Rock Climbers

As a retired Jet Pilot it’s hard for people to understand that I’m scared to death of heights!  I have flown single engine, multi-engine, turboprops, jets, hot air balloons, helicopters, and gliders.  Even at 41,000 feet you have no sense of height sitting in the cockpit, but put me on top of even a small building and I’m petrified!

I’ve watched many documentaries of rock climbers ascending El Capitan in Yosemite, Mt. Everest, Denali and other high mountains around the world and sit there spell bound trying to comprehend what this would be like.

ClimberRecently we drove from Phoenix to Tucson to attend a concert.  The next day we drove up Mount Lemon which is over 9,000 feet at the summit.  This is a breathtaking drive as the long winding road and the scenery are astounding!

After a delightful lunch, with outside seating, we headed back down the mountain.  At about the 7,500 foot  level we saw this giant boulder protruding into the sky with a guy repelling down the side.  We missed his ascent to the top, but was able to grab this photo of his descent.

This isn’t Mount Everest but the danger of death still existed.  If something would have happened he would have fallen several thousand feet.

I have to admire people who do this and accept the challenge of risk.  This has to require great physical strength, nerve and stamina!

The Brian Wilson concert was awesome and we were honored to see him in his last concert tour and the Mt. Lemon experience and seeing this climber was certainly a bonus!

What will your next adventure be?  I guarantee mine will be photographing and not climbing!

An Arizona Icon

We moved to Arizona from the “Quad Cities,” an area on the Mississippi river which comprised of cities in Iowa and Illinois and is located about 150 miles West of Chicago.  It was a great place to grow up, located  in mid America, as it was not influenced by the cultures of the East or West coasts.  Life there just seemed more relaxed.

The last 21 years in Arizona have been delightful as we have fallen in love with the splendor and beauty of the this area.  I have been a photographer my whole life, but it became a passion when the digital age arrived, and there’s not a better place to practice this craft than America’s Southwest!

I have taken thousands of photos in many countries and maybe one of the most fascinating places is the “Gold King Mine” in Jerome, Arizona.  It was founded by Don Robertson many years ago who had an obsession with collecting old stuff.  I’ve been there many times and never tire of my visits.

DonI was honored in 2015 to photograph Don as he posed sitting on his saw mill.  Honored, because little did anyone know that he would pass away a few months later.

This man was the definition of a fascinating“character.”  Truly a western icon.  I had never conversed with him on previous occasions, I guess because it was almost like confronting a celebrity.  This time however when I approached him for a photo, he seemed very open to sit and chat which I found very enjoyable.  We talked about the simple life and the art of enjoying what you do.  The conversation made my day and will live in my mind as a very memorable experience!

There are many interesting articles about this man if you google Don Robertson.  You can watch a short video about him and the Gold King Mine here. 

If you live in or visit Arizona this is one of the places I would highly recommend, along with Sedona, the Antelope  Canyons, Horseshoe Bend (both near Page, Az.) and the Grand Canyon!

The Transformation of a Photo

The digital age ushered in a whole new meaning to the world of photography!  Gone are the days of dark rooms and taking your roll of film to the drug store.  In the 1990s digital cameras started very primitively. My first one was a Sony Mavica.  You slid in a three and a half inch floppy disc and it would take about a dozen photos at one third of a megapixel!

We’ve come a long way in a short period of time and today’s DSLRs are capable of shooting thousands of photos at 12, 16, 20, 24, 36, and 50 or more megapixels!  Incredible quality, ease of use, and instant gratification!  The really special thing about serious photographers is the ability to enhance their photos with sophisticated editing software.  Personally I enjoy this part as much as taking the photo!

Here’s an example of taking a ho hum picture and turning it into a handsome photo!  This one was taken a few years ago in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico.  We had chartered a small craft to take us out to photograph beyond the port.  It was cloudy and hazy, but since we were on a cruise ship we had to make the best of it since we would be there only one day.  This was straight out of my Nikon D7000 camera.

IMG_2603

As you can see this is not much to look at.  Now I’m going to import it into the ON1RAW Photo Editor and play with some adjustments.  ON1RAW is new on the market and is very similar to Adobe’s Lightroom.  After several enhancements it looked like this.

IMG_2603 copy copy

Not bad, but I’m not satisfied with the sky as the upper left is over exposed.  Over the years I have taken a lot of sky pictures and keep them in a separate folder on my hard drive for occasions like this.  So let’s replace the sky, then add a layer of orange over the water as to show the reflection from the sky, and here’s the final photo.

2603 Edited

This is a far cry from the original and shows what can be done with some editing skill.  Some purists say that this isn’t ethical, that it’s not right to change what you originally shot, and to that I say “hog wash!”  That’s why today’s advanced photographers call themselves “Photo Artists.”  Every photo from any pro has been edited.  The only exception that I can think of would be a wartime photo journalist.

Now comes an even more exciting part of digital photography and that’s the tremendous advancements of cell phones.  Today’s smartphone cameras are capable of beautiful pictures and in some ways are almost equivalent to the “big boy” cameras.

Most people are happy with their photo results as soon as they look at it and post it immediately to social media.  Some of us however realize that it can look even better with a couple of minutes of editing.  Maybe the best phone photo editor on planet Earth is “Snapseed.”  I absolutely love this app!  It’s available for both iPhones, and Androids, and it’s free with no advertising!  Once you spend a little time with this app you’ll be amazed how you can make your pictures “come to life!”

A Hot Cell Phone Tip!

Broken iPhoneThis is something that will make your heart sink, when you drop your phone and it looks like this!  You’re lucky however if you have insurance with your carrier as it can be fixed.  But are you lucky?  I have been paying a monthly insurance fee of $22 per month for two phones.  That’s $264 per year.  I never read the fine print and just found out that you’ll pay a $200 deductible to get it fixed.  If a year has gone by you’re really paying $464, and if two years has elapsed you’re paying $728 to get it fixed!

So here’s what took place when this recently happened to one of our phones.  I woke up and realized there are cell phone fixit places all over.   So I took this terrible looking thing, that looked like it was doomed forever, to one of those places and had the LCD and the screen replaced for $99!  For those living in Phoenix, I highly recommend the “Talk N Fix” kiosk right next to the Apple store in the Arrowhead Mall.  I couldn’t believe the guy had it totally repaired in 10 minutes, and it looks and works like new!

Consequently I called Verizon and cancelled the $22 per month charge for insurance coverage.  There is one drawback however to not having insurance and that is theft or loss of your phone.  Since I’ve never lost anything important in my life it’s worth that risk for all the money saved.  Also you have a good chance of getting your phone back, if lost or stolen, with the “Find my Phone” app.

So, just passing this along in hopes it will help you save money, and we all want to do that!

The Marketing Genius of Apple

Arrowhead Apple Store

I took this photo of the Apple store at the mall near where we live.  I believe one of the reasons this  company has been so successful is the beauty of these stores around the world.  No other phone company has done this.  In my lifetime I have never witnessed people lined up to purchase their latest product, site unseen!  Much credit has to be given to the originator and founder of Apple, Steve Jobs one of the technology genius’ of our time.  No doubt about it, Apple is a great company!

With all this being said, is the iPhone the best smartphone on the market?  I don’t think so.  I’ve owned several of them and several Samsung Galaxy phones and believe the Samsung is far superior, for several reasons.  Let me give you just a few.

If you turn off your iPhone then plug it into a charger it will turn back on.  That’s dumb because it’s going to charge slower.

Each time you open an app on any phone it will stay open in the background, taking up memory and discharging the battery faster.  Shutting down all apps on an Apple phone gets complicated as most people don’t even know how and if they do you have to shut them down one at a time.  Dumb.  On the Samsung one click shuts them all down!  I do that several times a day.

When typing on the Apple keyboard you have to take another step to get to the numbers.  On the Samsung the letters and numbers are all on the same keyboard.  To me that’s huge!

On the Samsung phone you have a “back button” which lets you instantly go back to the previous page.  No such thing on the Apple, and that’s frustrating!

On the Apple you have to manually update apps, on the Samsung all apps update automatically!

On the Apple lots of functions have to be accomplished through iTunes.  Frustrating and dumb.  On the Samsung just plug it into your laptop or desktop computer and have access to all your folders.  Easily drag and drop your choice of music into your music folder.  Easily open photos for editing.

Finally, as a photographer, I think the Samsung camera is superior for many reasons that I won’t take the time to explain.

These are just a few reasons why I think the Samsung phone is a better product.  There are two things that Apple does have that I wish were on the Samsung however.  The mute switch on the side is very handy and a lot of people love Apple’s “FaceTime.”

Is anything in this world perfect?  No.  But my point here is that we all probably started with an iPhone and once accustomed to something we develop brand loyalty.  I’ve used the same deodorant for years, the same cologne for even longer.  Most of us won’t take the time to investigate something that maybe much better.

Just my opinion friends.  Kind of like “Ford or Chevy!”

I’ve Turned into Mr. Samsung!

I guess it all started a few years ago when I switched from the iPhone to the Samsung Galaxy Smartphone.  Since I’m an avid photographer the camera was superior to other phones.  My latest is the Galaxy S7 Edge and I love this phone!

Last year we bought a 65” Samsung smart TV.  This latest television technology lets you have access to your computer, photos, music, browser, Netflix, Amazon, YouTube, Ted Talks, and many other things.  I can even mirror my phone to the TV for example to show photos from the phone.  And, of course, you can even watch all those worthless channels that we pay a high price for!  The picture quality is stunning, and we’ve come a long way in the last few years not only in television but in all these other high tech gadgets!

I stopped using the Apple iPad and purchased a Samsung tablet so it could be seamless with my phone.

Galaxy S3 FrontierSo, that’s a Samsung smart TV, a Samsung smartphone, a Samsung Tablet, and now my latest tech toy is the new Samsung Galaxy S3 smartwatch.  Oh my gosh, this thing will do almost everything except make breakfast for me! 

It mirrors my phone, so for example if the phone is in another room or in my pocket I can receive a text message on my watch.  It’s a fitness tracker, counting my steps, keeping track of my heart rate, water and coffee intake, calories burned, etc.  At the fitness center listening to music with my ear buds, I can control the volume, see the artist, and pick songs from the watch.  I can even make or receive phone calls.  This is the Dick Tracy watch we saw in the comic books decades ago!

I have used Samsung pay on my phone for months and it works great.  At the register when the total comes up,  I just aim my phone at the credit card machine and bingo it’s paid and my credit card stays in my billfold.  Now I use my watch to do the same thing and people around me, including the cashier look as if a spaceship just landed!  This is pure magic and I admit, I’m a gadget freak.

The watch thing really started when I purchased a Fitbit recently.  Within a week it changed my lifestyle by keeping track of healthy things.  I quit using sugar in my coffee and it made me drink more water, two things that really needed improvement in my life.  It even tells me to get off my butt if I sit too long!  It’s fun at the end of the day looking at all the data. 

After wearing that Fitbit for only a week, I gave it to my wife, and sprung for the Samsung Galaxy watch.  It does the same thing only much more.  It gives me the current weather and forecast, reminders, my calendar, different watch faces, and even has an altimeter!

Of course all this stuff isn’t for everyone, but I’m just one of those people who likes the latest in technology.  We’re all different.  I know a couple of people who don’t even own a cell phone, and others who still have a flip phone.  One of the downsides of all this tech is that some people, especially the younger generation are spending more time in cyber space than they are in reality.  You see them everywhere with their thumbs clicking faster than the speed of sound!  You see families in restaurants with all of them, the entire time, gawking at their phones instead of talking to each other.  Are we losing social graces?

If you want to live healthier I really would strongly recommend a Fitbit.  They are relatively inexpensive and very easy to setup.  Here’s the link to their web page if you might be interested.   https://www.fitbit.com/ 

If you have a Samsung phone and want to read about my Galaxy smartwatch you can click on the photo above.  Here’s to ya, enjoy each moment of each day, and don’t text while driving!

Clouds and Jet Trails…..

Jet Trail

I have starred at the sky since I was a little boy.  Being raised on a Iowa farm I would often climb up and sit in a crabapple tree and wonder why some days the skies were clear and other days it would be cloudy.  On cloudy days the formations could sometimes be very intriguing.

Now many decades later I still do the same, of course without the apple tree.  I look up and admire the different formations as if God were painting on that blue canvas just for us.  I shot this photo while walking out to get the mail.  Snail mail that is, not email.  :)

Seeing that jet trail made me wonder where that aircraft was headed, perhaps with hundreds of people on board all with different missions.  Maybe a business trip, a vacation, a wedding, a funeral.  Whatever the reason they’re all sitting up there cruising at over 500 mph, talking, eating, drinking, reading, or sleeping and I’m watching that vessel streaking across the sky, leaving behind that white puffy contrail.  It’s amazing that the Wright Brother’s first flight was 120 feet, at an altitude of 20 feet and lasted a mere 12 seconds and today we can fly non stop to Europe at over 9 miles high!

Seeing jet trails floods my senses with past memories of thousands of hours as a pilot flying at different altitudes as high as 41,000 feet.  On some trips, with a little imagination, you could actually see cloud formations of different animals and objects.  Those were the easy flying days but there were those times that certain clouds had to be highly respected like the cumulonimbus which were thunderstorms and sometimes could reach well above 50,000 feet!  I’m retired from flying now, but often relive those flights in my mind.

Sometimes looking at the sky in daylight or the heavens at night you might wonder what life is all about.  Especially on a clear night while viewing the countless number of stars you can’t help but feel insignificant, and maybe my problems aren’t so big after all.

We do a lot of camping under the Arizona stars and often times we’ll use a recliner with a pillow and blanket and stare at that wondrous sight above.  There are over 2,000 man made satellites and millions of “space junk” circling the earth.  You can see them crossing the night sky travelling at over 17,00 miles per hour and circling the earth every 90 minutes.  One night we saw 66 satellites and 14 shooting stars, and on another evening we even saw the space shuttle docking with the space lab!  Sometimes gazing into the heavens will bring back memories of some of the highlights of my life.  Don’t know why, but it does, probably the magnitude of the whole thing.

Later in life we all will relive past experiences as memories.  Our jobs, our friends, our accomplishments, our failures, our adventures, our beliefs.  Some day, in our old age, we may say “I wish I would have ______ .”

I wish I would have been a better husband, wife, father, mother, sister, brother, friend.  I wish I would have loved more.  The point here is that it’s never too late to live, love, and enjoy every moment, so someday we won’t have to say “I wish I would have ______ .”

After thought:  This is why I love photography.  The simple act of taking a photo of the sky with my phone prompted me to sit down and write this entry.