Making Lemonade 2018 Utah Photo Shoot

As teenagers growing up in Los Angeles, we were ambivalent about the Santa Ana Winds. They would clear the air in the LA Basin, pushing it offshore where it was somebody else’s problem, and for a week or two, you could see where you lived and enjoy the beautiful mountains surrounding us. But the winds also dried out the scrub. Dry enough, a careless motorist could fire by flipping a cigarette out the window. Fires are a way of life in Southern California. They’re annual, but you don’t get used to it.

As a kid, I saw how smoke can choke the air, but I also saw a phenomenon helpful to photographers, although that didn’t sink in until I was older. When heavy smoke fills the air, it filters the sun—like sunglasses. During sunsets, the sun is an orange globe that you can look directly at. The smoky atmosphere causes beautiful orange sunsets. I don’t know if you’d call that a benefit, but they’re unusual.

After Monday’s shooting, I was processing some photos for yesterday’s blog when I glanced at the setting sun through Ritz’s window and saw an orange sun. Yesterday, as I wrote, I thought about trying to capture a sunset from my teenage memories. I decided to give it a go, and at 7:45, I drove north on US 89, looking for a suitable foreground for my sunset experiment. I settled on a spot where the sun would go down behind a lovely mountain—Sandy Peak. As a bonus, there was a vast field sprinkler spraying streams of water that would glow with the backlighting. I exited the truck and sat by the roadside, camera in hand, and waited.

The smoke in the air must have dissipated because as the sun got lower, it didn’t get duller, although it still had a tint of orange. I knew I would need to wait for the sun to kiss the mountain for the shot to work. That meant shooting when the sun was most colored anyway. Then, at 8:00, four children burst out of the house to my left. One got on a quad and started driving around while three girls—judging from the long dresses they wore—began running toward the sprinkler. When they got there, they turned off my sprinklers. I’m talking about one of those massive machines you see in fields moving on wheels in a circle. I’d be afraid to touch it, and these children turned it off like the hose in the front yard.

I thought about leaving, but the sun was inches away by then, and the girls hung around the fixture, so I adjusted the camera to bring up the foreground and started shooting until the sun slipped halfway behind the mountain.

Sandy Mountain Sunset
Sandy Mountain Sunset- This is my failed attempt to capture an orange sunset, but the story is nice anyway.

Here is my last and best shot. The smoke wasn’t thick enough, the water wasn’t spraying, and I have live humans in my photograph, but I thought I’d share my evening with you—at no extra charge. Can you find the girls? They’re there, I can assure you. Now, I can go back to shooting inanimate objects.

Until next time — jw

Motel Aguila Photo of the Week

Motel Aguila
Motel Aguila – A faded sign marks the location of a motel on US 60 in Aguila Arizona.

This week’s new picture I call Motel Aguila, and it’s another faded motel sign for my collection. Located as you would expect, in Aguila—a farming town some twenty miles west of Wickenburg. It’s also across the street from last week’s shot, which is how I spotted it. The paint on this sign is so faded that I don’t see a business name, and there’s only a whisper of letters left to show it as a motel.

As the sign suggests, there is no longer a functioning motel here. The buildings seem to be converted to apartments sheltering migrant farm workers. With less than a thousand permanent residents, there aren’t enough people to work the melon and lettuce fields surrounding the hamlet. The workers have to sleep somewhere and I suppose an old motel is better than the improvised lean-to sheds I’ve seen elsewhere.

Aguila isn’t a destination. There’s a café, gas station, a Dollar General store, and that’s about all. In 1973, Interstate 10 diverted traffic twenty-five miles south, so there isn’t a motel to stay at even if you wanted to. Besides, the only thing to see here is the eagle-eye window in the hills south of town and that’s a fifteen-minute investment along the side of the road (I’ll talk more about the eagle-eye next week).

You can see the larger version on here on my website. I hope you enjoy viewing it and tell me what you think.

Till next time—jw