Arizona Adventure

Discussion in 'Travel' started by sandyv, Apr 9, 2016.

  1. Sandy Vongries

    Sandy Vongries Administrator Staff Member

    Every now and then my Wife and I leave the Ranch for a few days for some interesting location. This time it was Phoenix, Arizona. I was there decades ago for a business meeting, and had the opportunity to do some sightseeing, but no photography. I chose the hotel I stayed at then, The Arizona Biltmore, and my Wife was able to find a very reasonable package, Air with Allegiant, Hotel and Rental car. The hotel is spectacular, designed in part by Frank Lloyd Wright and one of his former students. Buildings and grounds are beautifully maintained and very photogenic. Food was both excellent and expensive.
    We flew out of Billings, and the trip didn't start on a good note. I carefully chose and packed camera equipment. DF, D750, 50/1.8, 18-35, 24-120, 28-300, filters, batteries, chargers, etc. all in a Thinktank Suburban Disguise 30. That is not a big bag, so every bit of space was needed. As usual, I got the full treatment from TSA, but this time, something new was added. They unpacked all of my photo gear after it went through the scanner. Reason, I was told, the scanner couldn't "see" through my large lenses. The agent suggested that I take the cameras with the large lenses out of the bag and set them in the tub next time. Yeah. Just for the record, returning through Mesa no problem at all. Don't know what the truth of the matter is, but I was swearing a bit under my breath as I laboriously fit everything back in the bag.
    Places we went, and when I get the shots in order, I will be posting quite a few photos, all these recommended.
    Sedona, Oak Creek Canyon, Taliesen West, (Frank Lloyd Wright's home and School), Cosanti, (Paolo Soleri's home and studio / foundry), The Desert Botanical Garden, Flagstaff, and Prescott.
    Things I missed. This is the start of Bike Week in Scottsdale, but we were scheduled to leave too early. The Butterfly wonderland, the Swap Meet in Mesa, the Desert Zoo, Arcosanti, (Soleri's Planned Community), Grand Canyon, etc.,etc. Well, next time.
    Typically when on previous trips to New Mexico, my schedule allowed shooting early and late, skipping the midday light. This trip, with the driving required, that wasn't possible, had to shoot whenever. The light is challenging at midday, next time I will use a bit more exposure compensation.
    As I organize and post sets of photos, I will drop in a few of the unexpected "treasures" we discovered. A very worthwhile photo trip. I took just under a thousand shots from Sunday to Thursday, that may be my record for similar time frames. Lots of fun and opportunity.
     
  2. Sandy, your airport experience was entirely typical of the widespread neurotic bureaucratic attitudes and is the reason why I try to not fly when I'm back in the USA. 9/11 may have damaged something in the American psyche. My 'low point' was in New Mexico when an inspector opened my LowePro bag, took out a roll of 120 film (I had removed the boxes beforehand to make it easier for even a baboon to see what I was carrying), and asked, "what's this?" in a sneering tone. I told him, but he didn't know what "a filum" was. He then roughly tugged out my Rollei TLR and asked how to turn it on... fortunately a supervisor, a pleasant woman, overheard all this and explained it was a film camera. She then waved him away, thanked me and wished me a good day. I was grateful, and boarded my flight wishing there were more of her caliber in US government service nowadays.
    The reality appears to be that small monkeys have a need to feel like big lions, and many little nobodies in uniforms want their egos massaged. they have power but no training in using it. A prerequisite for their jobs seem to be a lack of social skills. But there are good officials, in fact many. That supervisor was a human being, notwithstanding the uniform.
    Apologies for the rant. Similar experiences have occurred too often in my past travels.
    This said, one of the great pleasures of being retired is I can nowadays drive from California to New Mexico, and I do it at least one time every year. It isn't a short jaunt, but with some planning it can easily be done without great effort and with planned stops to explore and photograph new areas. The pleasures of being behind the wheel, watching the diverse landscape and ever changing light as I go, and above all else knowing I can stop wherever I please and dally with a camera for as long as I like, are a truly freeing experience. The American Southwest is truly unique and I hope to see much more of it in what time I have left.
    I am a New Mexico boy from Santa Fe, but very early on Arizona weaved its golden magic on me. It is a true photographer's paradise. Wherever you go you find the most amazing photo opportunities. Desert panoramas demand wide lenses, and you would have made good use of the polariser, in that light. Sadly, I haven't been to Phoenix or Tucson for 20 years, but the rest is familiar territory. I will get back there some day, likely later this year, during my annual 'pilgrimage' to NM. The old gold mining towns to the south are alone worth a week of exploring. Visits to the old abandoned towns off the highways (there are many) and in particular their old cemeteries offers stark glimpses into how hard life was in those isolated areas in the 1800s.
    The Frank Lloyd Wright 'legacy' in Arizona in truly wonderful. FLW responded from the heart to the beauty he saw in the desert landscape, and his architecture reflects this. My time at the Biltmore was in the '70s, on my honeymoon, it all seems like centuries ago. It was an "expense be damned" mood, so much so, it later took eighteen months to cover the credit card bills. But what a time.
    Yes, photos please. They may lure me back for longer stopovers on my next NooMex drive.
    JD in Sarawak, Malaysia
     
  3. Sandy, welcome to my world! In November 2015, in Paris at charles de Gaulle airport, while transferring flights from
    Johannesburg, I did not take out my cameras and lenses from my bag. I did take out my laptop as it is electronic. I was
    informed that in France, cameras and lenses are electronics and need to be scanned separately just like laptops. I made
    the mistake of telling the agent that I did not have to do that when I was at the airport about 10 days earlier when I flew to
    Johannesburg. Things might have changed in Europe because of the terrorist attacks in Paris and Brussels. In the US, I
    tell the scanner when I can that my bag contains camera equipment. Occasionally, they might inspect the large lens by
    hand outside of the bag. When this has happened, it was done professionally and quickly.

    Joe
     
  4. Hi JayDan.I've been o Phoenix several times to visit with relatives and to Santa Fe only once. But I think
    Santa Fe is a much better place to visit.
     
  5. Sandy Vongries

    Sandy Vongries Administrator Staff Member

    Charles -- been to Santa Fe twice the last two years and loved it, but Arizona was terrific as well. Actually didn't get around Phoenix / Scottsdale that much, mostly outlying areas. Great fun and photography. I will be posting galleries from Flagstaff, Prescott, Sedona, etc. Will be going back to Santa Fe, but Arizona is on the list for another visit or two as well. If you have time to glance through the photos, it might change your view of Arizona.
     
  6. Charles - yes, Santa Fe is unique. Phoenix is best described as - well, given its name, phenomenal.
    Sandy, To me New Mexico and Arizona are two entirely different worlds. The former is Indian culture and stunningly beautiful desert mesas broken by the most amazing rock formations. Arizona is desert, and of course the Grand Canyon. As they are so close together, one can easily enjoy the best of the two.
    As a former New Mexico resident who returns every year, I know that one the best-kept secrets of our part of the Southwest is that one can enjoy the best of what the two states offer, without having to spend a fortune. Budget holidays are easily done and when one gets out of the expensive dining out and the somewhat plastic food of the bland highway eateries, an entirely new world of fine regional food opens up.
    Take it from one who has traveled around the world more times than I have fingers and toes to count my trips, film and food make for the ideal life!
    JD in Sarawak, Malaysia.
     
  7. Congrats and what you were able to pack in your trip. As for air travel, if you have the opportunity, join TSA precheck. Like this you can
    bypass most of the non sense. I travel frequently and usually check most of my equipment, as I bring s bunch, but kept my most used
    stuff in my carry on. Once in a while I have to gate check as the planes are too small to accommodate my camera bag, so I tend to pull
    out my last line of stuff I need to create. Then check it all. Knocking on wood, so far I never had a problem in the US. Basic lesson, bring
    less, shoot better with less. And lives easier with less stuff anyways.
     
  8. Always give the TSA people the "fully monty": big smile, gregarious, happy, upbeat, "How ya'll doing today?" "Anything you want, ma'am, just tell me what to do," and on and on. I always tell them that a cousin of mine is a TSA agent in such-and-such a city, you guys and gals are unsung heroes in the war on terror, I admire what you do, etc., etc., etc. You literally kill them with kindness, cooperation and gratitude. It makes all the difference.
    That being said, I've extensively photographed the entire American Southwest for decades. It's hard not to find a photographically intriguing locale. My favourite area is Monument Valley. And definitely see it accompanied by a Navajo guide. They are unbelievably friendly and once you get to know them, the Navajo have a wicked sense of humour.
    Here's an exceedingly clichéd view from Monument Valley, but still one of my favourites, shot back in the 1980's.
    00dsSg-562313684.jpg
     
  9. it

    it

    I fly with a full kit probably 10 times a year. On the advice of an inspector I stopped putting cables in my carry-on around five years ago and haven't been pulled aside since.
     
  10. Sandy Vongries

    Sandy Vongries Administrator Staff Member

    Jay Dann -- My frequent comment is that you have to leave freedom behind when you fly, even domestically. Smaller airports are usually more pleasant. Best tactic is to shuffle along with a smile, heaven forbid that you are fit and alert -- that guarantees the treatment. Retired also. Would prefer to drive (actually still fun outside the megalopolis on each coast), but I like shorter trips away from the ranch and my dogs. Montana is a quite a distance from a lot of interesting places, though it has plenty of its own.
    As to NM and AZ I was surprised how different the areas were -- I remembered Arizona (from ages ago) as something more similar.
    We like a fancy dinner or two, but usually find local places rather to eat rather than chains. It is legendary in our family that the "Trip Fairy", shorthand for very good luck, usually looks out for us. I will actually be posting a place we stopped in Flagstaff in detail. The room deal at the Biltmore was good, the place I have in Santa Fe (no, I won't share!) is equally nice in different ways for less.
    Thanks for the tips, my wife doesn't know it yet, but we'll be heading back to AZ!
    All the best, Sandy
     
  11. Sandy Vongries

    Sandy Vongries Administrator Staff Member

    Mark -- I did have the pre check status, but something was working against me! I have pro hard cases, but haven't ever been comfortable checking -- not a pro, and only homeowners for insurance. To your point, I did use both bodies, but only two of four lenses -- but I might have wanted..whatever.. My wife is tolerant of my photo obsession, so except for a little shopping and spa for her, trip focus is photographic. I recently obtained a used Ricoh GXR -- small and impressive so far. I may use that instead of one of the FX bodies next time. As to camera bags -- had / have plenty. The one referenced in the OP has amazing capacity and not only can fit under the seat, but can be gotten out in flight without disrupting the row. Thanks for commenting!
     
  12. Sandy Vongries

    Sandy Vongries Administrator Staff Member

    Doc, I just can't do it. I certainly have tried. Best I can do is shuffle thru, sheep like, with a neutral expression and bad posture. Once in a while it even works. I have been flying since I was a small boy in the mid '50's -- Lord, how it has changed!
    I love the Southwest, and there is lots here in Montana / Wyoming / Idaho as well, but since I live here, other areas really seem to get the creative juices flowing faster. I shoot more and maybe better. I'll be travelling occasionally as long as health and finances permit. Best, Sandy
     
  13. Sandy Vongries

    Sandy Vongries Administrator Staff Member

    Ian -- I really don't travel with that much, I could do with less. Did in film days. Thanks for the tip on cables. Cheers, Sandy
     
  14. Sandy Vongries

    Sandy Vongries Administrator Staff Member

    Joe -- I don't know as I'll travel overseas any more. There is a whole lot in the U.S.A. that I haven't seen or photographed as yet. I did enjoy it as a young guy, made several trips to England and Scotland, Mexico, the Caribbean -- had a great time and got a lot of good shots. I scanned and posted some of the chromes form the UK. I still follow the English papers -- a bunchof the places I shot are incredibly different. We'll just see how it goes. Thanks!
     
  15. Sandy — I'm a retired astronomer and used to live in Arizona for quite awhile, so I still dress "western"—cowboy boots, jeans, cowboy shirt, 10-gallon hat. That I stand a good 6-foot-6 without my boots means I tower over these TSA guys. It gets tough but I put on the "good ol' boy" persona, but not obnoxious. I guess you have to just suck it up these days. My preference is for train travel, but long-distance rail travel leaves a lot to be desired, especially when compared to what Europe has. Air travel today is nothing like it was in the 1950s and 60s. I remember travellers getting dressed up to travel; coat and tie for men, dresses for the ladies with heels and hats. Now everyone looks like a slob, but way more comfortable.
     
  16. Sandy Vongries

    Sandy Vongries Administrator Staff Member

    Doc -- I dress as you do -- always. I don't have the height advantage, right around 6' boots on. I believe it is a traditional American dress that gets respect, if the wearer is courteous, just about everywhere. I have worn it several times in the East, same there. Old fashioned dress and old fashioned manners.
    Every once in a while, a bright small curved surface will show a person in a blow up of one of my shots, the hat is the give away.
    It is a real shock to see historic photos at a place like the Biltmore, where everyone was dressed to the nines in the old days, vs. today.
     
  17. Sandy — I believe you always get more respect when you're dressed appropriately, regardless of one's height. I have a dear niece who lives in Greenwich Village—totally into photography and contemporary art—we get along fabulously, she's totally "retro," into shooting film, but looks like your typical "hipster"—tattoos, piercings. When I visit and we walk about, it's definitely the "odd couple"—I look like I walked off the set of the classic Rock Hudson, Liz Taylor epic, "Giant."
    I certainly miss the days when everyone dressed in their finest for travel. I love the western "flair"—can't tell you how many black-tie events over the decades I wore my chased silver cowboy boots, but everyone did in southern Arizona then (Tucson). I got to know a rather famous Arizona senator over the years and he encouraged me to explore photographically the Southwest, not its peoples as curiosities but as real people, who would become your friends.
    You encounter your fair share of d!ckheads in the TSA, but I always try to project an aura of friendliness, cooperation and "good ol' boy"-ism. Sometimes it works, sometimes not, so you tailor your demeanour to the situation. Anyway, can't wait till I get back to the Old Pueblo this summer.
     

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