Sunday, May 31, 2009

Almost the End of June

Sooner of later, I'm sure that the month of June will come to an end. But, until that time arrives, I have some more special picture to share. After all, last June, we had some really great sunsets.

We are very near the end of June. These shots were taken on the 26th. So, there are not that many shots remaining before we finally get in to July. The first shot below shows how great the sky was looking. As the sun began to disappear into the haze at the horizon, it turned its typical beautiful Arizona Orange. Above that, was a patch of blue sky. And above that, was a cloud bank that was beginning to take on a brown cast.

Zooming in a lot shows what almost looks like a Martian landscape.

And then it was time to start playing around. I repositioned myself to put the sun behind some trees. After all, I do like having something of interest in the foreground.

Once again zooming in, reveals the Martian landscape again. But, this time with those rather non-Martian looking tree leaves bracketing the shot.

As the sun continued down, it encountered another bank of clouds. The next two shots show the sun partially hidden by the clouds. I really like seeing the big round ball of the sun with a streak of clouds in front of it.

Here is one last shot from that night, just before the sun began to sink below the mountains.

Alas, to let you know that we have had a few nice sunsets more recently than a year ago, here is a shot I got just a couple of nights ago. The sun is setting in the West, and this shot is looking Northeast. I've mentioned before, sometimes the best stuff is happening behind you!

Sunday, May 24, 2009

For Jerry - the Brother I Never Knew

How do you say goodbye to the brother you never knew?

If you will pardon me a little, this post is going to be a little out of the normal. But, yes, it does contain some sunsets photos!

I am the youngest (by far) of four siblings. My brother Ward was 16 years old when I was born, my brother Jerry was 14, and my sister Shelley was 11. Jerry suffered brain damage before he was born, and would never be normal. My mom and dad did the best they could raising all three of my siblings in their home, and giving them a good start in life. But when they discovered that an unexpected fourth child (me) was coming, they feared that Jerry, who was at about the developmental level of a four-year-old, and was just as wild and full of energy as any four-year-old boy that you have ever known, might accidentally harm a new-born baby.

And so, for my parents, came a very difficult decision; one that I'm sure must have caused them great pain for the rest of their lives. They decided to turn Jerry over to the state of Missouri. This happened before I was born. I know that when I was a very small child, Jerry came home for visits a few times. But, these are occasions that I have no recollection of.

We moved out of the state of Missouri when I was eleven, and I never saw Jerry again. So, basically, to me, Jerry, even though I knew that he existed and I counted him as a brother, at the same time he, in essence, did not exist.

Last Tuesday morning, I received a phone call from my sister (who also lives here in Arizona), saying that Jerry had been admitted to the hospital with pneumonia and an unknown infection, and that his organs were shutting down. By that evening, my sister called me again to say that Jerry had died.

The question echoed in my mind - how am I supposed to feel about this? Even now, with his funeral a couple of days in the past, this is still a difficult question. Please don't think me cold and hard if I say that for the most part I have felt nothing. There have been, however, a couple of moments when the tears flowed.

Since both of my parents have already passed on, it occurred to me very briefly, that perhaps I didn't even need to attend Jerry's funeral. After all, I really never knew him. And plane fare to Missouri on short notice amounted to a small fortune. But, on the other hand he was my brother. And, my other brother and sister were definitely going to be there, and what would they think of their baby brother, if he didn't make an appearance, too. I felt I owed it to them, and to Jerry's memory. And, somehow, I also felt I owed it to myself to be there. And so plans were made, and my sister and I caught a flight on Thursday. Our brother Ward and his wife Jeanne, had driven to see Jerry when they heard that he was ill, and had in fact, arrived in time to spend the last three hours of Jerry's life with him. When Shelley and I landed in Springfield a couple of days later, they drove to Springfield to pick us up.

So, here are some photos that chronicle my experiences and the trip to meet the brother I never knew.

The night that Jerry died, as I was driving home, I was nearing my neck of the woods as the sun was setting. So, I found a spot that I had been to before about a year ago, actually on a day that I had had one of our cats put down, and had taken sunset photos in honor of that cat. I know that may seem kind of silly, but, that's how I felt. So, on this night that Jerry died, I got out of the car in this same spot of desert, and walked around taking pictures, this time in honor of Jerry, even though to me, he was nearly a complete stranger. It was during this photo session that my emotions first stirred, and I cried some for the brother I never knew.

These first three photos are from that night, and I dedicate them to Jerry.

The next day, Wednesday, I spent most of the day trying to set up flight arrangements. That evening, I went out to shoot a few more pictures. Here are a couple from that night that I like. The second picture below, shows that sometimes, the clouds really do have silver linings.

Thursday, Shelley and I took wing. That night, as we were on the last leg of the journey to Springfield, I had a window seat on the left side of the plane, which happened to face West. Here are some pictures that I took that night from about 30,000 feet. These, obviously, were shot through the airplane window. I wasn't expecting very good results, but the pictures turned out to be not too bad. The sunset itself, was spectacular as the sun sank below all the haze in the air and the clouds. I didn't have any idea of what to expect from on high. In some of these photos, you can see the wing of the plane.

While I was taking the pictures from the airplane, I was using both the Fujifilm and Canon cameras. I was afraid that the cameras would have difficulty focusing through the window. The Fujifilm was in auto-focus mode, and even while zoomed in quite a bit, as long as there was sufficient detail in the clouds, it was able to successfully focus. Even traveling at 600 miles-per-hour didn't seem to matter! As for the Canon, I put it into manual focus, and focused on the details at the end of the wing. I figured that was near enough to infinity.

The following morning, we awoke in our hotel room and I looked out the window at the sunrise. Here is one of the interresting shots.

Notice the double image of the sun. I was shooting through the window at an angle. I am assuming that something in the window glass caused this refraction.

And so, the day proceeded. I met the wonderful people who had known and taken care of Jerry. I met the other men with mental disabilities that lived in the home with Jerry. I met the people who supervised him at his job. (Yes, he was able to hold down a job at a business that employs persons with disabilities.) I learned that there was a lot more to Jerry than I would ever have imagined. It turns out that a lot of people, not only liked him, but truly loved him. Jerry, in his arrested mental development, had an innocence about him that let the love and joy of God show through. And the people around him felt that. The funeral was very well attended. It was there, that I shed a few more tears.

I think that now, I am proud of this brother of mine that I never knew. This trip has brought me, hopefully, some closure on this matter. After all, I now feel that I really do know him, at least a little.

I arrived home late last night (Saturday) from this trip to Missouri. This morning in our Church service, we celebrated Memorial Day - a time to remember those who have died in military service. But, we did something more as well. Our celebration was opened up to all who wanted to remember anyone that has passed from our lives who we found to be special. For each such person, a candle was lit by the person doing the remembering, and the name of the deceased was spoken for all to hear. One of the candles you see below, I lit just this morning, in memory of the brother I never knew - Jerry Ronald Degler.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Even MORE Pictures from Last June!

In my last posting, I said that I would show what became of the cloud bank that was above and to left of the cactus. So ...

In that last picture (in the last posting), the clouds behind the cactus looked nice, but normal. By zooming in for a closer look, the clouds took on a very pink appearance. This color was unexpected, and didn't really show up until I took this closer shot.

In just a short while, the sun went below the horizon, and the tops of the clouds above the cactus turned a wonderful orange. I love the shape of those clouds. Another thing that I really like in this shot is red glow on the horizon in the lower right corner, which is where the sun went down.

And, a little bit later still, and the overhead clouds turned red. Also, notice the sky shadows being cast by the clouds.

But, now I'd like to back up a little in time to just before the sun went down. This next shot shows rain falling from the cloud to the west. But, as it frequently does here in the desert, the rain never reaches the ground. You can see the wind causing the rain to fall at an angle.

And finally, here is a shot that I really like. I love shots where the sun looks quite large as it goes down, partially behind the horizon. But, look right above the sun -- you can see the rain falling, but not making it to the ground.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Still More Pictures from Last June!

Here is another installment of that special June evening. At the end of my previous post, I showed some cactus being silhouetted as the sun broke through below the clouds. If you look closely at those last pictures, you can see two Saguaro cactus in the foreground - a small one closer to me that has no arms, and the larger one with arms farther away. Also note the position of these two cactus relative to the sun.

The first shot below makes these cactus look quite strange. I've repositioned myself so that the sun is directly behind the larger cactus. What's happened here is that, coincidentally, the smaller cactus happens to be in a straight line with the sun and the larger cactus. And, yep, it makes the cactus silhouette look strange.

As the sun sank further down, there was yet another bank of clouds for it to pass behind. The following three shots show the sun disappearing behind these new clouds, and then reappearing once again. There are also some rays and cloud shadows in these shots that I just love.

Finally, here is another wide-angle shot, repositioning my self to once again show the two cactus in separate silhouettes. In this shot, notice the cloud bank just above and to the left of the cactus. In my next posting, I will show what becomes of this cloud bank.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

More Pictures - Later Post!

OK, as I mentioned in the last post, I would present more of the photos from that special night of last June that started off with the unusual cloud formation. By the time I had driven to my target destination for the night, I could tell that it was going to be a very special night, indeed. Here is a little closer view of the sun rays beneath the clouds.

I believe that I have mentioned this in the past, but, it's worth mentioning again -- it's not always what's happening in front of you that's photo worthy! Sometimes you just have to look behind you. This is sometimes difficult to remember when you are shooting the sunset because your target is obviously right in front of you.

But, with a partially cloudy sky, some of the terrain behind you may be in direct sunlight while other areas are in the shade of the clouds. Depending upon the terrain, that may make for some beautiful photos. So, remember to look behind you!! Make sure to click on the following images to see a larger version so you can see more of the details of the mountains.

As you can see in the first image in tonight's post, the area below the clouds has an interesting orange glow. Zooming in reveals the nice mountain shadows.

After waiting long enough, the sun finally broke through beneath the clouds. By this time, I had repositioned myself, putting some delightful cactus between the sun and me. In the following three shots, I zoom in a little more each time, to change the composition of each picture. Take a close look at the top of the cactus in the last shot below, and the second shot above of looking behind me. The stuff that looks fuzzy on top is the cactus in bloom. Pretty cool.

If you have been following some of my earlier posts, you can tell that I was using the Fujifilm camera. This is obvious from the radials that shine out from the bright sun.

That will pretty much cover it for tonight. But, there are sever more special photos to discuss from this same night. So, 'till next time ... God bless!!