Category Archives: Photo Essay

My Favorite Photos of 2019

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I had opportunities to take a couple thousand pictures this year, so it was hard to pick just 10. Most of these favorites  I’ve posted previously, but some have never been seen by anybody before. I admit some are flawed, but I like them anyway, sometimes because of their quirkiness.

I did a lot of hiking this year in desert parks. I just love the look and feel of wilderness. This picture was taken at Boyce Thompson Arboretum:

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A blooming cactus at North Mountain Park:

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A tree covered with blossoms on the grounds of the Arizona Renaissance Festival:

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Every February, wildflowers blanket a yard in my town:

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This is an icon in a Greek Orthodox monastery chapel. I purposely took this photo at a wonky angle, because of the candle holder hanging in front of the painting. I wanted to get a good shot of the mother’s sweet face, but it caused the Baby to look distorted:

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This was taken in South Mountain Park:

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A perfect red rose at the Rose Garden at Mesa Community College:

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These wildflowers in my yard grew from an unsolicited packet of seeds sent through the mail from the Sierra Club:

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I shot these cactus flowers in my neighborhood on my morning walk:

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My daughter Katie on the footbridge at Boyce Thompson Arboretum:

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In Search of Autumn Leaves

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In Search of Autumn Leaves

When you live just outside of Phoenix, Arizona, you don’t see a lot of fall leaves. So last Friday my daughter Katie and I traveled an hour to the Boyce Thompson Arboretum, one of our favorite spots for hiking and for picture taking, to see if we could find some. The Arboretum officially celebrates its Fall Foliage Finale on Thanksgiving weekend, but we purposely waited a week to avoid the crowds. We took the High Trail into the wilder part of the Arboretum to get a nice workout.

Even before we reached the trail, we were rewarded with orange and yellow hues, but most of the trees were green. I don’t know if most of the trees in the Arboretum just don’t change, or if our night temperatures in the 40s just aren’t cool enough to trigger death.

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Photo by Katie Huelsenbeck

 

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As you can see, our skies were cloudy, which doesn’t often happen here. In fact, we’ve had very few rainy days this year until recently. (As I’m writing this on Monday afternoon, hail is failing outside my window and lightning and thunder are making their presence known.)

Here’s Katie crossing a stream. (Last time we were at the Arboretum, the stream was dry.)

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Just beyond the stream was a magnificent example of autumn color.

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The views on the high trail were gorgeous.

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Crossing the stream on an extension footbridge:

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Katie on the bridge.

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On the other side of the bridge, the trails are more civilized.

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Look at the blazing colors on this tree:

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Katie:

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And me, with trekking pole:

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Photo by Katie Huelsenbeck

A little stone cottage:

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A pomegranate:

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Look at the gnarly trunk of this tree:

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And look at this crazy curlicue branch:

 

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This little boy and his donkey are sculptures:

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My daughter took this photo with her phone. Doesn’t she have a great eye?

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Photo by Katie Huelsenbeck

This was our third trip to the Arboretum together. You can see pictures of our other trips here and here.

Unless stated otherwise, photographs in this article are by ARHuelsenbeck.

St. Anthony’s Monastery, Part 3: The Gardens

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St. Anthony’s Monastery, Part 3: The Gardens

St. Anthony’s Greek Orthodox Monastery is located in the desert outside Florence, Arizona. The monastery’s water comes from three wells, each a quarter-mile deep, which turn the grounds into an oasis.

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I’ve never seen bougainvillea this color.

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Adding to the beauty of the plants are the many outdoor structures and decorative brickwork.

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And the fountains.

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And the statuary.

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The monks also grow several kinds of citrus, and olives.

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For more pictures of St. Anthony’s Monastery, check out these articles about the doors, the architecture, and the icons.

St. Anthony’s Monastery, Part 2: The Iconography

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St. Anthony’s Monastery, Part 2: The Iconography

One of the highlights of the trip to St. Anthony’s Monastery is the many icons displayed in the church and the chapels. They were brought over from Greece. Some of them look to me like hand-painted originals, others like fine art reproductions, though I don’t know for sure. I don’t remember in which buildings most of these icons were located.

I’ve written about icons before, but I’ve never been where so many are displayed in one place. I’m fascinated by this Greek and Eastern Orthodox art form honoring Jesus, the saints, and the patriarchs. I hesitate to identify most of the images below, because I’d just be guessing. I am not knowledgeable about the symbolism, and I don’t read Greek, so I can’t decipher the writing on the icons.

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In many of the icons, the thumb of the right hand (or both hands) touches the tip of the ring finger. I wonder what the significance of that is.

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The picture below reminds me very much of Our Lady of Perpetual Help.

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Look at the eyes in the cup below.

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Is it just me, or are a lot of the faces below the same?

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Lovely mosaic:

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The icon below is also a mosaic. I’m pretty sure this is St. George. He’s defeating the dragon. And it’s located just outside the St. George Chapel.

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The next three pictures are closeups of St. George so you can see the details. Amazing craftsmanship.

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The following two mosaic angels are on the exterior of the St. George Chapel.

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I love the Madonna and Child below. Any parent will recognize the backward arching of the infant.

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I took another picture at an angle, because I wanted to get the Mother’s sweet face without the hanging candle holder right in front of it. Unfortunately, the angle caused a distortion that makes the Baby look all wonky.

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This magnificent painted crucifix is in St. Seraphim’s Chapel.

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This icon is also in St. Seraphim’s Chapel. Could it be Seraphim himself? Isn’t it interesting that there are notes stuck behind the picture? Could they be prayer requests?

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I’ve also posted articles about some doors and the architecture at St. Anthony’s Monastery. I’m planning to post another article on Saturday showing photos of the Monastery gardens.

St. Anthony’s Monastery, Part 1: The Architecture

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The main church, St. Anthony’s

In the summer of 1995, six monks traveled from Mount Athos in Greece to the Arizona desert to build a monastery. They acquired 165 acres outside Florence, Arizona, and began construction. Today, St. Anthony’s Greek Orthodox Monastery houses 65 monks.

The monastery is truly an oasis in the desert, physically and spiritually. Portions of the facility are open to the public. There is a strict dress code, and visitors are asked not to engage the monks.

In case you’re interested, on Thursday I posted some pictures of doors on the monastery grounds.

After a brief orientation with a monastery book store volunteer, the first stop on the self-guided tour is the main church, St. Anthony’s. A pair of gold-painted lions flank the front door.

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The interior is highly ornamented in the Byzantine style. The altar is located behind the red curtain and is off-limits to visitors.

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The candles in the massive brass chandelier are lit on major feast days.

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Tall wooden seats line the walls of the church. Normally, worshippers stand during the service, but they can lower the seats and sit if necessary.

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The floors are mostly plain tiles, with a few areas of decorative motifs including marble and granite.

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Some additional furnishings in the church. (Click on the smaller images to enlarge and see captions.)

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An angel adorns a tall standing candlestick.

There are several chapels on the monastery campus. Below is St. Nicholas’ Chapel.

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Look at the beautiful detailing of the tower.

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The two photographs below are of the interior of St. Nicholas’ Chapel.

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Below is St. George’s Chapel, built in the Romanian style.

 

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Here is another view, showing the main entrance.

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The chapel has a magnificent wooden ceiling

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and a lovely carved and painted wooden crucifix in the Greek Orthodox style.

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Look at the lovely hand-embroidered hardanger curtain in the window.

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St. Demetrios’ Chapel’s architecture is reminiscent of rural Russia.

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The interior is small, but lovely.

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An icon rests on an expertly carved stand.

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I have lots more pictures of the monastery–enough for two more posts next week.

Veterans Oasis Park, Chandler, Arizona

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Veterans Oasis Park, Chandler, Arizona

My friend Linda recently posted photographs of her granddaughter on Facebook that she took at Veterans Oasis Park. I’d never heard of the park, so I looked it up. It turns out it’s just 2 1/2 miles from the school where I taught for eight years. I never knew.

The park features an urban fishing lake stocked by the Arizona Department of Game and Fish. I took all these photographs around the perimeter of the lake.

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Chandler is a suburban area with more than 250,000 residents. I love that it sets aside wild areas like this for the enjoyment (and education) of its citizens.

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A little waterfall:

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That’s a white-billed coot swimming below.

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A mountain in the distance:

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I saw white ducks, mallards, and coots in the water. Stilts and herons also frequent the lake, but I didn’t see any.

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Someone tossed bread into the water (I don’t think you’re supposed to do that) and minnows came to nibble on it.

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A nest:

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I plan to go back again some day and explore the other trails in the park.

A Walk in the Garden

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A Walk in the Garden

 

 

The Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix, Arizona, that is. My daughter Katie recently invited me to be her guest there. We saw loads of gorgeous cactus (click on smaller photos to enlarge and see captions):

And lots of wildflowers (at least, I think they are wildflowers; if I’m wrong, please tell me):

I think these are orchids:

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This is called desert rose:

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Closeup of desert rose:

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Parts of the garden are sort of wild and natural; other parts have paths and lighting.

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Beautiful inlaid tile mosaic in a garden wall:

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We were there on a Friday morning. It was so peaceful.

One section of the garden features vegetables and herbs. I thought the squash blossoms

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and the Korean chives were especially lovely:

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