Fall Creek Winter

The magic of ice, water, light

This January 2005 morning dawned cold, the risen sun low to the south of a forested esker ridge, as I suited up for this long planned for photograph.  A Sony DSC-F828, a UV filter and tripod were all I needed to capture this.  That camera model has a integrated flex lens.  I needed to stabilize the lens to achieve this image clarity, depth and sharpness.

The shimmering gloss was achieved by waiting until the sun was above the ridge, shining light shafts through the trees, lighting the water obliquely.

As late as January the stream carries enough heat to create a fog or mist as the air chills after sunset.  This causes twigs to frost up to create those white stick figures on the far bank.  Snowfall from the previous day clings to trees.

Fall Creek freezes from the bottom up.  First the water smoothed boulders accumulate a glaucous ice coat.  Slowly moving water freezes from the edges, in stages, the middle stage an ornate filagree.  The stream narrows downstream where the surface ice first joins.  As the year progresses through February the creek gradually recedes under the ice, replaced by an ice road.

What is an esker ridge?  As the last glaciers melted 10,000+ years ago, the channels carrying meltwater and sediment, under the glaciers, deposited these winding ridged hills.  One of the outcomes was the channel of Fall Creek was altered to flow through the field of eskers among which, in the 19th century, a dam and water mill were created.  It made barrels and furniture.  My former home, in this photograph, was converted from the workshop of that mill.

Christmas Tableau

Cozy Snowmen dance round the candle

My dear wife Pam is the heart of Christmas in our home. Over the years we have collected a treasure of ornaments and knick-knacks she crafts into displays around our one. Pam completed the project well in advance of our grandchild holiday visits, before card writing and gift wrapping.

My contribution is a photographic time capsule. Here is some of my artistic output from this work.

This grouping of five cozy snowmen (three males, two females) are warmly dressed in knit sweaters and stocking caps; the women with long skirts. The five hold hands in a ring, rising from a common platform. We place a cup and devotional candle in the center.

The tiny group evokes community, harmony, amity. I captured them with a Canon EOS 1Ds Mark III dslr, a fixed Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L macro lens mounted on a Manfrotto studio tripod and hydrostatic ball head. Fixed lenses provide the sharpest macros. The mounting allowed precise framing and use of the widest aperture and a low ISO. The light sources were sunlight from a large north facing bay window, a Canon Speedlite 600Ex-Rt and the candle. When used, the flash was angled in various ways toward the ceiling.

I start with a tight shot, maximum aperture. A single figure is in clear focus, the remaining gradually lost in the bokeh. The flash was used. I can almost see then circling around the candle in a winter wind.

Cosy Christmas Snowmen

Here the candle is lighted, aperture narrow to f8 using only the candle and ambient light (no flash). The group is visible within surrounding figures. I backed away and the viewpoint is higher.

The candle light enhances the perception of community.

Cosy Christmas Snowmen

Viewpoint is closer, still only the candle and ambient light. Aperture widened to 3.5. I must remove the hair in lightroom.

Cosy Christmas Snowmen

I backed off, aperture at the max with only the candle and ambient light. The figures are placed in a tableau with other snowmen and a structure, a birdhouse.

Cosy Christmas Snowmen

For this overview I swapped in a Canon 24mm f/1.4L II USM with a flash, aperture f2.2.

Christmas Snowman Display
Christmas 2017 snowman display laid out in our den on top of the entertainment cabinet.

Christmas Angels

Angels I Have Known

This is part of my project to document our Christmas memories through photography. Here we explore the themes angels of the Christmas Story and in our lives.

The angels of our Christmas tree and home remind us of the Jesus birth stories of scripture and the force of love in our own lives.

What comes to mind with the sudden appearance of Gabriel to Mary and that astounding message? Unlike the attempt of Jonah to avoid his calling, the subtext to Mary’s ready acceptance is the risks faced by an affianced woman who becomes pregnant. The book of Deuteronomy (Chapter 22 verses 13 – 21) calls for stoning a woman who presents herself for marriage as a virgin, when she is not.

When learning of Mary’s pregnancy, Joseph’s reaction, as a follower of Mosaic Law, was to divorce her quietly to avoid exposing her to shame. It was a visit from an angel, in a dream, that convinced Joseph to accept Mary (Matthew Chapter 2, verses 18 – 24).

ChristmasAngel-3

An angel visited shepherds, announcing “today in the city of David a savior has been born for you who is the Messiah and Lord.” Suddenly there was a multitude of the heavenly host with the angel, praising God.” Luke Chapter 2, verses 8 – 13.

ChristmasAngel-1

Was it an angel who warned the Magi, in a dream, not to return to King Herod with news of Jesus (Matthew Chapter 2 Verse 12)? Scriptures clearly state (Matthew Chapter 2 verse 13) “the angle of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, ‘Rise, take the child and his mother, flee to Egypt.”

ChristmasAngel-4

People can be angelic in expressing love for others through action. I am thinking of a movie Pam and I viewed last evening, “The Theory of Everything.” Jane Wilde, in her love for Stephen Hawking, stays with him when, shortly after their romance began, he was diagnosed with ALS. The prognosis was death in two years. In all likelihood, Jane gave Stephen his life and work through loving him. He is alive and working today at 75.

Nested Angel

The love of our parents is more common, no less precious.

ChristmasAngel-7

A note on the photographs, I used a Canon EOS-1Ds Mark III dslr with Canon lens EF 50 mm f/1.2L, Canon Speedlite 600Ex-Rt, Manfrotto studio tripod and hydrostatic ball head.  Some of the photographs were hand held.  When the flash was used, it supplemented ambient light from a large north facing bay window.

Christmas Ornaments

approachable alternate reality

Our Nutcracker wooden figure carries a weight of memories.  Early memories are of my sister, Christina’s Sugar Plum Fairy solo for Saint Aidan Parish talent program, Mom’s appreciation of performance of Swan Lake in her pre-child past, a friend of my Mom was a former dancer who taught Christina ballet.  Hanging quietly, these memories swirl around the Nutcrackers open maw.   

Click this photograph for my Fine Art Photography gallery.
Click this photograph for my Fine Art Photography gallery

Ten years ago we observed New Years Day 2009 in the lobby of Winthrop Medical Center, Mineola, New York waiting for the outcome of Mom’s hip replacement surgery grateful the head of Orthopedics was performing the surgery.  That year saw large changes played out in the last four years of her life, she never returned to her home of 52 years.  

From then on her winters were spent with her daughter Diane in Mesa, Arizona.  Mom would call us, amused at the sight of neighbors walking by in 50 degree weather in winter parkas.  She was well known in Albertson for her habit of walking everywhere, it was fortunate she never needed to learn how to drive a car: all she needed was readily at hand.  

I needed to return to Albertson several times a year to our childhood home.  December 2009, Pam and I melded the trip with a day in New York City.  Memories of Mom’s enjoyment of Swan Lake drew me to purchase tickets for The Nutcracker.  The New York City Ballet has performed The Nutcracker every Christmas season since 1954, when I was one year old.  The 56th performance was our first. 

As with Dante’s version of hell, the David H. Koch Theater has rings.  I sprang for the highest ring, the fourth, the least costly and, optimistically, the best vantage to view the formations of grouped dancers.

A full orchestra is dedicated to each performance, the hall acoustics are fabulous, and we were able to appreciate the scenes, the grouped dancers and, even, the soloists.  The last scene of the first act, the Snowflakes (or Snow Crystals), brought tears to my eyes, the music, the scene was impossibly beautiful and brought back some experiences of mine in winter nature.

We were hooked after that, immersed in the very real (i.e., non-virtual) alternate reality at least two Sunday afternoon performances each year, seeing all Tchaikovsky’s ballets in the style of Balanchine for which the New York Ballet is famous.  For the 59th season of The Nutcracker were brought two granddaughters, took fourth third row orchestra seats.  We marveled at the experience.  It included, during intermission, a photo session with a character from the performance.

Here they are with a Snowflake.  This is a scan of one of the 8 x 10 prints we received from this session.

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Nia and Gabby with the Nutcracker Ballet character “Snowflake” during the intermission of a December 2012 performance.

 

We planned to share a performance of Swan Lake with Mom during the September 2013 season, in her 90th year.  Mom passed away in her birth month, June, 2013.  

Click this link for the first posting of this series.

Abstracts: graceful shadows

Shadow and Rock

Two Nature Abstracts, macros of Reavis Creek below the falls

The light of a early spring desert afternoon on a broad rock shelves along the creek.

I spent a day hiking in, two days hiking out and a day of canyoneering to the foot of Reavis Falls. The featured (i.e. “header”) photograph is a view of the inner canyon, the raw material for these abstracts.

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Waterfall Textures

Unrestrained chaos at the foot of Arizona’s highest waterfall

I received notice of IStock acceptance of select photographs from my last posting, “Wilderness Textures”, was accepted.  Click to view my IStock Portfolio, including  photographs from today’s posting included in the acceptance notice.

In this post I move up the Reavis Creek canyon from where the last posting, “Wilderness Textures”, was sited to the foot of Reavis Falls.  With the first photograph you look up at the falls from the head of the canyon carved by the creek over eons.  The rock wall, the canyon “head”, is thick with microorganisms, fungi, mosses.

Reavis Creek Water and Light – CLICK ME for more abstract photography.

In the foreground is a jumble of boulders, some washed down at flood time, spread wide at the bottom of the falls, piled to a jumbled height of 15 feet. 

Talus is the geological term for this formation.  Derived from the Latin word for slope (talutum) the definition, from the Oxford English Dictionary, is “A sloping mass of detritus lying at the base of a cliff or the like consisting of material fallen from its face.” 

 

The ankle bone is also called talus, from the French word for heel, I bring it up because climbing this chaotic, unstable jumble is a way to break your ankle.  The route to Reavis Falls, a climb up one side of Lime Mountain then down the other on a non-existent (lightly marked) trail, is rated difficult and impossible with a broken leg or ankle.  I was alone and very careful to check each rock for stability before putting my weight on it.

A climb of the talus pile was necessary to view the pool at the waterfall base, for this photograph.

A more artistic vertical format version, below, captured with the Canon EF 100mm “macro” lens.  All shots are using the Kodak DCS pro SLR-c (the “c” designated Canon lens compatibility) and a Manfrotto studio tripod with a hydrostatic ball head.  The horizontal format shot was captured with a Canon EF 50mm f/1.4 USM lens.   I prefer the vertical version, artistically, because the talus jumble is all but cropped out while the upper corner of the angular basalt boulder is left as an interesting focal point.  The boulder, not being in the spray, is in focus to contrast with the basalt wall behind the water.

I captured a series of shots from this precarious vantage point, working up from the pool to the brim of the waterfall.

My goals was a composite photo of the falls.  I have yet to succeed with this project.  Maybe I will give it one more shot in spite of having learned the hard lesson the best photographs are a single moment captured in a single frame.

I find in this series the vertical aspect is more artistic.  The water volume, of the falls, at this time of year offers only the finest of sprays with most of the basalt rock wall only moist.  The 100mm “macro” lens allowed me to include only the falling water with a bit of the moist wall for contrast.

In the following version I experimented with color, moving from the narrow range of hues, to more contrast.

Please browse my reasonably priced stock photography. License a photograph, download and use it for your website or blog. Click this link to browse all my Getty IStock Photography offerings.

Or click this link or any photograph or this link to select a print with custom framing from my “Textures” Fine Art Gallery.

Here’s another of my Arizona wilderness adventures, “Racing the Sun.”

Wilderness Textures

Abstract Beauty of the Superstition Wilderness of Arizona

These abstracts are some of my photographic output from four days and nights spent alone in the remote eastern Superstition Wilderness.  For the first three days I met not a soul, all these images were captured on a single afternoon spent in the canyon below Reavis Falls, a jumble of landslides, flood debris and boulders.  There is no trail.  The few people who enter the canyon must negotiate around boulders, crossing Reavis Creek many times.

Reavis Creek Water and Light – CLICK ME for more abstract photography.

My backpack kit included a full sized Manfrotto studio tripod with hydrostatic ball head.  The benefits more than outweighed the effort (I was a lot younger in 2008) when the Canon EF 100mm (macro) lens is mounted on a  Kodak dSLR body, allowing me to take crisp shots.  The tripod legs can be adjusted to precise positions for stability.

Reavis Creek Water and Light – CLICK ME for more abstract photography.

I can feel the bright afternoon desert spring sunshine in this photos.  It was after the spring floods, the flow of Reavis Creek and ample still but slow.  Gathering in pools over the rough stones of the creek bed, the water absolutely clear.

Reavis Creek Water and Light – CLICK ME for more abstract photography.

I held the shot over many minutes, capturing ever changing diffraction patterns.

We see in all these photos, not a homogenous blend of stones from a shared geology.  Reavis Creek washes over diverse geologies: volcanic, ancient igneous extrusions, sedimentary and metamorphic are jumbled together.

Reavis Creek Water and Light – CLICK ME for more abstract photography.

This is a series of photographs of smooth, white igneous boulders with shadows of  still leafless sycamore and cottonwood trees.

Reavis Creek Water and Light – CLICK ME for more abstract photography.

Graceful shadows

Reavis Creek Water and Light – CLICK ME for more abstract photography.

Strong, demonstrative shadows.

Reavis Creek Water and Light – CLICK ME for more abstract photography.

A leaning cairn, not a trail marker….

Reavis Creek Water and Light – CLICK ME for more abstract photography.

A 15 foot high jumble of stones piled at the bottom of Reavis Falls, carried over by the floods.

Reavis Creek Water and Light – CLICK ME for more abstract photography.

A metamorphic conglomerate stone….

Reavis Creek Water and Light – CLICK ME for more abstract photography.

Another metamorphic conglomerate.

Reavis Creek Water and Light – CLICK ME for more abstract photography.

Please browse my reasonably priced stock photography. License a photograph, download and use it for your website or blog. Click this link to browse all my Getty IStock Photography offerings.

Or click this link or any photograph or this link to select a print with custom framing from my “Textures” Fine Art Gallery.

Here’s another of my Arizona wilderness adventures, “Racing the Sun.”

Rincon Peak Summit

Experience the Sky Island view from Rincon Peak

The Rincons are one of 42 Sky Mountain islands isolated from each other by the gradual warming and drying climate changes since the last ice age, 10,000 years ago. While this marvelous environment of oak and pine forests only accessible with much effort on foot, it is literally visible from every point of the Tucson valley and million human inhabitants.

Rincon is Spanish for corner, the mountains are called that from their shape enclosing a space on the west, northwest until recently used for ranching and is now falling into use for tract housing. The mountains themselves are reserved as wilderness, parts in the Saguaro National Park and the Coronado National Forest.

In the past 44 years I was lucky enough to visit the Rincon Wilderness interior three times, shouldering different style backpacks onto the mountain, walking different boots. The first, during college the 1970’s, a party of six left from the end of Speedway, up the Douglas Springs trail. The climb was an exercise in desert survival that several friendships did not survive, replace by new friends met on Mica Mountain. I have no photographs from that experience, only memories and the backpack.

Reconnecting with Arizona in 2004, thirty one years after that first experience, I took no chances. My first attempt on Rincon Peak was a success. Risk and effort were reduced, not eliminated by hiring a guide for the four day trip. We made it to Rincon Peak via the Turkey Creek Trail out of Happy Valley, climbing a mountain buttress, views ever widening and lengthening.

These are some photographs from that experience and a landscape photograph of the peak at sunset, taken the following year.

Sego Lilies bloom among a stricken oak and drying grasses on the Turkey Creek trail. This is an overview of the environment, it is the winter rains that trigger the bloom.

Sego Lilies -- CLICK ME!!!!

We paused while I unpacked my gear to capture Sego Lilies growing along the Turkey Creek Trail.

Sego Lilies -- CLICK ME!!!!
Sego Lilies -- CLICK ME!!!!

Deer Head Spring, at the top of Turkey Creek Trail was a moist spot with no accessible water when we reached it April 27, 2004. With the remains of a gallon of water each we needed to press ahead to Heartbreak Ridge and climb into Happy Valley Saddle were, thankfully, the creek was low and full of algae but usable. Here are my first views of Rincon Peak, looking across the aptly named Heartbreak Ridge and Happy Valley Saddle.

Distant View of Rincon Peak-- CLICK ME!!!!
Telephoto view of Rincon Peak -- CLICK ME!!!!

The view to south from Rincon Peak. The white rocks at lower right forms a Valley of the Moon wall. San Pedro River valley at the root, Mae West Peaks at left margin, Dragoon Mountains with Cochise Stronghold center. Taken around 12:30 on April 28, 2004 as a thunderstorm approached.

View from Rincon Peak -- CLICK ME!!!!

The Rincon Peak view looking south, southwest over the Valley of the Moon to the eastern Tucson Valley and the Sky Islands the Whetstone Mountains (Apache Peak), behind are the Santa Ritas. The works of man are overpowered by sky, rock, distance.

We made a hasty departure in front of the thunderstorm. It was a touch and go decision to attempt the peak that day, we made it with moments to spare.

View from Rincon Peak -- CLICK ME!!!!

April 29, 2004 the morning after reaching Rincon Peak I set up the tripod near our Happy Valley Saddle camp to capture Rincon Peak in early morning sunlight.

Rincon Peak from Happy Valley Saddle, dawn -- CLICK ME!!!!

The day we descended to the X9 Ranch via the Rincon Creek trail. My guide’s grandfather had a homestead at the X9 and his access to the trailhead through private lands opened this route for us. This is a photograph of sunset on Rincon Peak from the X9 ranch. I am looking east from the Rincon (Spanish for corner) made by the massifs Rincon Peak, Mica Mountain and Tanque Verde ridge.

Rincon Peak from the X9 Ranch-- CLICK ME!!!!

The evening of November 2, 2006 I climbed the Saguaro National Park, East, Tanque Verde trail for about 30 minutes to reach this view of Rincon Peak and waited until just before the sun set behind the Tucson Mountains for this shot. Then hiked back to the car in twilight. In my hurry, I tripped on a stepped turn and dove headfirst into a large prickly pear. It was a very painful experience and I regretted damaging the cactus and the loss of and good hiking shirt. There were large spines in my face and tiny, pesky spines covered my chest and back. The large spines are not barbed and come right out. I needed to visit a physician to remove them.

Rincon Peak from the X9 Ranch-- CLICK ME!!!!

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

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.

Copyright 2021 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved

Ocotillo Sunset from Saguaro National Park, a diary Part 7

The Flag Forms

The penultimate 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.

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.

Unanchored, a Flag or Ship

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

Ocotillo Sunset — flag on ocotillo cane poles
Click me for the next post in this series.

Click me for the first post in this series.