White Dove

If you go to Tucson, there are two places that are considered mandatory to visit.  Wait, I’m getting a sense of deja vu.  That’s exactly how I started my post on 1/9 (Watch Dogs) when I wrote about the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, aka mandatory stop number one.  So today’s post must be about mandatory stop number two.  And so it is.  Mission San Xavier del Bac is known as the white dove of the desert.  It’s a stunning building that needs to be seen in person, as no photo can adequately capture it.  But of course a girl’s got to try.

Because of our somewhat aggressive agenda for the day, we made it to the mission at 5:00, right as the sun was starting to go down.  Which unfortunately is the same time the mission closes.  So we had amazing light for photographing the exterior, but the building and grounds were closed.  They take that 5:00 closing very seriously and will pretty much shut the door in your face.  So I photographed like mad before the sun disappeared.  This is the classic postcard shot of the mission.

Feathered Friends

Continuing my critters theme, I have a few more photos from the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum.  Birds are probably the most challenging subject in the animal kingdom, due to their small size and ability to move rapidly.  What’s that called again?  Oh yeah, flying.  I will probably spend the rest of my life trying to get that perfect hummingbird photo.  Oh, it’s possible.  If you set up a blind with your camera on a tripod and use a remote motion trigger.  But I keep torturing myself by trying to do it with a hand-held camera.  They did have a hummingbird enclosure at the museum but I only tried a few photos and all of them sucked.  Royally.

They also had a larger bird enclosure.  I didn’t see very many interesting birds in it but just before we were going to walk out, I spotted a bluebird on the ground.  He hopped around for quite while so I was able to get a few decent images.  Then, a little while later while we were eating lunch out on a patio, a cardinal showed up trolling for dropped crumbs.  <WARNING – Do not feed the birds or squirrels.  It’s bad for them and dangerous for you>  Clearly few people bothered to heed the sign and so the cardinal knew if he hung around long enough, snacks would appear.  I think these are two of the better bird photos I’ve ever taken.  But that’s not saying much.

Sometimes They Pose

Photographing animals, even in the confines of a zoo, is usually frustrating.  When it’s hot they hide in shady spots or disappear entirely behind the scenes.  When they are visible, they are often sleeping.  A sprawled out bear doesn’t make for a great photo op.  The prairie dogs at the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum were alert and practically posing for the camera, but it was still difficult to get a lot of good photos of them.  A single dog was a good target, but the groups were impossible.  One of the mountain lions was awake but mostly obscured by grass while the other one was asleep.  The tortoises were nowhere to be seen.  The otter was in constant motion, diving in and out of the water.  I have a lot of really blurry photos of that.

There were a few exceptions.  The Mexican gray wolf stood at attention, looking out at us.  He seemed a little sleepy and a few of my photos show him with closed eyes, but several turned out well.  The bighorn sheep started out in the shadows at the bottom of the enclosure and then followed a female up the artificial cliff and out of sight, presumably for a little afternoon delight.  None of that made for great photos.  I was just about to walk away when he appeared at the top of the cliff and posed.  I took two shots and realized my compact flash card was full.  Unbelievable.  I quickly switched cards and much to my surprise, the bighorn sheep continued to hold his pose until I was able to take a few more photos.  Maybe it’s in his contract.

Watch Dogs

If you go to Tucson, there are two places that are considered mandatory to visit.  The first is the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum.  The Desert Museum is not a museum in any traditional sense of the word.  It’s part zoo, part botanical garden with a touch of natural history museum thrown in for good measure.  It is a microcosm of the Sonoran Desert.  For this stop on our big Tucson tour, I switched to my 70-200mm zoom lens.  I took a number of photos of the plants and scenery, but most of the ones I liked were of the animals.  I wouldn’t say any of them were great, but many were pretty good.  One of the most entertaining exhibits was a prairie dog burrow.  Prairie dogs are viciously destructive and the scourge of farmers and ranchers.  They are also incredibly cute to watch.

They Shoot Movies, Don’t They?

The second stop on our fabulous outing to Tucson was a kitschy tourist attraction called Old Tucson Studios.  It is used for filming, but as far as I can tell its biggest claim to fame was being the set for The Three Amigos.  Not exactly a Hollywood legend.  Even though everything there is fake, it is a pretty decent simulation of an old western town.  Besides, I like taking photos of fake stuff that looks real.  One of my favorite photos is a fake Costa Rican storefront at the Phoenix zoo.  You would swear it was taken in dusty little third world town.  For this stop I switched to my 16-35mm lens.  Of course the things I found most interesting were the little detail shots.  Fortunately this lens will focus pretty close, as long as you don’t mind standing right on top of whatever you’re trying to photograph.

We didn’t watch the big stunt show they do at the Studio.  It lasts 30 minutes and we still had our primary destinations for the day ahead of us.  We did get sucked into a really bad old mine “tour” given by Terrible Tom.  I think the Terrible part of his name was in reference to his breath.  The tour was a ten minute walk through a cheesy haunted mine, complete with skeletons and strobe lights.  We didn’t spend much time at Old Tucson Studios, but I think I can be comfortable in recommending that it’s not worth the price of admission.

It’s a Small World

Our trip to Tucson yesterday was extremely fruitful, photographically speaking.  I uploaded 451 images to my computer last night.  That’s not a single day record for me, but it’s probably in the top five.  We visited five attractions in Tucson, so the subject matter varies wildly.  I’ve probably got several weeks worth of material, so I should easily be able to keep my resolution to post at least one photo a day for the next month.

The first place we visited was a unique little museum of miniatures – the Mini Time Machine Museum.  It’s actually pretty astonishing to see the time and effort people will spend assembling little tiny houses full of tiny furniture and tiny people.  The attention to detail is truly amazing.  It’s pretty tough trying to photograph tiny little scenes in low light behind glass, even with my great 100mm macro lens, but I did try about 30 shots.  This is the best one.  Keep in mind that this table is only about three inches tall.

This is a wild departure from my usual subject matter, so it was kind of fun.

Jerome Redux

We are off to Tucson, so for today’s photo post I revisited the images I shot in Jerome in October.  I still like the shadow photos best and definitely plan on making another trip to capture more of those.

It’s All in the Details

We had dinner with my dad on Monday.  It’s the first time we’ve seen him since his family Christmas party in Minnesota.  The new photo book I gave him was a big hit, which was a huge relief considering the amount of time I spent on it.  He especially liked the detail photos I did of some of the instruments.  Those are the ones I am most proud of, so it’s nice to see that I’m not the only one who thinks they’re good.  He actually brought the book with him to Phoenix and loaned it to the museum’s shop manager.  Apparently she’s interested in doing some postcards to sell in the store.  So we’ll see if that goes anywhere.  Meanwhile, here are two more images from the book.  If you look closely at the drum on the left, you will see my distorted reflection in it.

Don’t Fence Me In

Last photo (probably) from the old Pioneer cemetery in Congress.

I tried photographing this grave fence from a number of different perspectives, including close-ups of the individual crosses.  None of them gave me the look I was after, but this one came the closest.  Not that I could really describe what that look was.  It seemed obvious to me that this needed to be in black and white.  The green vegetation in the background just distracted from the strong lines of the fence.

We’re going to Tucson on Thursday so hopefully I will have some new images for this weekend.

High Contrast

Since I wasn’t really thrilled with the photo opportunities in Stanton, I decided to mess around with a couple of mediocre images and see if I could do something more interesting with them.  I took a couple of shots of an old rusty wheelbarrow, converted them to black and white and then pumped up the contrast.  I wouldn’t say the results were great, but they were definitely an improvement over the originals.  Here’s the first one:

Then, in observance of the photographic principle that you should always get closer to the subject, I tried this one:

We have Photoshop CS5 loaded on our PC here, but I haven’t really tried it out yet.  My laptop only has CS.  I ordered a book on CS5 and I’m looking forward to trying out some new tricks on my old images.