Thursday, December 22, 2011

more Sabino Canyon iPhone photos...with SNAPSEED

My sister-in-law is in town. Yesterday my wife and I took her for the obligatory visit to Sabino Canyon; seeing the remaining fall color in the canyon made me return there today to go for a late-morning run.

I took along my iPhone, strapped to my wrist--here are a few photos from the first day of winter here in Tucson. The autumn foliage begins late here in the desert; the cottonwoods, sycamores and ash are often at their peak right around the winter solstice:

...perfect morning light...
The recent rains have replenished the creek, which is flowing higher than normal:

...the cottonwoods are glorious:

And below, a few photos from yesterday evening, when we took my sister-in-law:
So yes, you can tell that these iPhone photos have been 'manipulated' a bit--yep, I'm playing with a new app I just got: "Snapseed," which was recently named by Apple as one of the best apps of the year, 'app of the year,' in fact!

For photo-editing in the palm of your hand, this app is amazing! It allows you to do all sorts of correcting--'teasing out' what your eyes see in cases of tricky exposure in addition to applying filters. For example, the photo above began as this:

And here's another 'fixed' photo...
...and its original dark form:

And one more before...
...and after:

Snapseed has truly been a 'toy' the past couple of days--and with plenty of photo-fodder in the canyon, I've been playing a lot. The editing features are so easy to learn how to use--very intuitive--and I'm still blown away that I can do it all in the palm of my hand just seconds after taking the original photo!

I'm overusing the 'tilt and shift' filter right now, (also known as 'miniature' or 'toy' effect), but the effect can be fun, so here are a few more examples, from photos I happened to have on my phone:

The Old Courthouse and the Gateway Arch in St. Louis:

A bit of old almost lost amidst the new in central Seoul,
the late Yi-dynasty 'Altar of Heaven' in the garden of the Westin Hotel:

More old/new in Seoul--the grounds of Toksu-gung Palace in the center of the city:

And something more 'local'--the 1920's Pima County Courthouse in downtown Tucson:

Sunday, December 18, 2011

in and around Sabino Canyon on an afternoon run

We've had a string of stormy days here in the desert: cold rain on the cacti and snowcapped mountains...

The sun came out late the other afternoon, so I took my iPhone with me on a run in the hills above Sabino Canyon. Although the photos aren't really suitable for printing larger than 5x7 or 8x10, the quality of the images that the iPhone camera can capture continues to impress me:

    (panorama above pieced together using the AutoStitch app on the iPhone)

...and down in the canyon itself, the creek is flowing strong
and the late fall cottonwoods are coloring its banks:

It was a late afternoon of "photo-fartlekking"--a great way to combine photography and trail-running.

No, really, "fartlekking" is a real word--here's more information on this training method for runners. (It comes from the Swedish for "speed play".)


A couple of colleagues of mine have started a new
literary and visual arts journal: Three Coyotes,
published here in Tucson.

Its mission: to publish "the work of our best poets, writers and artists
in response to the environment, the American West,
current issues, animals, the arts,
imagination and survival."

So, incidentally, in this year's Fall/Winter issue, which just came out,
this photo of mine was published--on page 121:

"Eye Contact"

Saturday, November 26, 2011

iPhone photos from a Black Friday hike in Bear Canyon...and some collages from elsewhere

For local day-hikes, when you want to be unencumbered with stuff, the iPhone is such a handy camera...and various apps allow for some pretty clean stitched-together panoramas--perfect for the landscape around Tucson...

'Black Friday' has been a hiking day for me the past few years, far from the madding crowds of the malls...Last week, I sprained my ankle; I was afraid I might not be able to go for a hike this year, but fortunately, it seems to be healing quickly. So, yesterday, a couple of friends and I met for breakfast and then headed to Bear Canyon, just a fifteen minute drive from mid-town Tucson.

Above image pieced together from three vertical phone-photos, using the AutoStitch app.
[This photo was just published in the Tucson newspaper's Foothills section.]

Two weekends ago, I went for a trail-run in here, and there wasn't much water--we've had a pretty rainy November, though, so the creek's been 're-charged'...just enough for some reflective pools among the fall color...

The trail to Seven Falls is mostly flat, although it does zigzag across a boulder-strewn creek for a couple of miles before switchbacking a few hundred feet up the south wall of the canyon.

...and after 3 1/2 miles, voilà Seven Falls:
vertical panorama from two photos

I pieced together eight phone-pics for this panorama--gives an idea of the terrain:
...from the left of the photo--looking down and out Bear Canyon toward the southwest, to the right of the photo--looking straight west into the Santa Catalina mountains, at Seven Falls, cascading down a steep smooth-stone gorge...

We shared the trail with lots of other post-turkey hikers--nice to see groups of multigenerational trekkers--grandparents, their kids and grandkids--all together, outdoors as family instead of being indoors somewhere amidst the consumer-frenzy...


Last week, while 'nursing' the sprained ankle, I had some time to play with a few older photos; I'd been meaning to group some together:

Desert Doorways: Tucson's Barrio Viejo

On the western edge of the city is "Old Tucson," the tv/movie set theme park of ersatz wild west streets. But the REAL Old Tucson is here: just south of the downtown core, full of preserved and restored adobe houses.

The Hohokam and Tohono O'odham peoples lived in this area long before Europeans arrived. The year before The Declaration of Independence was signed on the other end of the continent, the Spanish set up a presidio here. By 1821, this outpost became a Mexican settlement; it wasn't until 1854, with the Gadsden Purchase, that Tucson became a U.S. territorial town.

As with most western U.S. cities, strip-malls that could be from anywhere can sometimes detract from the mountainous setting...but seek history and you shall find; colors and stories in the desert abound.
When I first walked around the Barrio Viejo, I almost felt as if I were in a Mediterranean village...later, I came across this description, written by a Dr. J.H. Robinson of Columbia University, who visited Tucson for the first time in the 1930’s:

"But this cannot be the United States of America, Tucson, Arizona! This is northern Africa - Tunis! Algiers! - or even Greece, where I have seen as here, houses built flush with the sidewalks with pink, blue, green and yellow walls, flowers climbing out of hidden patios and overall, an unbelievable blue sky. And the sweet-acrid smell in the air? Burning mesquite. Lovely! And the people - charming. But all this is the Old World, not America."


Communing with ducks on the Sorgue
Ahh, to lie in a hammock on a summer afternoon in the South of France...
My wife and I had gone to visit friends who lived in LeThor, a town of a few thousand on the banks of the Sorgue River in Provence. (Between the very visited cities of Avignon and L'Île-sur-la-Sorgue, Le Thor is a quiet gem.) Their house was built into the medieval wall, just around a bend in the river from a 12th-century Romanesque church. We rowed a bit in the shade of plane trees, ducks for company...
In between the wall and the river, just enough room for a hammock, a table and four chairs--des olives, du pastis, and la sieste: perfect...
Sedona: into the elements...

Color, shape, naked geology--Northern Arizona appeals to senses in the most elemental ways. Agnostic hikers, secular scientists, souls searching for spiritual energy--all end up in Sedona, seeking and finding.

Mid-week in this red-rock country, we found a few days of calm--early morning trails around town, afternoons in galleries seeking shelter from summer thunderstorms. Weekends bring crowds from Phoenix, just two hours to the south, but away from pavement, you can still get away, going into the elements.


Coffee-crazy in Korea's capital

Seoul has to be Asia's most caffeinated mega-city. There is plenty of tea to be had, but coffee rules in Korea's capital.
Along with an abundance of multi-storied Starbucks, every street seems to have sprouted a home-grown café: from the Italian-inspired (Pascucci, Caffe Bene) to the French (Paris Baguette, Tous les Jours), the sacreligious (God in a cup) and the pseudo-religious (Angel-in-us), royal (Coffee Prince) and musical (Johannes Brahms), prepositions ("at-to-on"?), from the purely Asian (Gurunaru), to delightfully fractured English (Yoger presso, A twosome place, Me Too, cafe sand&food). Coffee and kimchee--it's what Koreans run on!
As erstwhile Seattlites, my wife and I had our fun sampling the different interpretations of the bean while in Seoul. Some were good, some were bad, many were puzzling (red bean latte? black bean latte? GREEN bean latte?), and most all were pricey...

Musicians: a palace restored

Late spring and early summer in Seoul: musicians in medieval clothing infuse the grounds of Gyeongbok Palace with a sense of its storied past.
Built in the 1390's when a new dynasty established Seoul as its capital, Gyeongbok-gung ("The Palace of Shining Happiness") was a city unto itself. In the 1590's, in the chaos of the Japanese invasions, the palace was burned and lay largely in ruins until the 19th century. The reconstruction almost bankrupt the kingdom, and then the grounds were the scene of the assassination of Korea's last empress. During the Japanese colonization (1910-1945), eighty-five percent of the palace compound was either destroyed or dismantled...
The last two decades have seen a remarkable period of revival and rebuilding. Today about forty percent of the palace has been restored. With colorful concerts, tea-ceremonies, and the changing of the guard, this palace is shining once again.
Years ago, during a summer staying with relatives, I had visited Gyeongbok-gung. Two decades later, it was such a treat to revisit the Palace, renewed, and with a 'live soundtrack.'
vibrant morning palette

...scenes from a morning in the midst of autumn's palette in Odae-san National Park: steam ascending from temple breakfast fires at sunrise, climbing up through maples and pungent gingkoes, happening upon a folk-painting of a tiger on a trail-side shrine...
I'd tagged along with my uncle as he drove from Seoul to the mountains along the east coast of Korea. We were going to pick up my aunt, who'd just spent a week-long retreat at Sang-won-sa, a "Seon" ('Zen' in Korean) temple established in the year 643. While they spent the morning around the grounds, I went for a hike.
This national park, near the site of the upcoming 2018 Winter Olympics, is dotted with Buddhist sites established in the 6th and 7th centuries. (Odae-san is one of Korea's 'holy mountains.') During the fall, the temple's vibrant architecture blends in perfectly with the forested slopes; the colors of the folk-paintings seem to spring from the mountains themselves.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

published in AFAR!...a scene from Brussels...

...just got back from GA; re-acclimatizing to the desert, and I find out that a photo of mine has been published in a travel magazine! Gotta share the thrill:

...on the top of p.22 of the Nov/Dec 2011 issue of AFAR magazine,
look on the right:

voilà l'originale:

A comic-book surprise on a streetcorner in an otherwise gritty part of Brussels, known for its bédé ('comics' in French) culture...Years ago, when I lived in Paris, a friend from the U.S. came to visit; his time was limited, so we hopped on the Eurostar high-speed train just after breakfast one day and spent the day in Belgium. Chocolate, waffles, beer, french fries and 'mussels in Brussels' were inevitable, but on that cold winter day, there was also a lot of art to brighten up the city under the grey...

...and here's the cover so you can find the current issue
of this magazine at your local newsstand or bookstore:
(Incidentally, last year, AFAR won a travel writers' award for 'best travel magazine'...
not bad for a magazine that's been around for only a couple of years...)


While in GA last month, I was able to spend part of a day
in the mountains of western NC, about a three-hour drive away;
just past the peak of fall color, but bits of autumn glory left here and there...
 here's a scene near the town of Highlands, NC:

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Friday after work in one of "the 19 best"

Tucson was just listed in October's OUTSIDE magazine as one of 'the 19 best towns' in the country...

After you've lived anywhere for a while, the 'honeymoon' wears off and quotidian reality sets in, producing the occasional love/hate-fest of 'home'-town-feelings...The past couple of years in Tucson have had their ups and downs, 
But yesterday evening, after work, I went for a bike ride in Sabino Canyon--featured in the OUTSIDE article, and rightly so. (I'm not exaggerating when I say that it's one of the most beautiful places in the Southwest.) The recent monsoon rains have filled the creek and pools in this oasis in the Santa Catalina Mountains--a good reminder of one of the 'pluses' that can outweigh the 'minuses' of living here.

So, with scenery like this a ten-minute drive from home (well, plus the hike/bike-ride into the canyon), yes...there are worse places to live...

Sunday, September 11, 2011

monsoon scenes

Downpours are isolated but intense this time of year around Tucson.
The mid- to late-summer 'monsoon' in the Desert Southwest of the U.S.
can be the most uncomfortable time to visit,
 if you're only considering the thermometer.
So often, though, the vast skies will fill
with vistas of moving, cooling color--
the alchemy of wind, water, and sunset...

...below, one storm, from a couple of summers ago,
seen from the Catalina Highway, looking over Tucson:
...the next few are from last summer:

...and, from further north in Arizona--looking across from the mountainside mining town of Jerome
off to the red-rock country of Sedona, and then beyond to the San Francisco Peaks,
between Flagstaff and the Grand Canyon:

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

iPhone photo: Gwanghwamun and a 'haetae'

On my first evening in Seoul back in June, I found myself here, in front of a 'haetae' (mythical fire-eating guardian lion/dragon/dog) beneath Gwanghwamun, the recently restored gate to Gyeongbok Palace. This double-roofed upswept structure dominates the historic main artery of the city.

The story of the haetae and the gate it guards sums up the turbulent, but resilient history of the Korean Capital:

1390's: The gate is built when Seoul becomes the capital of a new dynasty.
1590's: The  guardhouse above the stone arches is burned during the Japanese invasions. It lays in ruins until...
1867: It's rebuilt as part of the restoration of Gyeongbok Palace; the construction almost bankrupts the 'Hermit kingdom' which finally ends up becoming a protectorate and then an outright colony of Japan in 1910. Seoul is renamed 'Keijo.'
1926: The gate is dismantled and 're-mantled' nearby during the Japanese Occupation, to make way for construction of the Colonial Government General Building.
1950:  Communist troops retreat for the first time during the Korean War, the gate is destroyed again...
1963:...rebuilt, again.
1990's: the Government General Building is demolished to make way for the restoration of Gyeongbok Palace; Gwanghwamun gate will finally be restored to its original condition and location.
2010: The newly restored gate is unveiled; it has come home, after over eight decades of being 'displaced'...

Once again, the stone 'haetae' can stand guard, as it over six centuries ago when it was first placed here.
This time, may it last for a good while...

Monday, August 1, 2011

traditional symmetry, modern space: National Museum of Korea, Seoul

symmetry, color, rythym of repetition:
the ceiling of the Cheongjajeong pavilion in the garden in front of Seoul's new National Museum of Korea,
painted in the traditional style...

After walking through galleries ranging from neolithic to neo-Confucian,
a pleasure to rest one's feet in the shade of this octagonal structure--
and then lying down, looking up, a surprise to see a kaleidoscope with a pair of cranes at its center...

The pavilion is roofed with green celadon tiles:

Entry Hall of the Museum:
This museum was opened in 2005, south of the historical core of downtown Seoul, in the Yongsan district. Nearby is the Yongsan U.S. Military Garrison; within the next few years, the U.S. is scheduled to move its facilities out of the city, and Seoul has grand plans for this valuable real estate; the Museum is just the beginning...

This marble pagoda from the mid-1300's is one of the museum's centerpieces; during the Japanese Occupation, it was taken to Japan, then returned to Korea in the 1960's...

Looking south from the Museum, the reflecting pond and pavilion...beyond, some of Seoul's typical modern middle-class housing--high-rise apartments in domino-rows...aesthetically challenged, if efficient...