Saturday, May 1, 2010

Travel Journal - Trip to CA and Camera review

My sweet hubby and I have just returned from a week-long trip to visit friends and flowers in California. Mostly, only a few of the the pictures of the flowers came out well enough to post, but we did get a few that please us. (See our public album at for bigger and better images.)
In February my Canon Powershot SD 690IS decided it would no longer focus, for reasons it did not share with us. I have been very happy with the quality of the Canon images I have gotten from some 4 generations of pocket size digital cameras, but was not pleased by this one deciding it was retiring early. I found the Olympus specs and write-ups for similar models to be satisfactory, and then Costco had a sale on a kit of the ruggedized Stylus Tough model. Since the two prior cameras met their ends by being dropped into lemonade and by meeting rock with a very hard crunch, this sounded good - shockproof for a 5' drop and water proof to 15'. And it fits very well in a pocket.
Alas, it has not worked out happily. The Olympus folks seem to have attempted more than they could deliver in the handy little box. It has many fancy modes - but none of them work all that well. It seems to be optimized for faces, not landscapes, (whereas I seem to be optimized for landscapes) and the color is just not quite right. I cannot make the macro mode work. It keeps turning on the "operate by tapping" mode. (Bizarre!), and it has no good place to hold it. The battery is good for less than 100 pictures even newly charged. And their software is not as good as Canon's. Sigh ... So I am saving my pennies some more and will probably return to Canon.
But anyway - on the first day we stopped off at a river gorge at AZ Highway 89, north of Paulden and the Drake turnoff, but not as far as Ash Fork. We found it very appealing despite a lot of graffitti and few flowers. Does anyone know the name of the spot? It was evidently the site of an Easter Egg hunt with not very efficient hunters.

We had much better flower luck stopping several times in the Mojave National Preserve, on the Kelbaker road which goes north from I-40 to I-15, passing through Kelso and ending up in the thriving metropolis of Baker.
We saw many great flowers, including the
Mojave Yucca (above) and
Prickly Pear:
Prickly Poppy,
and a new species for us, the handsome Desert Lily.

As always, we had not arrived when Kelso Depot was open, so we could only admire the historic building in passing.

We made one more stop , at the point where the road and a sandy wash both penetrate a black rhyolite lava flow. It was sunset by then, but we were still able to get some of my favorite shots from the trip - Globe Mallow, Barrel Cacti, Brittle Bush, Asters and many other flowers.

Baker is the site of the Mad Greek Restaurant, a personal favorite for three decades now. I am sure the movie "My Big Fat Greek Wedding" was inspired by a visit there!
Warning! Do not try to finish a Greek Combo dinner by yourself no matter how hungry you are or how good it smells. You would think we would remember this after all these years, but we must have carried about 4 pounds of leftovers with us when we left.
And so ended our first day. The next two and a half days were work, so we will pass over them. Tune in next week for the next thrilling episode - Poppies etc!

A Long Time passed ...

My hubby and I have one complaint about Arizona - the moon goes through her cycle much quicker now that we have moved here. How does that work? It used to take nearly a 12th of a year to make it though a cycle, but now it takes only a few days.
For example - it simply cannot be true that we have had 2 full moons since I last published something to this blog, (Or can it?)
I have a lot I would like to share, but working keeps getting in the way of fooling around. Soon I think I will retire again and then you will see enormous productivity! Or at least better excuses..
In the next little while I plan to finally write up a couple of other mini-essays inspired by last Fall's trip to Wales and by the things that I have done with the images therefrom. But first, I will go out of a chronological order to post some travel journal entries on the April trip we took to California to see friends and flowers. And maybe also a review of the new camera - the Olympus Stylus Tough 6000.
If you want a sneak preview, I have put the picures on Picasa, thhough not yet with captions and geo tags. Those may take a while to add. I don't seem to be able to figure out how to do a true hyperlink, but if you go to you should be abtle to see all of our public albums, and the new one is called ShowSet April Trip to CA.
If this link does not work for you, please let me know!

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Good news about Granny J!

For those who have been faithful reader's of "Granny J"'s excellent blog, Walking Prescott there is some good news. It looks like she is beating the pneumonia and will be getting out of the nursing home.

Walking Prescott: Woohoo! My Camera's Well!

Monday, January 18, 2010

The Outcome

I took my painting in to the wonderful people at the Friday morning Water Media Group at Mountain Artist's Guild. We decided it wasn't quite done, and I punched up the shadows and water a bit. Does it look better??

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Reality wins over Watercolor .. Again

One of my enduring passions is trying to capture some of the incredible colors and shapes that we see at our two neighborhood lakes. So far I have pretty much failed to get the effect I want in any attempt so far, but I think I am getting a bit closer lately. Here is my latest attempt, barely dry, along with a couple of photos of the area that I used as reference. I seem to be getting the best effect by doing an on-the-spot study and a bunch of photos and doing a new painting back at the house where I have room to spread out, and that was what I did here .

I have decided that the real difficulty is that the rocks themselves are of a visual complexity that makes them seem unbelievable even as you stand in front of them. They are sculpture, not geology, with whimsical colors and shapes. I suspect I just may never get it quite right - but I think I know who could. My long time friend and teacher Glen Knowles left me a message just as I was thinking about him and wondering if he would tell me it was time to leave the painting alone - it must be karma!

How about it - is this painting done? I almost can hear Glen saying "Put the brush down, Cathy, and back away from the painting... " (but I want to fiddle with it !) It is quite likely as good as I can acheive. (but it isn't what I wanted, not really.) Ah, the pleasant conflicts of the brush and paint!

These rocks have all these delicate colors and look rather as if they were assembled from the bits left over on God's kitchen table. Then there are the ones with the orange doodle markings, and the big green ones, and the fjord, and the effect of the bathtub ring, and the balancing rock - and that is just at Willow Lake. There are as many great spots or more on the Watson Lake side of 89.

I do love the Dells! Somehow I have to convince Glen and Pam to come over so I can watch a real master of watercolor take on those unbelievable rocks.

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Friday, January 8, 2010

Things that stay with you

Welcome to the new year ... how do you like living here in the future? There has been a theme to many of the conversations and email lately - everyone I know seems baffled by the question "How did it get to be 2010 already!" Connecting with old friends on the social networking sites is apt to bring this on, since a high school buddy can say things like "40th High School Reunion" or "my grand-daughter" or even (shudder) "my great-grand-daughter". How did THAT happen??
A related question comes to mind - where did all that past I am dragging around come from? Some of the dragging is metaphorical, but some is embodied in real stuff.

Tonight I broke one of the last of the excellent 7" soup bowls that we got the semester I moved from the dorm to the apartment. I have been attached to that bowl for almost as long as I have known my husband! Who would have dreamed that we would still be using the 1975 bargain bowls from Spags, the 1975 Pierced Olaf cutlery from the bank for opening accounts, or my Junior High era pencil sharpener!

I suppose it would not have been hard to predict that I would still have the saddle I got in 1964 or the horse painting from 1965. But the handmade angel we made in 1974, the year we were married but were too poor to buy ornaments? Who would have figured she would still have her glitter wings and tinfoil dress? The dirt cheap Olvera Street ornaments from 1975 still shine cheerfully.

A word to the young folks - get stuff you really like - it may be with you a long, long time!

And here is one last surprise to record for a much newer piece. In 1990 we visited a marvellous bakery in the shadow of Clifford's Tower in York England. We did in fact eat the bread frog, but the bread hedgehog was too cute and we were too full after all the other goodies, so we put him aside to eat the next day. I am happy to report that just as we have not eaten him, neither has anything else!

Monday, November 16, 2009

Sonoran Desert Camping and Sunset

We recently went camping at Pichaco State Park, about 40 miles north of Tucson. The lower altitude are part of the unique Sonoran Desert. It is a lush desert, with saguaro, cholla, barrel and pad cactus, palo verde and mesquite trees, creosote bush, and ocatillo. The campsite had all of these and some great lava rock outcrops.
A trip highlight was seeing the Arizona Sonora Desert Museum. It is an amazing place with the whole range of Natural Histort - a botanical garden, a zoo and geology exhibits. It also has opened an Art Institute with classes and exhibitions. One of the two exhibits open now is just stunning - the Fiesta Sonora runs till Jan 10 2010 and I highly recommend it.

Alas, the underwater beaver pictures did not come out but I liked the Bighorn Sheep ones.
And the sunset was subtle, but lovely.