It’s shortly after noon on the year’s last day. Our temperature gauge is reading 33º, and it’s been snowing most of the morning—here in the desert. I awoke from my morning nap and walked out of the bedroom to find this sitting by the window, watching the snow.
I know there’s a chill in the air, but this is ridiculous.
It’s the end of the year already, and that means that this week’s photo wraps up the month and year. In a few days, we’ll begin a new year, shooting new locations and new subjects. But I’ll worry about that next week. For now, let’s finish with the trip up the San Domingo Wash, which is where I shot this week’s featured image.
While I was out exploring the mountains north of Wickenburg, I experienced the desert in changing light—from late afternoon to sunset. In that short amount of time, the desert’s character changed as the sun sank lower in the sky. When it was behind the clouds, the scene was dull and empty. Later, when the sun came out, it was warm and full of life, and all the different plants stood out like characters on a stage. At sunset, those characters blended into an image of textures and shapes. Meanwhile, the sky became a more critical player in the story.
With this week’s image I call Sonoran Winter Afternoon, it was the saguaro near the hilltop and in the middle of the frame that made me raise the camera to my eye. Although it may not seem notable, desert dwellers will spot that it’s a very tall specimen. It stands out like an NBA player walking down New York’s Fifth Avenue. It’s a trophy shot in the same way as one with multiple arms or with a crest would be. After my first shot, I worked to get a better composition and show it among others for scale. I like how the warm afternoon sun gives the vegetation a golden glow which contrasts nicely with the blue sky patches. I hope you enjoy it.
You can see a larger version of Sonoran Winter Afternoon on its Web Page by clicking here. I hope you enjoy viewing this week’s post and come back next week when we’ll be in an entirely different Arizona place. I also have some announcements coming up that I’m looking to get the New Year with a good start. Here’s hoping yours will be better and brighter.
photo—Pair of Threes—was the final good image from the trip where I was Fred’s
guest. Although I captured over 60 frames, most of them were variations, or
they didn’t live up to my expectations. That happens a lot. But I wanted to
share more of the natural beauty in the Wickenburg Mountains
with you, so I packed the truck and returned for an afternoon last week. I
didn’t make it back to the mine, but I found other lovely scenes to shoot in
the area—besides, the sky was being very cooperative.
Sunday didn’t start out all that great, but as the day went on, the gray sky started to break up, so late in the afternoon, I headed back to the San Domingo Wash area. If you’re a regular reader, you know that’s the time of day that I prefer to work. After spending an hour in the field, the light was getting very low, so I started to make my way home because I wasn’t all that keen about getting stuck in some quicksand after dark.
It was then that I shot this week’s featured image—Red Rocks and Twin Peaks—just as the sun was on the horizon below the cloud line. As I drove, I noticed the rock outcrop glowing red in the setting sun, so I looked for a place where the composition would work. I’m pleased with how there’s enough light to add texture to the desert without adding clutter, but I’m jazzed about the range of color in the sky. After I took this shot, the sun went below the horizon, and I thought, “It couldn’t get any better.” I headed home.
Imagine all of the internal screaming I did when a line of small clouds started showing pink virga as I was driving west on US 60. I’ve only witnessed this phenomenon a couple of times, and it never happens when I’m ready to capture it with a suitable foreground. In frustration, I jammed the camera to the windshield and fired a couple of blind shots while I was driving. Mother Nature can be very helpful to a photographer, but she doesn’t always play fair.
You can see a larger version of Red Rocks and Twin Peaks 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 the Wickenburg Mountains.
Until next time —
P.S.: Queen Anne
and I would like to send our best wishes to you. We hope your holidays are
safe, warm and happy.
I’m all alone this week because Queen Anne has gone home to her sister’s because they made Christmas cookies this week, and Anne goes where the sugar is. For me, it’s good news and bad news. The good news is that the bleeding from my ears has stopped since the yelling ceased. The bad news is that I don’t have a copy editor this week, so this will be a short post. I don’t know how to spell all the big words she uses. She’s coming home on Thursday so things will be back to normal then. Pray for me.
Meanwhile back at the mines—or more specifically, San Domingo Wash where Anderson Mill is.
Back in the days when everybody used film—that’s the cellulose stuff you put in cameras to capture images before we used electrons—I was a stingy shooter. Because each frame cost a buck (sheet film was five-times that), I wouldn’t waste my money on something I wasn’t sure was good. Now that electrons are cheap (and the prices keep falling), I’ll snap just about anything that catches my eye. Often that shot turns out to be junk, but one out of a thousand deserves a second look. That’s how this week’s featured image happened.
If you’re the kind of person that lingers on every word that I write, you’ll recall that in my previous posts that the Anderson Mill structure is several stories tall and that the brothers welded it together as needed. In the short time that Fred and I were there, I wanted to poke around the different levels. Now, there are steel-treed stairs, but most of them didn’t have handrails. So I walked the truck paths that snaked up the hillside. It was at one of the switchbacks that I looked up and saw three saguaros along the ridge. Without thinking, I snapped the camera shutter and then dismissed it. When I saw that image on the computer, I knew I could use it because the clouds made the photo. I call this image Pair of Threes.
You can see a larger version of Pair of Threes 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 San Domingo Wash.
Until next time —
BTW: Anne’s flight comes in after 11 pm. If you were a good friend, you’d pick her up … and keep her.
There are hundreds—if not thousands—of abandoned towns and mines in Arizona. Most of them don’t have much to offer, because all of the things of interest have been taken away. As I pointed out in last week’s post about Anderson Mill, the good stuff has already been salvaged. In Arizona, there are about ten ghost towns, like Jerome, Bisbee, and Oatman where the residents were able to transform their community into a tourist destination, but the majority of them have returned to nature, and you’re lucky to find a concrete slab.
Last week’s adventure to Anderson Mills is an example of my point. I would have been delighted if the sheds, trucks and other equipment remained on site. Alas, that’s not the case. At least the main-processing structure was still standing, probably because it was welded together and pirates couldn’t easily strip them. From what was left, I even got an idea of how the Anderson brothers cobbled together the plant with scrounged parts and probably no plans. My dad worked like that. He figured it out in his head and would slap things together. I should ask Fred—who’s a certified nuclear welding inspector—what he thought of the fabrication.
As I was shooting, I looked for strong elements of design; colors, patterns,lines—that sort of thing. As we were ready to make the trip home, I didn’t havemuch time to spend behind the camera. The most color that caught my eye rightaway was a retaining wall, built out of Army landing pads. The mica processingplant is gravity feed and sits maybe 50 feet above the bed of the wash. To makea level base up there, the Andersonsbuilt a reinforced embankment wall out of panels and then back-filled it withrubble.
When I took this picture of the week, I focused on the panels that had alternating yellow color values. I like that against the rusty steel corner plates. However, I didn’t notice the narrow gauge mine-car tracks holding the bottom together. It seems like an expensive piece of scrap metal compared with the other building materials used. I like the abstract feeling of this image, and I call it Retaining Wall.
You can see a larger version of Retaining Wall 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 San Domingo Wash.
Once again the page on my calendar has changed, and I need to find a new site in the county to photograph. I spent all last week pouring over my maps that I had spread across the dining room table looking for an exciting candidate. I wanted to avoid the Christmas decorations towns put up during the holidays, so I was resigned to someplace rural. Then—on Monday—during my morning bike ride, I passed the Poteets who were out for a morning stroll. As I passed by, he shouted out an offer to ride in Fred’s fabulous four-wheel flier. The park’s off-road group planned an outing to Anderson Mill. I didn’t know what that was, so when I got home, I looked it up, and behold, it was in Yavapai County—only by a mile, but it still counts, and that meant the trip would kill one stone with two birds. I immediately sent him an email accepting his invitation.
Before I talk about the mill, let me explain the trip. The off-road group is a bunch of friendly people who have all-terrain vehicles (ATVs) or rock-crawling Jeeps, and they go on regular outings to places of interest to drive their toys. It’s the trip and not the destination that’s important; the more circuitous the route, the better. We spent all day driving to a place that’s only a half hour away if you go by the highway into Wickenburg. They drove down the washes and trails where Fred and I got lost a couple of years ago, and they did it on purpose. They relish getting dusty; something they feel is a feature and not an off-road nuisance. The dust was terrible when Fred and I went out alone, but this time we followed a half-dozen other ATVs. When I walked into the house that evening and brushed the dust off, it looked exactly like in this YouTube clip from the new Cohen Brothers Netflix movie The Ballad of Buster Scruggs (Another masterpiece. Try to imagine Gene Autry meets the Twilight Zone).
Meanwhile, back at the mill …
Anderson Mill was a homestead claim run by Sid Anderson and his brother (documents don’t show the brother’s name) during the World War II period. They mined and processed mica—a mineral useful for electrical insulation and drywall joint compound among other things. The mine and mill are located in the San Domingo Wash north of Wickenburg and was productive until 1951—when plastics became a cheaper substitute. The mill’s ruins consist of welded panels and stairs topped by a rotating tumbler that—oddly enough—still has the original drive belt. As you would expect, pirates have already salvaged all the working motors and engines.
This week’s featured image is from a pump that pushed water up to the tumbler. The smaller gear drove the large one, which eventually cycled a piston pump. A Hit-and-Miss engine probably powered the whole Rube Goldberg setup. The things that compelled me to take this image are the relationship of the gears, the radial pattern of the spokes, the mass of iron bolted to an I-beam, and the beautiful rust patina. I gave the photograph the simple name of Water Pump Gears.
You can see a larger version of Water Pump Gears 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 San Domingo Wash.