Timelapse Madness

Timelapse setup for 3 hour shoot

Timelapse setup for 3 hour shoot

So I got the Timelapse bug. After seeing so many neat video’s of long time events speeded up to a few seconds I decided to give it a try. My setup is above. Basically it involves my camera, an intervalometer, time-lapse calculator, time-lapse de-flicker software, and batteries for a continuous 3-hour session.

Basically the software needs to know what I want my frame rate to be, 24-25, 03 30 fps. How many frames to shoot per group (i.e. interval), how long I want my video to end up being (i.e. 34 seconds), and how long of a duration do I want to shoot.  My software told me I needed a picture every 12 seconds. Later I combined them (over 900 shots) into a time lapse video lasting only 34 seconds.

Drop me a line and I can go over some of the detail if you wish.

Hope you enjoy it.

An Aquarium at the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum ?

Go figure…salt water fish in the desert. One of our favorite places to shoot pictures and get away to the desert, the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum has now installed a small aquarium. It’s called the Warden Aquarium.

Lookdown

Lookdown

In fact the last time I saw a  silvery Lookdown was along the coast on Big Island of Hawaii. Of course I’ve seen them at the Monterey Bay Aquarium in Monterey, California too but it was like seeing an old friend now here in Tucson, Arizona. They had another fish I like too, the Spotted Puffer.

Spotted Puffer

Spotted Puffer

The last time I saw one in the wild was when we were snorkeling & hand-feeding some of the coral reef fishes frozen green peas. The Puffer got so excited as my daughter fed him/her that he came up and bit off her fingernail along with the little green pea. Fortunately no harm was done to either her or the fish. Can’t say the same for the fashion nail.

One last item not aquarium related…the beaver was out swimming around enjoying the sunshine. Usually he’s in his burrow sleeping.

The busy beaver enjoying the sunshine

The busy beaver enjoying the sunshine

I love this place, with or without my camera in hand.

 

Summer Monsoon Storms

Monsoon over McDonalds

Monsoon over McDonalds

Amazing monsoon buildup east of Tucson on July 25, 2013. I was out driving to a friends on July 25, 2013 for lunch and saw this amazing cloud layer just east of Broadway and Camino Seco here in Tucson. Fortunately I had my 11-15 mm wide angle with me and got two fine shots. I

The first one, above, and the picture below were both sent to KVOA Channel 9 to their iContribute site. It was aired later that day and several friends saw it. I missed it. Sniff.

Monsoon over SafewayI turned 90 degrees toward the south and another storm cloud was coming in  over Safeway. Amazing clouds.

Keep on looking up…

Coronado Island is a one-of-a-kind place

The Dell Coronado Hotel (pano)

The Dell Coronado Hotel (pano) (ISO 100, 75 mm, 0 ev, f/11, 1/200 sec, 20 shot pano in-camera)

I have always enjoyed the shoreline, especially the Strand on Coronado Island in San Diego California. My wife and I stayed across the street from the famous 125 year old Del Coronado hotel this June. We’d stayed there 3 years ago about the same time of year and the weather then was brrrrr cold, the upper 60’s in the daytime and lower in the evenings.

This year however temps were a beautiful 70-80ish all week long. Each day a sunny wonder. Beaches full of people and theme parks stuffed with patrons. The Del was celebrating its 125th year of operation and was even decked out with a gold bow around its highest parapet.

125th year celebration at the Del Coronado

125th year celebration at the Del Coronado (Sony A77, ISO 100, 18 mm, 0 ev, f/13, 1/125 sec, Auto WB)

At night the hotel is all lit with dramatic lighting and with the nearly full moon it looked romantic and inviting. The image looked great at ISO 8000 shot with the Canon G12. It did require a lot of noise reduction but it came out really nice.

I love to sit outside patio in the evening sipping a Starbucks coffee. Of course at the Del my grande’ Starbucks coffee costs $4.11 as opposed to $2.10 down the street at the Starbucks but the view and ambiance makes up for the $2 buck surcharge.

The Del Coronado Hotel at night

The Del Coronado Hotel at night (Canon G12, ISO 8000, 9 mm, 0 ev, f/3.2, 1/20 sec, Auto WB)

We’ve been here quite a few times but for some reason I’d never taken pictures of San Diego at night from across the water from Centennial Park on Coronado Island.

Centennial Park location

Centennial Park location

This area along the waterway is full of shipping activity from banana boats to aircraft carriers all day long. So since the weather at night was what I’d call “convertible weather”, I parked my tripod at the shoreline and looked across at the exceptional lights from the city.

Moon over San Diego

Moon over San Diego (Sony A77, ISO 200, f/3.5, 0.8 sec, 25 mm, 0 ev, White Balance Tungsten)

I love how the reflections play across the ripples in the water and seem to amplify the colors of the buildings along the shore. I never know when I shoot these kind of images just what kind of white balance I want to use or if I like landscape mode or portrait mode. In this case I clicked through my WB control and selected what seemed to be the closest match to what I saw across the water. But I feel what you set your camera to depends on what you like…or what will sell better. This Tungsten version may be appreciated by those who must have an exact version of what they see with their eyes.

San Diego Skyline from Centennial Park

San Diego Skyline from Centennial Park (Sony A77, ISO 1600, 16 mm, f/2.8, 1/5 sec, 0 ev, White Balance-Auto)

Others may want a warmer look like this image. I let the A77 select the whole works and was taken entirely on automatic. While this looks nice there is quite a bit of digital noise in this photo and had to be handled after the fact using NICs Dfine 2.0. It takes most of the noise out but the sky still looks kind of funky. It’s just when you print these overly processed high ISO shots they become soft and the sky smudges on large prints. For internet use at 72 dpi it looks okay. The previous vertical shot is much smoother in the sky area since it was shot at ISO 200 which is handled pretty well in-camera.

On the other hand… here’s a shot taken inside the Birch aquarium in La Jolla that was shot  without flash at ISO 1600 and it looks pretty good. Go figure.

Seahorse (ISO 1600, 30 mm, 0 ev, f/3.2, 1/60 sec, Auto WB, no flash, pattern metering mode)

Seahorse (ISO 1600, 30 mm, 0 ev, f/3.2, 1/60 sec, Auto WB, no flash, pattern metering mode)

All-in-all I did get my shot, many of them actually of the night time cityscape that I was going for on this trip so I consider it a great photo opportunity achieved. Along with those night shots,  the aquarium images and night hotel shots were just gravy on the biscuit. Did I tell you about the perfectly exposed beach shots yet? Oh well. Maybe next time.

Twins Grow Up

 

Two weeks ago on May 18, 2013 I had the opportunity to photograph a hummingbird family (see earlier post  titled I shot an Apodiformes the other day… ) At that time I was able to see just a couple of tiny babes in the bottom of the nest. They were totally blind and being fed by momma hummingbird.

Time for lunch for the chicks

Time for lunch for the chicks

Now thirteen days later they’re nearly ready to fly away and have grown so large they have to sit upon each other.

Where's Mom? - Sony A-77, DT 16-50, ISO 320, 50 mm, 0 ev, f/7.1, 1/160

Where’s Mom? – Sony A-77, DT 16-50, ISO 320, 50 mm, 0 ev, f/7.1, 1/160

Today as I was setting up the camera I discovered that my wireless remote device, the receiver portion’s battery had died. Could it be that leaving it in my garage here in Arizona in the 120 degree heat for two weeks had drained the battery? Who knows. In any case I had to resort to using a short cable release and hide in a small brick cubby behind my camera and hang my arm out hoping that the mother bird would allow this.

My brick cubby hole behind my camera..

My brick cubby hole behind my camera..

So I squeezed my bulk in between the bricks with my face and belly against the wall opposite the blue ones, turning my head to the left to watch the hoped for action. I waited…and waited…and waited and in about 15 minutes she flew into view. She flew immediately to the camera, looked directly into the lens, no doubt seeing her reflection, then over to the cubby and up to my face and zoom…away she flew.

Again I waited  for a another ten minutes or so and she flew back to the chicks ignoring the camera and me and allowed me one shot before she flew away for more food for the second chick.

First the left guy - Sony A-77, DT 16-50, ISO 320, 50 mm, 0 ev, f/6.3, 1/160

First the left guy – Sony A-77, DT 16-50, ISO 320, 50 mm, 0 ev, f/6.3, 1/160

Well by this time my left arm was starting to spasm. This was like doing isometrics using only my left arm. I squeezed back out, got another tripod, this time for my hand to rest on, and then squished myself back in the cubby to wait for another shot. In about 10 minutes she came back.

Next the right guy - Sony A-77, DT 16-50, ISO 320, 50 mm, 0 ev, f/7.1, 1/160

Next the right guy – Sony A-77, DT 16-50, ISO 320, 50 mm, 0 ev, f/7.1, 1/160

Content now for a while - Sony A-77, DT 16-50, ISO 320, 50 mm, 0 ev, f/7.1, 1/160

Content now for a while – Sony A-77, DT 16-50, ISO 320, 50 mm, 0 ev, f/7.1, 1/160

The chicks then snuggled down to digest the meal while mom went back for more I presume.

Me? Well my arm and shoulder was numb from the ordeal so I broke down the set and headed back into the cool air conditioned car and headed home.

Boy, I sure hope Radio Shack has some CR-2 batteries for me to pickup on the way home. They’re located right next to Subway where I know they have ice cold drinks in the LARGE size.

 

I shot an Apodiformes the other day…

The Wiki dictionary says, “Traditionally, the bird order Apodiformes contained three living families: the swifts (Apodidae), the tree swifts (Hemiprocnidae), and the hummingbirds (Trochilidae).” I’m talking about the hummingbird of course.

I believe we photographers have all had the opportunity to try and capture those tiny delightful little curious hummingbirds one time or another. It seems that I can never get the light just right to show the brilliant iridescence found in both the female and male of the species in my images. So I’ve been content to snap them as they perched on a twig or on their nests. But on a sunny Saturday morning a few weeks ago a friend called and told me that there was a little nest being built in their breezeway on a Devils Claw swaying in the gentle breeze.

Twins!

Twins! – Sony A-77, DT 16-50, ISO 125, 50 mm, 0 ev, f/4, 1/160 sec

I had just finished researching some better ways to photograph the little fellas and had decided to drive over and check out the situation. I found out that the nest that was built and hanging on a column of devils claws linked together swaying to-and-fro in the portico of the home in the shade. This wasn’t the best lighting and the nest was stuck to the claw as you can see above in a very precarious way.

The momma bird was off getting grub for the young ones and I was lucky enough to snap a couple shots. The twins were hardly bigger than two large blue-bottle flies lying there in the bottom of the nest. They sure were homely little guys with their eyes closed and little pinfeathers sprouting out of their leathery looking backs. Only a mother could love them.

I had to work quickly if I was to get some meaningful shots of the female on the nest.

My Sony A-77 and remote strobe set-up

My Sony A-77 and remote strobe set-up

I set up my tripod just opposite the hanging devils claw column and my strobe at almost right angles from the camera. It was set at about 35 degrees above the horizontal of the cameras view. I noticed that the female bird fed the chicks  and her body would be parallel to the wall. With the strobe placed there I thought I could finally get some iridescence from her plumage to show. After fiddling with the syncronization wireless controller to the camera and the wireless connection to the strobe I was ready. We left the setup and went inside the house and watch the female fly back and forth deciding if she should come back to feed her young. Finally she zoomed in examining the camera and strobe and was just about to land and then flew away after this first shot,  just as I’d read about in the article

She came and then flew away after this first shot

She came and then flew away after this first shot –  Sony A-77, DT 16-50, ISO 200, 50 mm, 1 ev, f/20, 1/160 sec

They said that the flash didn’t bother them but the faint pop of the strobe initially startles them… but that she would come back quite soon. They were right. In about 5 minutes she was back and this time the strobe didn’t bother her.

Time for lunch for the chicks

Time for lunch for the chicks – Sony A-77, DT 16-50, ISO 200, 50 mm, 1 ev, f/20, 1/160 sec

It all turned out quite well I believe. Some photographer friends have accused me of altering the birds colors to that of the painted blue brick along the side of the breezeway but I didn’t. I just lucked out on that one. Below she is keeping the chicks warm and cozy.

Cuddling the wee ones

Cuddling the wee ones – Sony A-77, DT 16-50, ISO 200, 50 mm, 1 ev, f/20, 1/160 sec

Finally I can say I shot the Apodiformes (Trochilidae) in the wild and got all her amazing iridescence.

Boojum and a smattering of images

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines smattering as “a small scattered number or amount,” and that is what this blog entry is all about this time. I’ve covered spring blossoms several times in the past so this spring I decided to pull up some disparate images from the past from both myself and from my wife. Certainly a smattering of different images from point-and-shoots like the Canon PowerShots, top end non-removable lens higher-end cameras like the Canon G12 up to DSLRs, Sony A350s and Digital SLT Alpha A77V. One image has been processed as an HDR but the others have had minimal alteration other than cropping and sharpening.

Since we’ve all seen excellent flower pictures I though I’d show a few unusual blooming plants and flowers from only the southwest area of the US and even the Baja California area of Mexico. Lets begin.

 The IDRIA COLUMNARIS

Boojum tree - Sony DSLT A77, ISO 100, f/8, 1/160 sec, 50 mm prime

Boojum tree – Sony DSLT A77, ISO 100, f/8, 1/160 sec, 50 mm prime, 0 ev

“The Boojum is native only in the deserts of Baja California and Sonora, Mexico. Fancifully, it resembles a slender upside-down carrot, up to 15 metres (50 feet) tall and covered with spiny twigs that bear yellowish flowers in hanging clusters and it is a relative the Ocotillo,” says the Encyclopedia Britannica dictionary. It blooms in the spring.

But since we’re looking at flowers lets go back to our grade school biology class and dissect a flower. Remember it’s parts?

Parts of a flower

Parts of a flower

All I could remember were the petals, the stamen, and the pistil.  Here’s a night blooming cactus flower from our backyard. Can make out the major parts?

Night blooming cactus flower - Konica/Minolta DSLR Maxxum 5D, ISO 400, f/5/6, 1/125 sec, 70 mm

Night blooming cactus flower ( Cereus peruvianus) in our yard blooms only at night – Konica/Minolta DSLR Maxxum 5D, ISO 400, f/5/6, 1/125 sec, 70 mm, 0 ev

Cereus peruvianus

Cereus peruvianus

When we look at the unusual plants like the Boojum you have to get really close to even find the actual yellow flower. Sorry I don’t have one for you to see. Here are some more blooms.

Vine bloom - Sony DSLT A77V, ISO 400, f/7.1, 50 mm prime, 1/100 sec, HDR

Vine bloom – Sony DSLT A77V, ISO 400, f/7.1, 50 mm prime, 1/100 sec, 0 ev, HDR

Flowers pop out most anywhere on cactus. This one just sprouts out along the body of the  creeping cactus along the ground. This is HDR enhanced just for fun. HDR gives it that “thin pink crisp paper” look to the flower and brings out the multi-color pebbles along the background. Here’s another one.

Red Cactus flower - Canon G12, ISO 160, f/5, 1/40 sec, 0 ev, 6.1 mm

Red Cactus flower – Canon G12, ISO 160, f/5, 1/40 sec, 0 ev, 6.1 mm

My wife took this nice red bloom with her Canon G12. I played with the image in Aperture and gave it a soft feel and then finished it off in NiKs dFine to smooth out a little bit of the digital noise I noticed.

Since we saw the Boojum we might as well look at the Ocotillo a relative of that unique tree.

Saguaro and Ocotillo - Sony A350, ISO 100, f/11, 1/320 sec, 35 mm, 0 ev

Saguaro and Ocotillo – Sony A350, ISO 100, f/11, 1/320 sec, 35 mm, 0 ev

I used to think that this plant flowered only in the spring but after buying one and planting it in the yard I noticed it grows flowers many times throughout the year except during our winter months. It looses its leaves, yes it has leaves and spines during certain times. I haven’t exactly guessed when that occurs either. Seems each plant has it’s own cycle except for the winter time. The ocotillo can bloom when it has leaves and even when it  loses its’ leaves. Weird.

Ocotillo & Palo Verde tree - Sony A350, ISO 100, f/11, 1/320 sec, 35 mm, 0 ev

Ocotillo & Palo Verde tree – Sony A350, ISO 100, f/11, 1/320 sec, 35 mm, 0 ev

Of course the tree behind this Ocotillo is the Palo Verde, a green barked tree that means “green stick” and is the Arizona state tree. It is deciduous (sheds its leaves during extended dry spells) at which time the tree relies on its green stems and branches for photosynthesis. Like the Ocotillo’s leaves that come and go it seems many desert plants are able to grow alternate ways to stay alive with or without leaves. The spines keep plant predators somewhat at bay.

Cereus- Queen of the Night - Sony DSLR A350, ISO 400, 70 mm, f/5.6, 1/125 sec, 0 ev

Cereus- Queen of the Night – Sony DSLR A350, ISO 400, 70 mm, f/5.6, 1/125 sec, 0 ev

The “Peniocereus greggii is a cactus species originating from the Antilles, Mexico and Central America. The species is commonly referred to as Nightblooming Cereus, Queen of the Night, Large-flowered Cactus, Sweet-Scented Cactus or Vanilla Cactus,” so says Wikipedia.  Tohono Chul Park is a wonderful botanical desert garden here that has many of these single night blooming plants and they host a “bloom night” for the members and general public. It is an annual event and thousands of people are notified by email the exact night that the blooms open. If you’re in the area and want to see these amazing flowers that seem to grow out from grey non-leaved sticks take the link to the park and be put on their mailing list to be notified when they bloom. It’s fun to mingle among the horticulturist community and photographers when this happens. Okay only two flowering plants to go.

Mexican Bird-of-Paradise - Canon PowerShot SD1100IS, ISO 80, f/4.9, 19 mm, 1/250 sec, 0 ev

Mexican Bird-of-Paradise – Canon PowerShot SD1100IS, ISO 80, f/4.9, 19 mm, 1/250 sec, 0 ev

We can’t overlook the Red Bird-of-Paradise or Mexican Bird-of-Paradise plant found all over the Southwest. I’m used to the Bird-of-Paradise that looks like a long necked bird but this one was new to me. It is flamboyant, grows like a weed or shrub all over Tucson and attracts bees and butterflies. You can cut it to the ground in the winter and it will grow to 6 or 7 feet in the spring and bloom all summer long. This one was shot with a Canon PowerShot point and shoot.

Saguaro blossoms - Konica/Minolta 5D, ISO 100, f/9, 1/400 sec, 70 mm, 0 ev

Saguaro blossoms – Konica/Minolta 5D, ISO 100, f/9, 1/400 sec, 70 mm, 0 ev

Saguaros are found exclusively in the Sonoran Desert. The most important factors for growth are water and temperature. If the elevation is too high, the cold weather and frost can kill the saguaro. Although the the Sonoran Desert experiences both winter and summer rains, it is thought that the Saguaro obtains most of its moisture during the summer rainy season.

Tucson Arizona is the home of Saguaro National Park. Since Tucson is in the Sonoran Desert area Saguaro cactus are concentrated both east and west of the city proper. The Saguaro National park is split into two parts, East Saguaro and West Saguaro National Park. Both are very unique.

The flowers on this 12 foot cactus run up and down it’s pleated skin like so many teats on a hog if you will. This example has more blossoms than any I’ve seen.

Saguaro fruit - Sony A350, ISO 100, 300 mm, f/5.6, 1/250 sec, 0ev

Saguaro fruit – Sony A350, ISO 100, 300 mm, f/5.6, 1/250 sec, 0ev

This cactus can weigh in a more than two tons and some really old big ones can check in at over 5 tons and be over 200 years old. Totally the grandfathers of the southern desert.

After the white waxy blooms are fertilized by the honey bees bright red fruits form and hang like bloody juicy berries. The Tohono O’odham native american people come to Saguaro National Park to harvest the saguaro fruit each year using long poles originally made from Saguaro ribs tied together to make them long enough to reach the tall cactus.

So there you have it. I hope you noticed the different cameras used to take these pictures in the article. It just goes to show you that you don’t need to have an expensive camera to make some nice images.

Till next time get out there and use your imagination and camera to tell a story.

Snakes…it had to be snakes…I hate snakes!

Just to steal a line from one of my favorite movies “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom”, I don’t hate snakes. Since I’ve been living in the Southwest part of the United States I’ve tramped through the deserts and haven’t come across any of our twelve species of rattlesnake.

Sure I’ve seen King snakes, Corn snakes, Hognose snakes, but not a single Rattlesnake.

So… a photographer friend of mine called me one evening and asked if I’d like to shoot some rattlesnakes. Well, living in a state where we can open-carry guns I wondered if he’d come across one and wanted it eliminated. No…actually I know he doesn’t kill them but of course he meant shoot them with a camera. I jumped at the offer.

So to set the stage a little. It seems Albert has photographed all sorts of animals and insects for various publications including National Geographic and often gets the critters sent to him to photograph. This time it was a farmer in Benson, AZ that knew he took pictures of animals had caught two large (to me anyway) diamondback rattlers and gave them to Albert. They were really excited (angry?) and to calm them down he put them in a cooler with a little ice overnight. It makes them think it is winter and they calm down and stop rattling.

The next morning he put the cooler in the back of the Range Rover and we headed out into the desert away from habitation to find a likely spot for photography and then release them. When we stopped after a ride down a washboard road I thought we had a puncture in the left rear tire, at least it sounded like that; sort of a hissing air-leaking sound. Of course it was the snakes but I’d only heard the starting and stopping of their rattling. A continual rattle of two snakes did sound like an air leak. Amazing! I would not have known that sound in the wild unless I’d heard the beginning or ending of the rattle. Hmmm. Know I know.

Perfect release location

Perfect release location – Sony A77 shot on full automatic for establishing shot

It was just about 6 AM and the sun was just coming over the Rincon mountains to the east of Tucson when we located the best spot. Easy to lug our photo gear out to and clear enough so we would be safe from underbrush that might hide our snakes upon release. Or…worst case…hide unknown snakes along with our snakes just waiting to get us 🙂

It was a great location, little patches of flowers, sand, and prickly pear cactus all around for the desert look. The plan was to:

  1. Find a good location…done
  2. Prepare the site for the shoot. Drop the hat. Grab the reflectors
  3. Step back and release the snakes.
  4. Let them go where they wanted without to much nudging on our part.
  5. Watch each others backs and stay safely out of their way and get our shots.
  6. Quietly leave them and head back to town.

So step one was accomplished and we hauled out gear out to the site and then went back for our slithery friends who weren’t all that happy about being moved. Step 2 was to prepare the site. I’d been thinking the evening before about what I’d like to see as a photographer imaging a “western cowboy look”. I’m doing a western theme series of photos, i.e. a stallion, saquaro cactus, and now maybe a snake.

I thought I’d bring a prop that was appropriate to cowboys – a cowboy hat. I had this leather one I was going to use but how would I get the snake to get near it? I had an idea. I remembered hearing that snakes when they were cool would seek out heated areas so I leaned my dark hat against a tree stump in the sun to heat up. Once it seemed warm we released the snakes about 15 feet away.

Free at last

Free at last – Sony A77 full automatic

Having thought this out we decided on a fill-flash and silver and/or gold reflectors to cool or warm the scene.

Albert and the Reflector

Albert and the Reflector – Sony A77 full automatic

Without reflector light

Without reflector light

With reflector light

With reflector light

As you can see from above the reflector gives us a much more natural light than a strobe. By mixing a strobe light with the gold reflector you can get a nice warm morning light on the scene.

It was amazing! Slowly one of the critters slithered out and appeared to look around. The one on the left stayed in the cooler till we finished shooting the first one. This was all the snakes idea. Must have been the Snake Actors Guild, a new name for SAG, so each one had their own time. Of course it made our job easier too since we only had one snake to deal with on the loose at a time.

After a  few minutes of rattling, slithering, and rattling the first one seemed to see or sense the heat near the stump and my leather cowboy hat. I kid you not he just headed towards the hat and moved under, over, and around it like a kitten making a nest. We began our shoot. How close did we get? What kind of glass did we use? What speed? What aperture? Anti-shake on…you betcha’ baby!

How close were we?

How close were we? About 8-10 feet away.

We at times were on our bellies and other times just kneeled down. We exchanged jobs. One shoots and the other holds the reflector and was on snake patrol. Then I shot and Albert watched my six and held the reflector.

So how did my hat trick work?  Check this shot out!

Diamondback Rattler

Diamondback Rattler – Sony A77, 85mm prime, ISO 400, f/11, 1/125 sec., 0 ev

Not bad huh? Can you imagine reaching for your hat only to find this fella sitting nearby? So did the snakes strike at us? Well duh! Of course but we stayed out of range. I remembered hearing that most snake bites happen to young macho men showing off.

The last words out of their mouth before being struck was, “Hear. Hold my beer. Watch this.”

Prickly Pear with Snow Caps

Prickly Pear Cactus with Snow Caps – (f/11, 1/800 sec., FL 17mm, ISO 400, 0 ev, Sony A-77V)

Every year we get snow in the desert…but usually only in the mountains here in Tucson, AZ. This spring though we’ve had a couple of days with snow on the valley floor and if I plan ahead I can get out early and get some images that are unusual. The weather forecast predicted snow down to 3,000 feet which means we probably will get it even down a little lower if we’re lucky. So it began at lunch time with flurries and sticky big flakes that continued on and off through the night.

Saguaro National Park East loop road –  (f/20, 1/60 sec., FL 16mm, ISO 400, 0 ev, Sony A-77V)

In the morning we had snow all over the cactus in Saguaro National Park East and I headed over there and got some shots with the dark indigo skies as the backdrop. The 8-mile loop road had already begun to heat up melting all the snow and leaving it only wet not icy.

Broken Saguaro ribs in the snow – (f/9,1/1000 sec., FL 18mm, ISO 400, 0 ev, Sony A-77V)

The sun was blazing and the snow was melting all around me. I could hear the mushy snow plopping to the ground and by 11 in the morning nearly all the snow had melted off the cactus. But I’ll still remember the wonderful scene with all the snow and the Santa Catalina mountains in the distance.

Pano Saguaro National Park in the WInter – f/11/250 sec., FL 50mm, ISO 100, 0 ev, Sony A-77V)

This is what I love about the southwest…all the beauty of winter without the cloudy gray days for months on end. Come on down. The golf courses are always open…except for the Accenture Open this year. Closed for one snow day. Totally amazing.

Along the Shoreline in the Winter

A few weeks ago my wife and I flew from Tucson AZ to Michigan to attend a memorial service for her sister. We had not been back to our home town of South Haven in the winter many years now after living in Illinois, and California for over 30 years.

We’ve been there during the summertime when the weather is warm and humid but have avoided going back during the off-season. South Haven is a small 7,000 population town situated on the sandy shores of Lake Michigan about 45 miles directly east of Kalamazoo, and about 100 miles west across the lake from Chicago, Illinois. On the map it is just about where the Van Buren State Park is located. During the summer large yachts fill its port, some as large as 150 feet long and others like cigarette boats, skinny racing boats streak along the shoreline. South Haven has always been a resort town serving both Chicago to the west and Detroit to the east since the depression years of our country. It is the fruit capital of the midwest boasting blueberries, cherries, apples and pears.

Located to the north about 25 miles is the village of Saugatuck. The Paugusset Indians who lived nearby along the Kalamazoo river named the area  Saugatuck which meant “mouth of the river.” The towns history ranges from early 1800s and then was incorporated 1868 and has become a small artist community. The population goes from just a couple thousand individuals to many thousand in the summer months. The sun, sand, and water brings them all here.

The weather this time of year is usually cloudy and cold. It was in the lower 20 degrees Fahrenheit in the evenings to a whole 33 degrees during the daytime. South Haven, our home town has a beautiful beach, pier, and downtown but during the winter everything grinds to a slow crawl. South Haven is a larger community with probably 5,000 in the winter but swells to 3 or 4 times that many during the resort season. Saugatuck closes down with many of the shops only open weekends and weekdays from 11 AM till probably 2 PM.

Cold blustery day at the beach. Thirty-three degrees. (f/4, 1/1000 sec., ISO 80, 9.8 mm, 0 ev, Canon G12)

I took a shot down at the beach. As a photographer…the clouds were wonderful and I could see snow squalls over the lake. Snow fences were up to slow the sand from drifting away from the shore as well as preventing the snow from drifting to huge proportions.

I decided to try some black and white photography up the shore toward Saugatuck and they are quite nice I think. Tell me if you think it looks forlorn and cold. It sure does to me.

Late 1800’s pilings into Lake Michigan with an iceberg in the distance. (f/4, 1/800 sec., ISO 80, 13.8 mm, 0 ev, Canon G12)

Okay…time for one more.

The remains of an old wharf at Oxbow beach. (f/3.5, 1/1000 sec., ISO 100, 30.5 mm, 0 ev, Canon G12)

Okay time to head back to the 80 degree Tucson heat, but first a cuddle by the fire and hot mug of coffee with my sweetie 🙂