UNWINDING AND DISENGAGING – Marilyn Armstrong

Weekly Word Prompt: Unwinding

I was intending to unwind when we went down to see Tom and Ellin, but it turned out to be a more about technical recording information than relaxation. I like computers more than most people, but I really wanted to get away from them … just for a day or two.

Ironwood in the desert

Truthfully, I’m beat. I think I have never needed a vacation more than I do now. It’s not going to happen, but I can yearn.

The sun is a big flaunter. Never embarrassed to show off its colors, early morning or light by night.

The Superstitions

The last time we had a real vacation was January 2016 for almost two weeks in Arizona. Otherwise, it has been a day or two with friends and that’s good too, but I need time to unwind. When we used to go down to the Vineyard on vacation it took me a whole week to relax and another two to almost forget what I used to do for a living.

Photo: Garry Armstrong

Giving the lack of money not floating around here, I’m not counting on ever getting another vacation. I think maybe that part of our lives is done. I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised.

Physically, getting around has become pretty difficult, so unless we had a lot more than “just enough to get around,” there’s not much for me to do. We’d need a driver and someone to help us haul luggage.

Although a week along the seashore or in the mountains might be really lovely. Even near the sea or almost in the mountains.

MADE FOR YOU AND ME – Marilyn Armstrong

Words and Music by Woody Guthrie

This land is your land, this land is my land

From California to the New York island;
From the redwood forest to the Gulf Stream waters
This land was made for you and me.

As I was walking that ribbon of highway,
I saw above me that endless skyway:
I saw below me that golden valley:
This land was made for you and me.

I’ve roamed and rambled and I followed my footsteps
To the sparkling sands of her diamond deserts;
And all around me, a voice was sounding:
This land was made for you and me.

When the sun came shining, and I was strolling,
And the wheat fields waving and the dust clouds rolling,
As the fog was lifting a voice was chanting:
This land was made for you and me.

As I went walking I saw a sign there
And on the sign, it said “No Trespassing.”
But on the other side, it didn’t say nothing,
That side was made for you and me.

In the shadow of the steeple, I saw my people,
By the relief office I seen my people;
As they stood there hungry, I stood there asking
Is this land made for you and me?

Nobody living can ever stop me,
As I go walking that freedom highway;
Nobody living can ever make me turn back
This land was made for you and me.

That ribbon of highway ...

That ribbon of highway …

I saw above me, that endless skyway ...

I saw above me, that endless skyway …

I saw below me that golden valley ...

I saw below me that golden valley …

Navajo Big Sky

I’ve roamed and rambled and I followed my footsteps, to the sparkling sands of her diamond deserts …

This land was made for you and me ...

This land was made for you and me …

THE SUPERSTITIONS – Marilyn Armstrong

The Superstitions: Most Jagged Mountains – 03/19/19

The Superstitions, known locally (I am told) as “The Supes” are a heap of jagged rocks. Nothing except cactus grows there. Maybe the odd bit of ironwood too. It’s pretty barren and very harsh.

Perfect for this challenge!

Not only spiky squares. Jagged, barbed, bristly, serrated, prickly, spiny, and pointy things and that’s certainly one of them.

UP ON THE HILL – Marilyn Armstrong

Photo Weekly Challenge – Top of the Hill


From the top of the hill to the flowing river below. From the road around the base of the mountain, a climb to the top.

Top to bottom, bottom to top, there’s always a hill and a path to climb or descend.

While looking down across the plains, the valley, the river, the ocean from the top of the hill or a mountain.

Attean View – Sunset – Jackman, Maine

Down to the Mumford

The mountain – Definitely up the hill

Down the road to Lake Otsego

Hills

GROWING – THE WEEKLY WORDPRESS PHOTO CHALLENGE

GROWTH OF SPIRIT IN THE COLD MOUNTAINS

I remember as a girl, my mother liked to give me  books she thought were important. One year was my “Nobel year” and all the books she gave me had won Nobel prizes for literature. Some were not bad at all. Jean-Christophe by Romain Rolland (1915 winner) was incredibly long, but really interesting for a girl studying music because it is a fictionalized biography of Beethoven.

Jackman, Maine

Growth of the Soil by Knut Hamsun which won him the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1920, was a rougher go. It was about trying to survive on a hardscrabble, cold and barren part of Norway. I sort of hated the book, but I can’t forget it, either. These were people who lived terrible lives. They were so miserable it was almost art in its own way.

Attean view, Jackman, Maine

This prompt is about growth and I wish I had pictures from that hardscrabble land in Norway. For all I know, it has since become a tourist mecca. It has been a long time since the book was written and the world has changed. We now vacation in places no one could live 100 years ago and we think it very precious to be in these places.

Not so different than all the years we went to Jackman, Maine for vacation. An incredibly beautiful part of the country where you can — these days — easily survive. But work? Assets? Unless you came there already wealthy, you won’t find wealth in those mountains.

Jackman, Maine

On the positive side, you may find a kind of spiritual richness there unavailable in easier climates, in softer environments. And so these are pictures from Jackman, at the top of the mountains in northern Maine. It is as beautiful a place as I’ve ever been and probably one of the most difficult places to live. In that roughness is growth of your spirit.

ARIZONA MOUNTAINS – NEW PHOTOS FROM LOST FOLDERS

Saguaro along the mountains

I have been going through my folders. My photography folders. There are an awful lot of them and within each folder are even more folders. While searching for missing photographs, I have discovered there are thousands of photographs — good ones — which were never processed. Why not? Because I moved on to the next batch of photos and never went back. Two weeks later, I didn’t remember these photographs existed.

Phoenix Mountains and a saguaro

The good news is that I have some amazing pictures simply waiting for me to get to them. The bad news is that even after I find a great batch of waiting photographs, when I go back to work on them, I probably will have forgotten them.

Shadow of the mountain

The exception to this are vacation photographs because these are always in separate folders by events — so I know where they are. Which is why the first new batches you’ll see will be from Arizona 2016.

Three mountain peaks

I can find them. They are listed in the “A”s. And there are a lot of pictures those folders.

Wide mountains with saguaro

OUR MOUNTAINS – MARILYN & GARRY ARMSTRONG

A Photo a Week Challenge: Mountain

The city is Phoenix … but the mountain range that surrounds Phoenix has the same name, the Phoenix Mountains. We spend a lot of time in those mountain in 2016.

Photo: Garry Armstrong

And in Maine, more mountains.

Photo: Garry Armstrong

And then, there’s Vermont.

And Coooperstown.

Photo: Garry Armstrong

VACATIONS AND PLACES AS WE ENTER SUMMER

Share Your World – May 29, 2017

What is the most famous landmark or building you have ever seen?

It has been my fate to live in and visit a few famous cities. I grew up in New York, so there has always been The Empire State Building. Then, there’s the Western Wall of the ancient Temple in Jerusalem. And the Tower of London … that’s pretty well-known, isn’t it? How about the Golden Gate Bridge … or for that matter, the Brooklyn Bridge? The White House? The U.S. Capitol Building? Fenway Park? Stonehenge? Mab’s Cairn? London Bridge?

And Garry and I are ardent, enthusiastic visitors to museums … many of which are famous places in their own right. No way to answer this except that each place has been special in its own way and I wouldn’t give up any of them.

Which would be the most famous? I have no idea.

Do you like long vacation or lots of mini-vacations?

I like long vacations, but I have nothing against little vacations either. I like long vacations because you can relax and get into the mood of the place. At least two weeks in one place and you can finally relax. Stop thinking about going back to work or going home to clean up the mess into which your house has probably fallen in your absence!

But little vacations are like the cherry on the sundae … just a delicious something to sweeten the week.

These days, with the dogs, really long vacations have been few and far between … even more now that we have Gibbs who does not do well without us.

What is your favorite National or State Park?

I haven’t been to all of them or even half of them, so I can only guess.

The two I best remember are The Grand Canyon — one of those places you have to be to really “feel” … and Muir Woods outside San Francisco. Wonderful, both of them and completely different.

What is your fantasy vacation?

I always wanted to drive from east to west coast and back again. Maybe take a northern route going and a southern route heading home again. We’re still thinking about it. The problems are mostly financial (all those motels cost money!) … the dogs … and time. But we’re thinking.

MASSIVE AND MIGHTY

The Superstition  mountains were stony claws in the sky. There’s a mine up there, but no one can find it. How could anyone find anything up there in the massive, raw cliffs? Could you even ride a horse or must you travel afoot? Seeing gold and silver — maybe a few gems secreted deep in earth or rock?

Nothing I have seen before or since was as massive as those mountains. Blue though the sky may be, the mountains dragged that bright sun to earth.

MASSIVE MOUNTAINS | THE DAILY POST

GHOSTS OF THE SUPERSTITIONS – GARRY ARMSTRONG

We set out early from Phoenix, heading due east for the Superstition Mountains. We hoped to find the Lost Dutchman’s Mine, see if we could discover the secrets behind the legend.

72-MAR-Superstition-011316_099

I’d seen movies about the legendary mine and the souls lost by their lust for gold.

72-MAR-Superstition-011316_088

It was a good day for our trip. Sunny and mild. The air was fresh, crisp, clean. For a moment, I thought I smelled honeysuckle on the breeze.

72-Sign to Dutchman-GAR-Superstition-011316_009

72-Lost-Dutchman-MonumentGAR-Superstition-011316_028

Along the way, the spans of cactus covered desert shadowed by mountains were constant but not deadly companions. They seemed more like nature’s patrol, riding point and drag, to make sure we wouldn’t lose our way. A pilgrim’s awe of God’s country can sometimes lead to disaster.

72-Garry-by-MAR-Superstition-011316_038

We made a stop in Tonto National Park. That’s right, Kemo Sabe. Things have changed. Guess the Great White Father in Washington knows change is blowin’ in the wind.

72-MAR-Superstition-011316_277

No sign of Tonto, the Masked Man, Dan Reed, Silver, Scout, or Victor. Maybe there were off chasing the Cavendish Gang again. Those guys never seem to really die.

72-MAR-Superstition-011316_194

Tonto’s land was beautiful, a fitting legacy to the faithful companion who did most of the work but received little respect or credit. Then, we were back on the trail again, heading higher and higher with majestic mountains all around us.

72-Gabby Johnson-GAR-Superstition-011316_092

Growling bellies were a sign for a stop. Turned out to be part of the vast Lost Dutchman’s Mine country. A town for Pilgrims.

72-Apache-Land-MAR-Superstition-011316_054

72-Movie-Ranch-MAR-Superstition-011316_073

Midday, and the dudes were everywhere. Shops, stores and remnants of the past loomed all around us. Fool’s gold? I’m sure the ghosts of some miners were smiling at all this stuff.

72-Stagecoach-GAR-Superstition-011316_302

We pushed on to another picturesque stop as the road climbed higher and higher, seemingly to the sky.

72-Stagecoach-GAR-Superstition-011316_293

A stage-coach way station beckoned. Could have been one of Jim Hardie’s drivers who worked for Wells Fargo. He seemed impatient to get moving. His horses needed water and cooling down but had to wait with all those damn Pilgrims getting in the way again.

72-Marilyn on donkey-GAR-Superstition-011316_149

Our attention was diverted by a familiar face. His voice and speech pattern gave him away. Unmistakable. Pure frontier gibberish filled the air. Yes, it was Gabby Johnson!! Late of Rock Ridge, Gabby was plying his trade now at this way station.

Photo by Ben Taylor

Photo by Ben Taylor

Gabby was glad to see us. I think he was happy we didn’t mention anything about how he and Rock Ridge had initially treated their new sheriff. Past is past, we figured.

Photo by Ben Taylor

Photo by Ben Taylor

Marilyn and I took turns on Gabby’s Donkey. Photo op time for Pilgrims who secretly think they’re not really dudes.

Photo by Ben Taylor

Clementiny – Photo by Ben Taylor

Clementiny, Gabby’s younger pal, looked on with bemusement. Probably a dawning awareness of what the future held with more Pilgrims looking for their fifteen minutes of cowboy fame.

Photo by Ben Taylor

Photo by Ben Taylor

We were burning daylight as we pushed up the mountain road. Lunch still rested unsteadily with us. The chow had been good but our guts are not what they used to be.

72-At-Sunset-MAR-Superstition-011316_409

We found Superstition Mountain and the land surrounding the Lost Dutchman’s Mine. Nice scenery, certainly evocative of the movies of my youth. Nature provided a clean, pristine, multi-hued vista contrasted with the grainy black and white images of those old movies.

72-Goldfield-MAR-Superstition-011316_044

We sighed in the silent satisfaction you get from seeing those fabled images up close. In my sense memory, scenes from the movies played out in a seamless juxtaposition with all that our eyes now saw and recorded. If you love westerns, it doesn’t get any better than this!!

72-Apacheland-GAR-Superstition-011316_327

Daylight was draining as we rode back down the road, stopping here and there to savor the endless scenes of wonder.

72-Ben & Garry by MAR-Superstition-011316_144

One last sunset beckoned. We found our spot. Our host and old pal, Ben was off somewhere. I spied him lurking amid the tumbleweed and cactus. He had a strange look on his face. Too familiar and scary. Ben reminded me of Fred C. Dobbs in his last moments of sanity in the Sierra Madre mountains.

72-Saguaro-Sunset-MAR-Superstition-011316_305

Maybe we had spent too much time around the ghost of the Lost Dutchman.

72-Sunset-MAR-Superstition-011316_428

Maybe the sun had gotten to us. Maybe it figured to end this way, as sure as the turning of the earth.

GHOSTS | THE DAILY POST

DAY TWO – THE SEVEN DAY NATURE CHALLENGE

I feel honored to be chosen by Cee Neuner  to participate in the Seven Day Nature Challenge.

I am supposed to post a photo per day for seven days. The subject can be anything from the natural world. Each day I will try to nominate a new participant.  I’ll do the best I can with that, but if you would like to participate … especially if you are a nature photographer … please, contact me. I prefer to not draft people without asking first.

I have thousands of photographs, about 90% landscapes and other natural subjects. Autumn, the Blackstone River, water fowl, Arizona, and sunrises are all favorite subjects. This has encouraged me to go back into my files and process pictures that I’ve never worked with.

THE SUPERSTITION MOUNTAINS

72-MAR-Superstition-NEW-011316_326

I took these photographs on one wonderful, long day in the Superstition Mountains of Arizona. It was mid January with the sun high in the sky. The Superstitions (locally called “the Supes”) are impressive and forbidding. Beautiful to look at and a joy to photograph.

This final photograph has the distinction of being unprocessed except for a bit of cropping. It looked exactly like this, except maybe better.

72-Natural-Sunset-newer-MAR-Superstition-011316_428

We took thousands of pictures in Arizona. I haven’t gotten to processing more than a quarter of them. I tried to limit myself to one picture today, but I failed. Sorry!

Cee and I are acquainted with most of the same groups of photo bloggers and pretty much anyone I can think to nominate has already been nominated. If by some quirk of luck, you have been overlooked, PLEASE participate. Consider yourself nominated and chosen! Especially if these are the kind of pictures you usually post, it’s no stretch to just post them as part of the challenge. Come one, come all!

DUDES IN THE DESERT

Just two days after we got to Arizona, we spent a long day exploring the desert around Phoenix.

72-Gila River-MAR-Sunday-011016_211

The city sprawls for miles, but the desert spreads out even further. Interesting surprises are out there in the desert.

72-Garry- Ben-Sunday-011016_196

We found a dirt road that seemed to be going somewhere, so we followed it. It led to a smelly water recycling facility which, if you could handle the odor, had some interesting photo opportunities.

72-Desert-GAR-Sunday-011016_135

Then, we went a bit further and just around the corner, a riding stable with a lot of very handsome horses, a casino, and a Sheraton Hotel with exquisite landscaping.

72-4-Peaks-MAR-011016_080

Back to the desert … Vistas of mountains in the distance.

72-Mountain-Bi-Tonal-MAR-Sunday-011016_008

Twisted ironwood under which speedy little quail dart around as if they had no wings, preferring to run everywhere. At top speed.

72-Ironwood-MAR-Sunday-011016_185

And then it was time for lunch in “Rawhide.”

72-Rawhide-MAR-Sunday-011016_213

72-Rawhide-GAR-Sunday-011016_343

The food was really good and we were hungry. And tired. Ready to go home, which we did, stopping only for a beautiful sunset.

72-Dinner-Rawhide-MAR-011016_218

72-Newer-MAR-Phoenix-Mountains-Sunset-01062015_160

Photos by Garry and Marilyn Armstrong

CROPPING FOR FUN AND PROFIT: CEE’S COMPOSE YOURSELF CHALLENGE

CEE’S COMPOSE YOURSELF PHOTO CHALLENGE: #15 CROPPING TIPS

From Cee:

For your weekly assignment I would like to see at least 4 cropped photos showing the before and after results. Please describe what you learned in this lesson too.

Each week I will select several features from everyone who submits an entry. And from those posts that I feature, I will grant one blogger the Gold Star Award. To find out who was awarded the Gold Star Award and Features for this week, please see CCY Features Week #14 Symmetry.

I want to start this by saying I don’t crop my own pictures as much as most people. I learned photography during the film era. Every shot cost money to develop. Every print either cost money — if you sent it to a lab — or time, effort, and materials if you did your own printing. This was not time spent with your laptop on the sofa. It was on your feet, in a smelly darkroom making shadow shows on paper.

Lots of caustic chemicals and expensive paper later, you might get what you wanted. It wasn’t easy and it wasn’t quick.


This is a 3-shot sequence. 1. Original 2. Processed and cropped 3. More cropping, black & white.

(1) Original, uncropped, unprocessed

(1) Original, not cropped, unprocessed

(2) Cropped, sharpened, more contrast

(2) Cropped, sharpened, more contrast

(3) More cropping, black & white, even more contrast, selenium toning

(3) More cropping, black & white, even more contrast, selenium toning


I shoot tight. 90% of my cropping gets done in the viewfinder. Good because a high percentage of shots don’t need any significant post-processing. Bad because if I need to do anything, even just level the horizon, I have no room to work.

I am trying to retrain myself to shoot less tightly, to leave space for cropping, straightening, and so on. So far, my instinct to shoot tight has trumped my intentions, but I’m working on it.

Original, unprocessed, no cropping.

Original, unprocessed, no cropping.

Cropped, processed, done.

Cropped, processed, done.

The previous pair of (my) photographs are straightened, cropped, and processed. The cropping is across the top, bottom, and right edge.

The following two pair of photographs are Garry’s. I think you can easily see for yourself how I used cropping to show the picture to its best advantage.

The original. No post processing.

The original. No post processing.

Final result.

Final result.

In the above photo, I straightened the roof. I retained most of the width except for part of the right edge. I cropped off a piece of sky as well as the bottom of the picture including most of the SUV’s tires.

Original. No cropping or any post processing.

Original. No cropping or any post processing.

Finished picture.

Finished picture.

After straightening the shot, I removed most of the foreground and a chunk of sky. I kept most of the width, but removed a piece of the left edge to thin out the line of trees. The cropping made a big difference and it came out the way Garry says he saw it in his mind. I love this picture, by the way. I wish I’d taken it!

What did I learn? That I need to shoot a bit looser, to leave more working room around my images. And I need to stop dropping my left hand when I press the shutter so my horizons won’t always need straightening.