Wednesday, April 27, 2016


On our trip to Tucson, we stayed just north of the city's modest downtown district, and I spent some time just walking around the district with my camera.  Here are a few of the shots that I took.

First, the Tucson Museum of Art is located on the north side of the downtown.  We didn't have time to visit the museum proper, but its courtyard is open to the public and I shot the following couple of pieces during a walk through the courtyard.  The first was a very nice bronze of a cowboy on horseback.

I liked better the closer shot that I converted to an intentionally slightly overexposed black and white.

The other two pieces were what appeared to be strange cartoonish zombie cowboys--or something.

Bizarre but I liked them.

I paid a visit to the city's cathedral, which had a traditional exterior.  However, the structure is actually quite new and the interior lacked the character I find myself enjoying to photograph.  The only shot I retained was of a nice exterior statue.  The guy on the bottom looks like a goner.

I stumbled on a large development, including what appeared to be both retail and residential units, just on the south side of the downtown that caught my eye for its dramatic color combinations.  Here are a few shots that I took.

Admittedly, this is simply too new to have the character that I was looking for.  Maybe in 30 years.

Finally, in the following photo I caught the corner of one of the otherwise nondescript buildings that had a complex facade.  I was able to convert the image to a black & white and to turn the sky dark, making for a somewhat interesting if simple abstract.


Tuesday, April 26, 2016


On our trip to Tucson earlier this month, we stayed at a B&B ideally located just on the north side of the downtown area, in what is known as the El Presidio historic area.  Here is a shot of the plaque designating the B&B as a historic structure as well as shots of the B&B itself and a nice detail shot that I took in the lovely courtyard that the B&B included.

During our visit I spent some time simply walking around the neighborhood with my camera.  First was a so-called mansion across from our B&B that I converted to a black & white.

Part of what I was looking for were "authentic" humble Southwest architecture, hoping for the shot.  Let's just say it didn't happen.  This is what I did get.

Too bad about the telephone lines in the above photo.

I liked the composition in the following shot, although I didn't like the colors.

I also feel good about the following shot of a single barred window.  The color worked better also.

The most authentic appearing of the neighborhood shots I took was of this restaurant/bar a couple of blocks from our B&B.

One feature that I liked was a low wall that consisted of balusters that were part of the 18th century Spanish built El Presidio fort.  I thought it would be interesting to attempt to capture the vegetation peaking out between the balusters.  I focused on the vegetation in both of the following shots.

It is apparent that the two shots differ significantly in depth of field.  Interestingly, they were both shot at the same relatively narrow aperture of f/11.  However, in the first my lens was set at its maximum telephoto setting of 120 mm; whereas in the second the lens was set at a more normal 55 mm.  It is obvious that focal length makes a difference in depth of field.

Finally, I took the shot below of some poppies in one of the neighborhood yards.  The shot somehow has a soft, pastel feel that I thought worked fairly well.



On the final day of our trip to Tucson earlier this month we visited the Pima Air & Space Museum.  It was very impressive.  It included several large hangars of both vintage and more contemporary planes, along with what could be considered novelty aircraft.  In addition, there were numerous other planes on the grounds outside the hangars.  Altogether, the museum featured over 300 planes.  In addition, there was a hangar that housed space vehicles and paraphernalia.  We took a peek in that hangar, but only spent a few minutes there.  I would also add that we took two walking tours of the main plane hangars and were treated to a docent who was superb.  In addition to the walking tours, which were at no additional charge to the general admission, there were a couple of other available narrated tours, one a tram tour of the exterior grounds and the second a tour of planes on the adjacent Air Force base that had been "mothballed."

As often happens, I did not keep track of the names or heritages of most of the aircraft, so much of what I am posting is without specific comment.  Many of the planes were suspended from the ceiling, including the following.

Others were featured because of their unusual design or history.

That included the above plane which, at 6.5 feet in length, is the world's shortest plane.

This final shot, below, is the only one I kept of the planes that were stationed outside.

Photographing aircraft in this setting had its challenges.  For the most part, except for the above shot, the planes could not be isolated.  Moreover, many of them were silvered in color which made it difficult to have them stand out from whatever backgrounds they were posed against.  


Sunday, April 24, 2016


Kitt Peak is located about 55 miles southwest of Tucson.  It has one of the largest arrays of telescopes in the world, including two radio telescopes, a solar telescope, and 22 traditional light gathering stellar telescopes.  Of the 25 large telescopes, 4 are run by the National Science Foundation and the remaining 21 are owned or managed either by individual universities or by consortiums of schools.

On our recent trip to Tucson, we spent a very enjoyable day there touring the facility.  I would recommend it to anyone who has even a passing interest in astronomy (and who doesn't).  It also helped that, as is typically the case, the weather was clear and, because of its elevation of some 6,850 feet, about 15 degrees cooler than that in Tucson.

Here, first, are a couple of panoramic views of the telescope array on the mountain.

The largest dome in the second shot houses the largest telescope on the mountain, a 4.0 meter reflector.  (The size refers to the diameter of the primary reflecting mirror.)  In the first shot, the triangular shaped structure in the distance on the left is the solar telescope.  More about these later.  The Kitt Peak complex is located on a Native American reservation and exists by permanent permission of the resident tribe.

Here is a photo of a replica, built of concrete, of the mirror of the largest, 4.0 meter, telescope.  The replica has been painted by the tribe to reflect the relationship between the tribe and the astronomical community.  I should have had Geri stand in front of the replica (or behind it, looking out through the central hole) to provide perspective, as the disc is about 13 feet in diameter and, like the mirror that it is modeled after, weighs about 15 tons.

Kitt Peak is an operating astronomical observatory, not simply a tourist destination.  However, three tours are offered daily.  We arrived too late to participate in the tour of the solar telescope but did take the other two tours, which, as seniors, cost us a total of $9.75 each--a bargain, I thought.  Even though we did not formally tour the solar telescope, we did have time to do a sort of "self-tour."  Here are a couple of shots I took of that instrument.

To provide some perspective, the length of the diagonal component of this telescope is approximately 200 feet.  Here is a shot of Geri posed in front of that component.

The visitors center includes a number of interesting exhibits.  I took photos of a few of them, including the following:

A display showing the different sizes of the mirrors for the various telescopes.

A parabolic mirror--the shape of the surface of each of the reflecting telescopes at the facility--which turns images upside down.

Various diagrams of the telescopes.

And an interactive plasma electricity generator.  (Not sure of its relevance, but it was neat and made for an interesting photo.)

We toured both the 2.1 meter and the 4.0 meter stellar telescopes, but most of my photos are from the tour of the larger of the two.  When completed in 1976, the 4.0 meter scope was the second largest in the world.  Now it is no longer in the top 20 in size.  There are a couple reasons for that.  First, astronomical research is more and more an international enterprise and larger telescopes are being built in the southern hemisphere, including, notably, Chile.  Second, the construction techniques for telescopes have changed dramatically, allowing for much lighter mirrors and, importantly, mounting systems that are controlled digitally rather than mechanically.  For example, if a 4.0 meter mirror were built today, it would weight around 1.5 tons rather than the 15 tons that the mirror in the 1976 scope weighs.

I'm not sure of the function of the lower auxiliary structure, but it was connected with the 4.0 meter telescope.  The lower structure had an interesting design that showed nicely in the brilliant sunlight and I took a couple of semi-abstracts.

I also took a shot of the 4.0 meter scope from its base that worked well, I thought, as a semi-abstract.

The road leading to the observatory complex from the desert floor below offers a number of panoramic views.  Here is the best of those that I took.

There is a reason why I cropped this shot in such a narrow horizontal fashion.  I was unsuccessful in incorporating any foreground elements, such as trees, in the image, so the lower part of the shot had nothing to add.  And the sky above the horizon was essentially blank.  Cropping the shot so narrowly served to direct attention to what I thought were the interesting aspects of the image--the "islands" of peaks poking up through the general haze.


Saturday, April 23, 2016


It is likely that most mid-sized cities have a similar shopping area, one that features "alternative" establishments, including hookah and tattoo parlors.  The 4th Avenue district serves that function for Tucson, and early on the Sunday morning during our recent trip there I visited the area with my camera.

One of the establishment on the avenue is a Good Will outlet.  Here are a couple of shots of that.

Colorful, at least.  I like taking archway shots, but this posed evident problems of symmetry.

The use of padlocks to show commitments between individuals is becoming popular, and there were a number of stands along the avenue that were used for that purpose.

Although this was a good shot technically, compositionally it lacked a lot.  I probably would have done better to have forsaken trying to capture the entire heart and just narrowed it down to, say, a single "lobe" of the heart to provide a better closeup of the locks.

Here, as an interlude perhaps, is a curious little sculpture over the doorway of one of the shops.

As I said, tattoo parlors were common along the avenue.

But even more common was the public art on display.  Here are some examples.

I liked the lips, but I thought the most accomplished example was the following.

Here are some closeups of that piece.

Finally is a sandwich shop storefront that I liked for its unpretentious color scheme and clever signage.