Category Archives: Photo Essay

Hunting Hummingbirds

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In May, a friend of mine posted several wonderful photos of hummingbirds (I don’t know if you’ll be able to see it if you’re not his friend) on Facebook that he had taken at the Hummingbird Habitat in Desert Breeze Park. I’ve been dying to go out there and try to capture some with my camera. I had gone a couple of years ago with no luck.

I often see hummers flitting around the backyard when I take Ralph out first thing in the morning. But I never have my good camera handy at that time.

Thursday was my first chance to go to the park. I tried to get out there early, but it was already 9:30 and 90 degrees when I left the house. Hummingbirds prefer to do their foraging early in the morning or late in the afternoon when it isn’t so hot.

I forgot that there’s a waterfall and a pool of water lilies at the Hummingbird Habitat.

waterfall

Did you notice the two dragonflies near the lower left corner above? That’s the first time I’ve ever been able to photograph them. They’re fast.

water lilies

There are all sorts of interesting plants in the garden.

red yucca
Red yucca
agaves
Agaves
century plant
Century plant. This flower spike is about 30 feet tall.

There’s a tall tree sculpture in the center of the garden.

Tree sculpture

And, of course, lots of real trees. In one spot, they formed a canopy above the path. That shaded area was about 10 degrees cooler than the rest of the garden.

Shady path

I wandered through the habitat looking for hummingbirds. I saw some other birds.

unidentified bird
I don’t know what kind of bird this is. I’d like to say mockingbird, except it was only singing one song. Usually mockingbirds run through a whole repertoire.
pigeon or mourning dove
I’m not sure whether this is a pigeon or a mourning dove.
Gecko sunning
I believe that’s a gecko on the top of this rock.

I finally did see one hummingbird, though I didn’t even get a good enough look at him to be able to tell what type. It was so hard to get a picture of him. He kept flitting about within a tree, and I couldn’t focus on him. My camera insisted on focusing on the leaves and blurring him out. I managed to get a few half-decent shots . . .

hummingbird
hummingbird
hummingbird

. . . but when I finally got my zoom lens focused in, he was done for the day. I never saw him again, even though I hung around and searched for another half hour.

Oh well. Maybe next time.

Return to the Riparian Preserve

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“Have you seen the spoonbill who lives here?” asked a man with a camera.

“No, I’ve never seen the spoonbill, but I see you’ve brought the big gun,” I said, pointing to the huge telephoto lens on his camera.

The Gilbert Riparian Preserve is a popular local venue for nature photographers. I posted about it in 2016 and 2017, but I hadn’t been back there since, so the other day I drove to the 110 acre park that boasts a lake, seven ponds, hiking trails, a playground, and an observatory. I wasn’t expecting it to be so busy on a weekday; I was lucky to get a parking spot. The park was full of senior citizens and parents with young children. And also lots of ducks.

Water Ranch Lake
Water Ranch Lake
lotsa ducks
Lots of mallards.
feeding the ducks

When I was a little girl, we’d go to the local pond with a bag of stale bread and tear it up to feed the ducks. Bread is no longer a recommended duck cuisine. At the Preserve, only at the lake (not at the ponds) are you allowed to feed the ducks, and only birdseed, corn, and whole-grain cereal are permitted. (Most people, like the kids above, bring baggies of Cheerios.)

House sparrow
I think this little house sparrow wants in on the Cheerio action.
ring-necked ducks
Ring-necked ducks. See the white markings on their bills?
turtle sunning
A turtle sunning himself

As I wandered around from pond to pond, I found lots of things to look at and wonder about.

Cactus garden
A garden of saguaro cactus
memorial placard
No blossoms in this garden in January, but as I read the dedication, I realized it was planted in honor of a baby who died the day she was born.
bench

Benches appear throughout the preserve. This one had a placard that particularly touched me:

placard

In one of the ponds I noticed some wading birds fishing for food.

American avocet
An American avocet. See the curved-upward beak?
Black-necked stilt
A black-necked stilt

And further on, another turtle:

Turtle

I noticed a painted rock nestled in the V of a tree trunk:

painted rock

A gambrel’s quail sprinted across the trail in front of me, and I was barely able to snap a shot before it disappeared into the brush:

Gambrel's quail

I won’t let another four-and-a-half years pass before I make another trip to the Preserve. Maybe I’ll see you there. . .

My Daughter’s Wedding

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Beautiful hands and bouquet

Katie and Michael have been together for twelve years. Just before Christmas 2019, Michael asked Katie to marry him. They planned to get married in Fall 2020, but, you know. . .

Covid. No big indoor gatherings. No traveling.

When the number of infections dwindled, they began brainstorming—they could have a small, intimate, outdoor wedding. They even tried to contact a venue to get the ball rolling, but no one responded to their inquiry. As infections spiked again, they put everything on hold. No wedding in 2020. But I thought, surely the pandemic wouldn’t last much longer.

Ha. On and on it dragged. Finally, they said, “We’ve waited long enough. We’re getting married before the end of 2021.”

Katie discovered the gorgeous outdoor wedding portraits of Cassy Arch Photography on Instagram, and contacted her about her availability. She was free on December 28, and Katie booked her for an “elopement” session.

Sign

Cassy recommended several locations, and Katie invited me to scout them out with her. One with incredible mountain views would have been hard for my disabled husband to navigate in his wheelchair. But at Usery Mountain Regional Park where Katie and Michael often hike, we discovered that near the Visitor’s Center is an amphitheater with a paved path that is wheelchair accessible. Katie and Michael reserved it, planning to have the ceremony in the late afternoon, just before “golden hour,” so they could have their outdoor portraits taken as the sun began to set.

One of the advantages of living in the desert around Phoenix is that it almost never rains. We average about 9 inches of rain per year. Other parts of the country regard an accumulation of less than an eighth of an inch as a “trace.” In Arizona, rain is measured by hundredths of inches. We were confident rain wouldn’t be an issue, though as the holidays approached, they brought with them clouds and winds.

It started raining on December 24. On Christmas Day, it rained a whole inch. The next day we had cloudy skies and showers. On the morning of December 27, Katie called me in tears. The weather forecast for the 28th predicted a 10% chance of rain at 10:00 AM, and a 50% chance at 3:00. Could we possibly host the wedding on our covered patio?

Now, for most people, this would not be such a big inconvenience. But years ago my husband converted the patio into his workshop. His woodworking and welding equipment were there, as well as work tables and heavy machinery and junk. So I said, sorry, no.

Long story short, I had a change of heart. Katie and Michael came over and we spent the next few hours clearing and cleaning and setting up Plan B.

The next morning, Katie and Michael met the photographer in Usery Park for their photoshoot in the desert.

Desert
See the ominous skies?
Desert
Desert
Desert
Desert

Meanwhile, I picked up cupcakes and flowers and did some last-minute housecleaning. In the afternoon, family and a few friends arrived. Counting the bride and groom and the photographer, our happy little wedding assembly included 15 people.

We settled into assorted lawn furniture and dining room and kitchen chairs arranged on the patio. I was beat, and prepared myself to listen to the standard “Dearly beloved” ceremony.

Dad and daughter
Greg accompanies his daughter to her groom.

I should have known better. Our middle daughter, Erin, got herself certified to perform weddings, and she and Katie and Michael crafted a service that was beautiful, personal, and included everything I would have wanted said at a wedding. Erin is a remarkable speaker, and her delivery was flawless. The couple exchanged vows that they wrote themselves.

Ceremonty
Michael's vows

Katie and Michael had their vows written out on their phones, but they barely looked at the words; they knew them by heart. At one point, as Michael was telling Katie how much he loves her and wants to spend his life together with her, he broke down. There was not a dry eye on that patio, even though we were sheltered from the raindrops that periodically sprinkled down.

With this ring

When the ceremony was over, I had to admit it was the most beautiful wedding I’d ever attended. (Okay, maybe I am a little prejudiced.)

Katie and Michael kiss
Bubbles!
Yay! Bubbles! (That’s Michael’s mom standing on the right.)
Huelsenbeck clan
Our sons Andrew and Matt, Michael and Katie, Greg and me and Erin.

Erin’s husband, Dave, was the man-behind-the-scenes who facilitated everything and made the ceremony go smoothly. He started the music when Michael came out to take his position; he held onto the rings; he even FaceTimed our other daughter, Carly, who lives in New York so she could see the ceremony.

Signing the papers
In our kitchen, signing the paperwork to make everything official.

Afterward, we all went out to dinner together. The best day of 2021.

All images by Cassy Arch Photography.

Sculpture Saturday: Thunderin’ Thunder Lizards

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I almost ran off the road one day while driving past Whitfill Nurseries in Gilbert, Arizona. When was the last time you saw a wagon being drawn by a . . . stegosaurus?

Stegasaurus 1

I finally had a chance last week to stop and take a look around. Here is what I found:

Triceratops 2
Triceratops
Triceratops 1
Closeup of triceratops
Tyranosaurus Rex 1
Tyrannosaurus rex
T Rex 2
Look at those scary claws.
T Rex 3
Terrifying teeth
Allosaurus
Allosaurus
Stegasaurus 2
One more look at the stegosaurus

More Sculpture Saturday.

Creative Juice #258

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Creative Juice #258

All sorts of info to inspire your artistic brain.

  • I know the common green mantises; I didn’t know they have diverse cousins.
  • Flip through Nathalie’s art journal.
  • How things get done in Mozambique.
  • Lovely photographs of ordinary objects.
  • Funny and amazing animal videos.
  • Natural poses to suggest when you’re taking photographs of groups of people.
  • Teeny tiny paintings.
  • This artist’s quilted portraits celebrate Black life. Be sure to click on the link at the end of the article to see more. (Actually, you have to click on the little box that appears when you click the link.)
  • For the writers: mining memories for your memoir.
  • Incredible photographs of endangered species.
  • For the artists: open calls, grants, residencies, and fellowships.
  • The Presto from the Summer concerto from Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons played on a big honkin’ organ.

Around the House and in the Backyard

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Sigh. I used to go for a daily morning walk, often with camera in hand. Which was great, because I always had lots of photographs to post.

But these days, I spend my mornings helping my husband with his morning routines, helping him dress, preparing his breakfast. Then I often need to take him to a doctor appointment or to physical therapy. My morning is gone, and frankly, in the afternoon it’s too hot to go for a walk (I live in Arizona, and the temperature in the summer is often over 100 degrees). So I’m taking a lot less pictures.

On Tuesday I decided to see if I could capture ordinary items close to home. Here’s what I came up with:

Baggie of pretzels
A baggie of pretzels
Keychain hanging on the wall
Keychain hanging by the door
Angelfish
Angelfish in one of Greg’s tanks
Piano Keys
Piano keys

And then I stepped outside.

Thorns of red bird of paradise
This is a red bird of paradise plant. I was trying to focus on the thorns.
Red bird of paradise with no blossom
Another view of a red bird of paradise plant. Neither of these has a blossom right now–it was pruned 10 days ago.
Natal plum
Natal plum bush
Cat's claw
Cat’s claw vine with long seed pods
Canary Island date palm
Canary Island date palm
Bark
Bark of the same tree.

Words Over Water

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These tiles are embeded in a wall at Tempe Town Lake:

C633C272-F6C0-42D1-A84D-345CF50A513E
53493915-15D9-421F-9103-5F4465E8B6B2
56CEADDD-02AC-49A9-9957-B7EC6877F05F
CC213EAA-9D29-40F4-806D-D18131E698EE
3B9DE4E2-4738-4AD3-B9CB-7729A9386872
F4D7CBC2-2582-4577-A047-DC162F0C95E6
F6C25750-43D4-4162-9F2D-8A04822A99E2
F21D86F2-E72A-49CF-A927-AD6FE4758CC9

Tempe Mill Avenue Bridges

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Tempe Crew
Photo by C. Edward Brice on December 29, 2010. Used under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 2.0 Generic license.

A lot has changed since we moved to Tempe, Arizona thirty-three years ago. Back in the day, there was only one Mill Avenue bridge (if you don’t count the railroad bridge just a little further to the west). It was built in 1931 to cross the Salt River. Now, when we came to Tempe, the Salt River had no water in it, because in the early 1900s it was diverted by dams into reservoirs, providing water for the greater Phoenix metropolitan area through canals built along irrigation ditches first engineered by the native Hohokam people almost two thousand years ago. But occasionally, the reservoirs rose too high, and water was released into the river bed.

As the Phoenix area developed and became more populated, the Mill Avenue bridge, only one lane in each direction, was no longer adequate for the flow of traffic. It was decided to to use the existing bridge for southbound traffic, and build a second bridge to the east for northbound travel. Construction started in 1990.

But in 1993, the city experienced a “hundred year flood,” and the Salt River raged. The force of the water tore down scaffolding and concrete forms on the not-yet-completed bridge. Nevertheless, the new bridge was repaired and ready for service in 1994.

Bridges
New bridge on the left, old bridge on the right.

The new bridge is decorated with a symbol also found on the Arizona state flag:

Mill Ave Bridge

In 1999, an area of the riverbed was dammed to create Tempe Town Lake. The artificial lake is the centerpiece of a development project that includes corporate offices and high-rise apartment buildings. Residents and visitors can use the lake for paddle boarding, rowing, kayaking, and urban fishing.

Rowing

I wish I’d had the foresight to come out here twenty years ago and photograph what the skyline of Tempe looked like with all the quaint old historic buildings that used to be visible from the shore. Now the modern high-rises dominate the landscape.

But I captured a picture of the old Hayden Flour Mill and silos, built in 1911. It’s the tall white building below:

Hayden Mill

In the picture below, four bridges are visible–the underside of the new bridge, the old bridge, and beyond it, the Phoenix Light Rail bridge, and a railroad bridge:

Bridges

The Light Rail bridge opened in 2008:

Light Rail bridge
Phoenix Light Rail trains on bridge.

A better view of the railroad bridge, built in 1915 and damaged in 2020 when a train derailed and burned:

Railroad bridge

Exposed wooden ties on the underside of the railroad bridge:

Underside of railroad bridge

A little further west, a pedestrian bridge by the Tempe Center for the Arts (below, left):

Tempe Center for the Arts

Swallows built nests on the underside of the old Mill Avenue Bridge. I didn’t see any swallows.

Swallow nests under the bridge

One final view of the old Mill Avenue Bridge, with Tempe Butte (“A” Mountain) almost completely obscured in the background.

Mill Ave Bridge

Except for the first photo, all images in this article by ARHuelsenbeck.

Photo Essay: ASU Research Park

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Photo Essay: ASU Research Park

Once upon a time, Arizona State University had an experimental farm. (E-I-E-I-O.) in 1974, the agricultural program disbanded, and in 1984, the 320-acre property was repurposed as a research park. 48 companies now have facilities there, employing 6,000 people.

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The park is beautifully landscaped. Its centerpiece is a lake where catch-and-release fishing is permitted. It’s also a lovely place to shoot photographs.

Hummingbirds flit from blossom to blossom.

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A waterfall splashes at one end of the lake.

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Plants thrive at the water’s edge. (Click on the smaller images to enlarge.)

Ducks and geese enjoy the surroundings.

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A pavilion offers a shady spot to rest. The sunlight filtering through the support structure casts an interesting patterned shadow.

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Nearby, a water feature adds its music.

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St. Joseph’s Hospital

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St. Joseph’s Hospital

On March 11, just as concern about the coronavirus was taking off, my husband had spinal surgery through Barrow Neurological Institute, which is housed at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Phoenix, Arizona. Although it should have been a very short stay, my husband ran into complications, and he ended up staying two weeks, and then transferring to a skilled nursing facility. I spent many hours there the first week, and then visitors were barred.

In 1892, a group of Sisters of Mercy arrived in Phoenix to open a school. They recognized a need for a tuberculosis treatment center, so they raised money to start a hospital, which became St. Joseph’s. The first St. Joe’s was located in a former home in 1895. The current St. Joe’s was opened in 1953, though it’s expanded over the years.

Because I went to an elementary school that was run by Sisters of Mercy, I felt like I was coming home to my roots in the hospital. It’s one of the most beautiful hospitals I’ve ever seen, with artwork and Sisters of Mercy memorabilia. For example, I was familiar with this photograph in the lobby:

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Here is an Orthodox-style icon of Mother McCauley. She is on the path to canonization in the Catholic Church.

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And as a child I wanted this doll, dressed in my teachers’ habit:

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Here is a chalice that is part of the exhibit:

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The hospital also displays vintage photographs of life in Phoenix:

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And gorgeous sculpture:

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And scripture (paraphrased) on the wall:

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And an appropos verse from the Koran:

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One day it poured while I was there. This was the view from Greg’s room, complete with rainbow:

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Here are two views of St. Joseph’s statue in front of the hospital:

As I write this, Greg is still in the skilled nursing facility, but he is slowly improving, and I hope he will be home soon.