MisplacedFrom the archives of Lost Arizona Have you ever shot an entire set, then completely forgot you have it? These have been gathering dust in Lightroom since April. It was a scout-and-shoot trip, and we were loaded for bear: lenses, strobes, stands, umbrellas, sandbags, and three duffel full of wardrobe…not counting the shoes. Gotta have the shoes.   We’d use none of it.   A frustratingly boring blue sky gave way to one of the warmest slow-motion sunsets we’ve ever experienced. It lingered for what seemed like hours, burning everything in sight with an ever-deepening and otherworldly golden glow. No strobes, no wardrobe, no makeup. Just the Nifty Fifty (50mm lens) locked in at f2.0. Just a coat and the flip-flops she’d worn for the drive up. Oh, and a pair of aviators for good measure.  …
NY18A champagne-fueled exploration of fluid dynamics Aside from Halloween, which only matters because it was my first date with Dani, the next most important holiday for me is New Year’s Eve/Day. It’s not because I care about it. In fact, I don’t particularly care about any holidays—most are merely attempts by one religion to snuff out another, or inventions to fuel sales, and seen in this light NYE is the most honest of the lot. Sure there’s the silly tradition of resolutions no one follows, but the date is sold as little more than an excuse to stay up late partying. I challenge you to find me one holiday, birthdays included, that is this honest about it’s history and core nature. The hustle cliché was strong this ‘eve: Sunday night, and both of us scheduled with projects for the first day, the first Monday, of the new year. I love that. This was the last sunset of 2017, and our forecast clear-and-calm had been swallowed up by overcast gloom. Not dissuaded by a little weather we made the three-hour round trip to the viewpoint anyhow, determined to improvise and make it work. Epic skies greeted our arrival, the sun popping through between layers of clouds and setting them aflame for a show of colors far better than any bluebird day could have offered. The makings of my perfect New Year’s Eve? Two bottles of bubbly, a thrift-store flute, a second-hand outfit, some cheap sunglasses, a cliffside viewpoint with storybook sunset to match, and a pretty redhead. These were all shot on a Canon 80D with my back-in-action Canon 50mm f1.4 lens (the nifty fifty), a proper high-speed-sync strobe (I’m so done with speedlites), and the laser-assist auto focus from the strobe’s transmitter. Aperture bounced between f2.8 and f4, ISO100, shutter floating around 1/1000th, with the single AD200 strobe set from 1/4th to 1/8th power and a small dish reflector/diffuser. There’s a few shots from the new-to-me Polaroid 600 as well, but those are for another time… Happy New Year! Yes, “year.” Not “years” and most definitely not “year’s.” You only get one new year at a time, and you should never let it own you.…
Just a Scouting TripWe got a little carried away When I took these I thought they would just be rubbish test shots—all of them were taken with a brand new and uncalibrated Canon 80D and Sigma 18-35mm f1.8 Art, and focus was all over the place. At the time I didn’t much care: this was supposed to be a quick afternoon outing to check out a spot I found on Google Earth, and see if it might be good for a sunset shoot later this summer. It’s a good reminder to always review photos on the big screen before deleting anything.   I guess it was a good spot, as those few test snaps quickly turned into a few hundred exposures. No planning, no hair, no makeup—just goofing around with a few different poses, getting way too cold, and finding our way home through the dark over unknown roads.…
One Wow, it’s hard to believe this shoot was six months ago. This was really where the recent changes in my photographic style began. We’d casually fooled around less-than-clothed with the camera before, but this time Dani wanted to put in real effort and see where this kind of shooting might lead us. After picking and scouting a location that afternoon, we raced the setting sun through the abandoned desert facility to capture this set. It was my first time shooting the person as the main subject. It was her first time playing model. She was nervous. I was nervous. We both set that aside, knowing the minimal risks—snapping a few photos you aren’t required to share—would be well worth the potential rewards……
Relics: The Richardson HomesteadIt’s amazing what you can find just off the highway. Highways have been standardized to keep the flow of traffic moving swiftly and smoothly onward. White lines flash by in time with the gentle hum of the motor, yellow lines keep you subconsciously floating down the right side of the tarmac, and the repetitive consistency brings on a state of semi-hypnosis. Most of the time the system works, commuters arrive safely, and travelers continue on oblivious to the treasures that might be hidden over the edge of the manicured medians. Over one such edge, on the eastbound side of Arizona Highway 68 as it winds through Union Pass, rests a crumbling gravel ramp. At the end of that ramp stands a nondescript ADOT gate—standard issue, except that this gate is unlocked, and what’s left of the road beyond is open to the public. At the bottom of the hill lies the abandoned Old Kingman Highway, and not far beyond that the ruins of an unnamed town homesteaded by Jonathan Draper Richardson and his family. Originally licensed to American Adventurist for publishing on May 11th, 2016.…
Destinations: Dale Mining DistrictDiscovering an overlooked gem just outside Joshua Tree. Once upon a time I lived in California, moving every year in search of a place I liked enough to settle down (and expecting, perhaps hoping, never to find it). Before crossing the river into the Arid Zone I lived in Twentynine Palms, about 15 minutes from the northeast gate to Joshua Tree National Park. The Dale Mining District was stumbled upon during an outing that was one-part “Where’s that road go?” and two-parts not wanting to pay the entrance fee at Joshua Tree (a mere $10 at the time, I didn’t have a pass yet). Just outside of National Park boundaries, Dale can be reached (for free) via Gold Crown Road from Highway 62 to the north. Access from the south is within the park, via Old Dale / Eagle Mine Road from Pinto Basin Road. The region can be appreciated in a long weekend, but it’s just as easy to spend a week wandering through the various mines and abandoned structures. I leave discovering the rest to you, exploration is half the fun… Over the course of a few days we wandered to and fro, dazzled by the drastic color changes the desert experiences over a matter of hours, or a matter of mere yards. Old Dale is about as isolated as one can get in the south Mojave, particularly so while baking under the summer sun. The O.K. Mine, seen above, is one of two larger gatherings of abandoned structures, shafts, and equipment. Opportunities to explore the remains of this operation are ripe, but venture in at your own risk—help is many hours away, as is cellular service. Darkness swept in fast on approach to the National Park border, and with it another dramatic show of shifting colors and fading light. The decaying carcasses of dead classics litter the floor of Pinto Basin below the site of the abandoned Goldenrod mine, which was well worth the short climb to explore. Crossing the next ridge revealed the best campsite in the entire Joshua Tree region—Gold Rose Cabin features a huge raised patio, fire pit, chairs, tables, a fire place, cots, supplies, and no pesky roof to block out the night sky. The owners of the nearby claim have set this up adopt-a-cabin style, with a leave-it-if-you-can-spare-it, use-it-if-you-need-it policy for visitors passing through (we borrowed chairs for the night and left cases of water, fair trade). Morning required a swift, calm, creative evac—bees, thirsty in this parched terrain, arrived at…
Harquahala Mornings in Swansea can be deceptively cool. The placement of this ghost town up against the north side of a northwest-to-southeast mountain range results in four extra hours of shade on the ground each evening. It can be 60°F at sunrise, and reach 90°F by 09:00. Despite experiencing this first hand on my last visit, we set off into the mountains on foot in search of mines. Wild burros thrive in the Mojave. The great thing about wild burros is their habit of pounding smooth trails into the ground they walk. The bad thing about wild burros is they have little desire to pound those trails up the mountains and to the mines as their domesticated ancestors once did. The old mining road faded to burro trail just outside of town, and the burro trail altered course about half-way up the mountain in favor of a water pocket in the nearby wash. Resorting to cross-country travel and bouldering we reached the summit with no sign of the mines seen from town, but the view was worth the climb. Railroad Canyon, our exit path, was a fun little diversion of high-speed wash running and smooth desert road—the “more difficult” rating only applies to a few yards on the Swansea end. After winding our way through dunes and cactus fields to Midway we said our farewells and parted ways. My course: east across the Arizona desert. Bouse The sunburnt town of Bouse is what those crumbling ruins along every desolate desert highway might be if their long-buried citizens remained. Not dead, but not quite alive either—a fate all too common on highways like U.S. 60, which continue to exist merely as service corridors for the railroads and shortcuts to cities deemed unworthy of an interstate. I’ve passed this way many times, but never stopped before. As a twenty-year-old Lincoln pulls up easy to the general store across the street I watch in anticipation, waiting for our antihero to retreat, guns blazing, and speed us off on three hours of Tarantino-style action. Such is the feel of a hot summer day in Bouse. The Climb The road up to the abandoned Harquahala observatory starts out innocently enough, with cactus and ocotillo covered hills closing in on a narrow, winding canyon. Those hills and canyons obscure the climb to come, leaving one to think the long steep hill at the end of the canyon…
Return to Swansea Something I love about living in Prescott—it takes forever to get anywhere. All of the interstates are over 40 miles away, and you reach them right smack in the middle of nowhere. A road trip to any destination involves a long drive on twisty two-lane roads through a harsh beauty only northern Arizona can offer. In taking the time to slow down and enjoy life’s little distractions, I’ve come to appreciate this remoteness—even when I’m in a hurry. I was in a hurry this morning. The sun had risen without bothering to ask me first, and left me with only four hours to reach Lake Havasu City. Another interesting footnote on the geography surrounding Prescott: there is no straight line connecting anything. This is true for both navigation within the town, and when outbound. Havasu is only 100 miles away, but the quickest route involves over 200 miles of road. Fortunately, speed limits out here reach a generous 75 MPH. My second closest friend (the closest being my wife, Danielle) asked me to be his best man next weekend, and this is the last opportunity to get him out for the obligatory bachelor party. For this particular friend the ideal bachelor “party” has little to do with strippers, and everything to do with the desert’s solitude and the company of a good friend. Our destination: Swansea, a small town of only a few hundred thousand… cactus. About half way between Lake Havasu and Alamo Lake along the Bill Williams River, the ghost town has a similar geographic isolation to Prescott, but with an additional 20 miles of dirt protecting it from the nearest tarmac. The most scenic route along-and-through the river has unfortunately been closed off by the BLM, another victim in their undeclared war against free access to Arizona’s backcountry. That leaves Shea Road out of Parker, Swansea / Lincoln Ranch Road out of Bouse, and Alamo Road out of Yucca as the only ways to reach the ghost town, any of which can be combined into a worthwhile loop. Using the Shea Road approach, we reached our camp in the center of town at 3 in the afternoon, plenty of time to set up camp and explore. Our exploration took us along the old water pipe that once fed Swansea, and down to the Bill Williams River. There’s always something new to see when I visit the Mojave,…