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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Golf, Anyone?

Posted in Sedona on August 28th, 2011 by MadDog
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I’ve been playing lonely guy for the last two weeks and I don’t like it one bit. I’ve come to the conclusion that I am only part human. My orangutan-like arms attest to this conclusion. If the rest of me were more like my cousins, I’d probably get along fine, as they are rather solitary beasts. I, however, am much less happy to be alone. The main problem is that I get bored with nobody to talk to. Well, I’ll get relief in a week. I’ll be off to St. Louis to be with Grace and her daughter and family. Grace is a new grandmother again. I’m gonna take about a million pictures and shoot hours of video.

Which brings me to today’s subject. Golf. No, of course not. I am not a golfer. That’s too bad, actually, since I could stand outside our front door and throw a golf ball onto one of the prettiest golf courses I’ve ever seen, not that I’ve seen very many. Anyway, I’m going to start on the night before and walk you through a photographic expedition from our house to the golf course. You don’t need a back pack. It takes only about one minute, unless you have a camera. Then it takes about a half-hour.

Last night I set up the new Canon 5D Mk II with the EF 40-70mm ƒ4 L USM lens on a tripod outside the front door and shot directly across the street. This was a thirty second exposure with an ISO of 3200, I think. At that ISO reproducing at normal sizes shows no detectable noise. When the width of an image is over 5,600 pixels, noise gets pretty much buried in the mass of dots of color. I spend far less time cleaning up images.

I got lucky in this shot when a car passed by the house. Notice that the shutter was open was long enough to produce perfect little star trails. You’ll have to click to enlarge to see them.

I woke up at 05:30 the next morning and went to the front door to see how smoky it was outside. We have had many fires lately. Much of it is “managed burns”, but it’s just as smoky, no matter the cause of the fire. Here is a site showing current wildfires over one-hundred acres. This morning was about as clear as I have seen and the sun was at a perfect angle to sculpture the famous red rocks. After I crossed the dry wash and made my way to the top of the bank I set up the tripod and grabbed this shot:

This is a different kind of spectacular from the scenes out my front door in Madang, but I can get used to it.

I then made my way back down into the dry wash for a little stroll to the golf course, only about a hundred feet along the path. Along the way I spotted deer tracks:

Unmistakeable, eh?

But how about this?

After checking the area for other tracks and a visit to the World Wide Web for confirmation, I’m convinced that there was a rather large elk wandering around the neighborhood while I was out spying on the house across the street last night. It seems that elk tend to put the hind foot nearly in the same spot as the front foot hit the ground as they walk. This accounts for the distorted shape. The front of the indentation shows the characteristic cloven hoof pattern of an ungulate.

Well, that’s got precious little to do with golf, but I’m getting to that.

At the top of the bank a few feet further on is the perimeter road of the golf course. There are many presumably rich people housed around the course. Once again I find myself a man of very modest means living like a prince. The road is a popular place for a morning constitutional:

Up at the end of the course I got this tripod shot of the scene. I could have done quite nicely without the tripod, but though the gear is capable, my arm is not. That rig is heavy, man. My biceps will soon be bulging again:

In the past I have shot stitched-together panoramas to get landscapes such as this, but with over twenty-one million pixels, all I have to do is crop out the middle. Unless this was blown up bigger than an 8×10 inch sheet, you would never see any pixelation.

Really, there’s not much that this camera can’t do, given the right lens. I wonder what some of the great photographic geniuses of the past would make of the equipment and software we have today. It would be something to see, I’m sure.

The morning light was very soft and warm. The sky was nearly white. I used a circular polarizer filter to darken it as much as possible, but I still had to fake a blue sky in this shot:

I’m afraid it shows, eh? Well, it’s just an interpretation, so I don’t care. It would make a nice post card.

If you like golf.

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Seeing Red

Posted in On Tthe Road, Sedona on August 8th, 2011 by MadDog
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Today the subject is pretty much photography, because I’ve got so many other things on my mind that I cannot concentrate on writing. I’ve been trying to gather some images which convey the near-mystical beauty of this part of Arizona. It’s no wonder that Sedona has become a magnet for new age folk. I have to admit that I’m running up against the limitations of my Canon G11. I’m looking for a new camera. It will definitely be a Canon, because I think the brand delivers the biggest bang for the buck in each category.

Anyway, until I get some new gear, I’m still squeezing every bit of lemon juice out of my G11. Here is a High Dynamic Range shot of some red rock:

We’ve had some very blustery weather lately. These late summer storms are referred to locally as monsoons. I find that amusing. A big dust storm is now called a haboob. That term is mildly controversial, considering its origins. The sky has often been dramatic. Here the late afternoon sun strokes the top of one of the huge red rock formations with wine light:

I took that shot from Grace’s car as we were returning from Sedona to Oak Creek Village, a distance of about six miles.

At a family gathering at Red Rock Crossing I snapped this shot of lovely little Tana with a very famous red rock in the background:

Red Rock Crossing has appeared in many western films. You can find a very interesting list of them here.

Did I mention that the weather has been frisky? Here is an image of a huge Cumulonimbus Incus which we drove right through on the way back from a shopping trip to Cottonwood, Arizona:

It seems that Grace’s hobby is power shopping. I find it disconcerting. Shuffling around The Dress Barn for two hours does not thrill me. Next time I’m taking a book.

The weather is presenting me with some radical photo opportunities. Back in Oak Creek Village the late afternoon sun was valiantly drilling its way through the cloud cover:

The next evening presented a different sky from the same location:

Once in a great while I find a scene which makes me very glad that I travel always with my camera. If I had left it at home, I would have missed this seventeen frame panorama of the magnificent display of nature on the highway between West Sedona and Oak Creek Village:

The rainbow is real. I did have to increase the saturation to make it show up better. I’ve uploaded this to my server at 3000 pixels, but the original is over 18000 pixels wide. So, to give you a better view, I created a Microsoft Photosynth Panorama of the scene:

Being critical of my own work, I can see where my camera is letting me down. You can expect only so much from a camera in the less-than-five-hundred dollar price range. Maybe that is going to be fixed soon. It depends on how other things work out.

Life is about to become very interesting . . .

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