panelarrow

November 16, 2016
by admin
0 comments

An Open Letter To The Country

With the election of Donald Trump to the position of President of the United States, many people are in a panic. Fear and predictions of a horrible future are everywhere.

But in reality, we don’t know what will happen until it happens. Will Trump do all the things that he said he will do during his campaign? Doubtful. Has any president ever done all the things they promised or threatened to do? No. Only time will tell what he will try to do, and what the other branches of government, and the people, will allow him to do.

I am seeing some people post on social networks that “we will survive.” But there is no guarantee of this. Every great country and nation eventually collapses. The ancient Egyptians, Greeks, Romans, Incans, Aztecs and all the others eventually collapsed. In more recent times, the Soviet Union (U.S.S.R.) collapsed. So the collapse of the U.S. is a certainty, but is this that time? No one knows.

As a sidebar, the United States brought about the collapse of the Soviet Union through an arms race. We spent more, and they felt like they needed to spend more to keep up with us. Eventually, the arms race bankrupted them. Good for us as we destroyed an enemy without a war. The problem is that after we won, we kept fighting. We didn’t reduce our military spending, and Trump wants to increase it.

Currently, the United States spends about $600,000,000,000 a year on the military, which is more than the next 7 highest spending countries combined. That’s about 54% of the United States budget. If we aren’t careful, we will suffer the same consequences as the U.S.S.R. We will fall prey to our own trap. But I digress.

Many people say Trump was elected because of lost jobs in steel and other manufacturing, and his promise to bring back these lost jobs. This may be true, but people need to realize that it’s not the government’s job to supply people with jobs. It’s each person’s responsibility to acquire a set of job skills that companies want. In times of change that often means learning new job skills, and/or moving to where jobs can be found.

In my 60 plus years on Earth, I’ve had job fields disappear, requiring me to retrain myself and move to earn a living. Most people don’t like to do this, but that’s just the way life is. There was a time in my life that lasted about fifteen years, where I was changing careers every two to three years. I used to make a great living designing and troubleshooting Excel spreadsheets for companies. But over the course of several years it went from a handful of people knowing how to do this, to every company having several people who could do it. I went from being so busy that I turned down several jobs a week, to going months with no work. Over the course of several months, I retrained myself with new computer and marketing skills, and was soon working for a nice company.

The reality is that the U.S. is no longer a major manufacturing country, and it never will be again. Those who have lost jobs in this sector due to mechanization (robots) and outsourcing to other countries must realize that these jobs are gone forever. Policy changes may bring a few back, but the steel and other manufacturing jobs are gone forever, and these workers need to retrain themselves and move to better job markets. No politician will ever admit to this in public, because it would be career suicide, but it’s the truth.

The reason these jobs are gone forever is that the pay and benefits in the U.S. is so much higher than most other countries. I heard an interview on NPR (National Public Radio) of a man who owns a sock company in the United States. Yes, the things you put on your feet. He said that socks are mostly made by machine, and that he pays the same for the machines and yarn to make socks as any other company in the world.

So his socks cost the same as those made overseas, until people get involved. The toes of the sock must be stitched by a person using a sewing machine. At that point, his socks become much more expensive than socks made anywhere else. When workers in the US are paid three or more times more per hour than workers overseas, and have medical insurance, disability insurance, retirement plans and more, there’s no way to compete financially with countries overseas.

The responsibility of the government is to provide a stable environment (no wars, recessions or out of control inflation) and a working infrastructure (roads, bridges, waterways, air traffic control) so that people and businesses can operation easily, efficiently and with relative stability.

It’s also responsible for providing a safe working and living environment with rules, regulations and penalties for breaking them. That’s why organizations like OSHA and the EPA exist. They keep workers and families safe. Companies complain about having rules, but we’ve all seen how reckless companies get when they have free rein to do whatever they want. Polluted air, water and land, with people getting sick or dying are the consequences of few or no regulations.

People determine the rest by their own wants and needs. Businesses then open up and provide goods and services to meet those needs. You want a cell phone? Companies open up to provide them. If you want a great cell phone for under $500, companies need to find the least expensive way to provide that product and still make a decent profit. I won’t go into the greed factor that many companies have, such as the recent EpiPen price increase where a company sold $1.00 worth of epinephrine in a delivery device for $600. That’s a topic for a different time.

The world changes and you must change along with it. The old saying “Adapt or die” is true. When the world changes and you lose your job, it’s your responsibility to find a way to become valuable to a company or industry. Yes, it’s hard work, and no one really wants to do it. But if you want to survive in a rapidly changing world, you don’t have a choice.

Will Trump destroy America? It’s possible, but unlikely. He certainly has the power to do it, but no one really knows what he will do until he tries. The people (really the Electoral College) put him in office, so the America he creates is our own doing. But it’s also our responsibility to donate to watchdog organizations (ACLU, NAACP, Planned Parenthood, SPLC, etc.) and to volunteer or work for them so that we know what Trump, and all of our politicians, are doing. Shining a light on their activities will keep them honest and citizens informed.

Pull on your big boy or big girl pants and take charge of your life, keep an eye on those in power and create a wonderful life for yourself. Learn from what you did that failed, and remember what you did to achieve success.

Have Fun,
Jeff

Share This:

November 2, 2016
by admin
Comments Off on Jeff’s Arizona Adventures – Kachina Trail

Jeff’s Arizona Adventures – Kachina Trail

If you’re looking for a great hike, you need to try the Kachina Trail near Snowbowl in Flagstaff. It winds along the base of the peaks, takes you through thick forests and to open meadows.

Aspens on the Kachina Trail

Aspens on the Kachina Trail

My wife and I went on this trail a few weeks ago when the Aspens were filled with yellow leaves. A strong wind had started blowing that morning, so many of the exposed trees in the area had lost some, or all, of their leaves. But on the Kachina trail, most of the Aspens were sheltered by the evergreens, so they still had their leaves, and their glorious colors. As you hike through the pine forest, you will see areas of color next to the trail, or high overhead. In fact, these are some of the tallest Aspen that I’ve seen anywhere.

Due to a late arrival, my wife and I hiked only about 1.5 miles (2.4 km) of the five miles (8 km) of this popular trail. But we’re looking forward to enjoying the entire trail soon. It’s not a difficult hike, at least for the area we traveled, but there are places where you have to watch out for roots and rocks in the path.

On this trail, you’ll spend a lot of time in a pine and Douglas fir forest, dotted with giant Ponderosa pine, ferns and many patches of Aspens. But there are also several meadows with expansive views, some canyons and a basalt ridge.

Being a popular trail, it can be crowded. But as with all trails, the further you go, the thinner the crowds. Even at the beginning of the trail, most of the time we had it to ourselves.

Aspens on the Kachina Trail

Aspens on the Kachina Trail

If the idea of a 10 mile (16 km) round trip hike seems daunting, bring two cars; park one at the end of the trail, then drive back to the beginning of the trail. Use the second car to drive back to the beginning of the trail when you’re done.

Hike safe, and bring plenty of water and snacks.

Have Fun,
Jeff

Share This:

October 12, 2016
by admin
Comments Off on Jeff’s Arizona Adventures – Lenox Crater Hike

Jeff’s Arizona Adventures – Lenox Crater Hike

A couple weeks ago, my wife and I made a trek to one of our favorite places, Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument (https://www.nps.gov/sucr/index.htm). It’s a cinder cone near Flagstaff, and part of the San Francisco Volcanic Field. In the past, northern Arizona had a lot of volcanic activity, and Sunset Crater last erupted 900 years ago.

Sunset Crater

Sunset Crater.

This area is a great place to photograph fall colors. There aren’t a lot of Aspens, but photographing the ones that are there, against black basalt and cinder, really makes the colors pop.

Aspen in cinder field

Aspen in cinder field.

On this trip, we wanted to go on a newly created trail to the peak of Lenox Crater (https://www.nps.gov/sucr/planyourvisit/lenox-trail.htm). This approximately 1 mile (1.6 km) trail is pretty steep going up to the summit, and combined with the altitude of about 7,000 feet (2,134 m), can be taxing. Pace yourself, take breaks when needed and drink plenty of water.

On the hike, my wife and I saw wild flowers next to the trail, fallen trees, trees with scars from lightning strikes, and some amazing views. I enjoyed looking at the fallen trees root balls, wondering what hidden treasures their demise had revealed. While treasure was missing, the shapes in these root balls were amazing. One tree, that fell some time ago, was especially fascinating The wood of the root ball had been bleached and weathered by the sun, rain and snow. Jagged edges, gentle curves and hypnotizing swirls entranced me. I could have photographed this wonder for hours.

Flower next to trail

Flower next to trail.

 

Tree after lightning strike

Tree after lightning strike.

 

Root ball

Root ball.

 

Root ball

Root ball.

At the top, there really isn’t a crater, as the falling ash from the Sunset Crater eruption filled it in, but the views are vast and breathtaking. There’s also an information plaque there that helps you identify the surrounding mountains that you can see from here.

One advantage of the steep trail is that it keeps the crowds down. We were there on a Free National Park Day, with two to three times as many people as usual and only encountered two groups of two people on the trail. Try out Lenox Crater trail for great views and peace and quiet.

Have Fun,
Jeff

Share This:

September 18, 2016
by admin
Comments Off on Fall Colors Across The Country

Fall Colors Across The Country

Fall colors have arrived in many places, and are spreading across the country. Reds, yellows, oranges and other colors are popping up everywhere, so grab your camera and take some great photographs of Mother Nature’s big show.

To help you get the most out of your shooting, I’ve updated my annual list of links about Fall colors and where to find them. Since I live in Arizona, I’ve put together a special section for my state.

Changing colors

Oak leaf in Williams, Arizona

As you go to these sites, you will often find many links to other sites. You could easily spend an entire day following link after link, or just go to the main pages I have listed here.

I hope you get some fantastic photographs this year. Feel free to leave a comment with a link to your images of changing colors. I’m sure everyone would love to see them.

Have Fun,
Jeff

Arizona

Finding Fall Color in Arizona – An About.com site with lots of links to information about changing colors in Arizona.

Fall Colors on the Coconino – This Coconino National Forest site explains why leaves change colors, what trees produce what colors, and hikes to see this wonder of nature.

Fall Colors – Current Forest Information – You can find up-to-date changing color information here.

Changing Colors

Aspens near Flagstaff, Arizona

The Rest Of The Country

Current Fall Foliage – The Weather Channel has a map of the U.S. showing where the leaves are changing colors by region.

Fall Color Report – Wisconsin – Detailed information on color changes, and when the colors will peak.

Fall Color Report – Minnesota – Detailed information on where the leaves are changing color in Minnesota.

Fall Colors – The Great Smokey Mountains – A National Park Service site with detailed information about leaves changing color in the Great Smokey Mountains, as well as hikes and drives to take.

Fall Color Webcams – Webcams across the country.

Leef Peepers – Links and phone numbers for fall foliage information for New England, Midwest, Rockies, West and South.

Natural History Wanderings – A long list of links from across the country that track changing colors.

State by State Guide to Fall Foliage – An About.com site with information on changing colors in many states.

Travel Notes – A list of links from various states.

There’s a National Fall Color Hotline too, 1-800-354-4595. Call this number and choose the area of the country you’re interested in and get information on leaf color, scenic drives, peak times for the colors and other fall activities.

Changing colors

Aspen leaves on fallen log at Snowbowl, Arizona

Canada

Natural History Wanderings – A list of several sites that track changing colors.

Share This:

September 6, 2016
by admin
Comments Off on Jeff’s Arizona Adventures – Walnut Canyon National Monument

Jeff’s Arizona Adventures – Walnut Canyon National Monument

My wife, Linda-Ann, and I have been visiting Walnut Canyon for decades, and we never tire of its beauty and calmness.

Walnut Canyon is a wide canyon of rock, petrified sand dunes and pine forest with a peninsula of rock sticking out into the canyon for a short distance. The sides of the canyon are dotted with Native American rock dwellings, and they line the walls of the peninsula. You walk along a path that circles the peninsula, where you can not only see, and enter, these dwellings, but see the dwellings in the surrounding canyon walls.

Sinagua dwelling on the cliff face. And you think you have a rough commute every day?

Sinagua dwelling on the cliff face (bottom right). And you think you have a rough commute every day?

The last couple of times that we’ve visited was during the monsoon season, and experienced a thunder storm. When the rain starts we find shelter in the old ruins, and listen to the rain drops falling on the pine forest, and thunder echoing in the canyon. It’s a magical experience.

Sinagua structures are all around the canyon walls, but they are all at the same level.

Sinagua structures are all around the canyon walls, but they are all at the same level.

Walnut Canyon (https://www.nps.gov/waca/index.htm) has been visited by various peoples for thousands of years. The Sinagua were the first permanent residents, and they lived in the area from about 600 A.D. to 1400 A.D.

Walking around the cliff dwellings, it’s fascinating to see tiny rooms, many of which are smaller than my bathroom, and realize that an entire family lived there. Looking out from these dwellings, and seeing cliff dwellings on the other side of the canyon, is a step back in time. I’m seeing the same thing the Sinagua saw when they lived in these dwellings 900 years ago.

Closeup of some structures.

Closeup of some structures.

One interesting thing about our visits here is that each time we hear Native American flute music for a few minutes. It’s like Carlos Nakai is hiding around some corner, playing his heart out. The sound of that flute floating around the canyon, and getting inside of your body, is very ethereal.

After walking through the office, and visiting the attached gift shop and museum, you walk down a flight of stairs and go outside to the overlook. There’s also an open elevator that mobility challenged people can use to access the overlook.

Inside one room, looking at other rooms.

Inside one room, looking at other rooms.

Now, the fun starts. You will walk down stairs, a lot of stairs, to get to the walkway that wraps around the stone peninsula, where you can see, and enter Sinagua cliff dwellings. As you take these stairs down, remember that when you’re done, you have to take them back up, all 185 feet (56 meters) worth. You can take breaks on landings, so don’t worry.

If stairs aren’t your thing, you can still have wonderful views from the overlook. You can also enjoy a paved, and mostly level, trail that starts near the door to the office, wanders along the cliff and overlooks the canyon and ruins. Picnic tables are located along the trail, so you can eat your lunch in the forest.

Structure on the far canyon wall, as seen from inside a structure on the peninsula.

Structure on the far canyon wall, as seen from inside a structure on the peninsula.

Walnut Canyon is where we go to travel back in time, and to find peace and quiet in a busy world. Grab a picnic lunch and head on over. You’re sure to enjoy the visit.

Have Fun,
Jeff

Share This:

July 14, 2016
by admin
Comments Off on Lightning Storm

Lightning Storm

Last week a storm came through that was amazingly active. The lightning flashes were nonstop. It was like a strobe was going off, and it went on for hours. The only problem is that all of the lightning was inside the clouds. So they would light up, but I couldn’t see any lightning bolts.

As the storm moved off, the back edge went by, and I could finally see some bolts. Here are two shots I made as the storm drifted away.

Have Fun,
Jeff

Lightning with car headlights

 

Lightning0203

Lightning with car headlights.

Share This:

June 21, 2016
by admin
Comments Off on Jeff’s Arizona Adventures – The Arboretum at Flagstaff

Jeff’s Arizona Adventures – The Arboretum at Flagstaff

The country is having a heat wave; it’s 103 degrees F (39 C) at my home, and I have out of state visitors arriving who don’t do well with heat. We had some outdoor activities planned when we first heard they were coming out, and it was cooler, but those all evaporated. Sorry, bad pun.

But wait, we could go to Flagstaff. It’s only an hour away, a few thousand feet higher in elevation, and just 85 degrees F (29 C). So off we went with our guests.

There’s a lot to see and do in Flagstaff, but we decided to go to the Arboretum www.thearb.org . Part of the fun of getting to the Arboretum is the dirt road. It’s well maintained, and a couple miles long. Look in your rear-view mirror, and you will see a huge dust cloud behind you. I felt like I was drive a super hero’s car, and had hit the smoke-screen button. It was great fun for me, not so much for the car behind me.

Butterfly - The Arboretum at Flagstaff

Monarch Butterfly

The Arboretum is a 200 acre site with plenty of shade, usually a nice breeze, and is very quiet and peaceful. Between the grounds and greenhouse, you can see over 2,500 species of mostly drought-tolerant plants found on the Colorado Plateau. There’s wildlife in the area too. We saw a mommy and baby bunny, squirrels, birds, fish and lizards. Sometimes you will see elk too.

Flower - The Arboretum at Flagstaff

We spent time in the museum and gift shop when we first arrived, and I managed to get a few birthday and Christmas gifts. I like to shop all year long for gifts, so I don’t go broke when birthdays and Christmas arrive. Especially since I have four friends whose birthdays are the week before Christmas.

Butterfly - The Arboretum at Flagstaff

Zebra Longwing

A big draw for us on this visit to the Arboretum was the new Butterfly House www.thearb.org/visit/tours-and-activities/ . It’s in a tent-like structure, and there were about a dozen butterflies inside. More butterflies will be added soon. It’s a small structure, but it easily holds 10 people, and they let me use my tripod. I created some really nice pictures of the butterflies and flowers, and even had a Monarch land on my arm.

Butterfly and Echinacea - The Arboretum at Flagstaff

Queen Butterfly (Danaus gilippus) on Echinacea (Purple Coneflower)

If you’re looking for a place to get out of the heat, enjoy some peace, quiet and butterflies or commune with nature, then the Arboretum at Flagstaff is the place for you.

Have Fun,
Jeff

Share This:

June 13, 2016
by admin
Comments Off on Jerome Home Tour 2016

Jerome Home Tour 2016

Recently we attended the annual Jerome Historic Home Tour. We go to this event every year. It’s great to get a peek into the old houses and business’ in town.

It was a real treat this year when the first stop on the tour was the open pit mine, currently owned by Freeport-McMoRan. No one, and I mean no one, gets on the Freeport property except for their employees. Probably due to liability issues.

Jerome Home Tour

Jerome Home Tour

I took a lot of photographs through the viewing ports in the fence. Not ideal shooting conditions, but I was happy as could be just to get photographs of the mine. I could even see two mine shafts on the wall of the pit. These shafts ran through the ground before it was converted to open pit mining.

Jerome Home Tour

There are two old mine shafts, one toward the bottom and a little to the right, and one a little left of dead center.

 

Jerome Home Tour

The vault in the side of the mountain was where all the explosives were stored.

We also had a little excitement when an older woman fell down. She didn’t look hurt, just shaken up. But they took her to the hospital to be checked out anyway.

Jerome Home Tour

I feel these kinds of tours, which happen in several other cities around here, are very important. These old building won’t be here forever, and once they are gone, they will never return. Every year I see these old buildings get torn down or refurbished. I’m guessing that in ten years, all of the original old buildings will be gone.

Jerome Home Tour

Jerome Home Tour

While not on the tour, this hotel is scheduled to be refurbished, and when done, will look good as new. Another old beauty will be lost.

If you have a historic tour in your area, take advantage of it. You never know how long these old gems will be around.

Have Fun,
Jeff

Share This:

May 2, 2016
by admin
Comments Off on The May Wallpaper Is Ready

The May Wallpaper Is Ready

Hi,

Get your copy of the May wallpaper for your computer. This month shows an old building in Jerome, Arizona. Even though there’s not much left of this ol’ gal, a glass blower runs his business out of the first floor. Get your copy here http://bit.ly/1Sdbz3d

Have Fun,
Jeff

Jerome, Arizona

Share This:

April 27, 2016
by admin
Comments Off on Make Your Unusable Photographs Beautiful

Make Your Unusable Photographs Beautiful

If you’re like me, you take a lot of nature photographs, and you know that nature doesn’t always offer blue skies with fluffy white clouds. I’ve photographed in rain, snow, strong wind, lightning storms and fog, and always get usable photographs.

One of the ways I do this is with Lightroom 5, and presets. Lightroom can add contrast, bring out the details in skies filled with rain clouds, and much more. I know people who spend an hour or more perfecting photographs shot in less than ideal conditions, but that’s not me. I usually spend less than two minutes working on a photograph.

There are some images that I have that just really can’t be saved. They are too flat, and won’t look good no matter how much I play with sliders and curves. That’s where presets come in.

There are many presets to choose from, and many are free. You may remember the list of free presets that I had in a past article, “Make Scary Photographs For Halloween” http://www.thecreativescorner.com/make-scary-photographs-for-halloween/

Besides these, the NIK presets were recently released for free by Google https://www.google.com/nikcollection/. I grabbed these as soon as they came out. I believe they were originally selling for $250. Head on over and get your copy.

What I like most about presets is that someone else has done all the work, and I get to create great images with one click. Be sure to create a virtual copy first, and work on that. You don’t want to radically change your original image.

When dealing with flat images, my first thought is to make them into some kind of monochrome image. Black and white, sepia, split tone and similar presets usually work well. It’s just a matter of personal taste.

Here’s an example of a flat image I took last week at the Grand Canyon. The day was overcast, and you can see some snow in the middle of the image. Even though the light was flat, I wasn’t going to pass up the chance to photograph this monolith.

The original image hasn’t been altered, except for straightening the horizon.

Grand Canyon

Original Image

I tried a variety of presets, and the first one I really liked was this mild sepia toned image, created with OnOne Toners – Light Mocha. It has a nice warm quality to it that counterbalances the cold of the sky and snow.

Grand Canyon

OnOne Toners – Light Mocha

The other one I liked was this Black and White, made with Nik Silver Efex Pro 2 – 034 Yellowed 2. It gives good contrast and shows the snow well, and the frame makes the image look like an old Polaroid image.

Grand Canyon

Nik Silver Efex Pro 2 – 034 Yellowed 2

There were other presets that I liked, but these were my favorites.

Grab some of your old photographs that are flat, a little out of focus or have some other problem, and see what magic you can create with presets. You’ll find that it’s fun, and using presets may spark your imagination into creating a whole series of images.

Have Fun,
Jeff

Share This: