Monday, December 30, 2013

2013: A couple dozen scenes--seen through my iPhone...

Trying to be brief, then, as I look back at scenes from this past year...

...impossible to narrow it down to just a 'top ten' or even a 'one-per-month', how about a couple dozen of my favorite iphoneographic images from 2013? Local landscapes and some scenes from afar, playing with some b&w and painterly effects as well...

on a hike with my wife in the foothills 
of the Santa Catalina Mountains, happening upon a deer:

after living here for six years, 
finally, a snow-covered-saguaro scene:

also in February--a brief visit in Palm Springs,
with this larger-than-life Marilyn Monroe:

a warm afternoon at the Mission San Xavier del Bac

...which led to this 'surrealization' of the 
Mission's not-quite-twin towers:

an architectural walk through
Tucson's Barrio Viejo,
its Sonoran-row-house-soul:

one of my favorite shots of the year,
which ended up part of a juried exhibition
in Vermont:

running on trails amidst the lush
subtropical vegetation along the Savannah River
in Georgia:

...and seeing nature overtake brick
along the 19th-c. Augusta Canal:

back to France, after 11 years away,
with this view from our hotel 
one night in Montmartre:

(playing more and more with painterly effects this year)

...and this lunch-break scene in the 
Jardin des Tuileries;
ups and downs of cellphone calls:

...and dans la chambre de Montaigne,
in the château of the great Renaissance
writer, Michel de Montaigne:

...the Château de Chenonceau;
'magical' is such an overused cliché...
...and yet, my wife and I keep coming back to that hackneyed word: evening on the Dordogne river,

...then on to Barcelona,
where faces of the 21st-c. compete
with Roman faces from the 1st-c.:

...and Madrid;
this street-art's attitude
sums up 
"Madrid me mata
for me:

back to the school-year work-week schedule,
on an after-work run,
a classic Tucson monsoon-season sunset:

while on trail-runs,
stopping to notice the
late summer desert rain
on datura blooms:

a visit to the glorious red-rock country around Sedona:

a Grand Canyon sunset:

...and sunrise over a sea of fog,
a perhaps once-in-a-decade event:

...which also included this otherworldly spectacle,
the atmospheric phenomenon known as 
a 'glory,' or a "Brokcen Spectre": 

late autumn color hanging on
over reflections in Sabino Canyon:

...and the final 'ripening' of the desert cottonwoods:

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

almost-wordless-Wednesday: mid to late December here...

Just a few words before the wordless-part...

This time of year, there are few better places to be than here in Tucson: the sky is flawless, we've been having afternoons around 70-degrees, and the late-autumn color is still hanging on above the recently-replenished reflecting pools in Sabino Canyon...

Yesterday--not bad for a 24th of December:
A week ago, S. had come with me for an after-work run (only her 2nd time; I think she's being 'converted'), and at this same spot, the sun had just gone down behind the ridge, backlighting the sycamore at the center:
I e-mailed this 'weather photo' to one of our local news stations, and on the 10 o'clock news, KGUN-channel-9 showed it; the 'thrill of being on TV'...

So, now, for the wordless rest of this--
a few more landscape-shots from the past week:

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

from the fog, featured...and 'my' cottonwoods...

I'm honored that a scene from my recent trip to the Grand Canyon was selected to be part of this week's "1000 Words showcase" by WeAreJuxt:

When I found myself on the rim of the Grand Canyon last weekend, waiting in the sub-freezing dawn for the sunrise, I had no idea that the sea of fog I was seeing was such a rare event. It turns out that the inversion that produced the fog is a once-in-a-decade or so phenomenon in the canyon. As the sun rose over the horizon, the sea of fog began to churn and the crowds that gathered on the canyon rim were at turns enveloped in mist and then bathing in golden light. The polyglot crowd, myself included, stood transfixed by the colors and movement that the play of fog and sun produced. After getting lots of landscape shots, the crowd itself caught my eye–scores of people, all facing the same direction, all seemingly immobilized by the rising orb. My wife tells me that she finds this particular shot beautiful, but creepy, as if the people are staring at an apocalyptic spectacle… I used my iPhone5s to get this shot, and the only app I used to edit it was Snapseed.


Now, cottonwoods.
Bear with me here--yes, it is somewhat of an obsession, as you'll see below...and it began exactly a year ago. 

First, a scene from a few hours ago, this evening's 'painterly' take--the last light of day on this stand of cottonwoods along the creek at the mouth of Sabino Canyon:

If you've been reading this blog for any length of time, it's become apparent that I almost always take my iPhone with me when I go for runs in Sabino Canyon--this time of year, that's two or three times a week. 

Exactly a year ago, I was running in the evening and decided to take a trail that I didn't usually take, when the late afternoon light on this stand of cottonwoods stopped me dead in my tracks:
The just-before-sunset illumination was arresting--the rhythm of these trees, their proportion to each other, the juxtaposition of golden leaves against sky and cloud--I felt compelled to pause in my run and just stand there for a few minutes. Living in the desert, too, has made me appreciate trees in whole new way; these cottonwoods feel monumental to me, rare elsewhere but thriving, here, in their micro-climate where a mountain creek leaves its narrow canyon and flows out into the open desert...

This landscape reminded me of a particular photo in a photography book ("Western Images") that was one of my favorites as a teenager in Georgia--by photographer Ray Atkeson:

Bright cottonwood against a wide open sky--the idea of  "The West"...
As a little kid, in first and second grade, I had lived in Arizona before my father moved us to Georgia, where I finished school...but I always knew that I wanted to move out west again; Atkeson's book populated my imagination with images of the landscapes I hoped to wander one day...
...and here I am, home in Arizona after having made the Pacific Northwest 'home' for many years after leaving Georgia...

Anyway, so I decided I would come back to this same spot often, to note the changing of the seasons on one particular corner of the desert...

The autumn color peaks late in Tucson--mid-to-late December--and the winter is short; the arboreal architecture becomes apparent for only a few weeks:
 It's not until late January that the trees finally drop most of their brown leaves...

...and then, already by the first week in March, 
the first hint of green seemed to be hovering above the branches

By early summer the trees have filled in completely...

...and by late summer, the monsoon rains bring wildflowers back to the base of the cottonwoods:

Winter, spring, summer, fall...
I finally have photos of all four seasons around those cottonwoods,
all taken, during my runs, with my iPhone:

And so a year has passed,
here at the base of the Santa Catalina Mountains...

The passage of time and light--always enough 
to get me out of a slump.

One more for tonight--also a painterly version--taken last Thursday evening:
(and here's a link to a full set of cottonwood-photos on flickr...)

There are perils, though, to having one's eyes drawn to the landscape around you, instead of looking ahead to immediate footfall--tonight, as I ran in the evening light, the trees caught my attention, and, looking at them, I missed a step and twisted my ankle. Not a bad sprain--not even a real sprain, I think, but still, a lesson learned: be balanced--run if you're going to run... But I did get some nice shots...

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Grand Canyon fog to the Château de Montaigne, with some macro shots thrown in

Last weekend I was up at the Grand Canyon, and when I woke up early to go see the sunrise, I had no idea that it would be to witness a once-in-a-decade spectacle:
Dawn over a sea of fog... 
(This photo featured in 

(above photo featured in this showcase from iPhoneogenic...)

Crowds facing the sun through a surreal mist rising up from the canyon:
...and then, as the sun rose, I looked behind me to see
what looked like a fog-rainbow-halo:
Crazy-looking, with my shadow in the middle of it:
 This phenomenon is officially known as a "glory," apparently...
or, more specifically, a "Brocken spectre."

...truly felt privileged to witness this rare fog-inversion that filled the Canyon...

The evening before I'd hiked a bit along the rim, between Mohave and Hopi Points, and enjoyed the sunset:


A couple of days ago, I got THIS in the mail:
I'd won it in this mobile photography contest...(THANKS!)
This scene from Seoul was the photo that was runner-up
for the Night Shots, City theme:

...and so here are the first few macro shots I've taken with the olloclip: 

--a couple of Paquito's feathers... 

--a geranium bud in the backyard...
 --and what's left of a geranium flower after all the petals have fallen away...

--inside a bougainvillea blossom...

--and a close-up of some moss. 
Yes, there's moss in our desert backyard...


A scene from this past summer,

 I was honored to have "Dans la chambre de Montaigne
featured in this past week's Mobiography showcase.

 Technical things first: I took this with my iPhone5 and processed it with snapseed–converting it to black and white and then fine-tuning it using the “drama,” “details” and “center focus” tools. The scene in this Renaissance château was already perfectly lit, evoking, appropriately enough, so many of the Renaissance paintings of domestic interiors.

This summer, my wife and I were traveling in France and had the chance to visit the Château de Montaigne–the residence of the famed Renaissance man Michel de Montaigne, who, in some ways, can be considered Europe’s first ‘modern’ writer, inventor of the essay and a ‘blogger’ before his time. During the year I lived in France as a grad-student, I’d never had the chance to make my way down to this southwest corner of France; it was a delight to wander around the vineyard-covered landscape.

Montaigne (1533-1592) spent the last years of his life in the circular tower of his family’s château, converting its different levels into his chapel, library, study, and bedroom. He wrote all of his “Essais” here, in semi-retirement after years of public service and traveling. While my visit was not exactly a ‘literary pilgrimmage,’ being in this tower, in the rooms where so many thoughts were carefully crafted so long ago–it was sobering.

Thinking about the ability of photography to capture a moment and render it timeless, this passage from Montaigne comes to mind:
     “The utility of living consists not in the length of days, but in the use of time; a man may have lived long, and yet lived but a little. Make use of time while it is present with you. It depends upon your will, and not upon the number of days, to have a sufficient length of life.”