Snow-Capped Majesty: Winter Embraces the Weaver Mountains Picture of the Week - Congress, Arizona

Snow-covered Weaver Mountains with clouds caressing the peaks, viewed from Congress, Arizona
Snow-Capped Majesty: Winter Embraces the Weaver Mountains – A serene morning in Congress, Arizona, as snow blankets the Weaver Mountains, with clouds tenderly skimming the peaks.

I’m often dumbfounded when I encounter snowbirds flocking at the Denny’s cash register complaining about our January rain. Frequently, I’ll interrupt their griping with local folklore. I’ll say, “The natives have a word for this weird weather pattern.”

“Oh ya,” their curiosity peaks, and they’ll ask, “What do they call it?”

“They call it winter,” I respond as I walk past them out the door, but I can always hear their groans behind me.

Yes, Virginia, the Sonoran desert gets rainy in the winter. It’s not our wettest time of the year. That honor comes with the summer monsoons. The dueling wet seasons are why our desert is home to the famous saguaro cactus. The winter months provide enough water for these giants for a spring bloom, and the monsoons provide water for the seeds to germinate. I’m unsure how the behemoth cactus scheduled the weather around their needs.

Understanding Arizona’s Two-Faced Winters

Arizona’s winters showcase a dual personality, much to our visitors’ fascination—and sometimes frustration.

The Gulf of Alaska pens the first act of our winter weather. These storms script our late December and January, bringing a chill that bites through the desert air. They’re the colder of our two patterns, and though the California mountains tend to hoard most of the moisture, they occasionally let enough slip through to grace us with a frosty spectacle.

Then, as if on cue, February presents a delightful intermission with weather so perfect it feels like paradise remembered. Daytime highs coyly flirt with the 70s and 80s, while the nights, crisp in the 40s and 50s, are ideal for a lover’s embrace or a solo serenade under the stars. It’s when we remember why we endure the scorching soliloquies of our summers.

But the final act belongs to the Pineapple Express. These storms spun from the warm waters around Hawaii and debuted around March and April. They bring a wetter, warmer embrace, coaxing the delicate plants from their frosty fear. Yet, this is no guarantee of a tender ending—Easter snow has been known to make a dramatic cameo.

Our rains are brief, a fleeting audience to our desert stage. They come and go, cleansing the air of Phoenix’s smoggy shroud and leaving behind a verdant carpet that transforms the desert floor. It’s a weekly show, though some complain it’s too often on weekends. But we Zonies? We wouldn’t have it any other way.

First Glimpse

When one of these Arctic Blasts cuts through the air, it’s as if the mountains around our house don an exquisite coat of powdered sugar. While the sight is breathtaking, the sun’s warm embrace usually coaxes the snow to leave by noon. However, this January presented an extraordinary spectacle that graced the Weaver’s and Date Creek Ranges with a full, snowy embrace from crest to base. This was not just a fleeting visitation but a rare, all-encompassing transformation that demanded to be captured.

On that magical morning, the urgency of the moment overtook me. Coffee, usually the first crucial step of my day, was forgotten. Dressed against the chill, I grabbed my camera gear and drove up the hill, driven by a compulsion to immortalize the scene before the sun could chase the frost away. March’s theme, the Weaver Winter Wonderland, is thus a tribute to this exceptional event. Through my lens, I hope to share the beauty of snow in the desert and a rare moment that reminds us of nature’s capacity for surprise and wonder.

Photographs

This week’s image is titled Snow-Capped Majesty, and it shows the area where AZ 89 scales the mountainside to the Granite Mountain Hotshots Memorial State Park and Yarnell. I’m happy with the clouds cascading down the slope and the morning light reflecting off the glowing grass. This scene rarely happens, but when it does, I’m glad I moved here to witness it.

Our second image this week was taken later after all but traces of the snow had disappeared. I named it Chilly Dawn, one of the lower hills among the Weavers having a bit of frost in the air. Those of you with sharp eyes know that this was taken at a high elevation in Peeples Valley because of the appearance of the Juniper trees.

Early morning light casting a chilly haze over the hills above Peeples Valley, Arizona
Chilly Dawn: Hazy Morning Light Over Peeples Valley Hills – The early light of dawn bathes the hills above Peeples Valley in a soft, chilly haze, capturing the tranquil essence of an Arizona morning.

I hope you enjoy viewing my photographs as much as I share them with you. Perhaps we should bookmark and save this series to dig them out in July when it’s 118° outside. Queen Anne and I look forward to your comments about the photos or your winter memories. I have posted larger versions on my website < Jim’s Web> and Fine Art America <FAA Link> should you want to look closer. I’ll have more from Weaver Winter Wonderland next week, so return then.

Until then, keep your socks and humor dry.
jw


March Survey

I need your advice. Since it’s already March, it’s time to consider spring cleaning. To keep my customers happy, I’m asking you to answer some questions about how we’re doing. The survey below will appear for the next four weeks, but I only need your opinion once, so answer the questions once, and you’re done. At the end of the month, I’ll review your input and discuss any decisions we make. I dislike taking these surveys as much as you do, so I’m keeping it short. Mark the first pair of questions with a single answer, but the third is multiple choice. Tick all the boxes that apply to you.

Thanks in advance for helping us.

[formidable id=”4″]

Desert Vigil: Creosote and Brittlebush Against Valley of Fire’s Red Backdrop Picture of the Week - Valley of Fire State Park, Nevada

Creosote and Brittlebush dotting the red desert landscape of Valley of Fire State Park under a clear blue sky
Desert Vigil: Creosote and Brittlebush Against Valley of Fire’s Red Backdrop – An array of creosote bushes and brittlebushes spread across the red sandy floor of Nevada’s Valley of Fire State Park, standing resilient under the vast blue sky.

Welcome back to the grand finale of our Valley of Fire State Park extravaganza. This week, we’re taking a stroll through the park’s living tapestry, where life’s tenacity is as clear as the desert sky. If you’re like us, you’ll never see any of the animals on the brochures, except maybe a big-eyed rabid chipmunk with its hand out begging, “M&Ms for my baby.” Usually, the daytime has too much traffic and noise for wild animals, so if you’re hunting for a game, grab a campsite or come early and stay late.

Valley of Fire, renowned for its blazing sandstone formations, is also a sanctuary for various desert flora and fauna. Amidst the rugged terrain, the creosote bush reigns supreme; its waxy leaves a testament to its survival prowess in the harsh climate. Accompanying it is the brittlebush, its silver-gray foliage contrasting starkly with the red sand beneath. These two species flourish in the Nevada desert; they show off with yellow flowers in spring.

Wildlife enthusiasts might try to glimpse the desert bighorn sheep, masters of rocky terrains and cliffs. They usually hang out on ridgelines and cliff faces but come down for water in the mornings and at day’s end. The park is also home to the clever kit fox, the industrious black-tailed jackrabbit, and the elusive coyote, each playing their part in the desert’s symphony.

Photographic Pursuits Amongst the Desert Blooms

As a photographer, capturing the essence of this diverse ecosystem is both a challenge and a delight. The dance of light and shadow across the landscape breathes life into each image, from the delicate interplay of creosote branches to the fleeting moments of a bighorn sheep in motion if you’re ready with your long lens.

The park’s biodiversity extends beyond the reach of my lens, inviting visitors to look closer and discover the beauty in the details—the pattern of a lizard’s skin, the flight of a raven, or the vibrant hues of wildflowers that defy the desert’s aridity.

Red sandstone rock formation known as Red Turret amid desert shrubs in Valley of Fire State Park
Sentry of the Desert: The Red Turret’s Silent Watch in Valley of Fire – Amidst the sea of creosote and brittlebush, the Red Turret rises as a natural monument within Valley of Fire, echoing eons of geological artistry.

Beyond the Jackpot: Valley of Fire’s Call

So, next time you find yourself in Nevada, yearning to escape the neon lights, remember that just a stone’s throw from the buzz of Vegas lies a world abounding with natural wonders. Valley of Fire State Park offers a chance to reconnect with nature and experience Nevada’s quieter yet equally thrilling side.

Pack your hiking boots, bring your sense of wonder, and don’t forget your camera. The park’s trails await, ready to reveal the secrets of the desert. It’s an experience that promises to be as rewarding as any jackpot—perhaps even more so.

I have uploaded a larger version of this week’s featured image. You can see them on my website using this link < Jim’s Web> and on my Fine Art America Page by clicking here <FAA Page>. I hope you enjoy seeing them.

Next week, we begin a new project, and this time, it’s not a place but an event that motivated me to grab my camera and get out of the house.
Until our next adventure, may your curiosity be as endless as the desert skies and your spirit as resilient as the flora and fauna that grace this fiery valley.

Keep exploring, keep laughing.
jw

Techniques: Capturing the Desert’s Essence

This week, let’s discuss capturing the subtle textures of the desert. I focused on the interplay of textures and colors when photographing the resilient creosote and brittlebush against the sandstone backdrop. The key is to find the right angle where the light enriches the colors without overpowering the delicate details of the plants.

In post-processing, I often use selective adjustments to enhance the flora’s vibrancy without losing the terrain’s natural ruggedness. If you get carried away with the adjustment sliders, you can overwhelm the subtle plant colors with too much contrast and saturation. It’s a delicate balance that, when struck, transforms a photograph into a window into the soul of the desert.

Gateway to the Past: Valley of Fire’s Petroglyph Canyon Trail Picture of the Week - Valley of Fire State Park, Nevada

A towering red sandstone rock formation standing prominently against a clear blue sky in the Valley of Fire State Park, Nevada.
Gateway to the Past – Standing tall amidst the Valley of Fire’s arid expanse, this sandstone sentinel bears the marks of time, its iron-rich facade a testament to nature’s artistry under the desert sun.

Welcome back to our Valley of Fire saga. After last week’s detour to a reemerged St. Thomas, we’re back on track, diving into the heart of the park’s ancient artistry. Ready for a journey through time? Buckle up; it’s not your average road trip.

Our Valley of Fire expedition began with a grand tour, taking in the vistas from the comfort of our trusty steed—the Turd. As usual, we took a lap around the park to set our bearings. The main road offered plenty of photo ops, but the real treasure lay off the beaten path—Petroglyph Canyon Trail. Here, amidst the whispers of history, we encountered the park’s silent storytellers: ancient petroglyphs.

In the middle of Lake Mead’s east-west reach is a lake section that ventures north into the Moapa Valley, where the Muddy and Virgin Rivers flow into the Colorado. This part of the lake is the Overton Arm. Nestled along the Overton Arm lies a canvas of ancient cultures. From the Anasazi to the Paiute, this valley served as a crossroads for tribes, traders, and travelers.

This week’s image is a scene that I shot along the Petroglyph trail. If you look closely, you’ll see the multitude of visitor footprints in the sand, and fortunately, there are several trail markers to guide the way. Without them, I’m sure I would have ‘taken the path less traveled’ and still be trying to find my way back to the parking lot. Several petroglyph panels are along the canyon’s nooks and crannies, including the one in this week’s second photo depicting several individuals dancing around the campfire. Possibly, they’re celebrating breaking par on one of the area’s nearby golf courses.

These petroglyphs, more than mere marks on stone, are the enduring legacy of the valley’s first inhabitants, capturing moments of joy, symbols of identity, and, perhaps, the earliest known complaints about traffic.

A detailed petroglyph panel featuring historical figures and animals, carved into desert varnish on red sandstone at Valley of Fire State Park, Nevada.
Ancient Petroglyphs on Red Sandstone – Valley of Fire – Whispers of the Ancient Winds: This petroglyph panel in Valley of Fire State Park offers a silent narrative of life long ago, etched into the canvas of time by the park’s earliest inhabitants.

As we stood before these ancient murals, it struck us: these were the original social media posts. Without a single hashtag, these images connected communities, shared stories, and even guided travelers. It makes one wonder what tales we would etch into stone for future generations to ponder. How can we guide those who follow if they can’t get reception?

Our trek through Petroglyph Canyon reminded us that some stories transcend time, etched in stone and the heart of the land itself. Have you encountered these timeless tales on your travels? Please share your stories in the comments and join us next week as we conclude our Valley of Fire adventure. If you’re curious, I have larger versions of this week’s photo on my Website < Jim’s Link> and my Fine Art America Page <FAA Link>.

Until next time, keep your spirits high and your humor dry.
jw

Techniques: Bringing out details using local contrast.

Sometimes, you’ve got to do a little tweaking to make your subject stand out. A case in point this week is the petroglyphs carved into the rock face seen in Ancient Petroglyphs on Red Sandstone. The red and black sandstone figures were flat and lifeless when I processed this image. In the old days, I would be stuck because there wasn’t a way to dodge or bun such a tight area without leaving a halo without making a contrast mask—a tedious process at best. In today’s Photoshop, there’s an easy way to lighten tight areas like the dancing figures on the wall.

This process takes a couple of steps. I first made a copy of the background layer and made it active; then, from the top menu, I chose Select>Color Range, which creates a mask from the color selection. Then, make a new Exposure layer and copy the mask to the new layer. The exposure layer’s properties lighten the masked areas from .05 to .25.

The second step is to choose a new Levels layer and copy the mask. Select the properties of your new mask and choose Invert. The mask should swap the black and whites. Next, select the properties icon (the graph) and darken the mid-tones by moving the middle slider until the middle-value box reads 0.95. Voalia, the figures now pop from the wall.

Twilight’s Ember: The Last Rays on Valley of Fire’s Red Rocks Picture of the Week - Valley of Fire State Park, Nevada

A towering red sandstone formation illuminated by the golden light of the sun, set against the clear blue sky in Valley of Fire State Park, Nevada.
Twilight’s Ember – A Natural Sculpture Carved by Time – Witness the interplay of light and shadow on the ancient red sandstone, highlighting the peak as if it were aflame in the heart of Valley of Fire State Park.

Last week, I shared a whimsical thought sparked by our visit to the once-submerged town of St. Thomas along Lake Meade’s shores. The idea? A short video starring our unwitting adventurers in an underwater exploration gone awry. With anything SCUBA, my thoughts invariably turn to the Poteets—Fred being a certified diving instructor. My idea instantly became a classic case of good and bad news. Deb quickly noted the absence of wetsuits in their wardrobe, while Fred, ever the sport, proposed renting them for our aquatic escapade. Thus, I spent the week crafting an epic screenplay for our faux underwater archaeology saga, ready for your enjoyment.


Not Quite a Fathom by Jim Witkowski

EXTERIOR SCENE. ZODIAC DIVING BOAT—DAY

The scene opens with FRED and DEB POTEET, waist up, sitting on the edge of a Zodiac diving boat. Clad in wetsuits, they finalize their snorkeling gear setup. Fred delivers the pre-dive briefing with a hint of solemnity.

FRED
(fiddling with a weight belt)
Remember, St. Thomas has been a memory under Lake Mead’s waters since 1938, untouched by time. The condition of the buildings is unknown, so let’s avoid the timbers.

The camera cuts to a tight shot of Deb; her concern is visible even behind the mask.

DEB
I hope we don’t stumble upon any forgotten skeletons.

Cutting back to Fred, his assurance is firm.

FRED
Fear not. Hugh Lord, the town’s final farewell, waved as the waters embraced his home in ’38. All were safe.

With a final gear check, Fred signals readiness.

FRED (continues)
Ready?

Both poised on the Zodiac’s brink, a countdown commences.

FRED
On three. One… two… three…

On three, Fred leans back and rolls off the Zodiac into the water, followed immediately by Deb.

Cut to a drone camera, tight on Fred’s shocked face.

As Deb turns to Fred, her expression seems to ask, “WTF?” The drone camera slowly pulls up, revealing they are lying face-up on the dry lakebed, their legs still resting on the side of the Zodiac.

The drone camera pulls back further, exposing the dry town site’s barren concrete foundations and pads. As it gets altitude, Fred and Deb stand up, now tiny figures in the vast, dry landscape, including the Muddy River bed.

The camera ascends, eventually dissolving into a Google Earth Studio shot of the Lake Mead Overton arm, zooming out until the entire planet fills the frame.

FADE TO BLACK.


It’s a masterpiece if I do say so myself. Now, about those props—does anyone have a Zodiac lying around? Or perhaps other treasures hidden in your garage that could bring our production to life? Share your ideas in the comments! But let’s pivot from our playful banter to the awe-inspiring beauty captured in this week’s photographs.

This week’s highlight is a breathtaking sandstone formation, its pinnacle bathed in the sunset’s final embrace. The iron oxide-rich layers glow, a fiery testament to Valley of Fire’s geological wonders.

The uplift and erosion revealing such splendor speak to the Basin and Range Province’s dynamic history. Here, the forces of nature sculpt masterpieces: holes carved by chemical reactions with rainwater, alcoves shaped by the relentless wind, and striations etched by the journey of rainwater.

Thank you for joining us on this adventure. As the Superbowl looms, I wish your team luck and, perhaps more importantly, that this year’s commercials bring us joy. Next week promises more marvels from Valley of Fire. Don’t miss it.

Till then, keep your camera at the ready and your humor dry.
jw

A towering formation of layered Navajo sandstone, named 'whiteGibraltar', stands under a clear blue sky in Valley of Fire State Park, Nevada.
White Gibraltar – The Navajo Sandstone Giant of Valley of Fire – A Vision in Sandstone – Rising from the Valley of Fire’s rugged landscape, this pale monolith echoes the grandeur of its namesake, standing as a silent sentinel in the desert sun.

Techniques: Exposing for the Highlight

I spotted the Aztec Sandstone formation while returning to the Turd on a trail hike at the end of the day. My eye was drawn to the very tip of the pinnacle, still glowing in the sun like the flame on the Statue of Liberty or ET’s finger. I knew that if I exposed the shady part of the sandstone, the finger would wash out the nice red color. So, to retain that glow, I pointed my camera at the sky above the finger, half-pressed the shutter to freeze the exposure reading, and slowly lowered the camera to include the rest of the scene.

The raw image looked too dark, and I almost rejected it. However, in post-processing, I could mask off the bright areas and increase the shadows by almost two F-stops. That was enough to bring out the erosion holes and keep the glow on ET’s finger.

Nature’s Palette: Exploring the Red Sandstone Masterpiece at Valley of Fire Picture of the Week - Valley of Fire State Park, Nevada

Red sandstone formations at Valley of Fire State Park, symbolizing the beauty of geologic processes over millennia.
Red Dune Wall in Valley of Fire—A Study in Erosion and Time – The ‘Red Dune Wall’ is a testament to nature’s artistic hand, sculpting the Valley of Fire State Park landscape through the relentless forces of wind and water.

Greetings from the Nevada desert, where Queen Anne (aka Lefty) and I embarked on a wild escapade, armed with nothing but our cameras and a sense of adventure that’s as robust as my morning coffee—deceptively strong and slightly bitter.

It all began in a Mexican restaurant in November, where we had planned to wrestle with the wilds of Gold Butte National Monument. But as we surveyed our gear, we realized we were about as prepared as a fish on a bicycle. With a sigh that echoed off the terracotta walls, we decided to pivot faster than a gambler on a losing streak.

So there we were, poring over maps and munching on nachos when the Valley of Fire State Park flickered onto our radar like a beacon of salvation—or at least a beacon of cell service and paved roads. It was a unanimous decision, fueled by the promise of not getting stuck and the allure of a good story to tell.

After a hearty debate over hash browns and highway maps at Peggy Sue’s Diner the following day, we plotted a less ‘Oregon Trail’ course and more ‘Sunday drive.’ We planned to loop through Overton, graze the shores of Lake Mead, and enter the Valley of Fire from the east, with a sunset deadline to beat the buffet back in Mesquite.

On a whim, we decided to pay our respects to the submerged ghost town of St. Thomas, which was now high and dry thanks to the ever-thirsty sun. The remains were intriguing, but we passed on the hike, preferring to keep our boots dust-free. Instead, I hatched a master plan to lure our friends—the Poteets—into a Jacques Cousteau-style watery charade involving wetsuits and mock-panicked flailing for a film I’d tentatively titled The Great St. Thomas Aquatic Caper.

A towering rock formation known as Silica Dome against the clear blue sky in Valley of Fire State Park.
Silica Dome—The Sentinel of Valley of Fire’s Rocky Landscape – Experience the ‘Silica Dome’ grandeur at Valley of Fire State Park through this captivating image, highlighting the intricate layers and history etched in stone.

As the day wore on, we wandered among the storied stones of the early Jurassic Era. Like Whitney Pocket, these rocks were part of a grander narrative, a to-be-continued tale of petrified dunes stretching from Zion to the Grand Staircase and beyond. The Valley of Fire’s chapters were penned in red Aztec sandstone hues and crowned with white Navajo crests, a chronicle of time written in Earth’s hand.

This week’s photographic heroes are a testament to this fiery anthology. The main photo—a regal formation of red Entrada sandstone—is the park’s namesake, standing proudly amidst the Mojave’s scrappy flora. The supporting act, Silica Dome, wears a coat of Navajo Sandstone, pale and majestic against the desert sky. Together, they tell a story of a sea that once was and dunes that danced in the wind before time turned them to stone.
So, dear readers, come for the photos, stay for the tales, and return next week for another chapter in our desert saga. Will the Poteets make a splash in their wetsuits? Will Queen Anne ever forgive me for the early morning escapades? Find out in the next installment of our arid adventures.

Until then, keep your lenses clean and your humor dry.
jw

Techniques Unveiled: A Tale of Two Sandstones

In the photographer’s toolbox, contrast isn’t just about light and shadow—it’s the story of elements, epochs, and the Earth’s grand design. This week, I set out to capture a tale of two sandstones, a narrative etched into the very landscape of Valley of Fire State Park.

Our lead image, Nature’s Palette, is a canvas painted with iron-rich sandstone, a souvenir from the mid-Jurassic era. Here, the dunes are frozen in an eternal dance, caught mid-twirl by the relentless grip of pressure and heat, akin to the timeless beauty of Canyon de Chelly and the famed arches of Moab. Look closely, and you’ll see the canvas of the ancients—the water-stained varnish that once served as a blackboard for the Fremont and early Pueblo people to etch their indelible art.

The supporting act, Silica Dome, steps onto the stage from a later act in Earth’s drama under the watchful gaze of T-Rex and company. It’s a piece of the past where the climate was as dry as a prohibition-era bar, and vast sandy beaches fringed an ancient inland sea. In this shot, we confront a dune face-to-face, observing its neighbors’ retreat under the onslaught of time, exposing it to the elements that now conspire to return it to its granular beginnings.

I’ve served up larger versions of these geological delicacies online for those hungry for more than just a visual snack. You can feast your eyes on them via the links on my website—< Jim’s Web Page>—and their respective galleries on Fine Art America—<FAA Link>. Or click on the images peppered throughout this article for an instant teleportation to their online abodes.

Your thoughts are the garnish to our digital dish, so please sprinkle liberally in the comments section below. What stories do these ancient stones whisper to you?

BTW:
Last Tuesday, I released another video in my portfolio series on YouTube. This vignette is about the beauty of Arizona’s Farmlands. The five-ish-minute-long video is now online, and you can use this link to see it: <YouTube Link>.

Oatman’s Revival: A Tale of Dams, Dreams, and Daring Do-overs Picture of the Week - Oatman, Arizona

Weathered coffee shop sign on the side of a historic hotel in Oatman, Arizona, with an A-frame house looming in the background and a saloon to the left.
Fading Memories: Oatman’s Historic Hotel Coffee Shop Sign – Remnants of a bygone era, this faded sign on the Oatman Hotel whispers stories of travelers and townsfolk who once gathered over coffee in the heart of a bustling mining town.

Last week, we left Oatman looking more ghostly than a town with a future. But then the mid-20th century rolled around, and everything changed like a plot twist in a spaghetti western. It started with a need for flood control and water conservation, a task as ambitious as teaching a cat to swim. Enter the Bureau of Land Management with its dam-building frenzy. They tamed the Colorado River, creating recreational oases like Lake Mohave and Lake Havasu, inadvertently setting the stage for Oatman’s second act.

Meanwhile, Don Laughlin, a casino mogul with an eye for opportunity sharper than a cactus spine, flew over the Colorado River en route to Kingman. Spotting a riverside motel in 1964, he didn’t just see a run-down building; he saw a neon-lit future. Don transformed the motel into the Riverside Resort, where you could lose your nickels in slot machines and gain a few pounds with 98-cent chicken dinners. This move ushered in a casino boom, turning Laughlin, Nevada, into a gambler’s paradise across the river from Bullhead City.

Not to be outdone, Robert McCulloch, a chainsaw magnate with an affinity for outboard motors and grand gestures, bought a swath of lakeside property. He didn’t just stop at creating Lake Havasu City; he went full theatrical by importing the London Bridge. Yes, that London Bridge—which he rebuilt in the middle of the desert. The Brits scoffed, the Americans gawked, and tourists flocked in droves.

But Oatman’s real comeback hinged on a nostalgia trip kick-started by Angel Delgadillo, a barber from Seligman with more vision than a Route 66 tourist with a pair of binoculars. In the 1980s, as Interstate 40 siphoned off Oatman’s traffic, Angel founded the Historic Route 66 Association of Arizona. He campaigned to get the Mother Road recognized as a Historic Route, sparking a revival that put Oatman back on the map. Suddenly, tourists craved an authentic slice of Americana, and Oatman served it up with a side of staged shootouts.

The final puzzle piece was the cultural shift in San Francisco in the late ’60s. A generation enamored with art, nature, and history began resurrecting Victorian homes with colorful paint jobs that’d make a peacock jealous. This love for the old and quaint spread to Arizona, and towns like Oatman reaped the benefits. The once-desolate streets now buzz with shops, tourists, and the occasional wild burro, all basking in the glory of a Route 66 renaissance.

So there you have it: a cocktail of dams, dreams, and a dash of historical reverence, shaken not stirred, brought Oatman from the brink of becoming a forgotten footnote to a must-visit destination on the map of Americana.

Oatman Hotel

In the heart of Oatman, where the Wild West refuses to be tamed, stands the Oatman Hotel. Its story begins in 1902, opening its doors as the Drulin Hotel, a name as sturdy as the building itself. It was more than just a hotel; it was a beacon for weary gold miners, travelers, and anyone looking to swap tales over a stiff drink. Its walls, if they could talk, would spin yarns of dusty days and golden dreams.

Like a determined prospector, the Drulin Hotel embraced change as time passed. It donned a new name, becoming the Oatman Hotel, as if shedding an old skin to reveal a more refined identity. This wasn’t just a name change, a rite of passage, and a nod to the town’s enduring spirit.
The Oatman Hotel wasn’t just any stopover; it became a slice of history, a living museum with beds. It earned its rightful place as a registered historical building, a title as prestigious as a sheriff’s badge. Its walls, now seasoned by time, became a gallery of memories, each room whispering secrets of the past.

But wait, there’s more glitz to this tale. The Oatman Hotel, with its rustic charm, caught the eye of Hollywood’s finest. None other than Clark Gable and Carole Lombard, after their 1939 Kingman courthouse wedding, chose this very hotel for their honeymoon. Imagine that! Hollywood royalty, nestled in the embrace of the rugged Mojave. Their stay added a sprinkle of stardust to the hotel, making room 15 forever a shrine to their love.

The Oatman Hotel stood tall through booms and busts, a sentinel of history. It watched as Oatman ebbed and flowed yet remained steadfast as ever, a reminder of the golden days and starlit nights.

The Boundary Cone, a significant peak for Mohave tribes, stands tall against the morning sky, viewed from the juncture of old Route 66 and Boundary Cone Road.
Guardian of the Mohave: The Boundary Cone’s Tale – Standing tall against the morning sky, the Boundary Cone serves as a timeless landmark at the crossroads of Route 66, embodying the sacred history and enduring spirit of the Mohave Valley.

We hope you enjoyed our time in Oatman. As usual, larger versions of this week’s image are on my website < Jim’s Web> and Fine Art America <FAA Link> for you to examine. Be sure to return next week when we begin a new project. For February, we’re returning to nature an hour north of here.

Till then, keep your spirits high and your humor dry.
jw

Techniques: Capturing Oatman’s Palette

In this week’s snapshot, the Coffee Shop sign of the Oatman Hotel is a beacon of nostalgia in a sea of architectural chaos. But why this particular sign, you ask? Well, it’s all about perspective and a little artistic rivalry.

On the flip side of the hotel, there’s another sign vying for attention. But there, the Coffee Shop sign gets overshadowed, like an understudy in a Broadway show where the lead refuses to call in sick. The other side also features the Oatman Hotel’s sign, turning the scene into a visual shouting match where the quaint charm of the coffee shop gets drowned out.

Now, let’s talk about setting the stage. The chosen angle for this week’s photo is like a Cubist’s dream from the 1950s, where geometry and color come together in a symphony of shapes. We’ve got the white stucco of the hotel, a daring triangle of an A-frame house peeping from behind, and the bold red facade of the neighboring bar. It’s an ensemble of structures, each playing its part in framing our star sign.

These buildings create a natural frame, like ushers in a theater, guiding your gaze to the center stage where the sign takes its bow. This arrangement keeps the viewer’s eye dancing around the central focus, ensuring the sign isn’t just seen but experienced.

And let’s not forget the grand finale of colors—a patriotic red, white, and blue – tying this month’s photos together like a well-rehearsed chorus line. Each hue plays its part, creating a visual melody that’s distinctly Oatman, distinctly Americana.

So there you have it, a behind-the-scenes peek at how a simple choice of angle and a keen eye for color can turn an everyday scene into a snapshot that captures the essence of a town with as much character as Oatman.

Vintage Red Crown Gas Pumps: Oatman’s Route 66 Treasures Pictrure of the Week - Oatman, Arizona

Vintage Red Crown gas pumps in Oatman, Arizona, along the famed Route 66, evoking the golden era of American road travel.
Time-Standing Still: Vintage Gas Pumps of Oatman – Step back in time with these meticulously preserved ‘Red Crown’ gasoline pumps, a vibrant reminder of Route 66’s golden era, now standing proudly outside Oatman’s antique store — a treasure trove awaiting its next collector.

Let’s talk about a little thing called ROI, or return on investment. In layperson’s terms, it’s like this: if your piggy bank’s diet consists more of withdrawals than deposits, it’s time to put that cash-chewing pastime on a strict no-spend regimen. It’s a handy rule of thumb for deciding whether that avocado toast obsession is a splurge too far and for the bigwigs running the corporate circus. They don’t just steer the company ship; they’re the jugglers, tightrope walkers, and lion tamers tasked with keeping the ROI roaring so the shareholders don’t start looking for a tamer’s head to put in the lion’s mouth.

In the harsh and unforgiving world of mining towns like Oatman, hitting the ROI redline means ‘game over’ for the local economy. The investors pack up their checkbooks, the mines shutter faster than a camera at a ghost sighting, and the workers scatter like tumbleweeds in a dust storm. The town’s pulse slows, and those left behind are like the band on the Titanic—playing on bravely, knowing the finale is nigh.

The tale of Oatman follows a script as predictable as the instructions on a shampoo bottle—minus the rejuvenating wash. It’s a cycle as old as time: boom, bust, and echo. The brightest stars eventually fizzle out, and Oatman’s star, once a beacon of the Gold Rush, was no exception. And just like a one-two punch in a heavyweight bout, Oatman’s knockout came swiftly. First, the mines dried up, and then Route 66 got a face-lift that sidestepped the town altogether. Modern progress, they said, but for Oatman, it was more like a step into obscurity.

The new road followed the railroad’s less adventurous path, leaving Oatman off the beaten path and out of the family vacation route. From the Clampetts to the Griswolds, no one was clamoring to visit an old shanty town at that time—and the Department of Transportation—forgot. Oatman became the town overlooking Mohave Valley with a ‘Do Not Disturb’ sign hung on its door.

As the rest of the world hurtled forward into the mid-20th century, Oatman seemed to hit the pause button. The once frenetic streets, echoing with the din of prosperity, fell silent, leaving only the whispering desert winds to tell their tales. For the few who chose to stay, life became a study of survival and simplicity. Oatman’s dwindling population, a patchwork of tenacious old-timers and resourceful souls, found a way to eke out a living from the sparse offerings of a town that had given its all to the golden days of yore.

The rustic sign of Judy's Saloon and Pool Hall under a wall-mounted American flag on the historic Main Street of Oatman, Arizona.
Judy’s Saloon: Echoes of Oatman’s Vibrant Past – Under Oatman’s azure skies, the worn sign of Judy’s Saloon points the way, juxtaposed with a rustic American flag, to a place where the spirit of the West is not just remembered but still lives on.

The rhythm of life here was no longer dictated by the pulsing promise of gold but by the sun’s arc across the sky. The remaining residents turned to the land, coaxing modest gardens from the arid soil, trading with neighbors, and gathering at Judy’s Saloon for some, reliving the glory days in stories told and retold like cherished family heirlooms. They adapted, repurposing old mining tools for mundane tasks and transforming abandoned structures into homes and makeshift businesses that catered to the occasional traveler, lost or adventurous enough to stray from the new Route 66.

In this era, Oatman’s heartbeat was a subtle one, felt rather than heard, in the stoic persistence of its people and the silent dignity of its weathered buildings. The community’s fabric was tightly knit, each person a thread bound to the other by shared history and collective tenacity. Life in Oatman wasn’t about thriving; it was about enduring, about preserving the essence of a town too proud to fade away.

The gasoline pumps featured in this week’s picture tell a story that’s as much about progress as it is about preservation. Red Crown gas, a blend marketed by Standard Oil (now Chevron), was the fuel of choice during the era these pumps would have served. Picture this: classic cars now wear the badge of ‘vintage’ had a dial for drivers to adjust the timing advance. A tank full of high-octane Red Crown meant more zip without the dreaded engine knock. Nowadays, that’s a job delegated to the computers in our cars.

But take a closer look at these gravity-feed pumps. Their pristine condition raises a question—have they stood the test of time, or are they beautifully restored pieces of history? It’s a bit of a mystery, much like the stories they hold. And for my eagle-eyed followers, yes, you’ve already noticed the white roof of the Diner Car peeking out on the left.

I hope you enjoyed this stroll down the quieter lanes of Oatman’s history, but don’t pack away your walking shoes just yet. Next week, we’re dusting off the fairy tale books for Oatman’s own Cinderella story—a happy ending sure to sparkle. If your curiosity about those Red Crown pumps is ticking like a Geiger counter in a gold mine, here’s your treasure map: links to my web page < Jim’s Site> and the Fine Art America page <FAA Link>. And hey, if you find yourself meandering through Oatman in the next few months, pop into that antique store and snoop around for the price tag on those pumps. Don’t forget to spill the beans in the comments below—I think they’d make a lovely gate for the end of my driveway.

Till our next adventure, keep your spirits high and your humor dry.
jw

Techniques: Mastering the Art of Symmetrical Composition

This week’s photo ventures into symmetrical composition, a method that, admittedly, I usually give a wide berth. Symmetry in photography is all about balance, akin to placing two candles at either end of a mantle for that classic, mirror-image elegance. But who says rules can’t be bent for a bit of creative flair?

Regarding the Red Crown gas pumps, symmetry was the starting point, not the destination. I aimed to capture both pumps in a single frame, spaced evenly from the frame’s edges to create a sense of balance. However, I opted for a slight twist rather than a straight-on, textbook symmetric shot. By shifting my position to the right, the pumps became natural frames for the ‘Antiques’ sign in the background, adding layers and depth to the image. It’s like setting those candles at different heights on the mantle; it catches the eye, creates tension, and makes you look twice.

The result? A photo that adheres to symmetry principles while stepping out of the conventional bounds, making for a more intriguing and dynamic composition. Sometimes, bending the rules just a little can lead to a more compelling story being told through the lens. What’s your take on it? Traditional symmetry or a dash of asymmetrical intrigue?