Sunday, March 30, 2014

Print of the Week


This was from Springs Preserve in Las Vegas. There was a small waterfall amidst all the desert terrain and bees were visiting it, presumably to drink. I like the detail, including the drops of water on the bee's back.

Taken with the K3 and 100 mm macro lens.  The photo is cropped significantly, but the K3 has plenty of resolution (24mp) for that. I printed this one 11 x 15" (on 13x19 Exhibition Fiber).

See all my Print of the Week posts

Saturday, March 29, 2014



When we were in Phoenix I heard someone talk about how much "wasteland" there was in North America. When you drove from Canada to Phoenix you passed all this land that had no people, no industry, no cattle, no agriculture - not good for "anything".

After all, if it's not good for people, what good is it?

It is this attitude, so unconsciously pervasive, such a deep seated part of our culture, which is destroying our planet.

To me, Phoenix is the wasteland. Housing developments and malls and parking lots and freeways, what are they good for? Just more bloated, polluted, over consuming anthills.

Strip mines are the wasteland. Cattle stripped countrysides are the wastelands. Pesticide laced, fertilizer drenched monocultures are the wastelands.

But mountains and deserts, the last places man has not found a "use" (or more accurately "abuse" for) - these are not wastelands. They are places of incredible beauty, immense value, where nature can have a tiny space to breath. Places man has not (yet) turned to wasteland.

We tell our kids "you have to share". Who will tell homo sapiens that they must share?

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Print of the Week

This photo got a good response from Shelley and on 500px and it seemed suitable for a big print so I thought I'd give it a try.

We were hiking the overlook loop at Dead Horse Point State Park near Moab and the trail went by this tree, a Utah Juniper. The trail was a bit lower than the base of the tree so I could shoot upwards to isolate the tree against the sky. And it didn't hurt that the sky had a few clouds to make it more interesting. The tree itself had an interesting trunk, and unlike many of these junipers, it had a fairly simple shape. As usual, I grabbed my shots fairly quickly so Shelley didn't get too fed up waiting for me!

Utah juniper

I printed it 16 x 20 on Exhibition Fiber and I think it came out quite well. As always, if anyone is interested in a print of one of my photos, let me know.

When I went to print it I found that it wasn't as sharp as I'd like. I went back to my originals to see if I had taken another shot that was sharper. Luckily I had thought about the depth of focus at the time and taken another shot at f16 which was significantly sharper. (Although I hadn't paid attention to the shutter speed, which ended up at 1/90th, a little slow for handheld. If I had noticed I probably would have bumped this up and shot at ISO 400 instead of 200. The shake reduction system helps in getting away with this kind of thing.)

See all my print-of-the-week posts

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Mule Deer

After a stop at Urban Ground Coffeehouse in Swift Current (recommended) we headed home on the final leg of our road trip. Shelley reminded me that this was the stretch where I photographed the snowy owl at the beginning of the trip so I pulled out the camera and big lens and kept it ready to go on my lap. Which usually just about guarantees I won't see anything :-) I saw a few hawks and one snowy owl but they were either too far away or not in a good place to stop. We managed to stop near one hawk but typically it flew away as soon as I got out of the car.

As we started down the hill at Saskatchewan Landing I spotted a group of deer. I wasn't going to bother stopping since they're pretty common, but the light and position were good so I asked Shelley (who was driving) if she could stop. There was nowhere convenient to stop so we turned around at the bottom of the hill and drove back. But then there was nowhere to stop on the way up the hill so we again drove past, turned around, and this time managed to find a half reasonable place to stop near the top of the hill. (Thankfully, Shelley is a good sport about these hijinks!)

Amazingly the deer were still in the same spot. I jumped out and headed down hill. I managed a few photos before they decided they weren't happy about me and headed down into the valley. I got a few more photos as they climbed the far side of the valley.

Mule Deer

Mule Deer

Mule Deer

Mule Deer

I was lucky to have a fence post to rest on. Even with stabilization in the lens (Sigma 150-500 at 500) and in the camera (Pentax K3) it's still a challenge to hold a long telephoto steady.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

On the Road

We're on our way back to Saskatoon. Today we drove from Rock Springs, WY to Billings, MT.

The highpoints for the day were the pronghorn along the road, including some big groups, although, as usual, they didn't really cooperate with the photography, and Old Town Coffee in Lander, definitely one of the better coffee shops we encountered. Don't miss the Nutella croissants :-)




Lovely animals.

Tonight we're in Billings, back at the Northern Hotel (recommended). Had a great supper at their Ten restaurant.

Monday, March 10, 2014

More Moab

With Shelley's cold slowing her down (slightly) we spent our last few days in Moab doing some day hikes and visiting some different areas. Here are a few photos:




Utah juniper





Tomorrow we start our way home, slowly back to the land of snow.

See all 42 photos as a slideshow or overview

See also Shelley's blog post

Sunday, March 09, 2014

Fish & Owl Canyons Hike

Before this trip I had browsed through my collection of books looking for possible hikes to do in this area. One of the ones I had come across was the Fish and Owl Canyons loop in Peter Potterfield's Classic Hikes of North America. I like loop trails since you avoid retracing your steps. A lot of the hikes down here involve require a high clearance four wheel drive vehicle, which doesn't match our Prius too well! This one only had 5 miles of dirt road which I figured we could always hike if necessary. And unlike our higher mileage Superstition hike, this loop is only 27 km (17 miles) and we allowed three days so we had lots of time to explore.

The book talks about how popular and busy this hike is and recommends making a reservation months in advance. (They only allow a limited number of hikers.) That doesn't fit with our unplanned travel but it was off-season and mid-week so we hoped we'd get in. We needn't have worried - we were the only hikers, which suited us perfectly!

follow the cairns
follow the cairns

The descent into Owl Canyon was great. You descend quite a long way on rocky terrain beside small waterfalls. There's a little scrambling but the route is fairly well marked with cairns (piles of rock). One of the several Anasazi ruins on the route is right at the beginning, at the start of the descent into the canyon. We only managed to spot two of the ruins despite being on the lookout for the others. They are often somewhat hidden and blend in well.

Anasazi ruins
1000 year old Anasazi ruins

Once into the canyon it levels out, although there are still a number of drops that you negotiate to one side or the other. Due to the recent rain there was a fair bit of water flowing in the upper Owl Canyon. We camped where Owl Creek joins Fish Creek. After setting up camp we explored a little further down Fish Creek.

Although there hadn't been any rain in the forecast, it clouded up and rained on us a couple of times this first day. We hadn't brought rain gear so we were thankful it didn't amount to much. There's also the risk of flash floods in the canyon to worry about, although most of the time it would be easy to get high enough above the creek to be out of danger. The next two days we had beautiful sunny weather. The desert gets cold at night though, especially this time of year, and we had frost both nights. And there was still ice along the creek in a few shady spots.

waterfall and ice

The next day we hiked up Fish Creek to where it splits, near the ascent route. There were a few campsites here and a few more closer to the ascent. Shelley had a cold and wasn't feeling that great so after we set up camp I wandered up the other branch of Fish Canyon and took way too many photos, mostly of the amazing reflections of the canyon walls in Fish Creek.


The third day it didn't take long to ascend out of the canyon and hike a few kilometers back to the car. The "tricky" bit at the top of the canyon isn't really that bad, but I could see how it might unnerve someone scared of heights and carrying an overweight pack.

a few tricky moves to exit the canyon

We saw a really interesting range of vegetation. On the plateau above the canyons it's a juniper and pinyon pine forest with some cactus and sagebrush. In the wetter parts of the canyon there are cottonwood trees and willows and even cattails and reeds. There are even beavers in Fish Creek. We didn't see any actual beavers but we came across one dam and various chewed trees and bushes. It's amazing what a wide range beavers have, and they were even more widespread before we almost wiped them out to make felt hats.


We'd definitely recommend this hike - beautiful scenery and fun hiking. Because of the scrambling I wouldn't want to carry a big heavy pack on this route - go light and you'll enjoy it a lot more.

Shelley and Andrew at the top of the canyon

See all 66 photos as a slideshow or overview

See also Shelley's blog post

Saturday, March 08, 2014

Arches National Park

Ever since reading Edward Abbey's Desert Solitaire (as a kid) I've wanted to visit Arches National Park - where he worked as a park ranger while writing the book. We've been through Moab before but haven't stopped before this trip. The entrance and visitors center for Arches is just a few miles outside of Moab. It's funny because Desert Solitaire makes where he worked sound very remote and wild. And it probably was back then, but now it's a big tourist attraction with a steady stream of cars even in the off season.

We drove around the paved roads in the park, stopping at the viewpoints, and then hiked the Devil's Garden loop. It starts off as a wide flat well maintained trail to Landscape Arch (perhaps the biggest arch in the world). After that it gets a little rougher to Double O Arch. From there you can take the "primitive" trail to return. It was a lot of fun. There were a few parts that involved some scrambling, but nothing scary. The trail is a little hard to follow at times, but if you make sure you follow the cairns (piles of rocks) it's fine.

Arches is well worth a visit if you're in the area.


Balanced Rock

Double Arch

Double O Arch


See all 22 photos as a slideshow or overview

See also Shelley's blog post

Friday, March 07, 2014

Canyon de Chelly

On our way from Winslow to Moab we stopped at Canyon de Chelly since we were going right by. We didn't have a lot of time so we just drove the south road as far as the White House ruins viewpoint. It's quite spectacular and it would be nice to explore a bit more, although there are people living in the canyon so it's not exactly wilderness.


There were puddles from the recent rain that added an interesting visual element. The reflected blue sky contrasted with the color of the rock.


And a chance for more reflections :-)

reflection of Shelley

The White House ruins were quite impressive, even from the viewpoint. It would be nice to hike down to see them up close.

White House ruins

The layers of rock made some amazing patterns.


I like the color of the red rock, but I converted a few of my photos to black and white to emphasize the shapes and lines more.


Ansel Adams also made some black and white images of Canyon de Chelly as part of a commission by the National Park Service.

See all 13 photos as a slideshow or overview

See also Shelley's blog post

Winslow La Posada

We hoped to climb at Jack's Canyon near Winslow, AZ. There is supposed to be nice camping, which was the original plan, but the forecast was for rain so I took a quick look for other options, not expecting too much from a small town. I discovered La Posada, a historic hotel and gardens designed by Mary Colter. We couldn't resist stopping overnight to check it out.

Shelley arriving at La Posada

The interior of the hotel was beautiful, especially considering what it's been through. It opened in 1930. After it closed as a hotel in 1957 it was gutted and used as offices. All the furnishings were sold and all the interior decorating was removed / replaced. Since being bought and rescued in 1997 they have done a great job of gradually restoring it to something like its former elegance, using original items when possible, and similar or reproductions otherwise.

the light in the entrance to our room

It looked like the gardens would also be lovely at the right time of year. Now, it was quite bare and brown. Just a few flowers poking up.


I don't know the significance of the metal animal sculptures, whether they are original or new. They were fun, though. In addition to the camel and the donkeys, there was also a life sized giraffe.


You might know Winslow from the Eagles song, Take It Easy, that contains the line "Standing on a corner in Winslow Arizona".

Winslow also turned out to be an Amtrak stop on the Southwest Chief route. (Originally, before the automobile took over, tourists came to the hotel primarily by train.) Someday I'd like to do a triangle route on the Southwest Chief and California Zephyr, Chicago - Los Angeles - San Francisco - Chicago. We've done the Los Angeles - San Francisco section before but the rest would be new.

We didn't end up climbing here because the weather was too rainy. That'll have to wait for another trip.

See all 6 photos as a slideshow or an overview

See also Shelley's blog post

Thursday, March 06, 2014


I have mixed feelings about Sedona. On one hand it's a beautiful location with fantastic rocky scenery, good restaurants, and great hiking trails. On the other hand the hillsides are overrun with the mansions of the rich which frankly turns me off a little.

We hadn't decided our plans in advance so we ended up booking a place to stay in Sedona at the last minute (that morning). Trip Advisor showed The Inn on Oak Creek as the #2 rated hotel, and the last minute price was comparable to a chain, so what the heck. I booked through Expedia because that's what came up with the best price. Sometimes hotels treat bookings through web sites like Expedia as second class, but The Inn cheerfully upgraded us to a creek side room without us even asking. We liked the place so much we immediately booked two more nights. They couldn't give us the same room for the third night so they upgraded us again to the huge over the top fancy suite for that night (at no extra charge!) We'd definitely recommend this place.

view from our balcony
the view from our balcony

We were still a little worn out from our hiking and climbing and other activities in Phoenix so the rainy weather in Sedona wasn't a big problem - it gave us an excuse to relax a bit for a change. We still got in a 15 km hike - a loop including the scenic Highline Trail. We ate at Elote and Rene - both very good and both within walking distance of the inn.

Shelley on the Highline Trail
Shelley on the Highline Trail

One of the best parts of travel is serendipity - take advantage of it when you can. About a year ago when we were on our round-the-usa train trip we stopped at the Holland Hotel in Alpine Texas (recommended) to hike in Big Bend National Park (also recommended). Chris Jameson, a young singer/songwriter played at the hotel and we were pretty much the whole audience. (Alpine is a tiny town, and it was off season.) We really enjoyed his music and bought his cd's and listen to them fairly often. Fast forward to this trip. We happen to stop in Sedona, find a place we really like, stay a few extra days, get some bad weather, and visit Page Springs Cellars. While we're tasting wine, we happen to see that they have live entertainment and Chris Jameson is playing the next night. So we came back to hear him and had a great evening sipping wine and listening to great music. Again, we were pretty much the whole audience (although other people were there for the wine). It turns out that he's now living in Jerome, AZ - not far from Sedona.

Of course, serendipity doesn't always work so smoothly. A few years ago when we were traveling in Australia we saw posters for The Pirates of Penzance, a Gilbert and Sullivan musical, that happened to be playing that night. I convinced Shelley it would be good and we bought tickets. It turned out to be a bunch of very young local school kids dressed up as pirates singing and dancing (and falling down). I think we were the only members of the audience that weren't parents! Shelley will never let me live it down.

We also stopped at a birding area just near the winery. We again saw northern cardinals but the best photo I got was pretty poor - just enough to prove we saw them! There was a big group of great blue herons that were fun to watch and photograph. I don't think I've ever seen them in groups in a dry field or perched in the top of tall trees. Maybe they're migrating?

Northern Cardinal
colorful Northern Cardinal

Great Blue Herons
Great Blue Herons

See all 31 photos as a slideshow or overview

See also Shelley's blog post

Saturday, March 01, 2014

Phoenix Zoo

One more Phoenix attraction that we hadn't visited up till now was the zoo. I love zoos so I'm not sure why we hadn't made it here yet. We passed signs for it on the way to the botanical gardens (they're close). Walking to the entrance you pass over a bridge over a pond and I figured it was a good sign when I was taking pictures of ducks and turtles before I even got inside :-) Half a day wasn't long enough to see the whole zoo, but I would say this is one of the better zoos we've been to. It's quite large and many of the animals are in quite natural settings.

quizzical duck

one of the unofficial residents of the zoo (not in a cage) love those ears!



turtle convention
turtle convention (more unofficial residents)


See all 39 photos as a slideshow or overview