“Now for something completely different,” if you didn’t already know, that’s a quote from Monty Python and it’s relevant to today’s post. I’m adding a feature to my blog that I think you’ll like. Since I switched from a monthly newsletter to this blog, I don’t have to post my new images on a monthly schedule. Consequently, I’ve been adding new ones each week and that’s the pace that I like, so I’m going to also write a companion blog post to announce those pictures. When I was doing that in the newsletter it was successful and I hope it works well here on the blog.
With that in mind, let me tell you about this week’s photo. Over the weekend, I got up enough ambition to load my camera and go out shooting. I wanted to get a shot of the Saguaro Motel sign in Aguila—the little farming community west of Wickenburg on US Highway 60. The sign fits into my collection of old motel signs but after researching the story of Robson’s Mining World I wrote last month, I found out that the Robson family owned the motel and acquired their wealth by selling bee pollen as a miracle cure-all. That fact fits right in with the January photo series of the ghost town. The sign’s not all that spectacular but a shot of it and the accompanying cactus is. Unfortunately, they’re behind a locked chain link fence that ruins the shot, so I’ll have to go back and get permission to get inside the fence.
While I was there, I spotted this image next door. I named the shot Palm Shadow, and it is the shadow of a palm tree cast on the white clapboard side of the Robson Honey warehouse. The building’s green trim serves as a frame for the found wall-art and I included the afore-mentioned fence to give the image depth. It’s a scene that I probably would have missed had I not stopped for my original idea. You can see the larger version here. I hope you like it.
Some would call me a brave man. Foolish; maybe, but I’m not brave. You see, Queen Anne asked me to wake her at 5:00 am so she could see the Super-Blue-Blood moon this morning. It was another 100-year event that she didn’t want to miss. It seems to me that these once-in-a-life things happen often.
At the stroke of five, I did my duty by cracking the bedroom door and tossing a shoe in. When I didn’t hear bear growling, I entered and announced, “It’s started,” then I returned to my computer. Almost immediately, she was at my office door with her jacket on. “A walk? You want to go for our walk now?” I asked.
“Sure. Didn’t you?”
I put on my shoes and grabbed my coat and flashlight and we set off for our morning lap around the park. Venus was high in the east and Scorpio was rising out of the glow of the Phoenix lights. By this time, the moon already had a good bite out of the top as it began to enter earth’s shadow. As we walked, we watched the illuminated section shrink. It takes us about forty-five minutes to complete the two-mile trip and in the dark, I would shine the light before us checking for vermin. It was interesting to see how much light pollution our little community added with many LED ropes placed under trailers being the biggest culprit. They’re supposed to keep rodents from chewing the trailer’s exposed wiring, but I think their effectiveness is suspect.
By the time we got home the moon was only a red glow in the black sky. Rightly named the blood moon, I can see how our ancestors would have feared its omen. Anne grabbed a couple of lap blankets and me, a cup of coffee from the house. We pulled chairs out to the edge of our rear deck and watched while listening to the hoot of a great horned owl coming from nearby trees. We wanted to watch the moon emerge from the shadow, but it lost a race with dawn and to soon disappeared into the trees along the horizon. After it disappeared, we went inside and made breakfast so we could see instant replays on the morning news. All in all, it wasn’t a shabby way to start the day.
The Wickenburg Art Club photo classes have started and have brought some surprises that we hadn’t anticipated. We had more attendees than we expected. Over twenty people have shown up each week and they’re asking questions and fully participating. The other thing that surprised me was how many people want to learn how to use the camera on their smartphone. Stan Strange—our resident iPhone expert—conducted the phone class and he was surprised that in his session Android devices outnumbered the Apple phones three to one.
Since Stan didn’t have a lot of experience with the Android Operating System, I decided to do a little research to help out and because I’m ignorant about smart-phones I had to learn the basics. For me, that means getting the images out of the phone and into a computer so you can do editing on an adult size screen. With my old-guy eyes, I can’t see anything on those tiny phone screens. Besides, although I don’t own a smartphone—or any cell phone for that matter—Queen Anne does and she’s collected enough stuff in the last year that she was out of storage space, so we killed a couple of birds using one stick.
Having a computer background, I foolishly thought that all that I needed to do was to connect the phone and computer with a USB cable, but when I did that, I got a message in the file window saying, “This folder is empty.” What I didn’t know is that the phone has to be set up to talk with the computer. Anne’s phone was configured so the USB port could only be used for charging. This is an easy fix. While the phone is connected to the computer via USB cable, touch and hold the area at the screen’s top—where the time and battery icons are—then drag down toward the screen’s center. There should be a box labeled “USB Configuration.” If you tap on that banner, it will open an applet that exposes the settings to configure the port. For picture transfers, you want to select: “Transferring Media Files” Once you select that option the phone will expose the phone’s files to the computer. Now in Windows Explorer (if you’re using a Mac computer, you’ll need to get specific instructions elsewhere, but they’re generally the same) your phone’s data should show up (either as a phone or a storage device) as a new drive letter and when you open it you will see an item that says “Internal Storage” or something like that. Once you open that item by double-clicking it, there will be a display of the various folders inside.
By consensus, camera manufacturers store images in the DCIM folder, either at the root level or, as in Anne’s phone, a sub-folder named Camera. Once you’ve found your images you are ready to copy or move them to your computer. Unless you have created a specific folder for holding your transfers, you can copy or move your photos from the phone to the computer’s Pictures file you can see in the left frame. You can either drag each image or manually copy and paste if that’s your preference.
If you only shoot a couple of pictures a month, keeping your images in the Pictures directory will work, but if you’re like me and you’re shooting hundreds or thousands of photos a year, you may want to consider a better file strategy. That’s a topic that I’ll talk about in my next photo tip installment.
Because I’m over sixty, I have to get my Arizona driver’s license renewed every five years. Arizona licenses don’t otherwise expire until you reach that age. After sixty, you have to prove that you can still read by taking an eye exam. It’s another example of geezer discrimination. The list of old person bias is long, but I’m not here to complain about that—I have other things on my mind.
On the plus side, there are perks to being grey-haired. We get to wear slacks up to our nipples, we wear white belts any time of the year, we’re allowed to wear black socks with sandals, and we can spend every day on a golf course. Since I don’t play golf, I compensate by sitting around the house whiling-away my time with my idle brain thinking about completely useless crap. Because I do that, in the last couple of weeks, I’ve had a couple of brain worms get stuck in there, so I need to run them by you and try to drain the swamp to make room for new useless crap.
The worms crawled in after I wrote a post about light and photography (this one) in which I explained that the sun’s light was more pleasing in the early morning and evenings because of the long shadows and the sun’s warmer colors. What I failed to mention was that the morning colors are not exactly the same as sunset’s. Although the color gets warmer because the sun’s rays travel further through the atmosphere then they do at noon; the mornings are yellowish while sunsets are warmer—more orange. I’m not the only one who has noticed this phenomenon as I’ve read other photographer’s accounts on the subject. Since the atmosphere is the same thickness at each horizon, what causes this apparent color shift?
Well … the time I watched PBS, I saw a show about some Einstein guy and his so-called Relativity Theory, so I made up my answer based on the Doppler effect—like how the sound of a train changes pitch as it passes. My explanation is that since the earth rotates on its axis at 1,000 miles an hour, the sun’s light waves are compressed at sunrise relative to sunset. That’s because you’re moving toward the light in the morning and away from it in the evening. The color of the compressed waves shifts infinitesimally bluer and the stretched light waves are redder. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it. I was perfectly happy keeping my belief a secret until recently.
Another way I waste my non-golfing time is sitting in my Barkalounger 6000 bingeing on Netflix. The newest show we’ve been watching is Travelers. In the show, Will—of Will and Grace, who is suddenly straight—is part of a group of people who travel back in time to change events that eventually lead to the demise of civilization. The show has moral overtones that deal with artificial intelligence and religion that I don’t want to go into now, but its entertaining Sci-Fi.
At the same time, every Wednesday, Queen Anne and her girlfriends get together and watch a show called Outlander and it also has a time travel plot. I really believe they watch it to see the hunk they drool over, but in Outlander, the heroine jumps a couple of centuries somewhere in Scotland. I haven’t watched it and what I know comes from Anne’s babbling when she comes home all flushed and frisky. I have to feign headaches.
Here’s what’s been keeping me awake at nights. Time travel is not just impractical, it’s impossible, and my reasoning doesn’t even involve the Marty Fly Conundrum—dating your own mother. I’m a skeptic solely on the time/space aspects of such travel and I’m surprised someone else hasn’t brought this up before.
So, you’re a hot shoe because you speed down the Interstate at 85 miles an hour, or even better, maybe you’re a jet jockey who flies at the speed of sound. Big deal, I got you beat sitting in my lounge char spinning around the world at 1,000 miles an hour. Think about that: We constantly move faster than the speed of sound. That means that if you got into your time machine and went back just one hour, you’d wind up an hour ago but in a different time zone. That’s only the beginning. While we’re on this supersonic merry-go-round, we’re also zooming around the sun at 65,600 miles an hour. Imagine setting your way-back machine for one hour. You’d pop out somewhere on the orbital path sixty-thousand miles in front of the planet, and you’d better move because you’re about to become a bug on earth’s windshield when it catches up to you in precisely sixty minutes. It gets better. Our solar system is on one of the Milky Way’s spiral arms that orbit the galactic center at 450,000 miles each hour. And if that wasn’t enough, consider this: The Milky Way is moving away from the Local Void each hour by 1.3 million miles. So far, our total speed is only 0.19% of the speed of light so at least we aren’t close to breaking that speed limit, but we don’t know if our universe is stationary or floating through some cosmic Jell-O.
What I’m getting at with these staggering speeds is that to travel in time, you would need to plot and navigate back to a point somewhere in the Cosmos that you were an hour ago and it’s already more than a million miles away. Your calculations would need to be accurate with a precision beyond any computer that we have … and let me remind you how late your last flight arrived. When you think about this complexity, keep in mind how fast your gas gauge moves when your Chevy pickup speeds down the highway. The amount of energy required to instantaneously travel such a vast distance doesn’t exist. As Kelli Bundy said, “The mind wobbles.” I’ll add, “Get over it. It can’t be done.”
Oh, what a relief! I feel so much better now that I got that off my chest. Maybe now I can get some sleep. Now, if you’ll excuse me, my cheeseburger and I are going to jump into bed quickly before Anne gets home from her girls-night-out demanding that I dress up in the kilt she bought for me.
I grew up during the era of the TV cowboy. After dinner, my family would gather in the living room and watch shows like Gunsmoke, The Rifleman,Maverick, and Have Gun—Will Travel to name a few. My dad was a tyrant about the shows we watched and we kids were the remote. Maybe that’s the reason I—and perhaps all my generation—have a fascination with ghost towns. We grew up with Tombstone, Dodge, and Virginia City on our TVs, and vowed to visit them one day. Maybe we’re longing for a simpler time—when the good guy wore a white hat.
The ghost towns best known in Arizona are Jerome, Tombstone, and my favorite, Bisbee. All of these places have residents, so they’re not as much a ghost town as they are tourist traps. A mining town’s fortune is dependent on the mineral wealth removed from the ground. The town’s size correlates perfectly with the amount of ore; be it gold, silver or copper. As soon as the ore plays out, people move on to the next bonanza leaving the hovels and shacks they occupied behind. Without maintenance, those relics soon rot or they’re repurposed for sheds, outhouses, or worst of all, firewood. Most often, when you visit a ghost town, the only things you find are a slab or wall. There’s not much interesting left to photograph. Fortunately, there are exceptions where a state or county government acquired and preserved the scene as a park, such as Bodie and Calico in California.
Yavapai County, where Queen Anne and I live, has its share of Ghost Towns—including Jerome—the most famous. Most of the old sites are high in the Bradshaw Mountains, but mining towns are scattered throughout all the Yavapai mountain ranges; including Congress—our hometown. It wasn’t until we moved here a couple of years ago that I learned about the best ghost town ever, and it’s a mere fifteen miles down the road tucked into the south-eastern flank of the Harcuvar Range.
Travel west on Highway US 60 and Aguila is the first small farm community you’ll come to. The name is Spanish for Eagle derived from the eagle-shaped window in the low mountain overlooking the town’s cemetery. The western terminus of Arizona State Route 71 is a mile east of Aguila, and that’s the short-cut you take if you’re heading northeast to Congress or Prescott from California. Just before the road crosses the Maricopa-Yavapai County line is a sign with a bullet-riddled Indian riding a pinto horse. The sign is for Robson’s Mining World—the ghost town you can see at the mountain base. It’s a mining town that no one ever lived in, but has an interesting story nevertheless.
The gold mine at the end of the trail was first claimed in 1917 by Westley Rush, an Aguila melon farmer. Rush’s two daughters—Nella and Alameda, for whom the Nella-Meda gold mine was named—managed to hand dig through the first 115 feet of solid rock before Ned Creighton—a Phoenix banker—bought the claim in 1924. Ned hired a crew to work the mine, and over decades he expanded the claim to its present size. His crew worked until World War II when the Feds shut down all private mines. The mining engineer, Harold Mason, stayed on as caretaker and eventually got the property deed after Ned passed.
After the war, Charles Robson was building his fortune by farming, running the Saguaro motel in Aguila, and hustling the health benefits of his local bee pollen. Harold and Charley became acquaintances when Mason let Robson place hives at the mine. There were minerals around the mine that made the bee pollen exceptional and the bees deterred poachers. That informal partnership lasted until 1979 when Charlie bought the mine from the aging Mason. Robson had bigger plans for the place.
Meanwhile, in 1922, Wilber T. Johnson migrated from Missouri to Apache Junction—a community east of Phoenix at the foot of the Superstition Mountains—so he could work in the mines. In 1930, Wilber traded his pick and shovel for an engineering degree from the University of Arizona which made him a highly valued employee. Now we’d call Wilber a hoarder because he collected mine junk—lots of mine junk—for the next fifty years. Johnson got his stash from abandoned mines in the Superstition Mountains, the Mazatzal Mountains, and other mines east of Phoenix and because of its size, his collection wasn’t a big secret. He reputedly turned down a multi-million-dollar offer from Disneyland Tokyo because he knew that they cherry pick the best and discard the rest.
After Charles Robson acquired the mine, he offered to buy Wilber’s collection and the two men finally struck a deal when Charlie promised that the collection would stay intact on Robson’s property. The ink on the signatures hadn’t dried yet before more than 250 truckloads moved decades of mining history to its new home. For ten years Charles, his wife, Jeri, and their sons reassembled the buildings and filled them with the collection’s artifacts. After Charlie died in 2002, Jeri carried on the dream, and toward the end of her life sold the place lock, stock, and barrel to Western Destinations Corporation—the present owners—on the stipulation that nothing ever leaves the property.
There’s a small garden in front of the Opera House where we sat in a mesquite tree’s shade as Brett Bishop told me this story. He’s the current caretaker and he and his family live on site. He’s a young man, and when he’s not greeting visitors he keeps busy unpacking the remaining crates and creatively arranging the contents for display. It’s easy to tell—from the tone of his voice and the sparkle in his eyes—that he loves his job. He calls Robson’s a living museum and he often must unravel the mystery of the items he finds in the boxes.
If you’re a photographer interested in nostalgia, I highly recommend a visit. The cost is $20.00 per person which goes toward upkeep. Don’t count on food or entertainment and even the restrooms are period authentic—that’s right; crescent moons. The mile-long dirt road is navigable by a sedan, except after heavy rains. I know that Robson’s will become one of my resources.
After listening to the radio reports of sub-freezing nation-wide temperatures, I donned my blue light-weight jacket and straw hat as protection against the 48º (F) biting chill and left the house for my daily dawn walk around our compound. The sun was lurking behind the Weaver Range and it turned an overhead cloud into a streak of crimson. I couldn’t decide if it was the Arctic Blast or the red sky that stole my breath.
I’m of course telling you this with my tongue firmly planted in my cheek, but it’s an Arizona law commanding us to brag about our winters just like our law that says we have to tell out-of-state relatives that we’re having Thanksgiving by the pool, regardless of having one. I’m just a law-abiding citizen.
On this morning’s walk, however, I did notice a couple of things that concerned me and another that brought joy. Unlike last year’s wet winter which brought snow to the mountains flanking our east, this winter has been warm and dry. The last measurable rain in Phoenix was August 23rd. That’s not good even though our RV Park is packed with northern people. Octogenarians partying in shorts and loud shirts late into the night dancing the Limbo next to a roaring campfire (do they know we don’t do that here?). All fun I guess, but winter rains are important for us. We count on them for spring wildflowers. More importantly, the mountain snowpack’s feed the streams and rivers where we keep the water Phoenix needs.
The first example I have is this brittlebush. It has flowers which is something that happens in early spring—not at the beginning of winter. In spring the daisy-like yellow flowers cover the brittlebush and they carpet the desert floor, then the heat sets in and the plants shrivel into dry sticks—hence the name.
At the south-east corner of the park, down by the water treatment plant is a large ash tree where our resident Cooper’s hawk nests in the spring. Ash trees in Arizona are always late to turn color, but this one is still green. I don’t know if something in the leach field keeps it green, or the unusually warm weather is affecting the leaves from turning. In either case, it’s not the norm.
When I got to our cactus park, I was glad to see that the warmth has not prevented the columnar cacti—the ones that look like pipes—from sprouting their winter bloom. This only happens during the coldest part of the year and the cup-like flower stay until the nights warm again. Since we haven’t had a freeze this year, I worried that we wouldn’t be able to enjoy the flowers. Strangely, neighbors living near the park report hearing melodic noises during last night’s (super) full moon. They all said that they heard the soft chanting of “Whip-it, whip-it good” drifting across the night air.
The winter solstice and the seasonal holidays are behind us. Instead of taking the tree down and packing the fake pine boughs away in the closet, we’re making strategery for next year. Judging from January’s schedule, 2018 will be a busy year.
One of my 2017 goals was to take part in four Art Shows. I thought that would be a big enough number to keep us busy throughout the year. We actually doubled the goal and finished the year doing eight shows. In 2018, I set the bar higher and set the goal at eight hoping to match last year’s success. With the New Year less than a week away, I’ve been framing prints for three January shows in Wickenburg.
The biggest of the three is Wickenburg Art Club’s annual Double Takes exhibit. For several years now, the Art Club’s photographers submit photographs that the club’s sculptors, painters, and weavers use as creative inspiration. In January, the photograph and interpretation are displayed as pairs. This year, the newly formed Writers Group gets to gets to be part of the action. Artists have selected four of my photographs and I’m excited to see the results. The show’s grand opening is the evening of Saturday, January 6th from 1:00 to 4:00 pm. If you can join us, Queen Anne and I would love to see you. The show will run in the Clubhouse Main Gallery at 188 South Tegner Street through February 6th. I hope you can stop by and enjoy the show.
Then, starting on Thursday, January 11th, the Photography Group is hosting a series of eight basic photography classes. These sessions are open to club members and the public and they’re free. The informal classes will be held each Thursday at 1:00 pm in the Clubhouse meeting room and should last a couple of hours each. A different club member will lead each session and the classes cover a wide gamut of photo subjects including two meetings where you can bring in your camera or photographs and ask questions. The classes are intended is to take some of the mystery out of photography and help you understand your camera and the creative process. I hope to see some of you there.