March 27, 2017 – Pinetop Trails

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During the first (and only) full day in the Pinetop region, we were disappointed to see that a lot of the roadways were closed off. Many of them are closed down during the winter due to heavy snowstorms. We weren’t able to go to a couple of the locations we wanted, forcing us into an impromptu day-trip. Rather than following an itinerary, we drove where the mood took us.

“Should I go left or right,” she’d say as we approached a fork in the road.
“I dunno. How ’bout left?”

It’s a surefire way to see things you wouldn’t expect, including one of the most depressingly impoverished towns on the indian reservation, White River. It felt like an industrial purgatory, and it was sad to see huddled beggars kicking stones in the parking lot, asking shoppers for food and money as they brought their groceries to their car.

But in these small communities, and in the outlying primitive roads, there’s a lot of old-world beauty. As I looked through my photographs at the end of the day, I was struck by how timeless many of them looked, reminding me of old photographs I’ve picked up at estate sales, or dug out of of my grandparent’s shoe-boxes. The image above was, in particular, reminiscent of a lot of old west photographs I’ve stumbled across in my years living here in Arizona.

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March 19, 2017 – Tumamoc Hill

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And for just a little break from my Mexico pictures, we’re back in Tucson for today’s photograph.

I moved to Tucson in 2001 to attend the University of Arizona College of Fine Arts and to work at The Center For Creative Photography. In that time, I stayed in cabins on Mount Lemmon in Summerhaven, hiked trails in Sabino Canyon, and I’ve ridden my bicycle up and down just about every road in town. I’ve camped in the pine forests on Mount Bigelow, and trundled along countless canyons in the foothills. In all that time, I have never actually walked the meager one or two miles up to the summit of Tumamoc Hill.

It took a special woman in my life suggesting that we drive out to the base and walk up the trail. I had no idea how popular this little walk is; the footpath was teeming with people of all ages and sizes, heading to the top around sunset.

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March 11, 2017 – Lake Arareko

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Outside of Creel, Mexico, is a curved lake surrounded by pine trees and bear-grass. It’s a bit of a hike from the town center, but worth it. Lake Arareko is one of the most peaceful places in the region. There usually aren’t too many people, and it isn’t overflowing with paddle-boats or kayaks, as one might expect at such a spot in the United States. Along some of the sand and dirt beaches are gatherings of Tarahumara woman, usually sitting on the rocks with toddlers playing in the dirt, weaving baskets to sell to tourists.

This young Tarahumara girl was throwing rocks into the water and amusing herself away from the group, and didn’t seem to mind when I took this photograph of her. Naturally, after taking this shot, she leapt from her perch and asked if I had any pesos. Instead of just giving her the money, I had her pick out her favorite basket (one that her mother had just finished) and I bought it. It sits on my bookshelf to this day, a small circular basket about five inches in diameter. It’s a great place to keep my cuff-links.

Side-note: film isn’t dead. This image was made with my old N80, a camera my parents gave me, using Kodak Portra film.

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March 05, 2017 – Arroyo de Hacienda

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Slot canyons surround the edges of the Urique River, which winds through the tropical forests in the Copper Canyon region. Military macaws squawk from the treetops and wild fruit grows throughout the area. This image is only about a hundred yards into the canyon; on the reverse side, the canyon winds several miles deeper into the side of the mountain, where a small family of Tarahumara people live, raising chickens and crops in an open clearing.

My guide was a local Urique resident, woefully hungover after spending the previous evening drinking and celebrating at a local young woman’s Quinceañera. I thought, by the time I had made it this far into the state of Chihuahua, I was reasonably conditioned to make this hike without too much trouble. Tomás managed to make me feel like a weak and vulnerable kitten.

It was a rigorous hike. My two traveling companions tapped-out and headed back to the village only an hour-or-so into the canyon. I’m incredibly thankful that I stuck it out, even though I was somewhat hobbled by blisters the following day. Once we made it back out and onto the gravel road, we hitched a ride in the back of a pickup truck. It was the hottest part of the day, closing in on 115 degrees. I got back to the farm I was staying at, plucked a basket full of lemons, and hung out in the shade, slicing and juicing them into a plastic pitcher.

Best glass of lemonade I think I have ever enjoyed in my life, before or since.

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March 03, 2017 – The Tropical City of Urique

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The town of Urique is at the bottom of the valley Barranca de Urique, formed by the river of the same name. In today’s photograph, you can see this river winding through the frame, and the small town huddled around it (a population hovering around one-thousand). The road down into the canyon is a series of switchbacks that wind back and forth toward the village. It’s a low-maintenance road, and a reasonably harrowing experience to drive down. Stories abound about rocks that have crushed cars, and vehicles that have tumbled over the edge.

I bought a bus ticket and put my life in the hands of somebody more skilled at making the journey than myself, and we crawled down the dirt road.

Due to its relatively low elevation above sea level – Urique is about 550 meters – the climate is nearly tropical. The town only has electricity for a fixed number of hours every evening (for light, mostly, once the sun goes down) and, during the hot days of summer, most of the village goes down to the river during the day to keep cool in the water, saving work for the early morning and for sundown.

Papayas, lemons, oranges, and bananas grow wild in the surrounding areas on the outskirts of town, and the villagers actively cultivate their own fruit and vegetable gardens. On hikes through the forest, you can find a shady spot, pluck a fresh orange from a tree, sit down and take a rest. It’s a glorious and unspoiled little corner of the world.

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February 20, 2017 – Analogue Landscapes of the Digital

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This is probably my favorite thing about photography – it’s a tool that lets the photographer share images with the world that would otherwise remain in the shadows, ignored, misunderstood, or unrecognized. This is a photograph of the metal casing and interior parts of a computer hard drive. The steel case has corroded from humidity, giving it an organic and interesting texture, and edits have been made to the color.

There is a whole world that exists in our bedrooms, in our pockets, inside our car doors. We never see what’s inside of our television, and we usually don’t question how the light-emitting diode actually functions, even though we’re obsessed with all of the flickering screens in this modern world competing for our attention.

This image is a meditation on that invisible world.

“Beauty can be seen in all things, seeing and composing the beauty is what separates the snapshot from the photograph.”
Matt Hardy

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February 18, 2017 – Saguaro Cactus Landscape

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Sometimes black-and-white is the only way to go. There’s a timelessness to black-and-white landscapes that is almost universally appealing. This was taken while hiking through the mountain run-off in Sabino Canyon last week. My feet were wet and squishy from tromping through knee-deep water, tromping up to the Seven Falls area.

A thunderstorm rolled through and cut the hike short, but it was an exquisite several hours in the canyon.

Getting out into the world, walking the downtown streets or the canyons are going on my ‘urban hikes’ are terribly important to me. There’s so much to discover out there, even just walking around the block, if one takes a moment to concentrate, train themselves to really keep their eyes open all the time.

I hope you like today’s photograph. Cheers.

“If you want to be a better photographer, stand in front of more interesting stuff.”
Jim Richardson

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February 16, 2017 – No Parking

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Today’s image of the day is simple and clean, but I was attracted to the faded paint and texture. I’m often criticized for making pictures that don’t have meaning, but I think there’s meaning embedded in just about any picture that anybody takes – not just professional photographers or self-proclaimed artists.

So much of the time, I really simply enjoy taking a small detail from the world and printing it big.

“I really believe there are things nobody would see if I didn’t photograph them.”
Diane Arbus

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February 12, 2017 – Sunset From Sabino Canyon

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I went on a much-needed hike yesterday with the most amazing woman in my life; I probably wouldn’t have made it out of the house if it wasn’t for her kind motivation. It has been several months since I’ve had either the opportunity or (more importantly) the drive to strap my boots on, get out there, and scramble up the mountains. The weather was perfect – just warm enough after several “cold” desert weeks – and the trails were filled with people.

We didn’t hit the trials until the early afternoon and, just as luck would have it, dark clouds, thick atmosphere, and thunder greeted us near the summit of the Seven Falls hiking trail. The four-or-so miles into the canyon were flowing with water so deep that we quickly abandoned the notion of keeping our feet (or our pants) dry.

Walking back down to the car, as the sun was setting, our boots heavy with water and squishing with each step, we watched the electrical storm southwest over the horizon.

Just about any other woman I have ever known or dated would have made it through this hike without complaint. But the time we got home, we were a little sniffly, with itchy shriveled feet and aching muscles. But earlier, at the first sight of overflowing water on the trail, she was the one who insisted we keep going. And when we got home, she told me she was so happy that we had gone out.

That’s my kind of woman. The kind of woman that gives you a great deal to look forward to, and who appreciates the good things that are happening in the present, even when there are setbacks.

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January 27, 2017 – Borderlands

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The San Rafael Valley is a well-kept secret in the borderlands of Cochise County, Arizona. Micro-climates make this a surprisingly fertile territory for wine grapes, and several wineries are dotted throughout the area, surrounded by BLM territory and a collection of independently operated ranches. There are the odd ‘desert rats’ that live on these lands, too – individuals who prefer to live a more solitary life, away from the noise and bustle of the city.

This largely unmanicured region can seem threatening. The rules of the west are fully on display. If you trespass on the wrong property, you will most-assuredly come face-to-face with an angry rancher and a shotgun. Landowners are wary of outsiders; many are hardened against trespassers as a result of drug-muling and human trafficking. But for the casual traveler, if you play by the rules, the only sign of human life you will ever encounter are Border Patrol trucks and the occasional unmanned drone flying overhead.

I feel at home out here, looking down the deep valley, where the wind gliding through the dry grass is the dominant sound. Where the sky opens up and reminds one how small they really are.

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