Monday, July 29, 2019

YouTube and Other Obsessions

Okay, I'm not really obsessed with YouTube. I'm obsessed with taking photos and making videos. It's a lot of fun, but there are a few aspects of it that I'm not good at.

1. I still haven't learned to use my Canon EOS Rebel T5 properly, and 99% of the time I use my iPhone instead. It's a lot lighter and easier to carry, and I (mostly) know how to use it. But iPhones have their limitations, and so have I, especially if I don't take the time to really learn photography.

2. I'm terrible at getting people to watch my videos, especially on YouTube. Sometimes I spend an hour or more putting one together, and weeks later, there have been zero views.

I'm very aware that very few people follow this blog anymore, or blogs in general (Whatever and Stonekettle excepted). Nevertheless, here's a post with links to a few of my recent videos. If you come across this post, please do me a favor. Visit my YouTube channel (the main one where nearly all these videos are), watch a few minutes of pretty pictures in motion, and like (if you like) and comment (if you have anything to say). Thanks!

The other obsessions part? I have two of them, currently. It's all interrelated. I'm spending way too much time driving up and down Mount Lemmon, partly to take pictures, but also to take short hikes on side roads and the easiest trails I can find. I have three roads now that I've hiked on, not counting Mount Lemmon Highway itself or the Marshall Gulch section thereof.

I've also been on at least five trails, two of them unsuccessfully (one was closed and the other was too rugged for me). I'm doing this because it's cooler than the city, and more interesting than walking in a mall or grocery store. The other obsession, you see, is to step up my exercise and get stricter on my dieting. I had been stuck bouncing up and down in an eight-pound range for two months, but as of this part week, with the hikes and other extra walking, I finally seem to be actually losing weight again.

If only I had the metabolism of these guys!


Saturday, July 20, 2019

When We Walked on the Moon

For about ten years when I was a kid, my family rented a beachfront house on Lake Ontario for a week or two each summer. It was called the Speakman Camp, and I slept in the attic. The house had a black and white TV that pulled in one CBS station out of Watertown, NY (WWNY), and I think a couple of the Syracuse ones. Only WWNY had decent reception. I could be wrong, but I think it was from the Speakman Camp that I saw the Beatles on Ed Sullivan in August 1964. And I know for sure that that's where I was when Mom, Dad, Steve and I watched Neil Armstrong set foot on the moon, 50 years ago today. It was a big deal, exciting and important. But the actual image was primitive and blurry, the sound muddy. It was amazing that anyone could speak to us from the moon at all, but it seems to me that I was a little disappointed.

Seven years later, my mom was divorced and I was spending that Bicentennial summer with her in Cape
Canaveral, Florida. We visited Kennedy Space Center, and I saw Mission Control. Even then, the technology that achieved this amazing thing was starting to look a little dated. I can't find a photo from that summer, so here are a couple of Polaroid shots from (probably) 1986.

Something that definitely happened in 1986 was the Big Trip. That was when John and I drove all over the country, up and down the East Coast and west to Arizona and California, looking for someplace it wasn't winter. We ended up in Tucson. A year or so after that, a friend of ours from Columbus Ohio, Mark Haverkos, invited us to visit him on the Hopi reservation. As I wrote in 2004:

Back in the late 1980s, a former next door neighbor of ours from 13th Ave in Columbus, Ohio was the hippie, holistic veterinarian to the Hopi Nation.  He lived in Polacca, Arizona, over by First Mesa. ...

The Hopi Reservation is in northeastern Arizona, basically surrounded by Navajo territory. From Holbrook on I-40 / Route 66, there's a road (SR 87) that goes north.  ... Just 13 miles north of the Holbrook exit is the turnoff for the Little Painted Desert.  A visit to this obscure Navajo County park is like a day trip to the moon.

The Little Painted Desert doesn't have the (relatively) bright colors of its more famous National Park namesake, which is south of I-40. The county park version is basically gray.  That just makes it look more alien. The ground is caked and cracked, and hardly anybody goes there.  The day we found the place, for part of the time it was just John, me, Jenny Dog, and a cow.  The cow didn't venture down into the dunes and craters, or whatever you want to call them, but we did. I don't know whether you can find him, but John is in the lower left picture above.  

I've been to that park once since then, and it didn't look the same somehow. Neither do my 30-year-old photos. I was going to scan some of them at work today, but I didn't have time. I ended up photographing the photos.

All these years later, any mention of the Apollo program reminds me of that day when John and I walked on this strange, moon-like landscape, with no other creatures in evidence except Jenny Dog and a skinny cow. I haven't found any evidence that the Apollo astronauts trained at the Little Painted Desert, but they were at such nearby sites as Meteor Crater, Hopi Buttes and  the Grand Canyon. They also blasted an area at Cinder Lake to make their own custom crater field.

Close enough.


Left: Astronauts Edgar Mitchell (left) and Alan Shepard on a geological field exercise near Cottonwood, Arizona, Paul Switzer Collection, NAU.PH.426.475, Center of Astrogeology, USGS, Photo No. 1170142PR, Cline Library Special Collections and Archives, Northern Arizona University, Flagstaff, Arizona.

Thursday, July 04, 2019

Fireworks, Family, and Times Gone By

Last night I made a little video comparing fireworks and sunsets, posing the musical question, "Which is Better?" Here it is:

Since then, I've been thinking about my memories of past Independence Days. Here are the ones that came to mind:

Awesome fireworks, with shaped displays, on the boardwalk at Seaside Park, NJ with my cousins, circa 1964, while my mom was in the hospital.

Boring fireworks seen from the Suburban Park parking lot with my family, circa 1970.

Fireworks on the beach at Cape Canaveral with my mom, July 4, 1976.

Fireworks at Hi Corbett Field while John collects Tucson Toros autographs, circa 1994. I think I took my mom there one year.

Fireworks at Disneyland, July 4, 2003. Best part was when John took an interesting picture of a kid watching a popcorn cart.

Lots of years in which I tried to photograph distant fireworks that barely clear neighborhood trees, 1998-2018. The one above was a composite from 2006.

A fire-less picnic at Inspiration Rock with John and my dad, 2013.

Photographing A-Mountain fireworks from the car while waiting for my friend, 2017. I actually watched from the convention center once, but mostly we don't bother.

A mediocre sunset at Gates Pass, solo, July 4, 2018.

What I'm realizing is that the memorable part - except maybe Seaside Park - isn't the fireworks at all. It's about where I was, who I was with, and what I was trying to do. I've never managed great fireworks photos, and that's part of it, and also the fact that I find most fireworks pretty boring. But more important has been the human connections. Spending the Bicentennial with my mom. Disneyland with John. Even seeing Spiderman with John this afternoon, and hoping he's started the charcoal for tonight's dinner.

I'm going to post this now, and try to spend some more quality time with John. I hope that whatever you are doing this holiday, it's a) with someone you love, and b) interesting, fun and memorable.

Fireworks optional.