Arizona with my camera

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Kathy and Milly at Horseshoe Bend Canyon
Kathy and Milly at Horseshoe Bend Canyon

I had every intention of blogging my way Arizona but as a full time, commission only, villa specialist I ended up working through emails every night and daily while traveling from place to place. I was able to keep up with work, but my blog suffered for it. Now that I have a few minutes I’ll try to put the week into a (I hope) a comprehensive blog.

October 5 I left Boston for Pheonix Arizona, my son drove me to Boston airport which was a big help. The train and a bus can get me to and from the airport but its not easy. I’ve never packed so heavily as I did on this trip. I would be going from 90F degree temps in Pheonix, to 85 degrees in Sedona, to 60 degrees in Flagstaff where I would spend the majority of time. At night the temperatures would go to the 30’s and snow wasn’t impossible. Then there was the hiking boots I would need, the laptop for downloading and arranging pictures, the cameras, tripod etc etc.

I arrived in Pheonix about 5Pm and went to the Pheonix to Sedona Shuttle desk adjacent to baggage claim to catch the 6PM shuttle. This company has other destinations including Flagstaff. The shuttle was on time and we were escorted to the curb and started on our way. We made a couple of stops and ended up with 5 of us and two employees. The driver was new and a bit confused about how many were on board and radio conversations went back and forth with home base until it was straightened out. Yes there were 5 passengers plus the driver and not 5 passengers including the driver. That took about 10 minutes and we were on our way. My seat mate had just returned from two very long days of travel from Australia and she was talking non stop (as only the over tired can do) about the differences between the US and Australia lamenting about what she was subjected to at meal time and why didn’t they have grape jelly in Australia. When she started on why can’t other countries be just like the US I tuned out and kept my mouth shut. Nothing good can come of commenting on that theme and it usually falls on deaf ears. Wouldn’t the world be boring if everyone was the same. Perhaps she should save her money and just stay home with everything comfortable and predictable.

A passenger behind me had also had a bad day, he was fighting with a bank for misplacing a deposit he’d made that ended up in the wrong account. The error messed up a transfer to his ex wife’s account, she apparently didn’t belief his explanation of why she hadn’t received the promised money, which led to a loud heated argument (swear words and all) that we all got to hear. GET ME OUT OF THIS VAN!

Finally we stopped at Camp Verde where my friend was meeting me. The weird van ride behind me we grabbed food and went to our hotel for the night. La Vista Motel is nothing fancy but its right on main street in Sedona and the price was right, especially for one night. The next morning we headed out for coffee, we had a 10:30 reservation at L’auberge de Sedona for their famous Sunday brunch. I was more than ready for a relaxed day in a beautiful setting and was not disappointed. Our table was right beside a river with ducks, a heron, and the sound and sparkle of flowing water. White linens and friendly waiters started us off but when he offered champagne I knew I was finally starting my vacation. Then when he kept filling my glass through the brunch I was feeling pretty good! The food choice and selection was excellent. I can attest to why the brunch is so well regarded.

Lovely Sunday Brunch setting at L'Auberge de Sedona
Lovely Sunday Brunch setting at L’Auberge de Sedona

After a little shopping in Sedona Milly and I started out for Flagstaff which is about an hour from Sedona but mostly up hill. Sedona is about 4400 ft elevation and Flagstaff is about 6900 ft. The drive is lovely, much of it through Oak Creek Canyon and the weather close to perfect. We found our hotel La Quinta (through no help from our GPS which took us on a little joy ride way out of our way) close to the downtown and checked in before meeting fellow Road Scholars who we would spend the week with learning how to take better pictures ( I hope). There were twenty singles and couples from all over the US, a nice group. Jeff Strange our group leader has been working for Road Scholars for 13 years and our resident photo instructor was a fill in for the original, her name is Kyra Oellig.. It was disappointing not to have the original photographer James Q Martin bail on us. He was part of the reason some of us signed up, his work with landscape photography all over the world is inspiring.

Day one – after a brief photography lesson we headed back to Sedona, first stop Red Rock State Park which was packed primarily because the National parks were closed because of the government shut down so the tourists were looking for alternatives. We waited in line to park for about 30 minutes. Once we were settled we started out looking for interesting sites to photograph, everyone jazzed after the lesson earlier in the day. I was ready to start fooling with F stops and shutter speeds even though I still had no idea what I was doing. At one point I headed down to the stream that bordered our walking path to try some water shots, I climbed down the bank and proceeded to set up my tripod and fool with my camera settings. Not as easy as it looks folks! After several attempts I was stymied and headed back up to find Kira. Perhaps more reading of the camera’s instruction booklet is in order for tonight.
After a bag lunch at the state park we headed into Sedona to Tlaquepaque arts and crafts village and although Milly and I had already walked around Tlaquepaque, we were seeing it not with our shopping eyes but with our photography eyes. The village recreates an traditional Mexican village with colors and unique architectural features which the camera loves. We all spread out and started snapping every thing that caught our eye. Great fun.

Tlaquepaque arts and crafts village Sedona AZ
Tlaquepaque arts and crafts village Sedona AZ

From there we went to the Chapel of the Holy Cross. Church of the Holy Cross Sedona

Seeing this structure perched on the red rocks is quite spectacular. The chapel is quite small but the structure itself is amazing. I’m getting good shots that I’m pleased with but more and more I’m thinking the camera on the automatic setting is doing a pretty good job. When I start fooling around with the settings is when the shots are either over exposed, underexposed or blurry! Perhaps the “smart” camera knows what its doing and I should leave it alone to do its job!

We’ve changed out schedule and we’re headed to watch the Sedona sunset at Red Rock Crossing before going to dinner. We arrived with time to spare before the big moment and started along the path to THE place to watch the sunset – sure enough there were people with huge cameras and tripods guarding their chosen spots, checking equipment, adjusting and readjusting, with more patience than I have. I wandered around knowing my tiny little Lumix was a joke beside their big Nikons and Canons with super long lens and massive tripod. Sunset red Rock Crossing Sedona but despite it all I got a couple of good shots in.

The rest of the week went quickly and more and more I just let the camera take over. As much as I liked Jeff and Kira, and as much as Jeff was stressed finding us interesting places to go each day with the National Parks shut down (no Grand Canyon this time!) there was very little photography lessons. We did have sessions where we looked at other’s work and commented on the finer points, I learned more the wonderful work of some of our more seasoned photographers in our group than I did from Kira.

Red Mountain
Red Mountain
Horseshoe Bend Canyon This little smart camera of mine knows what it's doing!
Horseshoe Bend Canyon This little smart camera of mine knows what it’s doing!
Painted Desert  Natural colors are amazing.
Painted Desert
Natural colors are amazing.
Slot Canyon - The very soft and porous rock has been washed out by the river to form taffy like formations.
Slot Canyon – The very soft and porous rock has been washed out by the river to form taffy like formations.
Slot Canyon - the week before we were there they'd had a flash flood with water racing through the canyon.  These rock formations are the result of many such flash floods.
Slot Canyon – the week before we were there they’d had a flash flood with water racing through the canyon. These rock formations are the result of many such flash floods.
The natural colors of Arizona are brilliant especially at dawn and dusk.
The natural colors of Arizona are brilliant especially at dawn and dusk.
Fountain in the shopping mall in Flagstaff.
Fountain in the shopping mall in Flagstaff.

All in all it was a great week seeing the beauty of the south west in south and central Arizona. Never did get to see the Grand Canyon and didn’t really learn a lot about taking pictures when the camera setting is off automatic, but I like the pictures I took so it was a successful week!