Arizona Connections

A Span of 32 Years

Life for me changed September 1971 with my matriculation at the University of Arizona. The next five years (4 for a BS degree and 1 year dietetics internship) were busy with study and supporting myself leaving minimal time for travel. Then came 27 years of work and family until in my 49th year of life, with the graduation of my son, Sean, from college planned for January 2003, I anticipated having time and resources to see more of the world. The Arizona postings here flowed the outcomes of this decision that spanned the years 2003 through my Mother breaking her hip just before New Years Day 2009.

Click the links for previous Arizona postings related to the post text.

November 2003 saw our first Arizona tour. Sean was scheduled to be home from USS Observation Island. He served as an engineering officer working for Maersk contracted by the US Navy to operate the ship. We flew into Phoenix and headed north for a tour of the Mogollon Rim onto Winslow, the Painted Desert, Canyon del Chelly, Monument Valley, the Grand Canyon South Rim, the western edge of the Painted Desert north of Flagstaff to finish up at University of Arizona Homecoming.

Homecoming 2003

My 2003 homecoming schedule including a meeting with the head of the Department of Nutrition Sciences, Dr. Houtkooper. We talked of ways to re-connect with the University, leading to an invitation to serve on the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (CALS) Alumni Board of Directors beginning November 2005. From then until November 2008 I flew to Tucson two to three times a year for planning and educational meetings: planning fund raising activities, learning how CALS benefits and connects with the people of Arizona.

These baskets from our home are reminders of my original Arizona connection and of one story of re-connection. The larger, birds, design is from my student years from a first trip to Kitt Peak. It was a gift to my parents and for decades was in their china cabinet, I’d see it each holiday visit and recall driving desert with friends, the road up the mountain, seeing the newly constructed Mayall Telescope building loom over us, the smells and views of the Sonora desert.

Meeting Native American Artists

Working for the CAL Alumni Board the first time, November 2005, I had an idea to approach Native American artists for donations of their work for student scholarships. My first outing to meet artists was to an event at the Saguaro National Monument, west of Tucson, where I met Olvera and Simon Valenzuela. They were a happy couple devoted to continuing a tradition of basket weaving. Olvera was the youngest active weaver from generations of Tohono O’odham women. Her husband, Simon, a Pascua Yaqui, learned weaving from Olvera and her family. I purchased the turtle basket, upper left, and obtained contact information.

Click either photograph for a larger view.
From the bottom clockwise. Birds by Anmelia Juan of Geawuk (Kitt Peak 1972), Turtle by Olvera and Simon Valenquela (Sqguaro National Monument 2005) Stars by Simon Valenzuela for hsi daughter Pasquala Valenquela 16th Birthday (2018). Simon is of the Pascua Yaqui tribe who Learned basketmaking from his wife’s family.

I phoned them the last week of January, hoping to discuss a donation for that November. Simon answered, we talked and I learned he was in mourning for Olvera who passed away the previous week at 33 years of age, leaving her daughters Uneek and Pascuela. I did not bring up the donation and kept in touch. I felt sympathy for Simon’s situation because, twenty one years before, Sean’s mother deserted us and I raise him alone.

Olvera Valenzuela Memorial Scholarship

Over the course of months, communicating with Arizona contacts, I came to the conclusion donations by Native American artists was not a sustainable model for financing donations. The individuals were not prosperous enough and there were too few of them. Instead, during the travels documented here, I made contacts. In the Chiricahua National Monument I met Linda Kelly the owner of Triangle T Ranch who donated stays there. The Searcher had a side farrier (care of horses feet) and donated services.

With the permission of Simon and family we started the Olvera Valenzuela Memorial Scholarship. The application is an essay on the subject: “A Proposal for Native American Cultural Conservation.”  The qualified applicants are Native Americans enrolled at the University of Arizona College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (CALS) in a course of study leading to a baccalaureate. The designation “Native American” is defined for the purposes of these criteria as being a documented member of a North American tribe. It was an annual award of $500 to the successful applicant. To start I contributed $1,000 to fund it for two years.

Over the next year, Simon and I contacted potential donors, but were unsuccessful in funding the scholarship beyond two years. In the meantime, when I visited Tucson for CALS board meetings Simon and I would do outings with his daughters. Here is one from the 2006 University of Arizona Homecoming football game. This is after the game, a win for the team, with the field covered in celebrating fans.

The third basket of the photograph, a stars design, was raffled to fun Pascuala’s sixteen birthday celebration in 2018 and I won!!!!

Cheers!!

Copyright 2019 All Rights Reserved Michael Stephen Wills
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Homecoming Parade 2003

flying over the parade

In 2003 I was 50 years old, my son Sean graduated college and started his first job and we made time for a tour of Arizona together in November. The timing was perfect for me to take in the University of Arizona (U of A) Homecoming, my first since graduating 1975.

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One absolutely positive memory from my time at the U of A was trying out for freshman cheer squad when I first arrived in Tucson, somehow being chosen and then serving for the fall and spring terms. So, when I received an invitation of the cheer alumni events I accepted and planned to be there in Tucson for November 7 and 8.

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November 7 there was a reception for cheer alumni and current squad members. Everyone was welcoming and friendly, as you would expect, and I learned a bit about the younger members, how many were on academic scholarships.

ArizonaCheer2003

The squad advisor, Phoebe Chalk, and I chatted briefly. She responded, “We have photographers,” and I floated the idea of my taking photographs during the parade so I let that drop with the intention of doing it, anyway.

ArizonaCheer2003

I came prepared the next day with a Sony Cybershot F828. It was “Sony’s flagship prosumer digital camera” at the time. It worked well that day, the variable lens was especially helpful.

ArizonaCheer2003

At the staging site I encountered a problem. The cheer squad headed the parade, behind the University President with the cheer alumni well behind. My solution was to approach Peter Linkins, the outgoing University President, with a request to photograph the cheer squad.

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He said, “OK”, made a phone call and I walked up to the squad. They remembered me from the reception and I was on my way, “embedded” for the parade.

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I walked alongside and on the alert.  As we crossed passed the Flandrau Science Center and Planetarium and into the intersection with Cherry Avenue the squad broke formation for a stunt.  Three men formed the “base”, they were  J. Justin VandenBerg, Ricardo Abud (captain) and Robert Scoby, around a “flyer”, Taylor Hendrickson, and launched her into the air, above the pavement.

ArizonaCheer2003

My sense of amazement, awe and concern is reflected in the reactions of the team members.  Taylor was thrown more than 15 feet high for a complete flip to land in the arms of the three base members.  I call this image, “Mind.”

ArizonaCheer2003

They did it again and I was more prepared to capture the instant of launch.  “Aerialists,” is the title of this image.  The next flyer to launch was Kristen Ortega, here standing on the shoulders of her partner.

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Kristen was launched in front of the review stand.  “Grace,” is the image title.  The three base members are the same.

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Here is the rest of the parade.

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I posed with the cheer squad afterwards.

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Click link for another posting about Arizonians, “Portrait of a Navajo Guide.”
Click link for another posting about Arizonians, “History and Ghosts of the Triangle T Ranch.”

Copyright 2018 All Rights Reserved Michael Stephen Wills

Afterglow, Saguaro National Park

The Flag Forms

Here is a postscript for my retrospective diary of the day I created my print “Ocotillo Sunset.” You can visit “Ocotillo Sunset” in my Online Gallery by clicking on any photograph .

In near total darkness, the last sunlight only enough for the far western sky, these are the last shots of this series.

Click photograph to view Ocotillo Sunset in my Online Gallery

Afterglow I

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Click photograph to view Ocotillo Sunset in my Online Gallery

Afterglow II

The final result of the day’s work, “Ocotillo Sunset.”

Click photograph to view Ocotillo Sunset in my Online Gallery

Ocotillo Sunset — flag on ocotillo cane poles

Click me for the first blog in this series.

Ocotillo Sunset from Saguaro National Park, a diary Part 7

The Flag Forms

The final posting of my retrospective diary of the day I created my print “Octillo Sunset.” You can see a large version of “Ocotillo Sunset” by clicking on any of my blog photographs.

The Flag in Formation and Realization

Then, for reasons I can only speculate about, a spectacular shape came together in the clouds. In the following photograph I have yet to recognize, to see, this cloud sculpture. Do you see part of “Ocotillo Sunset” coming into shape? As far as I remember, at the time I had only a dim realization of what was forming in my view finder and in front of me.

Click photograph to view Ocotillo Sunset in my Online Gallery

The Flag Forms

Then, I changed camera orientation and shifted the view a few degrees to the left and there it was: a coherent shape of something. Here it is in full, untethered.

Click photograph to view Ocotillo Sunset in my Online Gallery

Unanchored, a Flag or Ship

The final result of the day’s work, “Ocotillo Sunset.”

Click photograph to view Ocotillo Sunset in my Online Gallery

Ocotillo Sunset — flag on ocotillo cane poles

Click me for a Postscript to this series.

Click me for the first blog in this series.

Ocotillo Sunset from Saguaro National Park, a diary Part 6

Shooting As The World Turns

This is a retrospective diary of the day I created my print “Ocotillo Sunset.” You can see a large version of “Ocotillo Sunset” by clicking on any of my blog photographs.

Shooting as the World Turns

In Part 5, we enter the final phase of this day’s work with darkening of the land while in the sky sunlight reflects off high clouds. The length of this moment when twilight is over, just before night falls, varies with latitude and time of year. Near the poles (high latitude) this light can last for days while here, at about 32 degrees north, it is less than 15 minutes. As I wrote in Part 4, after this light, the desert is absolutely dark. This is why I chose to set up by the roadside.

In the following two photographs I experimented with camera placement and foreground elements. Starting in Part 4 I became aware of Ocotillo branches, using them for the effect of reaching for and, here, anchoring the clouds.

Click photograph to view Ocotillo Sunset in my Online Gallery 

Saguaro Sunset II

Lead Around by an Ocotillo

These earth-bound Ocotillo branches lead me to the darkened earth. How much to include in the shot? I searched for a balance between the vastness and complete blackness and needed a point of interest. Time was running out.

Click photograph to view Ocotillo Sunset in my Online Gallery

Saguaro Sunset III

Click me for the first blog in this series.

Click me for the next, and final, installment of this series.

Ocotillo Sunset from Saguaro National Park, a diary Part 5

High Altitude Clouds

This is a retrospective diary of the day I created my print “Ocotillo Sunset.”  Here is the link for Part 4.

Here’s the first blog in this series.

Choices of the Evening

The next few blogs are a set of photographs from the developing sunset of that November evening. Once set up, my practice is to stay in place until there is nothing left of capture; all the while evaluating the results and adapting the camera settings, framing and lenses to the environment.

Happening in the Twilight

By this point, twilight is over and only the sky is lit. According to file metadata posted at capture, thirteen minutes passed from the following photograph till the last. I mounted my camera on a simple tripod, purchased from a mall chain store, with the standard controls. I prefer to specify ISO and set it at 160 (the lowest value) throughout. The sky was calm and, with the tripod, I used the aperture setting with higher values. This was f13 / 1/60.

Click photograph to view Ocotillo Sunset Saguaro Sunset – CLICK ME to view Ocotillo Sunset.

The clouds are forming up.  I need some foreground.  Vastness on vastness is a bit much. Those are the Tucson Mountains in the distance. If you look closely, on the right the Tucson Mountains dip down, revealing Kitt Peak, at least 60 miles distant. It is the defined peak on the left of that range. In early morning light, the Mayall 4 meter telescope building gleams white on that point.

The sun illuminates different levels of clouds as the earth turns toward night. These are altostratus cloud types, at 6,500 to 20,000 feet, formed by strong winds.

The elements of my print “Ocotillo Sunset” are coming together.  Do you recognize them from this image of my print?

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Click this link for Part 6