Vortex Picture of the Week

Have you ever been to a place, but you didn’t know you were there until you went away? I know that sounds like a Yogi Berra-ism, but it will make perfect sense once I explain. Most of the time when I’m out shooting, I have to come back to the office and scour maps to name the landmarks that are in my pictures—and you thought I was a human geography book. That’s the story behind this week’s featured image that I call Vortex.

Vortex-I was able to compose two photographs standing on the Boynton Pass Overlook. I found out later that it’s also the location of one of the four Sedona vortexes.

For Sedona month, I wanted to get images of the red rocks that aren’t on every calendar that you’ve owned, so I scouted and explored a couple of trails that were off the beaten path. One of them was the Boynton Pass Overlook Trail, and I took the Climbers photo featured three weeks ago from the same place. Back at the office, I searched Google Maps to see if the pinnacle they were scaling had a name. It didn’t (Wrong. According to the site in the following link, its name is Kachina Woman – jw), but—according to the map—I was standing on (or near) the Boynton Pass Vortex. When it comes to those kinds of metaphysical things, I must admit that I’m a skeptic, so I wasn’t searching for a vortex. I was after the view. It’s interesting that there isn’t a marker to show it’s there and I didn’t come away enlightened. I did, however, get two photos from one spot, so maybe …

This smaller turret and the much taller tower as seen in Climbers flank each end of the overlook saddle. Since they’re on opposite ends, if you look at one, you have to turn around to see the other. I liked the shape of this little guy—it kind of looks like an inverted tornado. I don’t know what a vortex looks like, so maybe this is one.

Another thing that appeals to me is the plants. Within the frame, are all the varietals that make up the Sedona chaparral: juniper, sage, prickly pear, agave, and some others that I can’t identify by name. I’d like to think that this shot is a miniature Sedona model—a stack of red sandstone and the plants thriving there. If I had a stag deer majestically posing in the photo, it would have been perfect—or maybe have it spinning through the air like the cows in the movie Twister.

You can see a larger version of Vortex on its Web Page by clicking here. I hope you enjoy viewing this week’s post and come back next week when we’ll start another month in a new site.

Until next time — jw

Well Turned Ankle Utah Photo Shoot

The suffering that I must go through to please you people. As I sit here on the couch and looking at my right leg propped up by a pillow, I see that my ankle is thicker than my calf muscle. I had a friend in high school—a girl—who’s legs looked like this. She always lamented that they installed her legs upside-down. That’s how my right leg looks now.

I managed to injure my ankle by twisting it on the hike back from Coyote Gulch in Utah. My pain worse because I didn’t get the shot I wanted. I was this … close. I allowed four hours to trek out, get a shot, and then hike back before the sun went down. The two-mile trail alternated between fine red-powder sand and slick rock which I preferred because I made better time while I walked it. As I neared the canyon, I was concerned because I couldn’t see it. It’s the same as Horseshoe Bend on the Colorado River, so you have to walk to the edge to look into the chasm. The photo shows just how close I got and when I took it, I was not on the trail. What you can’t see in the picture is that beyond the cairn the trail descends like walking down a ball. To get back up, I would have needed to crawl on my hands and knees. Incidentally, that’s a very narrow ridge to be carrying a camera pack and tripod, so yes, I was a-scared. (BTW—here’s a link to what’s down there. It’s copyrighted so I can’t post it, but I can send you for a look.)

The Top of Hamblin Arch
The Top of Hamblin Arch-This is how close I got to my subject. You’re looking at the top of Hamblin Arch, like looking at an elephant’s trunk from its brow. The cairn on the ridge marks the real trail. Behind the cairn, you can make out the arch underside.

I twisted my ankle a third of the way back, and it’s the third time I’ve injured the same ankle. Each time I was carrying a load and my foot rolled-over 90º so that my entire weight was on that pointy ankle bone. Like the other times, I didn’t have a choice but to keep walking and the two-mile trail turned into four miles, then six. I became concerned that I wouldn’t be able to get back to the truck before dark. I began having thoughts about my demise. I wondered if I’d have to eat the dead, except I was alone. I questioned when my camera and tripod would become so much of a burden that I’d discard them along the trail. In case you’re worried, I didn’t die. I got to the truck at sunset and spent the night alone under the stars. I drove back to town the next morning and called my caring wife to tell her I had to come home early—she would need time to get rid of her boyfriends—the Chippendale Dancers.

I think that after the first injury, my ankle is susceptible to re-injury. I wear good hiking boots, and because of their high tops, they have more support. With all the walking, hiking, and biking I’ve done in the past couple of years, I thought my ankle would be stronger. If I want to get back out there and get those out-of-the-way shots, I’m going to have to do strength training exercises and tape my foot up before a hike.

Instead—I’m buying a drone. The one I’ve settled on has a four-kilometer range, and I could fly it out there and get my shots from the parking lot. I’ve pondered how to get more height in my photos anyway, and a drone is a perfect answer. A drone is a medical necessity—no less than an Iron Lung. The challenge I have is that I want a quality camera equal to my current gear. That camera is $21K, and lenses start at $10K. A drone stout enough to fly it is another $7K, and the controller is another couple of grand. Sure, fifty-thousand dollars sounds like a lot of money, but that’s the cost of an emergency room visit and a couple of nights in intensive care. I wonder if my health insurance will cover it if my doctor writes a prescription.

Until next time—jw

North Side Capitol Butte Picture of the Week

Seeing a photograph isn’t predictable. Sometimes you find a subject and wait for the light to be right as I did for the image Capitol Butte from a couple of weeks ago. Ansel Adams was notoriously patient about doing this. Sometimes he’d wait hours or days for the light to come in. Sometimes you see an image as you’re walking a trail and you drop to your knees to capture it. That’s what happened when I shot last week’s featured image Prickly Juniper. Sometimes a subject will show up through the car window and you’ll have to jump out of the car and grab it. That’s the story behind Ansel Adam’s masterpiece Moonrise over Hernandez. He saw the image forming through the windshield, stopped his car to set-up his view camera and had to calculate the exposure without a light meter. I’m not comparing the two photographs, but that’s also the story of this week’s featured image that I call North Side Capitol Butte—except for the light meter part.

North Side Capitol Butte
North Side Capitol Butte – A late afternoon sun adds a glow to Capitol Butte in Sedona, Arizona

I was driving into town from the hiking trail and I was paying attention at the light on Capitol Butte. While I was driving, I saw the butte framed between two trees, so I stopped the car and got out and moved in for the kill. This framing technique was very popular in the Hudson River School style of painting. The center subject is lit between two darker shapes to keep your eye from wandering off the canvas. The technique fell out of favor as the Impressionist began to gain popularity. Just because something’s no longer popular, there isn’t any reason you can’t drag it out of the closet now and then.

You can see a larger version of North Side Capitol Butte on its Web Page by clicking here. I hope you enjoy viewing this week’s post and come back next week when we’ll present the last image from Sedona Month.

Until next time — jw

Prickly Juniper Picture of the Week

In a place like Sedona, with its canyons and red-rock buttes, it’s easy to get overwhelmed by abundant beauty. I can imagine a project where I simply recorded a catalog of the natural formations along Oak Creek, but that would make for a boring story. A good story changes pace and adds contrast. That’s why, as I scurry about hither and yon at a new site, I keep my eyes open for interesting things below my nose.

Prickly Juniper
Prickly Juniper – A prickly pear cactus grows in the sun beneath a dead juniper tree in Sedona Arizona.

This week’s featured image—called Prickly Juniper—is an example of looking for intimate subjects amidst spectacular scenery. I saw this prickly pear along the trail that I wrote about last week. If it were on its own, I probably would have ignored it, but it nestled under the bare branches of a dead juniper tree and together they caught my attention. I liked the light against the dark, the living against the dead, and the prickly pear’s circular pads against the tree’s linear branches. The late afternoon sun was showing off the tree’s texture and the cactus’ lethal thorns. I took a couple of variations of this image and I felt this version was the best.

You can see a larger version of Prickly Juniper on its Web Page by clicking here. I hope you enjoy viewing this week’s post and come back next week when we’ll present another featured image from Sedona.

Until next time — jw

Climbers Picture of the Week

This week’s featured image was shot in Boynton Canyon on Sedona’s west side, north of State Route 89A. It’s the site of The Enchantment Resort—a very high-end destination requiring deep pockets to stay there. There are several trails in the canyon that meander among the cliffs and buttes, and that’s exactly what I was searching for. In the parking lot, the map said that I had a choice of three routes: one that went to a dead-end up the canyon, a second longer trail over Dead Man’s Pass, and finally a short hike to a canyon overlook. I’m all for short and I’m adverse to dead men, so I set off for the overlook.

The trail is fishhook-shaped as it skirts the south side of an outcrop then turns 180° and ascends into a saddle, wedged between the outcrop and a larger butte. It’s only a quarter-mile long, but the rise got tricky in a couple of sections. It’s good that it was well-marked with white paint splotches. The climb doesn’t seem much until you reach the saddle and turn around and see the valley floor a couple hundred feet below. To the west is a great view of the resort nestled among the red-rock cliffs.

As I clambered up the hill, I stopped a couple of times to rest and clear the heart beating in my ears. When I could hear again, there were voices, but I couldn’t see anyone on the trail above or behind me. It wasn’t until I reached the saddle that I saw a pair of climbers—a woman and a man tethered together with a rope—as they were nearing the butte’s summit. I assumed that she was leading as she was higher and coaching his assent.  “Cool,” I thought.

Once I reached the saddle, I set up my tripod and camera and began shooting all the compass points, and savored the water I remembered to bring. After I completed my long-shots, I started a series of close-ups with the camera hand-held. I could tell from their voices that my climbers had reached the top and were taking in the view.

Climbers-A pair of rock-climbers celebrates success atop a Sedona Butte.

I thought about photographing them while they were enjoying their success, so I yelled up to them, “Hey! Can I get a shot?”

They were so polite. They hunkered down out of sight. “No,” I shouted again, “I want to shoot you on top.” When they stood up, I pantomimed celebration by raising my hands in the air. They followed my instructions and even began whooping. I fired off a couple of frames and shouted “Thanks” to them and then began to make my way back down to the truck.

I like the way the shot Climbers turned out even though they don’t take up a lot of frame space. As an Alaska guide once instructed us, “Humans are easy to spot. They’re the only thing standing erect.” In the image, I wanted to show their difficult conquest so I didn’t bother with a long lens. I also like the way the red sandstone contrasts against the dark blue sky and streaky cloud so I included more of it in the composition.

You can see a larger version of Climbers on its Web Page by clicking here. I hope you enjoy viewing this week’s post and come back next week when we’ll show another featured image from Sedona.

Until next time — jw

Herberger Theater Exhibition New Art Show Announcement

The Herberger Theater art curators have selected one of my photographs to be part of a show this month. It’s not an art show as such as it will be on display inside the theater and the only way you can view it is to buy a theater ticket. But what the heck, something of mine is hanging on a wall somewhere.

Sunset Thunderhead
As the sun began to drop below the horizon, this beautiful thunderhead moved southward over the Weaver Range.

The theme of this exhibit is Sunrise/Sunset. The pieces submitted are depictions of events or scenes taken at those times when the light is golden. They accepted my image called Thunderhead Sunset. This is the third time this picture has been selected for a show,  so it seems to be popular.

The exhibit will run until the end of October and will be in Bob’s Spot Gallery—I believe that’s the bar area. If you happen to be going to the Herberger, stop by and check it out. Wait, maybe I should rephrase that. You should buy a ticket to a play at the Herberger before the end of October so you can see my artwork. There, how was that?

Until next time — jw

Capitol Butte Picture of the Week

Sedona is the most romantic town in Arizona. Don’t believe me? Just watch the Social Sound Off question on the evening news. Each evening, they ask a trivia question about Arizona. The news people get lists from internet sites or magazines about the most popular places for something or another. If the question is about tourism or travel, the answer is either the Grand Canyon or Sedona. The romance question was a recent topic and—you guessed it—Sedona was the answer. For more evidence linking the Red Rock Country to lovers, try booking a hotel room in Sedona for Valentine’s Day. The closest room you’re likely to find is in Eloy.

Capitol Butte
Capitol Butte – a tribe of millionaire-Bedouins have camped in their shabby-chic tents for the night among the red rocks of Sedona.

It’s been over a decade since I last visited Sedona and all of the changes shocked me. Gone is the quiet dusty little creek-side town nestled in Oak Creek Canyon. Back then, there were the usual galleries, jewelry, and souvenir stores in the village, but now it looks like Scottsdale or Newport Beach. The single traffic light has been replaced with dozens of traffic circles. With its limited space and water supply, Sedona has always been the place we loved to death and surely it’s now ready for hospice care.

As a photographer, I’ve been frustrated when shooting there. When you’re trying to get a shot that tells the town’s story, you’re thinking about red rocks, Oak Creek, and the old sycamore trees. You can get that shot at Red Rock Crossing State Park and virtually every photographer has it in his or her portfolio. On this visit, I wanted something different to photograph, so I did a bit of exploring. I hiked a short trail in Boynton Canyon and I ended my day on top of Airport Mesa.

I hung around after sunset until the crowd left—there’s a dedicated parking lot for this viewpoint and people pay three-bucks a car, who knew? I wanted the town dark but have Capitol Butte lit with the soft residual light in the western sky, so I waited until the town lights began to come on.

I believe that I got a different interpretation of this familiar view. I called this image Capitol Butte after the red-rock feature towering over the village. It shows how packed the dwellings are between the rock formations that draw so many people from around the world. I like the contrast of the orderly north-south-east-west streets within a so-called nature setting. When I look at this image, I see a tribe of millionaire-Bedouins camped for the night around the waterhole.

You can see a larger version of Capitol Butte on its Web Page by clicking here. I hope you enjoy viewing this week’s post and come back next week when we’ll show more from Sedona.

Until next time — jw