Sunday, February 22, 2009

Back to the Butcher Jones trail

A little over 2 years ago, I hiked along the Butcher Jones trail. It follows the shoreline of Saguaro Lake for a little ways around the lake. Back then I wound up practically running all the way back to the truck because the gate at the park entrance is closed at sunset. This time I thought I was getting a much earlier start, but I still didn't have time to go everywhere I wanted to go. Still, I went far enough. My feet and ankles ache today.

There's an interesting dead tree near the beginning of the hike. Here's one of its branches. What does it look like to you?

There was a homogeneous layer of high, thin clouds all day. They are, in my opinion, the worst clouds you can have for landscape photography. They seem to be pretty good for closeups of flowers, though. Anyway, there are not any spectacular pictures, and I'll blame that on the clouds. Here's one that turned out pretty good, but the sky is very blah.

HDRI's even look sort of blah.

I like this blue lupine photo, though.

Remember the Desert Belle? It's a paddle wheel boat I got a picture of a few weeks ago. Here's a picture of it out on the lake, loaded with tourists.

Near the far end of the trail, a bald eagle flew by right in front of me. I didn't have time to check camera settings; I just snapped a few pictures. The shutter speed was set on 1/30 of a second. Normally, the image stabilization can handle that, but I was trying to follow a flying bird. All of the pictures are blurred.

The clouds resulted in some nice sundogs.

I made one 3D picture. It's hard to do that with a lake scene. I edited out the boat that was moving, but I couldn't do anything about the wakes.

My plan from the beginning was to make an @trip map of this trip. I didn't put the exact same set of pictures in the trip and in the web album, so if you're OC about seeing all of the pictures, you'll have to look at both of these. Also, if you click on the @trip map, you'll see elevation changes and how long it took me to make progress along the trail. I moved pretty slowly, though. I had to stop a lot to take pictures.


Friday, February 20, 2009

Another Arizona sunset

Sweetums and I went for a ride after work today. We stopped in Tortilla Flat and got ice cream cones. Then we continued on east for a few miles and stopped to watch the sunset. There were a lot of mosquitoes out there. I think one landed on my camera lens for several pictures. At least I hope that's what that smudge in the corner of some of the pictures is.

I ordered a Canon UV filter to protect the new lens but it hasn't arrived, yet. I would like to get a polarizing filter, but Canon's 72mm polarizing filter is about $230. That rattling noise you hear is my severely boggled mind. Maybe I'll just put a $20 one on there and see how bad it is. I've heard of people using Polaroid sunglasses, but I was never able to get that to work.

That reminds me of something Skid and I discovered about a year ago. Don't put a UV filter and a polarizing filter on your lens at the same time. It really messes up the resolution. I don't know why. Maybe it's because I use cheap filters.


Thursday, February 19, 2009

New lens

Ever since I got my Rebel, I've wanted a lens that would let me zoom in more. I kept putting off buying one, though, because I didn't think I would go to all the trouble of swapping lenses while I was hiking. I was looking at the Canon web site a few days ago and saw that they have an 18mm - 200mm lens. That would give me about as much zoom range as my old S3 IS. So I bought it. I can see the drawbacks that were mentioned in the review I read (Chromatic aberration, vignetting), but I am still very pleased with the zoom capability. I haven't played around with it enough to decide if I can take pictures that look as good as with my other lens. Also, the camera came with software to correct for some of the lenses problems, but I haven't had a chance to play with that, either. If fact, today was the first day I took pictures of anything besides the cat and Lindsey with it. I went out to Bulldog Canyon and took pictures of rocks and cacti and mountains for a while. I made a few 3D photos. Here's a picture of the new lens, taken with the new lens.

Yes, I am that fast. This is zoomed out all the way:

And zoomed in all the way from the same spot.

Here's a sample of a 3D picture. Remember, crossed eyes method.


Sunday, February 15, 2009

Snow day

I'm glad I got out and took some pictures of the fluffy clouds we had yesterday. Today it was overcast, gloomy, and dreary looking. It looked like winter, but it was in the 50s and calm, so it didn't feel very wintry. Sweetums and I went up to Payson, and continued on up to the Mogollon Rim. I was surprised to see how much snow there was up there. It was about 50 up there, too. No breeze. I was comfortable taking pictures in a flannel shirt.

At the first place we stopped, I thought I was going to walk to an area nobody had been to yet, to get pictures of pristine snow. I soon found out why nobody had walked there. I grew up in Houston, so I don't know much about snow. When I got to the part where nobody had walked, my feet sank at least a foot before they stopped. After 3 or 4 steps, I felt the snow in my shoes. That is not a pleasant feeling. I stopped there and took a few pictures.

There were some really pretty patches of snow on rocks and icicles along the side of the highway. I didn't want to get run over while taking pictures, though, so I didn't get any of the really cool looking stuff. Still, I think I got enough pictures of snow to last about a year.


Saturday, February 14, 2009

Quest for Whirpool Rock

No, I didn't misspell it. Open Google Earth and search for it. You'll see. Anyway, I was looking at things in Google Earth Saturday morning and saw Whirpool Rock. I had to find out what it was. I got the coordinates and headed out there.

There was a fair amount of people out riding ATVs and dirt bikes at the Rolls. Most of them seemed to be families riding together and not teenagers taunting death, so they were pretty well behaved.

I wanted to park as close to Whirpool rock as I could. I drove through some really tight spaces to get to where I parked. I got within 3/4 of a mile but didn't want to park there because it was also the highest spot. I didn't want to drive further down that road because I wasn't sure I could get back up. So I went back to a spot that was a mile away but lower altitude. I had to descend over 300 feet, but most of that was on a road so it wasn't bad.

I got a later start than I should have, so I was racing sunset to get there. I wish I wouldn't do that.

When I was about as far as I was going to go on the road, I heard a rattlesnake off to my left. It seemed a little cool for rattlers (mid 50's). I was hoping I'd be able to find it and get pictures. Then I noticed my phone vibrating and wondered who could be calling and boy did they have bad timing. Then I remembered that I had set a rattlesnake sound as my text message alert. The text message was the "I'm OK" message from my SPOT (I send it to myself to be sure it's working, though I'm not always in a place that I can receive it). I changed the alert so I won't be thinking it's just a text message whenever I hear a rattler.

There were a few more wildflowers in bloom. They were small so it would have taken a couple of minutes to get a picture and I was in a hurry. I'll have to get them next time.

It was very pretty out there. I took at least a dozen pictures of Four Peaks but I tried not to put all of them in the album. Here's one. See the bright cliffs in the lower right corner? That's where I was when I was taking pictures of Cottonwood Creek last Wednesday.

I got to the coordinates for Whirpool Rock, and this is what I found.

That's right. Nothing. I think maybe my coordinates are a little off. I need to plan on searching the area for 2 or 3 hours. A lot of washes cut through there and so you have to climb and descend 50 feet to go 100 feet in any direction. Next time, I'm going on the ATV so I can park much closer.

I had to start back to the truck. I'm not familiar with that area and I didn't want to be lost in the dark. Since I had used my GPS to get to the "rock", I could use it to find my truck if I had to, but I wanted daylight to find the best route. I did find a much better route for going back (less up and down) than I took on the way out there. The temperature was dropping and my arms were cold and stiff, but still I was sweating too much to put on a flannel shirt. I was racing the sunset back but I couldn't help but stopping to take pictures now and then. Also, all the ATVs and dirt bikes were gone, and the power boats were off the lake. Whenever I stopped, I heard the complete silence of the desert. I love listening to that.


Thursday, February 12, 2009

Snow and water

When I drove out to Cottonwood Creek yesterday, I could see snow on the north side of the Superstition Mountains. You'll see that in the pictures.


Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Snow on Four Peaks, water in Cottonwood Creek

Well, there, I said it all in the title. That was easy. No, Kyle didn't go. I was going mostly to look around and maybe snap a few pictures. One hundred, thirty-nine pictures later...

There was water in the creek. I made a short movie. You can watch that while I work on the pictures.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Snow, paddleboat

In Sunday's pictures, there is a picture of a paddle boat in Saguaro Lake. Turns out you can take cruises on the lake on the Desert Belle.

Four Peaks was shrouded in clouds all day today. You could only catch glimpses of the lower edges of the snow. On the way home from work I could see snow on mountains east of the valley. Kyle and I went out there to see if I could get some pictures. It looked like we would have a view of some snow-topped mountains if we went down Peralta road. When we got down there, though, the snowy mountains were blocked by closer mountains. I didn't get any pictures of snow. I took about 40 pictures of other stuff. Here's a couple of them.


I told Kyle that there is probably a lot of water flowing in Cottonwood Creek and we ought to go check it out tomorrow. He said he's not falling for that again.

Monday, February 09, 2009

A cloudy day

We had some storms on Sunday. It rained pretty hard around noon, with some hail thrown in. There were a lot of pretty clouds around, so I spent the afternoon driving around taking pictures of them. I had to drive around so I could get different foregrounds for the clouds. Also, I was trying to get pictures of the snow on Four Peaks, but the clouds never lifted from there.

If you follow the blog, you'll see some places you recognize, but they'll have clouds for a change.


Sunday, February 08, 2009

3D pictures from yesterday

I took a couple of 3D pictures yesterday. I finally got around to putting them together (it's raining). The clouds even look like they are behind the mountains in the first one.

Saturday, February 07, 2009

Mapping another trail

I've wanted to go back to the trails at the end of Meridian road for a while. There's one that I haven't followed all the way and I wanted to map the trails up to the saddle on that side. The weather forecast said it was supposed to rain today. It was beautiful this morning, though, so I thought I had better get out there before the rain arrived.

I also wanted to make another trip to put on my @trip page. I'm down to 6 trips in the top 16 of their featured trips. I almost gave up on creating a trip this time, though. Their software crashed twice. It seems pretty unstable. It does strange things to my pictures files if I have it and Picasa open at the same time. Fortunately, it doesn't do unrecoverable things.

The parking lot was overflowing. I've never seen so many cars there. Maybe most people hike there in the middle of the day. I'm usually there just before sunset.

The ocotillos have leaves.

Since it was so middle-of-the-dayish, the lighting wasn't very good for pictures. I did everything I could but a lot of them look pretty washed out.

I saw my first Mexican gold poppies of the season.

With all those cars on the parking lot, you know there were a lot of people on the trails. Here's a few of them.

This ocotillo has flowers.

From up at the top, you can see the trails far below.

My house is in this direction.

A couple of strange things happened up at the saddle. When I first got up there a really loud and obnoxious guy asked me if I was OK, as if I looked really sick or something. My hair was a little messed up from the wind, but come on. He offered gorp to everybody that walked by. Nobody took any. They looked at him and moved away quickly. There was something about the way he talked that grated on your nerves. The words were normal, even polite, but the inflections, the tones, the timing were all just a little bit off. He warned me about a beehive in the direction I was going. That's a nice thing to do. What he didn't say, but what I heard implied was, "I know you're the kind of idiot that pokes beehives with sticks, but don't do it this time". I've decided that he is either an alien or he has a basement full of dead bodies. Or maybe he's an alien with a basement full of dead bodies. I think Lindsey delivered a pizza to him last week, too.

The next strange thing is that I ran into somebody I know up there. It's strange because I don't know a lot of people and not a lot of people I know go hiking and even though the trail was crowded today, by shopping mall standards it was practically vacant. This guy used to work at Medtronic (where I work now), and before that we were at TI at the same time.

I enjoyed talking to several people on the hike. It was kind of funny, sometimes. A couple would stop and we would all be talking. Then the guy would start wandering on down the trail. His wife would keep glancing at him as he continued on his way, getting more concerned looking with each step he took. You could tell she wanted to leave and catch up with her husband but either didn't want to end the conversation or couldn't. They would finally say, "Oh, I'd better go before I lose him" and take off.

Today is the first time somebody said something about me having two cameras around my neck. He said, "You must take a lot of pictures". They were a very nice couple, probably in their 80's. His wife and I talked about Mexican gold poppies as he wandered down the trail snapping pictures.


Thursday, February 05, 2009

More stereo pictures, a sunset, and more

Cold, wet weather is forecast for this weekend, so I decided to go for a walk in the desert while it's nice. I went out to Bulldog Canyon, parked and walked towards a spot that looked mostly boring, to prove to myself that it wouldn't be boring. It was very green and pretty. Every once in a while, I would catch a whiff of something very sweet smelling. I couldn't find where the smell was coming from, though. It was very quiet; only one guy puttered slowly by on an ATV just after I parked the truck.

It was overcast and a little late in the day, so I didn't think a stereo picture of a mountain would work. I took several stereo pictures of saguaros, though. When I got home and downloaded them, it looked like most of them probably wouldn't work as stereo photos. It looked like I had tilted the camera between pictures, or had the camera pointed higher for one of the pictures than the other. I decided to try making a stereo picture of one of them and it turned out pretty good. I tried another it it worked just fine. I tried the worst looking pair, and they were fine. I guess the slight difference in the angle from which the picture is taken can make the pictures look very different when you switch back and forth between them. Here are the stereo saguaros. Remember, use the crossed-eyes method to view these.

I also made a stereo picture of a pile of rocks.

As I was on my way away from the truck, I crossed a few washes. They were full of horse and deer tracks, going up and down stream. If I wanted to wait for some wildlife to go by and get their picture, that would be the place to do it. There are also trails made by animals out there, kind of like wildlife roadways.

I had just started back to the truck when I saw a deer about 30 yards away from me. I got a camera out as fast as I could, but the deer was already hiding behind a tree. Then it walked away slowly and I got a couple of videos. Here's one.

I haven't uploaded the other one, yet. Maybe tomorrow.

There was a very nice sunset. I took a few pictures for Peggy.

I was a little perturbed when I left the truck because I didn't have my flashlight. It's in the house somewhere, I think. The moon is more than half full, though, so I wasn't too worried. Until I got to the gate, that is. The lock is kind of inside of a cylinder. Car headlights don't shine on it. I did have my backpack, though, and I keep a mirror in it. Perfect. I didn't have to spend the night in the truck.


Tuesday, February 03, 2009


Something I've wanted to do for a long time is to make stereo pictures. There were a couple of things that held me back, though. First, I figured I would have to build a special tripod that would hold the camera in two positions. I would take a picture in one position, swivel the camera to the other position and take the second picture. I'm still waiting for that Ronco "round-2-it" to arrive, though, so I haven't built the special tripod yet. Second, unless the pictures are made so small that you can't see any detail (or unless you are a hammerhead shark, with eyeballs that are really far apart), you need a special viewer to view them.

A couple of days ago, I ran across a web site that had some stereo pictures. They were of landscapes and they showed the kind of depth I've wanted to show in some of my pictures. The guy took them with a single camera, no tripod. He just took a picture, stepped sideways, and took another. They are viewed using the "crossed eyes" method. Instead of trying to point your eyes at infinity like you do with those hidden picture things, you cross your eyes so that you are looking at the left image with your right eye and the right image with your left. That way you aren't limited by how far apart your eyeballs are. You see three images and the middle one is the stereo image.

You might remember the following picture from Sunday's ride/hike. It's one of those cases where I knew it would look uninteresting because it couldn't show the 3-dimensionality of the scene.

From 2009_02_01

I took a couple of other pictures of the same scene and have combined them for a 3D picture. I think it worked pretty good for my first attempt. I need to make some refinements in my technique, but this works pretty good for showing depth in a scene. Click on the picture for a larger version.

Posted by Picasa

I need to go try this with some mountains now. I may have to take a big step between pictures.

Monday, February 02, 2009

Yesterday's ride and hike

Yesterday I went to that part of Bulldog Canyon OHV area where I've been spending a lot of time lately. One of the things I like about it is that not many other people go there. I haven't seen any kids tearing back and forth, back and forth on dirt bikes or ATVs yet. Yesterday I saw one car in there when I went in. Didn't see another person for the 4.5 hours I was there (unless you count the boats I saw moving around on Saguaro Lake). Here's the parking lot with only my truck in it. Nice view for a parking lot.

From 2009_02_01

I was looking at the area in Google Earth. There are a couple of roads that branch off from the main road. Then I decided that I don't really know where the main road is. I can't find a map of the area. The road at the entrance does not have any markers saying that it is the road (which is the practice in other parts of Bulldog Canyon). The roads that branch off don't have any markers saying that they are not roads (which is also standard practice, though the yahoos shoot up and drive over those signs until they are unrecognizable). The two roads I was looking at have stock tanks at the end, so they were made by ranchers years ago and not by yahoos looking for a hill to challenge their ATV. Here's the road at the first turnoff I took.

From 2009_02_01

It was a scenic drive and I puttered along in first gear most of the way, partly because it was bumpy and partly because I wanted to take my time and soak in the views.

From 2009_02_01

I came across a tree I don't remember seeing before. It's got to be some kind of palo verde.

From 2009_02_01

Its seed pods look cool.

From 2009_02_01

There seems to be very little traffic out there, and it must be well-behaved drivers. In other parts of Bulldog Canyon, it's easy to find a place to get off the road and park and hike around. Here there is just road.

From 2009_02_01

So whenever I wanted to get off the ATV to take pictures, I had to leave it in the middle of the road. Even though I hadn't seen or heard anybody else, it felt funny doing that. I couldn't help checking behind me before I started moving again, either. I wondered how people get around each other when they meet head to head. Just about then, I came head to head with this.

From 2009_02_01

It was very stubborn and refused to get out of my way, which was OK because I was too busy taking pictures of it to go anywhere. It's got a lot of scuff marks and dirt on the top of its shell.

From 2009_02_01

Looks like I interrupted its lunch, too.

From 2009_02_01

It finally moved off the road and I decided it was time to leave it alone.

I saw several pencil cholla out there. I didn't get any good pictures of them, though. It's tough to get a picture of a green plant with a green background.

From 2009_02_01

I eventually got to the first tank (Bagley tank), which had water in it.

From 2009_02_01

The road went a short distance past there, partway up that hill in the background of the picture. I parked up there and hiked to the top of the hill to see what I could see. Close to the top, the sides were covered with large, loose rocks. I was seriously worried about starting an avalanche, but most of the rocks seemed to have settled into stable positions. I took my time and made sure the rocks wouldn't move before putting any weight on them.

From 2009_02_01

It was about that time that I started smelling cigar smoke. It must have been blowing up from a boat on the lake. I'm pretty sure there was nobody hiking anywhere near me. Not much of the lake can be seen from up there.

From 2009_02_01

The Superstition Mountains can be seen, but the lighting was bad for pictures.

From 2009_02_01

Here's the only cloud I saw all day. Look closely, on the horizon.

From 2009_02_01

I went very slowly over the loose rocks on the way down, using my hands sometimes so I wouldn't put a foot down too hard and start a rock slide. Then I drove very slowly back, enjoying the peacefulness and solitude. Then I came upon this.

From 2009_02_01

Yep, same tortoise. I turned off the engine and sat there without moving for several minutes, waiting for it to move, ready to make a movie. I watched honey bees on a bush next to me, and listened to them buzz. I also listened to the tortoise breathe. It breathed slowly for such a small animal, and its nose whistled sometimes, or maybe it was the food in its mouth whistling. The tortoise never took its eye off me. The only movement it made was an occasional blink. So I backed up and waited some more.

From 2009_02_01

Still, it watched me.

From 2009_02_01

And we waited.

From 2009_02_01

Finally it moved, and I got this thrilling video.

When I got back to the main "road", I decided to see if I could find the other tank. Here it is, with some of my fingers in the corner shading the camera.

From 2009_02_01

I can't seem to stop myself from climbing nearby hills. I think that's because Dad wouldn't let me do stuff like that when I was a kid. Not that there were many hills around in Houston; which is probably why I wanted to climb one if I ever saw it. Anyway, here's the tank from a nearby hill.

From 2009_02_01

The sun was getting close to setting, and the temperature was dropping fast. I rode around a little more, had to put on a flannel shirt, and headed home.


I hear that the groundhog saw its shadow today. Wow, can I stand 6 more weeks of this? Ha ha!