Christmas at San Xavier del Bac

While in Tucson last week, I visited Mission San Xavier del Bac, south of the city.  The beautiful church was decorated for Christmas.

This was another challenging exposure, so I took three different exposures and combined them into a single high dynamic range (HDR) photograph.  (Click to enlarge.)

Interior of San Xavier del Bac Mission

Devil’s Bridge, Sedona

While traveling last week, I consulted Volume 2 (Arizona) of Laurent Martrès’ book series, Photographing the Southwest.

As their name implies, the books describe a variety of locations for photography in the southwest, including directions and good times of day to photograph.  I’ve learned of places I probably never would have found on my own.

One place recommended by the book was Devil’s Bridge, a stone arch in the Coconino National Forest, near Sedona.  I drove a mile and a half down a rough 4WD road, and then hiked about one mile to get to the arch.  (I wasn’t going to let my injured leg dissuade me.)

When I arrived at the arch, it was still in morning shadow, but the rest of the valley was in full sun.  There was too much contrast to render the scene with a single image in my camera.  So, I tried my hand at some high-dynamic range (HDR) photography.  I’ve tried HDR in the past, without much success.  But I recently met Trey Ratcliff, an HDR expert and author of the blog http://www.stuckincustoms.com/.  I decided to try again.

So here’s a merged set of three different exposures of Devil’s Bridge.  (Click the image to enlarge.)

Devil's Bridge

I plan to post a couple more HDR photos in the next few days.

Grand Canyon, South Rim

On Friday, I drove up to the south rim of the Grand Canyon, driving from east to west. There were a few inches of snow along the rim, but with a little care, I managed to get to some of the overlooks. Here’s an infrared shot from Grandview Point. (To see more detail in each image, click on them to enlarge.)

grandview_point

For sunset, I drove to Pima Point, which is along Hermit Road almost all the way to Hermit’s Rest. Here’s some of the last of the evening light falling on the Tower of Ra [see the comments].

Tower of Ra

Here’s another infrared photo.  I think this does a good job of showing the variety of textures and layers in the rock.grand_canyon_infrared

Sedona

Thursday, I was in Sedona, Arizona.  I went on a short two-mile hike (on an injured leg—bummer) to a large sandstone arch named Devil’s Bridge, in Coconino National Forest. Here’s a view along the way.  I hope to post some HDR images of the arch later.

sedona_devils_bridge_trail

I also visited the nearby town of Jerome.  Once a huge copper mining community, it is now known for its artists and art galleries.

Finally, I ended the day at the Sedona Airport Scenic Overlook for sunset.  Thin clouds have been coming in during the late afternoons, and the sunsets haven’t been that spectacular.  However, I do like the clouds in this infrared shot. sedona_infrared

Biosphere 2

Wednesday was mostly a travel day—going from Tucson to Flagstaff.  Before I left the Tucson area, though, I decided to visit Biosphere 2. This was a structure built in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s for conducting ecological experiments in a man-made closed system.  In its first mission, which began in 1991, eight people were locked inside with the goal of living for two years in an almost completely self-sustaining environment. While there were a variety of challenges with this mission, it met its duration goal by lasting for two years and twenty minutes.

Today, Biosphere 2 is a science laboratory run by the University of Arizona. I found the tour fascinating, not only for its reflection on the original Biosphere missions, but also for its glimpse into current, ongoing research at the facility.

biosphere2_habitat

biosphere2_ocean_2

biosphere2_ocean

Tucson, Day 2

saguaro_silhouette

As a musician, I’ve been trained, in the moments leading up to a performance, to relax—to calm myself, and peacefully contemplate what I’m about to do. It puts me into the right mindset, by clearing everything else out of my head. And then when I’m ready, I can execute the way all the rehearsals taught me to perform.

And so it needs to be with photography. I know my cameras; I can handle most of the photographic situations I’ll be in. But if my mind is still back home, thinking about work  or other chores, I won’t be ready to make the photographs I know I can make.

Even in nature photography, there’s a lot to think about—what’s going to happen next?  When’s the sun going to set?  Which way is the wind blowing?  What time does this park lock its gate?  What’s the hyperfocal distance for this shot?

Today, in the Rincon Mountain District of Saguaro National Park, I had to just say, “Stop!”

saguaro_arms I was standing next to a 30-foot-tall Saguaro, and listening.

The wind was blowing hard.  I stopped to listen to the wind flowing through the needles of the Saguaro.  Wow.  I bet a lot of people go through life never hearing that sound.  Let’s listen a little bit more, to the birds, and the squirrels…

A whole lot of nature photography is being patient. It’s waiting for the right light. It’s waiting for a shadow to move. Or a cloud.

saguaro_national_park_javelina_rocks And sometimes, the right light doesn’t happen.  Sometimes, the cloud doesn’t show up in the right spot.  That’s part of nature photography.

But if my mind is open, I will still enjoy what I’m doing. I can listen for the wind. I can watch and listen for the animals around me.

Okay, I’m ready again. Ready to take another photograph. My mind is clear again.

Saguaro National Park

I’m in Arizona this week.

In the days leading up to this trip, I was stressing about projects left undone at work and at home. I wasn’t sure how easily I would shift my focus to photography.

I visited the Tucson Mountain District of Saguaro National Park this afternoon.  I just did a quick drive-through around sunset, to get a better idea of what I want to try tomorrow.

Once I got out into the desert, watching the sunset, I knew I was mentally prepared for the photography.  The challenges back home are well taken care of (for which I am grateful!), allowing me to settle into the nature around me.

Here’s one of my infrared shots from today.

saguaro_national_park

Look for more over the next week.