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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Celebrating

Posted in On Tthe Road on June 23rd, 2011 by MadDog
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Today is Eunie’s birthday. She would have been sixty-seven. That is very young according to my way of thinking and today’s standards. The significance of this day was upon our minds as we went about our tasks in Grace’s office this morning. I was playing vintage Eagles songs on Eunie’s old Toshiba laptop computer as I answered emails. Grace was cleaning out a too-full closet, surrounded by memorabilia and nearly forgotten works of art. Yesterday and this morning we had talked of making this a day to bring back sweet memories of a woman we both loved. It was to be a time of celebration.

I wanted to make this a singular day in the short, choppy history of this, my online diary. As I sat there listening to the words of Peaceful Easy Feeling Grace came to me with a small packet of greeting cards. She told me that she had been saving them until she saw Eunie again. She had sent them to Madang for Eunie’s birthday last year, but they were, for reasons known only to God and the Papua New Guinea Royal Postal Service, returned to her noted as undeliverable. One card was marked with a sticky note, “For Eunie”. Another was marked “For Arny to give to Eunie”. I did not know that my day was about to be put on hold for a while.

Grace’s message to Eunie was, “When we take time to dream we discover the many windows to our soul.” The image on the card and the message were pure Grace:

What started as a playmate relationship at the age of four grew into a friendship which was not defeated even by death. On the day after Eunie died Grace wrote on Eunie’s Facebook wall nine messages. I saw them for the first time today. I am going to write them here, because it is fitting that a lifetime of friendship be acknowledged by witnesses:

I need to say this: It took me until just before she was married to realize she was “Beautiful”. But, her incredible blue eyes could command the world. I guess I took her for granted as kids. We laughed, cried, used our imaginations and explored the truths of childhood and adolescence.

We have been woven together in Divine Sequence – in and out of experiences – loss & success, ecstasy & tragedy. She was never surprised at my worst, but knew my capacity for excellence.

She is a “woman’s woman” – nurturing, observing, listening, shaping, kind and gentle – and strong, logical, intelligent, assertive and focused.

I have always admired her ability to set a course and empower those around her to move to the task ahead, Gentle and kind, but no nonsense, with genuine appreciation for help.

She sensed which things were good for this world and those things which are not. She had the courage to act accordingly in both behavior and speech.

I share, with many, the fact that my life was and is better for knowing Eunie. I do not believe our fabric is gone, there is still more weaving to do. Just her form.

But, I will soulfully miss that form. It is not easy NOT to hear that voice and laugh and direct council.

On this earth we have lived with “Seek yea the kingdom of God” and “Love one another” as absolutes. Not a bad way to live. Maybe the only joyful way.

Let all of us who appreciate and love Eunie join hands. We can encircle this earth and encase it with much needed love.

If there is such a thing as truly unconditional love, I believe that it existed between Grace and Eunie. Each of them experienced all of the good and bad which life offers. Each of them survived and was made stronger. Neither of them allowed their friendship to succumb to the handicap of separation. Through the years I heard of Grace so often that I sometimes felt that she was a next-door neighbor. When communication became slow Eunie would worry. “I have to call Grace. Something is wrong”, she would say. I was privileged to experience a similar depth of friendship with Grace for the better part of my life. Shortly after meeting Eunie and falling in love with her I met Grace and understood why Eunie always spoke of her with affection.

Yesterday it was hotter than the hubs of Hades in Sedona. “It’s a dry heat.”, they say. Well, it is dry and HOT. I can’t say that I’m bothered by it, having lived in Madang for so long. On most days I don’t really notice it. On the way back from Cottonwood we stopped at the Javelina Leap Vineyard so that I could sample some Arizona wines. I got this lovely shot of Grace under the unusually quirky signage:

The wine was rather ordinary. The company was exceptional.

In case you’re wondering what an Arizona vineyard might look like, here is a sample:

On the way back to Grace’s house we had to contend with the pesky Sedona landscape. It’s In Your Face all the time in Sedona:

In the evening the sky lit up. Grace said that she saw an “h” up there for “heaven”. I call it a stretch, but I give her an A for imagination:

I mentioned another card in the packet. It was the one which interrupted my day. On the card marked “For Arny to give to Eunie” are these words:

You are the rhythm
In my music
You are the drumbeat
Of my heart

I came unglued. I had the healthiest cry since Eunie died.

Happy birthday, Eunie. Thank you, Grace, for a lifetime of friendship.

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