Saturday, September 27, 2014



Seconds ago I pulled up a local story on Tucson, AZ weather and the end of our monsoon season.  the story was titled 'Monsoon's Curtain Call Comes This Weekend'.  It is the last few ticks of September and the usual weather phenomenon, that is referred to as the monsoon is winding down.  

A monsoon is caused by warm air creating surface low pressure zones that in turn draw moist air from the oceans. Arizona winds usually come from the west, but shift to a southeasterly wind in the summer, bringing moisture, most often from the Gulfs of Mexico and California. The wind shift and increase in moisture combine with the surface low pressure from the desert heat to produce storms in a cycle of “bursts” (heavy rainfall) and “breaks” (reduced rainfall).

the normally dry Rillito River after a storm

The monsoon season begins on June 15 and ends on September 30, but the storms peak between mid-July and mid-August. On average, about half of Arizona receives about half of its annual rainfall during the monsoon.  Below are a few of the magnificent moments of the Monsoon season that I have captured.

over Tucson

beautiful colors over Pusch Ridge-Catalina Mountains

storm unleashing along the Catalina Mountains

a break in the storm, over the Tortolita Mountains

storm clouds building over Tucson

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

The Call came at 3 am

The Call Came at 3 am

The call came at 3 am and it was a zinger.  The voice at the other end of the line said something along the lines of 'how would you like to jump off the Royal Gorge Bridge?'.  Now that got my full and undivided attention, grogginess be gone.  I was receiving a once in a life time offer.  Bungee jumping off the Royal Gorge Bridge is illegal, but every now and then the jump is legal, for only a few days.  Go Fast, an energy drink company, will take out insurance on the bridge to run the Go Fast Games and create a festive swirl of adrenaline activities which include Base Jumping, slack lining, jet suit flights, bungee jumping, etc.  I am not sure exactly how many Go Fast Games have been run but it appears to be 5-7 times and definately not every year.

I had been jumping and helping crew with Over the Edge Bungee (out of Stanley, Idaho) to help fill my adrenaline needs.  We had discussed the 1,053 foot (321 meter) Royal Gorge Bridge as the ultimate destination while packing bungee cords, carabiners, etc.

Over the Edge Bungee had been asked to run the bungee jump at the 2008 Go Fast Games.  I would help on crew, take photos and film, and of course, would be an amazing experience I will never forget.  It also appears to have been the latest, but, hopefully, not last, Go Fast Games.

I have a previous blog story on our Go Fast Games adventure so I will share the recent discovery of a slideshow I had tried to put together after the event. It was on a seriously inadequate lap top that had trouble with the project.  It essentially had problems with just about everything.

About a month ago I was offered a much newer lap top. It works.  Bells and whistles included.  While scanning my photos I  came across the  unfinished slideshow, laying dormant in a corner of the Go Fast Games file.  

An opportunity to relive a grand time and to finally share with others.  Enjoy!
Link below:
Music by Sittser

Sunday, September 7, 2014

The Plump Rattlesnake

The Plump Rattlesnake

As the sun began its dip in the western sky, Eric and I zigzagged across an embankment that I had endearingly labeled Tortoise Hill.  The narrow ridge line, filled with saguaro and prickly pear cactus, and sprinkled with other spiky desert shrubs is now surprisingly filled with a thick layer of grass due to recent monsoon activity.  It was because of my frequent encounters with the unique desert tortoise species that I had unofficially named this topographic feature. Comparing photos, I discovered that there are possibly three different desert tortoises on this hillside, with another tortoise on a slope about a half mile away.  When I formerly lived in Tucson for seven years, I had only encountered one of these lumbering, shelled creatures.  Now I could pad my count with three or four more, all seen while roaming the desert terrain over the past six weeks. Amazing!  I hoped we would see at least one on this journey.  It would make my stories a little more plausible to my friend.

I enjoy the opportunities to capture the beauty and nature of the desert and I have become a 'running photographer' to some degree.   I was now in 'love' with the desert tortoise. It has become a favorite animal to photograph.  How can you go wrong with a subject  that barely moves?  I have a history of scrambling for the nearest camera, hastily pointing in the general direction of whatever desert creature was streaking across my point of view, and coming away with blurry or missed shots.  When I find a tortoise I can actually look for my camera, adjust the camera settings, make a phone call, look up the latest gossip on Yahoo, and my model has only moved about ten feet.  A photographer’s dream.  Well, almost.  The subject can be a bit boring.

My first encounter with tortoise number one (in this area) was on one of those rare occasions when I left for a run without a camera, cell phone, or even a pencil and paper to make a drawing.  But my model wasn’t going anywhere fast, so I was able to run home, grab a camera, and run back in time to snap some photos.   

On this day, we failed to find a tortoise on Tortoise Hill, so we trekked to the neighborhood of tortoise number one.  While on our way, I became distracted and by chance spotted an enormous rattlesnake, maybe ten feet away.  Delving into the thesaurus later at home, I tried out every appropriate word that could describe him (or her): fat, chunky, paunchy, swollen, broad. None seemed to fit. This snake was so large, with a long string of rattles attached, that no word seemed to do it justice. He (or she) was simply ominous .  Of course, that snake would 'grow' each time the story was told.  

And our presence did not seem to startle this creature in the least. Silence emanated from that generous line of rattles as Eric joined me for an impromptu photo session. The entire time it lay there fat and content, taking photos of this reptile was not too different from the previously mentioned desert tortoise.  She (he?) was taking a siesta.  Lulled by a stuffed gut, she was not moving and not particularly mindful of the two humans who had invaded her neighborhood.  After about twenty minutes of snapping photos and movies, I got a little too close to the snake, causing two heart rates to bounce upward. The desert dweller finally uncoiled and slithered a few feet in the opposite direction.  That abruptly marked the end of the photo session. But it was certainly NOT boring.