Copper Queen Mine Tour, Bisbee, AZ

By Jeff Insel

My wife and I recently spent a couple of nights in Bisbee,AZ. One of the things we wanted to see was the Copper Queen Mine Tour and we weren’t disappointed. Tours are seven days a week with several different tour times. Each tour lasts about an hour and takes you 1500 feet deep into the mine by small train (see photo).
The tours are led by retired Phelps Dodge employees, very knowledgeable about the mining history and progression of more efficient tools ie: from manpower to mules to trains.
The photo with the train is an iPhone photo as we had a light rain going on outside as we waited to enter the mine.
The Copper Queen Mine began operations in the 1880’s and was bought by Phelps Dodge in 1885. It closed in 1975 after 90 yrs of operations. It had one of the world’s largest production valuations: An estimated production of 8,032, 352 lbs of Copper, 2,871,786 ounces of Gold, 77,162,986 ounces of Silver, 304,627,600 lbs of Lead and 371,945,900 lbs of Zinc!
Tours began in 1976 through the efforts of then Bisbee Mayor, Chuck Eads, Phelps Dodge, many local volunteers and a grant from the Economic Development Administration.
The Dynamite wall photo was shot hand held, 1600 ISO, 28mm, f4.5 and 1/20th of a sec.
We learned how the miners originally dug out the tunnels, shored up the work areas, hammered spikes for the drill bits; the evolution of the different types of drills and their capabilities; how they used dynamite to bring down walls safely (see photo) and even the use of their portable toilets (see photo).
The Toilet photo was hand held, 1600 ISO, 1/3 sec, f4.5.
Even though it was about 95 outside at the start of our tour, it was nice and cool inside.
If you go, cameras are allowed but tripods aren’t practical as there’s not enough space to use one. The challenge is photographing in near darkness, some overhead lights and the hand held small flashlights we all had so some of the light is always in motion, but it’s a fun challenge.
Jeff Insel is a Volunteer Photo Guide with Arizona Highways PhotoScapes

Concert iPhoneography

By Jeff Insel

I am a very lucky guy, in my semi-retirement I found a job at the Musical Instrument Museum (MIM) as a driver for the Theater department (and now also a p/t Artist Coordinator). I am a very lucky guy because I’ve always loved live music – of all kinds. I get to meet and talk with the Artists and get to know them a bit. And, having an interest in photography, I sometimes get to take some photographs of the artists performing with my iPhone.

The biggest challenge is the lack of good light on stage, the second challenge is that the artists are almost always in motion. Most of the artists allow patrons to take photos during the first few songs and always without flash. I usually take photos from the wings at the side of the stage and sometimes from behind the stage if the stage door is open – usually because they’re using a sound monitor there and I have access backstage. It’s almost impossible to get good photos from the very back – 70 feet away – do to the concert lighting, though I often try.

The most rewarding part is often times, after the show, artists will be out front signing CD’s and posing for photos – which anyone can participate in so I often do as it makes for a fun collection, such as with Laurence Juber and Keiko Matsui below.

It’s fun to post the photos on Instagram and sometimes email them to friends and family who are usually envious of my opportunity. Sometimes I make collages and try different filters as with the Blind Boys of Alabama and the Del McCoury Band. Mostly it’s just fun to do and once in a while I get an interesting photo out of it.

Jeff Insel is a trip leader with Arizona Highways Photo Workshops.

Super Moon and a Streaking Airplane

Author: Jeff Insel

I’ve had several people inquire as to the settings and lens I used for my “Moon Shot”, so I thought I’d try answering in blog form.  I had planned to photograph this event for a while, as many others.  I know from previous experience that a long lens is very handy, and I happen to have a Sigma 50-500mm that does a good job, mated with my Sony A65 – giving me a total of 750mm available.  Next, I made sure to bring my tripod and camp chair, plenty of water and snacks, and made sure my batteries were charged up.

Once on site, I set up my chair, tripod, remote shutter release and camera.  I also set my camera for manual focus and in aperture priority.  At this point I also plugged in my earphones for my iPhone and set my music to shuffle, I was all set and waiting for the event to start – about 40 minutes away.  I had decided to set up at the Fountain Park in Fountain Hills and there were a lot of folks walking their dogs and enjoying the quiet evening; a few photographers were also set up scattered all along the walkway around the lake. We also enjoyed the fountain going off on the hour for it’s 15 minutes of duration.

When the moon began to make its presence known (it was already in its early eclipse mode) I began to test out different exposures and focus points. The Moon was still fairly bright though. Once the eclipse got to about a third of the way through we began to see the “blood” color effect. Of course the Moon is moving, so every couple of minutes I had to adjust the focus point and angle of the lens. I varied from about 300mm to 500mm and tried ISO’s from 100 – 1600.  I settled on an ISO 0f 800 and f6.3 for most of my shots. This resulted in a shutter speed of about 3.2 sec. once the Moon was in full eclipse. While making another angle and focus point adjustment I noticed the lights of an airplane that looked like it might transit in front of the Moon so I moved quickly with my adjustments and clicked my remote shutter when the plane appeared (by my eye) about 6” away from the Moon.  The result is the photo above, and I consider it my most unique and best Blood Moon photo.

Jeff Insel is a trip leader for Arizona Highways Photo Workshops.

Want to get an Arizona photo published?

Author:  Jeff Insel


I woke up this morning, started my morning tea and fetched the newspaper. Upon turning over the front page, to the weather page, I noticed that a sunset photo from my driveway I’d submitted recently was printed. I’m always surprised when this happens (and I’ve been lucky enough to have 7 in the past two years). My wife recently had one “re-printed”, the same photo printed in January this year and again this past week. I consider myself to be an average photographer and enjoy sharing my photos and like most everyone, it’s fun to see something with my name on it in print, even if it is a small (1.5”X 2”) photo on the inside of a newspaper – a diminishing audience unfortunately.

So, how does this work? It requires some perseverance, repetition and patience. The most difficult part can be the submission to the paper as their “mail box” is quite often full and you receive one of those bounce back messages asking you to try again later. Don’t’get frustrated, just keep trying. I have found that it’s sometimes easier to submit on weekdays, late afternoon or early evening. Start by sending you image to: or to, be sure to include “Reader Submitted Weather” in the subject line; attach your jpeg photo in a medium size with a very brief description, be sure to include your name and city of residence.  Be patient, it may be weeks before they use it (if at all) and don’t be afraid to continue submitting images, I’ve probably submitted 35-40 to get those seven.

Star trails inside GC
Also, just because it’s the weather page doesn’t mean you can’t submit other types of images. I’ve had a couple of “critter photos” displayed – see below. I figure that anytime one of my photos is selected, it must have been a slow submission week-but you never know and occasionally someone you know notices it and lets you know, reaffirmation of sorts and a fun way to start you day.
Coyote and Quail

Give it a go!

Jeff Insel is a trip leader with Arizona Highways Photo Workshops.

A Night Enjoying Garden Lights

Author:  Jeff Insel

Light flower in red

Recently I went to the Desert Botanical Garden (DBG) to check out the Luminaries and the Bruce Munro exhibit. It was definitely well worth it. I really wanted to work on some night photography in the garden and incorporate the new exhibits. The Munro exhibits range from intriguing patterns made from recycled water bottles with LED lights strung through them to strands of lights strewn throughout the garden and across the mountain that overlooks the DBG.

Changing colors bulbs & lines

With my trusty tripod in hand, which is a necessity for long exposures I set out into the garden under the night skies. After some initial test shots with my ISO at 800 I decided to switch to ISO 400 and use longer exposures.The trick is trying to use the right combination of camera settings to get the brilliance of the various colors at night. I shoot with a Sony A65 and used my 18-70mm lens.

Different lights up the mtn

During the evening I also experimented with dialing out the zoom on some shots to get the “exploding” light effect which tends to yield some fun photos. On those shots my shutter settings varied from 4-6 seconds while dialing out the zoom, with my exposure at f4.0 to f5.6. This is a great environment for practicing your techniques and getting creative with your style.

Lights jump off the mtn

If you want to go, the Bruce Munro Sonoran Light exhibit will be at the Desert Botanical Gardens until May 8th. Visit for specific hours and dates. Tickets are free for members and $25 for the general public (night only) or $30 for day/night pass.

So get out and give it a try. You’ll be glad you did.

Jeff Insel is a trip leader with Arizona Highways Photo Workshops.

“Call me Lefty”

by Jeff Insel with help from Jack Jordan

One morning last week I reported to the North Valley Surgical Center in Scottsdale, at 6:00 a.m. for surgery on my right ring finger. I’ve been preparing for this for a couple months with the knowledge that my right hand would be one big bandage that needs to be kept dry for a week until it comes off. Of course, being right handed this brings a lot of challenges and inconveniences – washing my left armpit in the shower, tying shoes, brushing my teeth left handed and don’t forget shaving (I think I’ll let the beard grow). Fortunately my fingertips are uncovered so I can do a bit more than I anticipated, like typing. I’m thinking of all the other photographers who have experienced similar setbacks like sprained wrists or broken fingers.

So how about handling my camera? Like most DSLRs the shutter button is on the top right side. Can I manage the backpack with my gear and the tripod too? I didn’t really start to think about this until yesterday afternoon while recovering from the anesthesia – which was great by the way (whole “nother” story). I realized that there are a couple of solutions; Use the 2 or 10 second timer, use the cable release or remote. Obviously, it’ll be a slower process setting up, which could be good – it’ll force me to slow down, think more carefully about what I want to accomplish. The only solution I found for assembling the quick release plate on my tripod was to have help from someone, but I found that if I was careful I could change lenses by keeping my camera in my lap, setting up the lens to be changed and then, using my left ring finger to depress the lens release button while I held the lens with my thumb and fore finger and twisted, I could release the lens, set it down and grab the replacement lens for easy connection. Changing the battery and memory card proved to be much easier.

I also realized that there is a much easier solution. I can just use my iPhone, which I can hold with my left hand and use a finger tip on my right to hit the shutter button. I also won’t have to negotiate the gear.


Jeff Insel and Jack Jordan are trip leaders for Arizona Highways Photo Workshops.