Perfect February Evening, Lonesome Valley, Arizona

Perfect February Evening, Lonesome Valley, Arizona

Hanging rain clouds and rainbow at sunset, Lonesome Valley Buttes, Chino Valley, Arizona.

Pittman Valley Summer Cloud Panorama

Pittman Valley, Arizona summer clouds panorama

The summer of 2009 must have been a great one. It was a great one, in ways that I’m only more fully appreciating now, as I sift through my files.

I was living on the high, beautiful, wide open Coconino Plateau between Flagstaff and Williams, Arizona. I was renting “Stone House”, a small home on an historic ranch in Pittman Valley. Right outside was all the sky.

I spent many hours happily cutting and splitting firewood for the wood stove to keep me warm through the winter. I prepared that wood in the summer, so it had plenty of time to cure in the hot, dry Arizona high country sun so that it would be ready to burn hot in winter.

I also had my camera with me at all times. I gave up hunting wild animals long ago merely because I wanted to be free to hunt light, with  my camera, eyes, and feelings. I suppose I’m a photographic mountain man. Running a chainsaw or seeking another exquisite expression using a camera lens both seem natural to me.

This panorama was created by first taking six high resolution shots of the scene outside my back yard at that time. I merged them using Adobe Photoshop to create the kind of wide image that could not otherwise be expressed in a single photo.

Even today, it still seems like magic to me. All of it: the camera equipment, the computer equipment. But more importantly, the life of it. Having the privilege to live this peaceful life. This appreciative life.

Goodbye, October

Lonesome Valley sunrise colors, Arizona

October 30, only one day left in the month after this. In the perfect month. But the perfect month has almost run out of time.

A cold front had come through, with some clouds to possibly make sunrise colors. I launched myself out at dawn, wanting to roam a bit into the heart of Lonesome Valley.

In the beautiful high country and wide open spaces of the Central Arizona Highlands you can’t lose be being out in nature. Just go out, soak in the view, the fresh air, the friendly waves of people driving the other way on the country roads.

Anyway, I chose to drive east from Chino Valley on Perkinsville Road, because the views are wide open right away. High country grasslands, ranches, a chance to see one of the antelope herds, too.

The clouds above the Lonesome Valley Buttes lit up with the reds of the yet-unseen sun. Land shapes, sky shapes, color. The freezing dawn was warming up with sunrise, and the sun would soon warm the landscape with golden sunlight, too.

Goodbye, October. You’re the perfect month to me. The good news is that the second best month follows. November, when I get to savor the remnants lingering from your glowing light of autumn leaves.

Photo location: Lonesome Valley, Yavapai County, Arizona.

Sunset Radial Panorama

Arizona sunset panorama

Last night as I was approaching home, and the sunset hour, I could tell it had the makings of a spectacular one. The clouds were crazy patterned against the blue sky north of Prescott. Sometimes good looking sunset clouds move on or dissipate before the sun sets, but it didn’t look like that would happen this time. It pays to observe and be ready.

After stopping for several shots and some video, including “Grassland Skies”, I still had time to shower and wait for the sun to do its thing. Because I have a wide open western horizon in my back yard.

The clouds were not far above the horizon, rather than shutting off the sunset. So they would do their job as reflectors just after the sun had slipped below the landscape. But in this case, they also radiated out to the south, east, and north. What a killer combination of conditions. All I had to do next was watch and photograph.

As the recently departed sun’s fire lit up the clouds from below, I made a panorama series of four overlapping shots. That allowed me to merge them in Photoshop for one extremely high resolution final image, rather than taking a single super wide angle shot and cropping it heavily.

Photo Location: Chino Valley, Yavapai County, Arizona.

Muddy Mirror, Sullivan Lake

Sullivan Lake, Paulden, Yavapai County, ArizonaAfter the big monsoon thunderstorm up north, Chino Wash was awash with muddy water. The only kind of water dry country drainages seem to know. It’s either there, or not. And not for long.

The little dam that forms Sullivan Lake at Paulden, Arizona was built by the Works Progress Administration in 1938, 75 years ago. It wasn’t thrown together at any old location. It’s the head of the Verde River, where the drainage has cut a small, vertical gorge through the malpais basalt rimrock. Plenty of basalt boulders to use in the construction, as well.

A few days after the big rain, the water was barely flowing over a portion of the right side of the dam. The rapidly greening Arizona Highlands grassland was vibrant in the evening sunlight. The water was still muddy, but reflected the blue sky quite nicely.

Photo Location: Paulden, Yavapai County, Arizona.

Last Sunset Of July, Wide View

Arizona Sunset

The wide view of yesterday’s sunset photo, shifting one’s attention from the blazing yellows and oranges just above the sun outward to the pinks and purples of the upper clouds, and the blue sky canvas.

Photo location: Chino Valley, north of Prescott, Yavapai County, Arizona.

Bring on the Monsoon

Monsoon Clouds, evening, Chino Valley, Arizona

Finally. After another dry, windy spring and early summer, the weather pattern has shifted to bring ocean moisture up from Mexico. The moisture gets turned into clouds by the hot, sunny Arizona sun. Big clouds: cumulus and thunderheads. Thunder, lightning, and rain happens. In places. Or not, depending on where you are at the moment.

It’s the Southwest’s summertime monsoon season. It brings much-cherished rain to the dry country, to the mountains, grasslands, and deserts of this region.

It also paints Arizona’s trademark blue skies with clouds of all shapes and shades. Especially in the evening, during the golden hour around sunset.

Bring on the monsoon, bring on the clouds.

Photo Location: Chino Valley, north of Prescott, Yavapai County, Arizona.

Circular Sunset Clouds

Circular sunset colors, Arizona

Another Arizona sunset. I’d thought the clouds were too low on the horizon, that they would cut off the sunset afterglow colors.

But as the clouds lit up with evening fire, a hole became apparent. It was a circular sunset! Sweet. “Never assume”.

Photo Location: Little Chino Valley, north of Prescott, Arizona.

Camera: Olympus Pen E-PL5. Lens: Yes. Post processing in Adobe Lightroom 4.

The Right Clouds

Arizona sunset, Chino Valley

Clouds make the sunset. If it’s a clear sky, the sun is just a little orange ball sinking out of sight below the horizon.

Too many clouds on the western horizon cuts off the sunset afterglow colors.

But it doesn’t take many of the right kind of clouds, well positioned, to dramatically enhance the colors. Here, only a few cumulus clouds are on the horizon, but just high enough to leave a gap above the distant mountains, so that the sun’s rays aren’t cut off from the sky above. The clouds reflect the warm colors of the just-set sun and, in this instance, even spread it out into rays.

Photo location: Little Chino Valley, Yavapai County, central Arizona highlands. Elevation 5,000 feet.

Camera: Olympus Pen E-PL5, shot in Camera Raw format, post processed in Adobe Lightroom 4 for control over the values, such as contrast and shadow detail.

April Snow Shower Light, Lonesome Valley

Snow shower clouds, Lonesome Valley, Arizona

Springtime was interrupted, briefly, for some dying winter weather. What a morning it was. Blue sky, gorgeous, changing clouds, streamers of snow showers.

Looking toward the northern end of Lonesome Valley, I zoomed in on one of the distant snow showers. The rock formations have no name that I know of. But from this direction the center one could be called Nipple Butte.

Photo location: Lonesome Valley, north of Prescott Valley, Yavapai County, Arizona.