated. It’s been an adventure the last few days to learn how to neatly bandage a fingertip. I don’t think it’s possible.

The subject today is a phenomenon which is entirely new to me. Spring has always been my favorite season. The cold weather I hate so much has abated and everything gets a fresh new start. It’s a time for rapid growth and replenishment. All things which appeared dead are resurrected. What I certainly did not expect to see was a spring renewal in the autumn. That appears to be exactly what happens here in the high dessert.

Flowers are everywhere. I have not yet experienced a true spring in Arizona, but I can’t imagine that it would be much more verdant that what I’m observing now. The predominant color is very obviously yellow. In some places entire hillsides take on a sunny hue. A couple of weeks ago plants such as this seemed to have gone dormant after the blazing heat, waiting for the frosts which will probably start tonight, if the forecast holds:

Here is a species which I have seen in the highlands of Papua New Guinea, but I’ve already forgotten the name. The color in PNG is red:

Of course, not everything is yellow:

And, not everything is a flower:

I got this shot from a resort named Enchantment. I can think of only a few places in all my travels where I enjoyed such a scenic lunch. I wondered where the airliner was going. It couldn’t be any place better than where I was:

I was pleasantly surprised the our lunch there cost little more than any decent restaurant in the area. The splendid view was virtually free.

Here are some more yellow flowers:

The roses all around the neighborhood are in a frenzy to produce blossoms which seem impossible for the end of October:

There are a dozen varieties of rose blooming now, as frost nears, along the streets of our neighborhood on the way to the local grocery store:

Milder temperatures probably contribute to the second spring effect, but I suppose the biggest factor is the increase in rainfall. We have had nighttime showers recently and the occasional stormy day. A couple of days ago, on the way back from Cottonwood, we followed this rainbow for about twenty minutes. It was wonderful to watch it move along with us:

In the image above it is hovering over our home. We wondererd if there might be a pot of gold waiting for us.

The roller-coaster of life that I’ve been riding for the last two years has followed some spectacular paths. I feel genuine hope that it might now be settling down for a less thrilling ride. I’ve had to make some pretty difficult decisions on my own. It is very comforting now to once again have a beloved partner with me. Grace and I have set a multitude of wheels turning. All of them now seem to be rolling in a positive direction. Our meager investment accounts are even starting to move upward again after a much too long bankers’ holiday. After the breathtaking ride, I can’t avoid seeing many things as metaphors. The poetry of life is coming back. Arizona, my new home, is experiencing a Second Spring even as I myself am being refreshed and regenerated by the blessings raining down on me.

As corny metaphors go, that’s not too bad.

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Getting Married

Posted in Arizona Images, Sedona on October 19th, 2011 by MadDog
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It was a “do it yourself” marriage ceremony on Saturday afternoon at Beaver Creek near the ranger station at Rimrock, Arizona. It wasn’t covered by TV crews and no circling helicopters were heard. The attire was modest, “Sedona Chic”, as Grace calls it. There were no invited guests, only the participants and local family members. In other words, it was the kind of marriage which maximizes satisfaction while minimizing the fuss.

So, for the second time in my life, I am a married man. I had intended only one, but that was not in accordance with the “Plan.” Paul Simon possibly stated it best in Slip-Slidin’ Away:

God only knows. God makes his plan.
The information’s unavailable to the mortal man.

I say this not to revisit or show a morbid regret for the past, but to celebrate and proclaim my happiness and gratitude for my present blessings. My plan was not the plan of my maker. It took me a long time to stop seeing that as a tragedy. My life has been transformed by some wonderful second chances. All of the love and hard work that Eunie put into molding me into a better man now benefit me even more than in my former life. I have opportunities now to care more, do things better and be aware of and sensitive to things which formerly escaped my attention. I am going to make the best of it, for Grace and for myself.

On Friday afternoon we went to the Safeway store in Sedona to get flowers, a cake and some ice cream for Saturday’s event. We spent most of the evening arranging the flowers into the appropriate bouquets for each of the ladies of the marriage party. I was not, of course, competent to make up the arrangements, but my fingers are nimble enough to wrap the stems with ribbon and tie the knots. We sat them outside to keep them cool overnight. It’s beginning to get very chilly at night here in the high desert:

Grace chose this quiet spot at Beaver Creek for our marriage because it has long been a place of solace and comfort for her. When I saw it first I was also captured by its beauty and simplicity. Next to Grace is Dodie, who stood with Grace during the ceremony. I have no pictures of the marriage itself, because I was rather busy being the groom:

To my right is Verle, Dodies’ husband.

Here is Charity, Grace, me and Pastor Scott of the Montezuma Chapel church near Rimrock. Believe it or not, it’s located on Rusty Spurs Road:

The ceremony was very traditional. Grace and I wrote our vows, which were simple and to-the-point. Pastor Scott covered the usual ground eloquently. I appreciated the low-key tone of our marriage from the planning stage through the ceremony on Sunday. It was a marriage suited to a man’s tender nerves. I had only a couple of days of pre-marriage jitters. This will make it much easier on me when we plan and carry out our “wedding” in April of next year.

Little Tana, Grace’s granddaughter, is on the left. She did not care much for the camera. Next to Grace is Diana, her daughter-in-law. Next to me is Jay, Grace’s son, who stood with me:

It was all over in about an hour. We had swimmers in the background for most of the time, but they kindly removed themselves when they noted that we were taking pictures.

We had a very small reception back at home with Grace and I, Jay, Diana and Tana. We could not find any wedding theme decorations for the cake, so we settled for Minnie Mouse lounging on a sugary beach while watching Mickey hanging ten on a frosting wave:

We gave all of the flowers to Diana and Jay to take to their church the next morning. We took that remaining ice cream and cake to church with us on Sunday. We don’t allow such deadly dietary items to remain in our home.

Finally, we have the obligatory “hands with rings” shot:

I can’t escape the notion that I ought to be writing a great deal more about this life-changing event for Grace and I. However, words escape me for the time being. It seems as if nothing more need be said. Our decision to marry came as naturally as a warm summer rain. Our decades-long friendship serves us well. Disagreements are few, usually trivial and easily settled. We share a comfort with life as it happens that comes with maturity, no small amount of wisdom, deep love and some very hard knocks.

Life can be perfect, if you squint your eyes a little. I like the way Grace puts it, we are “Perfecting the perfection.”

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Arizona’s Tigers of Africa

Posted in Arizona Images, Dangerous on October 12th, 2011 by MadDog
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I won’t belabor the obvious. I posted only once in September. This is my first post in October. It would be a gross understatement to say that something is happening. In fact, a great many things are happening. I have been “busy”. That word covers a huge swath of ground. The day-to-day changes are not amusing, so I’ll not waste precious time by accounting for them here. The big changes pretty much take my breath away. In the space of a little over a year I have made countless difficult. perplexing but sometimes happy decisions at a time when I’m not supposed, according to popular wisdom, to be making any substantial decisions at all. I won’t go back over those either. Once is enough.

However, I might tally up the results. I have disposed of nearly every possession which I previously owned, except for some technical gear (what man can live without it?) a bit of furniture and my meager wardrobe. I have traveled here and yon for months searching for my future. I have wooed and won my life long friend, Grace. She was (and presumably still is) the life long friend of my late wife, Eunie. I have relocated the stage for the last acts of my life half way around the world from wet and wild Madang to dry and wild Sedona. If that’s not enough, well . . . okay, I’m getting married again this Saturday afternoon.

Whew!

And this is me, charging bravely, if still somewhat clueless, into whatever comes next:

Uhhh . . . well, no. Actually, that’s not me. I am not nearly so handsome. Grace and I, on her birthday this Monday, visited Out of Africa at Camp Verde, Arizona. I have never been to a wildlife park before. The glitz factor has, until now, kept me at bay. I like Out of Africa, because my perception is that there is far more focus on the animals themselves than on providing excessive comfort and pizazz to appeal to jaded tourists. Frankly, much of the park is ever so slightly shabby. That appeals to me when viewed beside the care and concern offered to the animals.

Watching the gorgeous white tiger being exercised in the enclosed area containing a large pool was one of the most exciting and interesting animal exhibits I’ve seen. Though one might blink at the idea of tigers out of Africa, nothing else in this show is fake. The big predators here might appear to be tame, but the handlers insist that they do not train them in any way. The say that they take care to give the big cats experiences which are as close to hunting as can be devised in captivity. Here Chalet, the white Bengal takes another dramatic leap into the water:

Why the huge lunges into the pool? The answer is in this shot:

I imagine that the park tigers puncture enough large inflatable plastic toys each year to keep a small Chinese factory going. It is one leap – one shredded blow up. The tiger always gets what it’s after:

In the shot above it’s interesting to examine the focus of the tiger’s attention. It it clearly on the toy and not on the handler. As you watch the show this tactic becomes clear. The toy is the game, not the person controlling it. The cats don’t seem to mind the fakery. The handler in the image above will soon flip the toy over the tiger’s head and run like crazy for the pool, making certain that he is well away from the toy when the tiger lunges powerfully through the air at the sailing object. The puffy plastic will suffer the same fate as a leaping antelope.

Some of these antics are so stunning that I don’t really feel like commenting about them. The images speak much more elegantly than I:

I was worried that shooting through the chain-link fence would be a problem. As it turns out the shallow depth of field of the Canon 300mm telephoto lens saved the day. It focused flawlessly on the main subjects while blurring the fence enough so that it is not too distracting.

The big cats, lions, tigers and a lone black leopard are not the only denizens of the park. Here is Grace having her hand washed by one of the giraffes’ sixteen inch purple tongue. This is a sensory treat which I have, so far, avoided:

And here is something that you don’t see every day:

It is amusing to watch the giraffe as it withdraws from the coach. It carefully lowers its head just enough to avoid konking its knobby antlers on the window frame.

I have a couple of more leaping tiger shots for you. I set the Canon 5D MkII for rapid fire. It usually digests five frames per second at full resolution, though it does occasionally stutter at an imappropriate moment. I think this is because my memory card is not quite fast enough to keep up:

What you see above and below are nice examples of what the handlers are trying to accomplish. One must suppose that everybody is winning here. The paying audience is certainly getting their $36 worth, even better if you’ve gotten in on one of the common half-price deals. The big cats appear to be getting some much needed aerobic exercise and having what passes for fun in captivity. The handlers, hopefully well paid, are getting an adrenalin rush second to none.

Once in a while the tiger gets the jump on the toy and the handler, preparing to flip the thing over the top for a good leap, gets jerked onto his back in mid-air:

Out of Africa is a little off the beaten path, but well worth the trip. For family fun at a very reasonable price you would be hard pressed to beat it.

I got fitted for my getting married outfit today. I won’t be spectacular, but Grace will certainly look classy, as she always does. We are going down by Beaver Creek where the wonderful red rocks are reflected in the water.

Maybe I’ll get some good pictures. I don’t really care as long as I get that ring on my finger.

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Arizona Colorfest – The G11’s Last Gasp

Posted in Arizona Images on August 15th, 2011 by MadDog
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I’ve been painfully aware lately that I’ve outgrown my G11. I would still recommend it to any amateur who wants top image quality in a small, weapons-grade package. Truly, they are as tough as nails. I’ve often (possibly too often) said that it’s the only camera I know of which you could wield to bludgeon an assailant unconscious and then take his picture. My G10 was once stolen from me on the street in Madang. When a cop accidentally caught the mugger the felon threw my camera on the pavement hard enough to dent the metal casing. I was amazed that the tough little beast still worked perfectly. Anyway, I’ve gotten a good run from the G series. I’ve had a G9, a G10 and a G11.

However, events in my life are going to require me to present a more professional image, if you will excuse the pun. It’s sad to say that photographers are sometimes judged by their gear. It’s one case in which size does matter. I’ve often been gently scorned when I show up for a shoot with my dinky G11. No matter that the images are great. Most shots do not require anything more sophisicated. My theory was that if I could take 90% of the images I want with a $500 camera, then a $5000 camera to get the last 10% made no sense at all. Well, I’m not about to spend $5000 for a camera, but I certainly need to take a step up.

Today I ordered a Canon 5d Mk II with appropriate lenses and accessories. It’s a lot of camera for the money. I’ve drooled over several of them in camera stores until the clerks take them away for a wipe-down. It’s suitably massive and professional looking and sports a humongous twenty-one megapixel sensor. It has astounding low light level capabilities. The only thing I did not like about it is that it has no inbuilt flash. I suppose that the pros turn their noses down at such niceties. Photographers can be horrible snobs.

So, since my G11 will shortly be retired to the hermitage of the glove box so that I always have a camera in the car, I had a last fling with it at the Grand Canyon a few days ago. My good friends Ian and Liz Dosser happened to be in the USA for extensive holiday travel. I persuaded them to come for a visit to Sedona. I wanted them to meet Grace, but Grace departed two days early for the impending birth of another grandchild, so I’ll be playing Lonely Guy for three weeks until I join her in St. Louis. Ian and Liz and I visited the Grand Canyon on Friday and the Painted Dessert and Petrified forest on Saturday.

Herre’s a shot of the Grand Hole in the Ground:

I was fiddling with the color of the far rim to try to get some of the blue out. I went too far. It looks like a coal strip mine.

This is more the way it actually looks. Here Ian and Liz are standing out on the edge of a rock which hangs right out over the canyon. I reckon it is several hundred feet to the nearest rocks below. When you walk out on this rock you can not help getting a strong feeling of vertigo. When I approached the edge all I could say was, “Whoa!”:

I can sit in the door of a helicopter all day with my feet hanging out in space and enjoy myself immensely. I don’t understand what the difference is. When I get out there close to the edge I freeze up.

There are plenty of safer places to enjoy the view. There were several ravens riding the updrafts near the rim. They seldom needed to flap their wings:

I wish I could do that. I sometimes dream about it.

This is known as the most dangerous beast of the canyon. It’s a Grand Canyon Squirrel (Rock Squirrel) – Spermophilus variegatus:

They bite for the fun of it and carry several nasty diseases. I watched this one run right over a man who was sitting on the ledge. The critter did not even slow down. I can imagine someone being so startled that they might fall off the edge. I wonder if that has ever happened?

Back at home Ian and I drove down to Red Rock Crossing to catch the afternoon wine light reflecting off of Cathedral Rock. It’s a famous photographic location. There were three or four guys there with probably twenty thousand dollars worth of camera gear each. I almost asked Ian if he’d like to help to rob them, but he’s an ex copper. I did not think the idea would go down well with him. Anyway, these guys had Nikons and Pentax gear. I’m a Canon man. These two shots are High Dynamic Range compositions consisting of five frames with exposure running from way dark to way light. It’s the only way you can capture the range of brightnesses in these scenes:

This is going to be a favorite place for shooting. It is only down the street from the house.

Here was the scene down at the crossing itself, where the old road went through Oak Creek:

When I get my new 5D I’m going to try for a “silky water” shot here.

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