Survival

live on a Sky Island

Sky islands are isolated mountains surrounded by radically different lowland environments. The term originally referred to those found near the southern borders of the U.S. states of Arizona and New Mexico with the northern borders of the Mexican States of Chihuahua and Sonora such as the Dragoon Mountains featured in this post. The isolation has significant implications for these natural habitats. The American Southwest region began warming up between ∼20,000–10,000 years before the present-day and atmospheric temperatures increased substantially, resulting in the formation of vast deserts that isolated the sky islands.

This sycamore tree survives life in this ephemeral stream of an Arizona “Sky Island” by allowing entire trunks to die off during extended dry spells. The tree is an Arizona Sycamore (Platanus wrightii).

Informative sign at campsite

Reference: wikipedia article “Sky Islands.”

Copyright 2022 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved

Cochise Spring

ancestral Apache land

Interstate 10 between Benson and Wilcox ascends through a field of enormous, eroded granite boulders. Off to the west are the Dragoon Mountains, otherwise known as “Cochise Stronghold.”

Informative sign at campsite

Starting from the campsite is the “Sky Islands Traverse” hiking trail, leading up into the mountains. I wandered from the trail to follow a dry streambed to this residual pool of water, the time being early spring, and this is what remained from the winter rains.

A single butterfly of the genus Anthocharis generally called “Orangetip” for the colorful upper wing tips. These exist throughout the world, here in Arizona they migrate across the desert, obtaining refuge and nourishment from “Sky Islands” such as the Dragoon Mountains

Copyright 2022 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved

Valparaiso Connections VI

Memories of Allende and Italy

Memories of Allende and Italy

Ricardo left a blank between the French Memorial Column of the Parque Italia, seen above.  He made of mention of Salvadore Allende Plaza.  The above photograph includes a graffiti inscribed corner of the set of steps, a platform and the area in front, a plaza, dedicated to the memory of Allende and named “Plaza del Pueblo Salvador Allende Gossens” on the 100th anniversary of his birth, 2008.  The structure was not new, it was called “The People’s Plaza”, the name change was pushed through by Alberto Neumann, communist councilor.  So the suppression and torture (see “Valparaiso Connections V”) was not successful in wiping out the ideals, such as they are.  

The accomplishments of the Allende Presidency are another matter.  The Macroeconomic Populism policies he implemented left the economy in tatters.  We have only to look at the current state of Venezuela to see the entirely expected results of this economic model: hyperinflation followed by stagflation and implosion.  The reactionary military coup of 1973 was, in the essentials, a rational response and a rescue from economic and social disaster until the reaction itself descended into madness.

The following series of photographs are from a neighboring country, Peru, are an illustration of the pressures the political elites of Chile are negotiating.  Taken from the road between the port of Mollendo and the city of Arequipa, on a vast, waterless plain.

Migrants from the Titicaca Region formed a cooperative named “Asociacion Las Caymenos Agro Exportadores”.  It is the named scrawled on the small cement brick wall.

Desperate people from rural areas migrate to cities, form associations or regional clubs based on a common origin, and grab land as a group.   

In this case, it is property useless for the named purpose, “agricultural export.”  What they have is a dream. a dream of the government directing water to the area.  

Towards this end, individuals of the group mark out plots using rocks and build structures from concrete brick and metal roofing.  

This small patch of water is the basis of their desperate hope.

This is a more consolidate group of migrate squatters on the road called “1S” near the turnoff for Lima and a place named La Reparticion.

Dreams for a better life, offset by desperate circumstances bring us back to Valparaiso and the Parque Italia adjacent to Allende Plaza.  The park is a small patch of green, some wonderful trees, with statuary and monuments dedicated to people of Italian heritage.

Beyond the sleeper are statues each on a plinth.  The second from the right is a bust of Giovanni Battista Pastene, a gift from the city of Genoa dedicated October 12, 1961.  Pastene was the first governor of Valparaiso (the region, not the city) in the 16th century.  He came to Honduras in his own ship, enter the service of Pizzaro and, as master of the ship Conception, was a maritime explorer.

P

The Italian refugee collectivity of Valparaiso presented this column, in 1936, surmounted by a bronze sculpture of the Capitoline Wolf feeding the infant founders of Rome, Romulus and Remus.  It is a copy of an ancient statue kept on Capitoline Hill, Rome, Italy.


The wife of Allende was of Italian heritage, Hortensia Bussi.  The 
Fire Brigade Sesta Compagnia di Pompieri Cristoforo Colombo, operates today from Independence Avenue.

Here we have a gathering of friends, sharing the shade and beverages on this Saturday summer morning.

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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
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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
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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.

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.

Saguaro Sunset III

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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.” 

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?

FF6H3057_OctilloSunset_Copyright4Site

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Copyright 2021 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved

Ocotillo Sunset from Saguaro National Park, a diary Part 4

The Nursed Saguaro

This is a retrospective diary of the day I created my print “Ocotillo Sunset.” 

Choices of the Evening

As the Golden Hour approached I had a choice to make.

My perch on Lime Kiln Falls was not safe. As the sunset developed, while I focused on the work, the trail would be lost in the gathering darkness and, even with a headlamp, I decided to avoid picking a way down a 1+ mile pitch dark deserted desert trail. Choosing not to stay, for the second time I packed up and was on the move.

That time of day wildlife is also moving and, in a short time, a rattlesnake, javalina (wild pig of the desert) and jack-rabbit crossed my path. Part of my photography kit is a Sony digital camera with a variable lens carried across the front in a readily accessible “fanny pack.” That day, I walked with the camera out and ready. I needed to be in place for an increasingly promising sunset and so spent a minimum of time with wildlife photography.

Saguaro Sky

I was only half way to the car at the time when the sun was a few degrees above the western horizon and sunlight raked across the desert. The northeast sky lit up. In these perfect moments I captured this personable saguaro on Lime Kiln ridge with a tripod mounted Kodak SLR body with an excellent 50 mm (“portrait”) lens (EF 50mm f/1.2L USM) fitted with a flexible hood. ISO 160, f13 with auto settings choosing 1/5 second.

The ocotillo branches, to the right, caught my eye. “A nice effect”, I thought. There were some high level winds shaping the clouds that evening. The Santa Catalinas are in the distance.

Click any photograph to view Ocotillo Sunset
Saguaro Sky

Nurse Tree

I set up back against the Tanque Verde ridge, the highest point of the road, on the western shoulder.

Front and center was this “adolescent” saguaro still growing in the shelter of a “nurse” Palo Verde tree. This saguaro benefited from the shade and protection of the tree as a seedling and juvenile. It has grown beyond the need for this protection. Eventually, the requirements of the larger cactus will starve the tree and it will be left alone, as you see it in the previous photograph. That is the shoulder of the Rincon Mountains in the distance. The direction if between northeast and east.

I am using the same camera and lens, ISO 160, f13 and auto exposure choosing .6 second. It is twilight.

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Nursed Saguaro and Sunset

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Copyright 2021 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved

Ocotillo Sunset from Saguaro National Park, a diary Part 3

View from the bajada

 

SaguaroEast20051104-4

This is a retrospective diary of the day I created my print “Octillo Sunset.” You can visit “Octillo Sunset” on my online gallery by clicking on any of my blog photographs.

Choices of the Evening

Angled to the Sun

The following photograph of saguaros and distant Santa Catalina mountains is a similar view from Part 2 of this diary.  Notice the saguaro on the right is also on the left in the Part 2 photo. What is happening is I turned the lens more toward the west and the sun. At this angle the lens hood offers less protection, especially as the sun is lower in the west and the time of day is passing to the best light from the lowering sun that rakes across the landscape.  All this means I can bring the lens further to the west even though the lens hood is less effective.

Click any photograph to view Ocotillo Sunset Catalinas, Finger Rock, and Saguaros – CLICK ME to view Ocotillo Sunset.

Finger Rock!!

One reason why I am offering it, is high on the Catalina mountains, in the distance, you can just see a formation called “Finger Rock”.
This time of day, the lower angle of the sun brings out the canyon-shadows.  Finger Rock canyon has a high western wall, you can see it as a high long shadow starting toward the very center of the picture and building up and to the right.

The following photograph is the view of Finger Rock from the floor of that canyon taken during a Spring 2011 Tucson visit. I started hiking in pre-dawn hours to catch the dawn rays on the finger.

Click any photograph to view Ocotillo Sunset Catalinas, Finger Rock, and Saguaros – CLICK ME to view Ocotillo Sunset.

The Importance of Knowing Topography

Another aspect of this photograph is the landscape. There is a sloping bajada (alluvial fan) formed by water breaking up the mountain (in this case the Rincons) and washing it into the valley. It is the reason the saguaros appear to march into the distance. The same effect is used in movie theaters to allow the people in the rear to see over the head of people in the front.

This bajada and the higher elevation is the reason I moved from Sabino Canyon to here for a better position to view the sunset. Here is a nearly identical view, same 200 mm lens, in landscape format. The sloping land of the bajada is more visible.

Click any photograph to view Ocotillo Sunset Catalinas, Finger Rock, and Saguaros – CLICK ME to view Ocotillo Sunset.

Changing the Lens/Sun Angle

Looking in the opposite direction, back over Lime Kiln Falls to the Rincon (mountain) foothills, the lens hood offers maximum protection. The sun is at my back and, even though it is low in the sky at the beginning of the Golden Hour, this aspect gives great color depth at the expense of loss of shadows losing some depth of field.  Still, this is an interesting photograph.

Click any photograph to view Ocotillo Sunset NortheastFromLimeKilnsCopyrightSmall – CLICK ME to view Ocotillo Sunset.

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Copyright 2021 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved

Sycamores and Riparian Space

a Preview of Reavis Ranch

….continued from the chapter “A Peaceful Day at Pine Creek.”

Compare these Arizona Sycamores with the struggling specimen from the last chapter, “A Peaceful Day at Pine Creek.” Many Sycamores such as this one flourish along Reavis Creek, a perennial stream of the eastern Superstition Wilderness. The drainage that feeds Pine Creek is far less acreage than that of Reavis Creek and, when the Pine Creek flow fades in the driest seasons, plants go into survival mode and halt growth and may even slough off limbs to conserve water.

These Sycamores grace a stream that seldom stops flowing, even in the driest of seasons. I had the good fortune to visit the Reavis valley of the Superstition Wilderness in November 2007, when these trees were at peak autumn foliage.

The tree requires a supply of water to thrive. This specimen demonstrates the species growth habit growing multiple trunks with a shape driven by water availability and the environmental context. The multiple trunks may be a desert survival mechanism. In dry periods a trunk or trunks are sloughed off to reduce moisture loss. This is why the Sycamore of “A Peaceful Day at Pine Creek” has a single trunk.”

To encounter a riparian space of the Arizona desert is a revelation, to progress from Sonoran desert spaces assailed by the breath of dry wind, to see the first signs of water in the distance as a welcome fluttering of leaves, to feel a welcome odor of water.

Yes, the first effect of a riparian space on the senses is the smell of water. Let’s finish this post with limbs of the Reavis Creek Arizona Sycamore reaching for the sky.

Click me for the next episode, “Desert Luxuries.”

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