Timberline Picture of the Week

Timberline – The subjects of this image suggest that it is on a scale larger than it really is.

The wind was warmer than I expected at this altitude. Blowing on my back, it seemed to help push me along the John Muir Trail in California’s High Sierra’s. The Mt. Whitney Trail was only a half mile further when I stopped to snap this photo of massive granite formations along the tree line.

I just made all of that up. My chances of hiking those famous trails have long vanished, but this week’s photo has a sense of scale that could work with a fictitious story like that. I took this photo I call Timberline at the Granite Dells along with the others featured this month. It’s the angle that fools the eye so that you think you’re looking at a craggy mountaintop. The trees also play tricks with your sense of scale. They’re actually shrub-size like they were scale models of ones that are much taller—bonsai versions if you will, and the sheer drop in the lower left isn’t the hundreds of feet that it seems. It’s only a dozen feet over your head as you hike the Flume Trail to the park’s northern boundary.

The reason I included Timberline in this month’s set is that it distills the Granite Dells into three simple elements; massive rocks, trees eking a living in hostile conditions, and the changing sky over them. The photo speaks of weight—or mass—and it shows a time contrast of a changing sky and momentary life against the permanence of the weathered granite. The sky changes hourly while the trees will be different in a century, but the granite will survive the next millennia unaltered.

You can see a larger version of Timberline on its Web Page by clicking here. I hope you enjoy viewing this week’s post and come back next week when we start a new set of images from a new location.

Until next time — jw

West of Center Art Show New Show Announcement

The inmates are taking over the asylum again. Each year at this time, the folks at the Desert Caballeros Western Museum take a vacation and before they leave town, they toss the keys to the Wickenburg Art Club. Like a bunch of teenagers hyped on hormones, we throw a wild party … well, we actually host an exhibition of local artists for three months. Nobody’s in town anyway, so why not?

This is the seventh year that the Art Club has put on the West of Center Art Exhibition and Sale and it’s really a big deal around these parts. The members each submit up to five pieces for consideration and a jury selects the best for the show. Year after year it’s a good show because there’s a lot of good talent in the Wickenburg area. The show runs from July 28th through October 28th at the Desert Caballeros Museum’s Learning Center at the northwest corner of Highway 60 and Tegner Street. The hours are 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday and noon to 4 p.m. on Sundays. The store is closed Mondays. There are also art demonstrations on Saturdays from 1 – 3 p.m. If you can stop by then, we’ll learn ya somthin’.

Blue Mesa
Blue Mesa was my favorite shot from the Petrified Forest last summer. It was selected to be part of the West of Center Art Show this year.

The jury selected two of my submissions for the show this year and I’m excited to see them hanging. My first piece is a shot I took from the Petrified Forest last year called Blue Mesa. It’s a 17 x 10½ print in one of my standard black frames. You may remember a couple of weeks ago when I wrote about how I was having trouble printing it because of ink problems. Well, I solved them and I’m happy with the results.

Mud Arch
Mud Arch – I had this printed on a piece of aluminum and floated it a walnut frame for the show.

For my second entry, I did something exotic (for me). I sent my image of Mud Arch off to be printed on a sheet of aluminum 15 inches wide by 20 inches high and when it came back it looked stunning. The colors and detail came out exceptionally well. Because the print’s surface is cleanable with a mild window cleaner, I didn’t have to cover it with glass. Instead, I float-mounted it in a rustic-finished walnut frame. Despite the extra costs for this process, I plan to keep this process in my repertoire.

I hope you get a chance to stop by and take in the show. I think you’ll be surprised by the quality of art on display. The Saturday demonstrations are interesting and informative. Last year, for example, Stan Strange’s talk on Cell Phone Photography turned into the basis for the photo classes the club put on this spring. After the show, put the top down on your hot-rod and stop by Screamer’s drive-in for a cheeseburger and shake.

Until next time — jw

Lime Lichen Picture of the Week

Lime Lichen
Lime Lichen – The main lichen growing in the Granite Dells is either orange or a pale green. Every so often, you’ll find a bright green patch such as this.

In last week’s post, I wrote how the Granite Dells boulders weren’t just bare rock, but they’re covered with living organisms which gives them color and texture. As you hike along the trails and take a closer look, you’ll find lichen, moss, fungi, and things that only a botanist could name growing there. Although they resemble a plant, lichen is a relitive of algae. They don’t put down roots, but instead, they get water and nutrients from the air. Lichen has a surprisingly long lifespan, but they don’t handle pollution well. When we were landscaping our Goodyear home, Anne and I specifically picked out some boulders that had a green specimen growing on them. Within six months, all the growth vanished.

There are two predominate colors of lichen in the Dells, an orange and another that is light green—seafoam if you will. Occasionally there’s a patch of a bright green specimen that catches the eye, and that’s how I happened upon this shot. The green was a small part on the larger rock surface, so to make it stand out, I moved in close enough and made it the subject of this photo. I like the way the bright green dominates the other muted colors. In all, I count four species growing in this shot. Because there’s not a structure in it, the abstract image is about color and texture. I call it Lime Lichen.

You can see a larger version of Lime Lichen on its Web Page by clicking here. I hope you enjoy viewing this week’s post and come back next week and see more from the Granite Dells.

Until next time — jw

Orange Boulders Picture of the Week

Orange Boulders
Orange Boulders – Lichen-covered granite boulders have weathered and fell off their tight-fitting stack.

A this week’s featured image shows, the trails of Granite Dells City Park provide diversity you wouldn’t expect to find in a massive formation of slow-cooled lava. This week’s featured image shows a small example of that. It comes from one of the Flume Trail’s spurs. Instead of walking around a ridge, this option climbed over it, before it descends and rejoins the main path on the other side. I’d call it a shortcut, but since it added a climb, it didn’t save any time.

On the ridge, the view opens, and since the granite pile tops were exposed to weathering longer than below, so more of the car-sized boulders lay scattered on the ground. If you’ve only driven by The Dells, you’d get the idea that the rocks are nothing but dirt. As you can see in this image, they’re actually covered with lichen of various colors. Here an orange species grows next to a green varietal. Up close, they give the rocks a velvety texture.

I stopped along the trail to capture this image because this tumbled pile of rocks stood apart from assembled puzzle stacks surrounding them. The distinct orange color caught my attention too. There are other colors that you’ll see as you walk along the trails. We’ll bee seeing some of those in other photos this month. Finally, I included a bit of the trail in this image to add a leading line and some perspective to the image.

You can see a larger version of Orange Boulders on its Web Page by clicking here. I hope you enjoy viewing my newest entry and come back next week when we show another photo from Granite Dells.

Until next time — jw

Owl See You Later Life in Congress

We’ve never lived in a house that was previously owned before and after living here for a couple of years, I’m convinced that this one is haunted—or at the very least it has a poltergeist. Our house constantly talks to us. The doors squeak, the floors creak, and there are strange noises coming from inside the walls. We’ve put rocks at all the doors to keep them from opening or closing on their own. It gets worse at night after we turn off the TV and the house goes dark. For the first couple of months, one of us would be startled awake and shout, “What was that?” After getting out of bed to investigate—and I’m always the designated detective—I hopelessly search for the noise’s source. We’ve gotten used to much of it now and mostly ignore the strange sounds.

That was until the other night when I woke to what sounded like scuffling on the other side of the headboard. As I laid there trying to decide if the noise was real or if it was part of my dreams, it happened again, and I thought, “There’s something going on outside.” It was 3:00 am and my brain began cataloging all the possible causes for a noise like that. Could it be a coyote cornering a rabbit against the house? Was there a javelina rooting in the dirt? What if it’s a mountain lion? By the time I listed all the scenarios, the hooting started. I suspected that the cause of the racket was an owl. Now that I was pretty sure it wasn’t a lion, I could be brave enough to get up and take a look.

I’ve been on recon missions like this before. I know that I can’t see anything in the dark; especially on a moonless night. That’s why we have dozens of Pelican flashlights all over the house. I also know that if you turn the light on while inside the screen door, all you get is a well-lit close-up of the screen. Finally, I know that you have to wait to turn on the light until you’re ready for it, otherwise your prey will see you moving and they run-off. You get bits of wisdom like this from experience; lots and lots of experience.

I sat up and grabbed a flashlight from my nightstand drawer and tiptoed to the front door. Since the nights are very quiet out here, I purposefully opened the front door and gingerly slipped through the screen door. If there was an owl, the first place to look would be on the TV antenna, and there is only one spot on the front porch where you can see it. That spot is the outmost right corner, so I cautiously slipped into place and looked toward the aerial and then turned on the flashlight. Staring back at me were two pterodactyl sized great horned owls sitting at opposite ends of the antenna like it was a teeter-totter. To my surprise, they didn’t fly away. Instead, they stared at the light while shifting their heads in a circular motion. They were trying to figure out the light.

“Oh! Anne has to see this,” I thought and slipped back into the house to wake her. Now, this is the dangerous part because if I’m not careful, I could lose a limb … or worse. Because it’s summer, she was sleeping without covers in all of her natural beauty. I grasped her ankle which was beyond the reach of her claws and gently squeezed while I hushed her. “Huh … what?” she uttered as she woke. I whispered about the owls and how she should come and see. Her sleepiness turned to excitement as she followed me outside. I guided her into the spot and then turned on the flashlight. The owls were gone. They must have flown away when I went inside. I assured her that they were real and they were huge and they made a racket when they landed on the pole. She was disappointed that she didn’t get to see them. Then from my neighbor’s front porch, I heard John’s voice ask, “Hey! What’s all the commotion about?”

Until next time — jw

Dells Scrub Oak Picture of the Week

Dells Scrub Oak
Dells Scrub Oak – The green of a mature scrub oak stands out against the Granite Dells boulders.

This week’s featured image is one that I took while exploring the Flume trail that parallels Granite Creek below the Watson Lake dam. State Route  89 divides Granite Dells Park as it heads north out-of-town, with the Willow Lake complex on the west side and the Watson Lake facilities on the east. Each division has trails that meander through the maze of boulders. The main series of trails around Willow Lake is called the Constellation Trails. I’ve only had a taste of that trail system, but I want to hike there some more. I have hiked a couple of the trails around Watson Lake and I’ve completed the Flume Trail twice.

The trailhead is located along the north park boundary. Access to the parking area is via East Granite Dells Road. The trail is almost a mile long in each direction and has a couple of moderate climbs over a couple of ridges, but a lot of it is flat. At its start, it runs between private properties so you’ll see signs warning you to stay on the path. After the first hill, the trail drops into a wide grassy area where you walk creekside under a growth of Cottonwoods. There is a second ridge you must traverse before the trail returns to Granite Creek and stays there up to the dam. When water is high, excess water rushes out of a flume—sort of an artificial waterfall. The water has been low for several years, so the flume is rarely used.

We visited the Dells on our June Costco run, but I wasn’t ready and made a stupid mistake. We left home early so I could go shooting before the warehouse opened. I wanted to photograph with a low sun for the color and it was around half past eight when we got to the parking area, but the day was going to be hot—even in Prescott. While Anne waited in the shade, I grabbed my camera and a second lens and then headed up the trail without water. It was going to be a hit-and-run shoot lasting an hour, tops. I hiked this trail five years ago without problem when we spent the 4th in Prescott. This time I underestimated the strenuousness of the climb, the morning’s heat, and the extra two-thousand feet of altitude. By the time I stumbled back to the car, I was in such bad shape that I made Anne drive us to breakfast while I downed a quart of water. When we got to Costco, we bought a small backpack that I can carry camera equipment and a couple of bottles of water in. Live and learn, eh?

I came upon this scene at the trail’s beginning. After leaving the parking area and making my way over the first hill, I saw this scrub oak—a rather large and nicely shaped one at that—growing in the rock cracks. The green of its leaves stood out against the tan of the granite boulders towering over it. The wispy clouds made the blue sky interesting, so I included them in my composition.

You can see a larger version of Dells Scrub Oak on its Web Page by clicking here. I hope you enjoy viewing my newest entry and come back next week when we present another photo of the Granite Dells.

Until next time — jw

La Dolce Vita

I’m living a dream and I don’t mean that I’m Back in the Highlife Again. That would never happen. I have too much bad Karma. The dream I’m talking about is the one that everybody has. The details change, but in it, you’re trying to get something accomplished and things keep happening to thwart you. If you overcome one obstacle, another one takes its place and it’s usually worse. The dream goes on and on until you finally get to school and realize that you’re not wearing pants. I’m sure my dilemma isn’t a  dream because I can remember what happened yesterday and it continues after I wake-up.

I’ve had my current photo printer for three years and it’s the second one that I bought. I got this unit because the printing heads on its predecessor clogged and nothing I did would clear them, including a fresh round of ink cartridges. Of course, I discovered the problem when I urgently needed to make a set of prints for a reason that’s now escaped me, so I panicked and ordered the second printer, and even paying for two-day delivery. I salvaged all the new cartridges from printer #1 so that I could use them in printer # 2. It’s been a couple of years and I haven’t needed to replace the entire set yet.

The new printer is off most of the time. I only turn it on when I sell a print or I have to make a new show entry. I stopped printing all of my images years ago. My closet is full of print boxes that just take up space. Since I don’t do very many art shows anymore, I don’t need to replace the existing stock very often.

I have a new show later this month (more to come) and the committee selected two of the five prints I submitted, so I fired up the printer a couple of weeks ago. The first thing I do when I turn it on is run a couple of cleaning cycles before I ever load the paper. I want to make sure the printer is hitting on all eight cylinders so I don’t waste a sheet of expensive paper. I went to make my four prints—two for show and two for backup—and the first three printed perfectly. There was something wrong in the shadows with the fourth print, so I tried again with the same results. The indicator for the cyan cartridge was flashing, but I didn’t have a replacement in my stash. Instead, I ran the head cleaning maintenance a couple of times while I ordered another cartridge from Amazon. Then I tried another print, but the results were the same. I tweaked the paper profile, I used another brand of paper, I did more cleaning, but nothing worked. In desperation, I ran a series of cleaning cycles until the printer yelled at me, “Can not do the head cleaning, one of the ink cartridges is out of ink.”

My cyan cartridge arrived yesterday and I put it into the printer. Before printing anything, I ran a nozzle check. When you do that, the printer spits out a print with a series of color music scales. If one of the heads is clogged, that color scale has broken lines. In this case, almost all the black scale was missing. Now that I had plenty of ink, I began running cleaning cycles. After each one, more of the black pattern appeared and after a half-dozen cycles, there was only one small break in the black pattern, so I tried once more. The printer began yelling again, “Maintenance cartridge is full, please replace with a new cartridge.” When you do a head cleaning, the printer squirts ink into the maintenance cartridge and when that’s full, the printer stops working until you replace it.

So I’m waiting for the new cartridge to arrive from Amazon. Because of today’s holiday, it won’t arrive until next week. Instead of matting and framing my show entries, I have to spend the day being nice to the birthday girl. That means I have to cook dinner and watch Independence Day again because that’s what she does on July 4th. Jeez, it’s not even the alien invasion movie with the cool Slim Whitman ending. Maybe if I’m lucky, I can take a nap and sleep away this nightmare.

Until next time — jw