My eyes scanned the jagged cliffs below the Mojave Point viewing area on the Grand Canyon’s south rim, looking for an interesting spot to photograph the sunset. 50 feet below the steel safety wall, a small island of Kaibab sandstone rose above the abyss. A lone pinion pine grew there, not more than two feet tall.
Tourists started gathering along the rail as the sun inched towards the horizon. Some watched with curiosity as I made my way around the wall and very carefully down the steep cliff to the sandstone island. The lone pine made an interesting subject as the light changed from warm and bright to the soft glow seen here. This shot was captured probably ten to fifteen minutes after the sun set.
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A lingering sunset over Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, AZ. Ten years ago, this was known as the “most dangerous National Park in the United States”. The parks southern boundary is the U.S.-Mexico border, and back then drug smugglers were able to drive their trucks right through the barbed wire border fence and into the United States. In 2002, 28 year old park ranger Kris Eggle was shot and killed in a gun battle with drug smugglers in a remote area of the park. Since then, a “vehicle barrier” has replaced the barbed wire fence and U.S. Border Patrol presence has increased dramatically. I was constantly seeing their trucks on route 85, the highway that cuts through the park, and on the park roads. I saw their ATV tracks out in the desert, and their plane flying low over the park at sunrise. In a conversation with one of the park rangers, I learned that the increased Border Patrol activity has pushed most of the smuggling traffic to less scrutinized locations. None the less, I was constantly scanning my surroundings for any suspicious activity.
I want to take a moment to wish all of you a very Merry Christmas, and to thank you for your continued support and encouragement. Your excited and enthusiastic responses to my photography make getting out of a warm sleeping bag before sunrise worthwhile, and take the sting out of the countless cactus thistles I’ve collected in my legs!
This shot is from a cold October morning in Zion National Park back in 2011. After a couple of days of heavy rain and chilly temperatures, I woke to a few inches of fresh snow and clearing skies.
I recently spent some time exploring Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument in southern Arizona. I’d wanted to visit this park for years, but it’s location (the parks southern boundary is the U.S./Mexico border) concerned me. I’d read that parts of the area were closed because of drug smuggling and undocumented immigrant activity. But after finally speaking to a park ranger while on a recent trip to Mexico, I learned that I actually had little reason for concern.
Conditions looked very promising on my first day there, but as the afternoon wore on, the cumulus clouds that had filled the sky all day gradually rolled away. As I hiked deep into the desert, I knew that I was not going to be able to use a dramatic sky to help create an interesting photo. I crossed a wide expanse of flat, lush desert, densely populated with mature saguaro cacti. Finally, I reached a slope at the foot of the Ajo Mountains. Climbing a few feet to gain an impressive view of the desert I’d just crossed, I looked back and noticed the glow of all the plant life behind me. Capturing that beauty would not be easy, however, for pointing a camera directly into the sun usually doesn’t produce favorable results. I found that if I positioned the camera precisely in the shade of a giant saguaro (tall thin objects like giant saguaro don’t produce very large areas of shade to work within!) I could avoid the sun hitting my lens and creating all kinds of glare. I was able to put together this composition just as the sun was about to sink behind the distant mountains. I hope you like it.
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The setting sun adds a fiery glow to a fast-moving monsoon storm in Sedona, AZ. Many thanks to Peter Gabriel for suggesting the title of this post.
The McDowell Sonoran Preserve in North Scottsdale has recently opened an additional 14,800 acres of land with the introduction of the Brown’s Ranch Trailhead. 55 miles of trails in the area make it a great place to hike or mountain bike. Though I haven’t had an opportunity to explore very much of Brown’s Ranch, I’ve already seen several very healthy mule deer there. This region of the Sonoran Desert is slightly higher in elevation than the surrounding valley and has some dense groups of very healthy and mature Giant Saguaro cacti.
The Brown’s Ranch Trailhead is open now, but the official opening ceremony will be held on Saturday, October 19th at 9:00 AM. Take Alma School Parkway north from Dynamite Boulevard. The road leads directly to the trailhead.
Sometimes it’s easy. There was no long hike, steep climb or dense brush to navigate. This shot was captured from the parking lot of an abandoned building atop a large hill in Sedona. I’d driven by the site several times in the past and admired the sweeping view, waiting for the right time to take advantage of it. That time came last Saturday afternoon. When we pulled in the parking lot, the entire landscape was shaded by a thick blanket of clouds. Lightning was flashing from the darkest areas of the sky, and I set up my camera determined to capture at least one shot of a bolt. Winds gradually picked up as the storm system came closer, and the temperature dropped 15 degrees within an hour! When the sun peeked through a break in the clouds, the contrast between the brightly lit trees and the dark skies was fantastic!
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Several of my favorite photos are currently on display at
2603 N Central Ave
Phoenix, AZ 85004.
Great food and nice people who have excellent taste in nature photography!