Date Creek Clearing Picture of the Week

Sometimes you get lucky. As a photographer, I keep scenes in my head, so I can go back when the light is right when I want to capture them. That’s what happened for last week’s image, Resting Santa. We had a series of dry fronts move through Congress during the month, but the weather forecasts called for an afternoon where the sky would be clear so the evening sun would pleasantly light up the Harcuvars. I left the house at 3:30 and purposely drove out to get that shot. It was practically a product shot.

More often, I pass by beautiful once in a lifetime scenes that will never be replicated, and I chastise myself for not having a camera with me—or worse—not taking the time to stop. That’s almost what happened with this week’s featured image.

Date Creek Clearing - A clearing winter storm hangs over the Date Creek Range in the evening sun.
Date Creek Clearing – A clearing winter storm hangs over the Date Creek Range in the evening sun.

After I was finished shooting Resting Santa, I drove home on State Route 71. I was looking forward to getting back to a warm home, a nice glass of wine, and one of Queen Anne’s famous home-cooked Stouffer’s dinners. The sun was low on the horizon, and outside my window, a golden cloud hung over the Date Creek range. The conversation in my head went something like this.

“Oh my, that’s gorgeous. I should really come back with the camera sometime when the light is like this.”

“You idiot! Your camera is on the passenger seat, and the light is like this right now. Stop the truck, walk across the road, and take the picture.”

I was very convincing, so I did stop and take a shot—several of them to be exact. The version that I like most is called Date Creek Clearing. There are two prominent peaks in the Date Creek Range; both of them are unnamed. On the left is the rocky pinnacle that ate my first drone, so I call it Drone Eater Mountain. On the right side is the Range’s high point. They are only bit-players in this photo. The real stars here are the clouds caught in a moment that can never be duplicated. Those storm leftovers can never be the same.

I know that my work is considered trivial and will never warrant a Pulitzer Prize or other great awards. I shoot mostly meaningless pretty pictures, valued at a dime-a-dozen. But on a week such as the one we’ve experienced, I needed a bit of calmness and serenity. If you feel the same, then this is my gift to you.

You can see a larger version of Date Creek Clearing on its Web Page by clicking here. Next week, I’ll bring you another image from our small corner of the world. Stay safe.

Until next time — jw

Dean Peak Picture of the Week

Dean Peak
Dean Peak – One of several points in the Hualapais over 7,000′. I captured this as the sun was setting and the rest of the mountain was in shade.

There’s a Prime Video series Queen Anne, and I watched this month called Good Omens. We enjoyed it so much that we watched it a second time, and caught a lot of the subtler jokes that we missed the first time. The main characters—an angel and his demon buddy—aren’t very good at their jobs, and consequently, they screw up Armageddon. This riddle was in an episode, “How many angels can dance on the head of a pin?” It’s a trick question because as God—the voice of Frances McDormand—explains; Angels don’t dance, that’s something the devil conjured, and there’s not a substantial enough number to count them all, because demons can line-dance in the spaces between the pin’s atoms—funny stuff. When I visited this month’s photo location, I thought about the show’s riddle.

For my August pictures, I only had to walk across the street—as such. My new subject is the mountain range on the west side of the Big Sandy River and U.S. Highway 93—the Hualapai Range. They’re part of the parallel mountain ranges making the Basin and Range Domain which runs from Utah to the California Sierras. From space, these formations look like a pack of caterpillars stampeding across a sidewalk.

The Hualapai’s are a twin to last month’s Aquarius Mountains, except they are high enough—7,000 to 8,400—for pinion and ponderosa pine to grow. That means they are often snow-covered in winter. They fill the area between Wikiup and Kingman.

When my folks lived in Kingman, I heard of a park up on the mountain, but never visited, so last week I loaded Archie and drove up Sawmill Canyon Road (alas, if there was a sawmill, it’s gone now). The DW Ranch Road exit on Interstate 40 is a handy shortcut to use if you’re coming from the valley. It’s less than 10 miles from the Interstate to the County Park which is situated in a tiny valley at the top, and where Kingman residents have packed summer cabins into every available space. As I drove along the deeply rutted streets, I wondered, “How many Ford executives can camp on the top of Hualapai Peak?” In the village’s center, there is a concrete catch basin that’s called Pine Lake, but I couldn’t find public access to it, and—from its color—I’m not sure you would want access anyway. I got frustrated at having to back out of each street I tried and decided to check out the Hualapai Mountain Park and campgrounds.

After paying a day fee, I parked in the trailhead parking lot and checked out the maps. It was already after five when I started on the path to Stair Step Overlook, about a half-mile hike. I was never athletic, and I don’t claim to be in great shape today. I grew up uncoordinated, and when I was a kid, I was always the last pick for team sports. But, I regularly walk now, and my average speed is over two miles an hour. I figured a 15-minute walk at the most, so I grabbed my camera and left my water in the truck. I was wrong. It took 10 minutes—coming back down the mountain. The trail climbed four-hundred feet in that half-mile. As I hiked, I followed a group of two men and a woman who were in their early thirties and equipped with day-packs. I followed them inch-worm style; they walked out of my sight and then they’d be resting when I caught up.

When I finally got to the overlook, my new hiking friends were lounging on large granite slabs and taking in the view. As I climbed up the stairs, I looked up to see six of them before my eyes could focus again. The woman looked concerned and asked, “Do you need water?”

“No,” I replied. “I only wanted to get here and take some pictures. I’m going back down right after that.”

Then the guy with the beard drove a stake through my heart, “Man! I hope that I can be hiking up and down some mountainside when I get as old as you are.”

I did get a shot from the overlook, but I took this week’s featured image on the drive home. I call it Dean Peak because that’s what this point’s name is. When I took this shot, the sun was almost down, and the lower part of the mountain was already in the shade. I hope you enjoy viewing it.

You can see a larger version of Dean Peak on its Web Page by clicking here. Be sure to come back next week when we’ll be showing more from the Hualapai Mountains.

Until next time — jw

Red Rocks and Twin Peaks

Last week’s 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.

With the sun on the horizon, a rock outcrop glow red before a pair of dormant cinder cones.
Red Rocks and Twin Peaks—With the sun on the horizon, a rock outcrop glow red before a pair of dormant cinder cones.

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.

Pink Virga—On the drive home a line of low clouds turned pink with streaks of virga emanating from them. Of course, all I could do is snap a photo through the windshield.
Pink Virga—On the drive home a line of low clouds turned pink with streaks of virga emanating from them. Of course, all I could do is snap a photo through the windshield.

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 — jw

P.S.: Queen Anne and I would like to send our best wishes to you. We hope your holidays are safe, warm and happy.

Making Lemonade 2018 Utah Photo Shoot

As a teenager 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 that surrounded us. But the winds also dried out the chaparral. Dry enough that a careless motorist could start a fire by flipping a cigarette out the window. Fires are a way of life in Southern California. They’re an annual occurrence, 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 useful 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 and you can look directly at it. 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 nice mountain—Sandy Peak. As an extra bonus, there was a huge field sprinkler spraying streams of water that would glow with the backlighting. I got out of 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 that 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 that you see in fields that move on wheels in a circle. I’d be afraid to touch it and these children turned it off like it was the hose in the front yard.

I thought about leaving, but the sun was inches away by then and the girls hung around the spigot 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 at trying 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

April Sunset Picture of the Week


April Sunset
April Sunset – After a flat and dreary day, a weather front breaks up at sunset.

Life is full of ironies. After writing last week about sunsets, I spent most of Monday working in my wood shop. A weather front had moved in overnight and most of the day was flat and overcast. The disturbance brought snow to the high country but nary a drop of rain to the desert. It was a good day for working indoors. However, late in the afternoon, I noticed that Chuck and Kay’s house—our neighbors from across the street—was bathed in sunlight, which made me walk to our deck out back so I could see the western sky. I watched the clouds beginning to break up and leaving a clear sky behind them. From experience, I knew that meant that there would be a colorful sky once the sun dipped below the horizon. After writing a week ago that I have been too lazy to chase sunsets, I decided to make a lie of that comment, so I gathered my gear and when the time was right, I drove to a place where I had a clear view of the horizon. I took my time and recorded the psychedelic scene until it faded. Of the fifty images that I captured, I liked this one best and I call it April Sunset.

As opposed to the simple streaks of colors in last week’s photo, this one is about textures; all kinds of different textures. The streaks of yellow, the wisps of the pink cotton candy stand out against the single patch of blue. As I shot, there was color all around me, but there was only one area having a dark pile of cotton balls seen in the upper right and this was the shot best showing those lumpy edges as they grabbed the sun’s rays.

You can see a larger version of April Sunset on its Web page here. I hope you enjoy my new work. Tell me how you think it compares to Harcuvar Sunset, its predecessor?

Until next time — jw

Stanton Dusk Picture of the Week

On my last outing, I spent an afternoon exploring the Stanton Road searching for suitable photography subjects. The dirt road runs along the base of the Weaver range between Arizona Highway 89 and the Stanton ghost town. There, you can either continue up the hill on the back road to Yarnell—something that I’ll do in the future—or take the Octave road to the old Octave Mine site. I drove down the road until it became too rough for my wimpy truck and I turned around. The light was failing anyway, so I decided to call it a day. I was almost back to Stanton, and as I rounded a corner, I saw this scene and stopped the truck so I could take a photo. I call this shot Stanton Dusk and it’s my new photo of the week.

Stanton Dusk
Stanton Dusk – The sun at the western horizon lights the ridges along the Weaver Range behind the ghost town of Stanton.

The low sun lighting the mountain ridges is what first caught my attention. The ridgelines highlighted like that keeps Weaver Mountain from being a flat silhouette and adds texture and perspective to the large dark shape. I think the sky and clouds contribute to a sense of open space. Finally, the light-colored structures atop the lower ridge anchor the frame. This shot has many of the elements that Ansel Adams captured in his masterpiece: Moonrise over Hernandez (I must mention that the image in this link is a poor representation of one of his original prints). I’m not saying that my shot has the stature of his, but Moonrise has long been a personal inspiration and I can see some of the influences in my shot. Of course, my shot doesn’t have a moon and—as some photographers do—I could add one in post-processing, but I won’t.

You can see a larger version of Stanton Dusk on my Website here. Examine both pieces and see if you agree with me. Can you see the similarity in the dark sky, the light structures, background mountain, and clouds, or am I fantasizing? Please feel free to share your thoughts in the comment section below and don’t be bashful about clicking on the Like button if you enjoyed this post.

Until next time — jw

Saguaro Station Picture of the Week

This week’s new photograph wasn’t taken in Aguila for a change. I took it on the way home from my outing there. This is the second version I’ve taken of an abandoned service station at the Arizona Route 71 and US Highway 93 intersection. My first shot of this place—called Station 71—was before sunrise in November 2015. When I stopped this time, the sun was setting and I thought the stately saguaro added to the story of this old building. This version—called Saguaro Station—can be seen on my Website here.

Saguaro Station
Saguaro Station – An abandoned service station in the late afternoon sun along US 93 near Congress, Arizona.

I actually travel through this intersection often, and when I do, I try to stop and look for new angles. Usually, the light isn’t right or nothing interesting jumps out, but this day the beautiful light on the building’s graffiti-covered end-wall forced me to drag the tripod out of the car. The failing light also shows off the saguaro’s pleats.

The next time I stop, I should try to find what gas station brand this was. The gas signs are gone—no doubt scavenged by collectors—but maybe there’s a clue hidden inside the building among the tarantulas and rattlesnakes. In the next couple of years, this intersection going to be an exit for the new Interstate 11—replacing US 93 for traffic between Phoenix and Las Vegas. City planners expect the new highway to bring growth to this area and there’s talk of a Wal-Mart planned for this intersection. Ironically, that traffic would support a new gas station in this spot.

I hope you enjoy seeing this new photo and let me know what you think in the comments. Which version do you prefer? If you enjoy this post, please click the like button below.

Until next time—jw

%d bloggers like this: