As I mentioned yesterday – Monday I take off for Prince William Sound and Cordova. Ten days later, I fly to Anchorage. Dump my rain gear and Xtra-tuff for shorts and Tevas and fly to Arizona for a month!
Really excited about this trip. We were able to obtain some hard to get back-country permits to hike and camp down in the Grand Canyon. We spent one cold winter night there almost a decade ago, and ever since then I have wanted to return with the time to really explore and photograph this beautiful National Park. Unfortunately, even months ago, reservations for campground and hotels for the North Rim were already full, so we will concentrate on the South Rim. Didn’t think the North Rim would be the hard one for reservations.
From there, we will spend time in Page, Arizona where I plan to explore more slot canyons and other attractions in the area. We have also rented a boat for some Lake Powell exploration. Not a fancy house boat, but a little Lund skiff – big enough for tents and sleeping bags for some beach camping under the stars!
Finally, we will end the trip with a short visit to one of my favorite National Parks – Zion!
After that, it is back to Alaska for summer and it will be on! The next 5 months should be very busy – just how I like it!
Wildflowers near Phoenix, Arizona.
I recently offered a nature photography workshop through another marketing channel, and wanted to give my followers here on the blog the same opportunity in case anyone is in the Phoenix area in late May.
In short, I will be doing a three hour instructional class at the beautiful Desert Botanical Gardens in Phoenix, Arizona, followed by a two hour photo walk in the gardens where you can immediately practice what I taught. The seminar, photo walk, admission to the Desert Botanical Gardens and parking can all be purchased for only $69 right now which is the same great deal, one time price, I offered through the marketing channel. Right now there are 40 people signed up, but we have room for a few more.
If you would like more information, or would like to sign up, then check out this page: Phoenix Nature Photography Seminar.
I thought this was a fitting photo as we have been working on plans for an extended trip to the Grand Canyon this upcoming May, and possibly another one next September / October. Although, it sounds like getting back country permits can be a bit tough for the popular areas during those popular months, so we really won’t know much until January at the earliest. One of these years I think it would be fun to stay at the Phantom Ranch, but I haven’t had any luck there, and read recently that a cabin at the Ranch is one of the hardest reservations to obtain in the United States. I think I’ll just keep trying every month, and if we get lucky one of these days then we are on it!
This was from our last visit to the Grand Canyon during an extended Winter trip through the Southwest back in 2004 – I can’t believe it was 8 years ago, wow how time flies!
The one thing that stands out from this morning was the camping in single digit temperatures – it was cold! Seemed strange that at the time Arizona was colder in February then it was back home in Alaska.
The world's largest fountain, Fountain Hills, Arizona.
We are back in Arizona packing up gear and shipping it back to Alaska for our return home. It has been a great trip, but it will be nice to be home.
I knew before I returned to Fountain Hills that sunset and the fountain would correspond this time of year. When I saw clouds staring to form last night I knew I would have near perfect conditions.
Janine kayaking in a cave on the Colorado River, Arizona.
Thursday, after I wrapped up my time at the NAB Conference we brought couple of friends from back home kayaking on the Colorado River – one of my favorite things to do when staying in Las Vegas!
Since I had photographed this stretch of river a couple years ago, and because all my dry bags were back in Alaska – I decided not to bring my camera. Big mistake! This cave which had visited before looked spectacular – much, much better then before. So the following day (last Friday), Janine and I bought a dry bag at REI and drove back to Willow Beach, rented kayaks and repeated the trip. That was ok with me since it was so much fun paddling on such warm weather.
So why was the cave so much better? Since the temps were in the mid 90′s, the demand for electricity to power air conditioners in Las Vegas has increased substantially. To produce the extra electricity, they had to push far more water through the turbines at Hover Dam which increased the water level a fair amount over our previous visit during the cool month of November Evidently the extra water level is perfect for filling the cave, and that really increases the access to the amazing sight.
I have said this before, but I would really like to do a over night trip on this stretch of river, it is really beautiful. We even saw some desert bighorn along the banks!
Great Horned Owl on a nest, McDowell Mountain Regional Park, near Phoenix, Arizona.
What doesn’t show in photos but does in video are two little white puff balls that popped up from time to time – newborn chicks.
As I was driving to this nest before sunrise the past Saturday morning the radio DJ was joking about how he clearly didn’t win the giant Mega Lottery because if he had, he wouldn’t be at work on the radio that morning. I thought to myself that if I had won, I’m pretty sure I would have still be heading off in the morning with my camera to watch a nesting Great Horned Owl – I suppose that is a pretty good sign that you are doing what you love.
Superstition Mountains, Superstitions Mountain State Park, Arizona.
A few people have asked me about the wildflower conditions in Arizona this year. It is better then California, but it still isn’t very good. But there is a bit of good news, but more on that later.
As we drove across the desert areas of California a couple of weeks ago, I didn’t even see wildflowers along the edges of the highway – a place you can almost always count on some color thanks to the concentrated water run-off. Almost from the moment we past into Arizona we started seeing wildflowers, but unfortunately, they are largely found on the shoulder of the roadways.
There are a few flowers here and there especially in washes. But, in areas where some years you could find thick fields of poppies, you might see a few dozen. On hillsides that can be solid yellow with brittlebush, this year there are just a few patches. One of the best places I have seen for brittlebush is on the hillsides of the Superstition Mountains. Unfortunately even many of those blooms are cooked, and you have to really search to find some decent looking plants. So far I haven’t seen a place that I would say is a must visit.
So what is the good news? I have been seeing lots of cactus beginning to bloom and the large rainstorm that past through this area certainly can’t hurt – I think Fort McDowell received 3/4 of a inch about a week ago. For exercise I have been mountain biking in McDowell Mountain Regional Park and over the past week I have seen a increase in the number of blooming cactus. The same is true for areas of Tonto National Forest. I found the above bloom last night at the Superstition Mountains – here blooming cactus was harder to find, as this was the only one I spotted. But for flower fans, the beginning cactus bloom in some areas should be welcome news.
Salt River, Tonto National Forest, Arizona.
As unusual as it was to see snow in the desert as we did in Sedona last week – I find it almost equally unusual to find a river, and yet it really isn’t – there are a number of rivers that flow year around in the Arizona desert.
Oak Creek Canyon, Sedona, Arizona.
The beautiful road through Oak Creek Canyon leading to Sedona, Arizona.
Looking down on the town of Sedona – not very often you see it with snow!
A large winter storm passed through the West this past weekend hitting Arizona head on. The ski areas in Northern Arizona received almost 5 feet of snow – I’m always surprised at how snowy parts of Arizona can be.
The same storm dumped 4 or 5 inches of snow on Sedona – a rare treat! So, yesterday (Monday) morning we raced up there catching the end of the snow storm. We hung around until after sunset capturing lots of images, videos and time-lapses – it really was beautiful!
It looked very different then it did during warmer visits: Sedona, Arizona photos.
Wild in Arizona - a guide to photographing Arizona's wildflowers.
Since we are heading over to Arizona later this week, I thought it was a perfect time to provide a review of this newly released book on Wild in Arizona – Photographing Arizona’s Wildflowers - A Guide to When, Where and How.
One of the authors, Colleen Miniuk-Sperrry graciously provided me with a copy. When I met up with her in Arizona next week for a beer I’ll have to share a major complaint that I might as well put out on the table right now – where was the book 10 years ago! It sure would have saved me a lot of time!
Seriously, this is an outstanding guide book full of wonderful photos, detailed maps with well written driving and hiking directions, along with a ton of information on what blooms where and when. The layout is simple but elegant and inviting – I wish more guide books shared these traits. Even though this book has a photography slant with lots of photo advice, I think anyone who spends time in Arizona, photographer or not would enjoy this book.
The book shares information on many places in which I’m not familiar, but look forward to visiting. Many of the other locations are places that I have spent lots of time chasing wildflowers over the years, so I can say the advice on road, trail and wildflower conditions is spot on. I’m not surprised, Paul Gill has been photographing Arizona for the likes of Arizona Highways for over 30 years while Colleen adds another 10 plus years of experience photographing Arizona. Both are full time photographers that know what they are talking about.
To buy, or learn more about the book visit Wild Arizona. On the Wild Arizona website you can actually download a 17 page pdf sample which will give you a real feel for what I’m talking about. The website also has information on book signings and other appearances. The book is available in hard copy – you know, like a real book, and as a pdf that can be read on IPads and similar devices.
2012 Arizona Calendar.
2012 Arizona Calendar.
This is really cool – Tide-mark published a calendar with 12 of my Arizona photo along with a nice write-up about me – although the photo of me on the inside cover was a risky move that could hurt sales. I believe these are available through out Arizona, but I see they also sell them on Amazon:
Tonto National Forest, Arizona.
Here is another cool cover that came in the mail recently – this photo of Tonto National Forest was used on the cover for the Fountain Hills – Rio Verde – Tonto Verde phone book.
As most of you know, we just spent a couple of weeks just outside of Fountain Hills this winter. Although this area does sell well for us, I think a big reason we talk ourselves into re-visiting the region is for the amazing mountain biking at the McDowell Regional Park. If I had to pick just one place to ride – I can’t believe I’m going to say this, but I would pick McDowell even over Moab, Utah. Well, along with the mountain biking, the mild winter weather helps too.
Salt-River, Tonto National Forest, Arizona.
The Salt River is a popular tubing location during the summer. Looks fun! And, I bet much warmer then the Gulkana River in Alaska – a place my friends and I would go tubing on warm summers.
One of the drawbacks with shooting a lot of 3D video on this trip is that I haven’t had as many still photos as I normally would for my blog. So recently, I have made more of an effort to grab more stills while out shooting 3D – this is one. For 3D, I like to find scenes like this with many layers to it. Unfortunately, I won’t know what really if it “works” until I get home – I’m looking forward to processing the video from this trip.
Tonto National Forest, Arizona.
What may not show well in this small photo is the nice field of yellow ground wildflowers.
This is definitely been a very poor year for wildflowers, but a stretch of warm weather followed by some a pretty heavy rain last Monday has seemed to produce a mini bloom of wildflowers.
In the two placers I have been spending time, Tonto National Forest, and McDowell Regional Park, I’m beginning to see a few poppies, lupine and brittlebush in bloom. It isn’t the dramtic colorful hills and fields of wildflowers I have seen in past springs in this area, but at least it is a little something, something. And, I would think it could get a bit better over the next week or so.
I’ll be making my way to the west side of the state in a few days, it will be interesting to see how that area is doing after the recent rains – I’ll follow up with a report if I find anything worth reporting on!
Saguaro cactus, Tonto National Forest, Arizona.
With clouds in the sky, and a gap above the horizon to the East – I though sunrise this morning could be epic! But, it was nothing. So, I used the nice light to play with these guys instead.
Saguaro cactus, Tonto National Forest, Arizona.
This was last night at sunset. I love the unique shapes of these guys – saguaros are cool!
Scottsdale Waterfront, Scottsdale, Arizona.
Any water feature seems to really add to a community whether it is a river, lake or ocean. Towns like Scottsdale and San Antonio, where such things don’t occur naturally have had to get creative in creating a “waterfront”.
This area of Scottsdale has changed a lot since we first visited this region 4 years ago. Back then, this area was completely under construction. Last year it was finished, but not much of the landscaping had grown in. Now, it really is a nice little waterfront with outdoor restaurants, galleries and residential towers. It is a big change from the sprawling, low density development that has typically taken place in this region.
Downtown Phoenix has changed even more. Four years ago everything was torn up thanks to the addition of a mass transit rail system, construction of additional convention facilities and office buildings. Today, all those projects are complete, and it is a nice improvement.
Lesser Goldfinch, Fort McDowell, Arizona.
I noticed a few people having good luck with bird feeders at this campground so I decided to put one out. Well, it only took about an hour before goldfinches began to show up! These colorful birds are a lot of fun to watch and photograph!
Sunset, McDowell Mountain Regional Park, Arizona.
We have now moved a bit east into Arizona. As you can see, there aren’t any wildflowers. We are here a tad bit earlier then normal, but the lack of wildflowers has much more to do with a dry and unseasonably cold winter that included some freezes. In some parts of McDowell, many plants appeared dead, hopefully they are just damaged by the freeze.
It is possible that late rains, and now unseasonably warm weather might give us a few flowers – but we definitely won’t be seeing the hills of solid color like we did in 2008.
Sonoran Desert wildflowers, near Fountain Hills, Arizona.
You may have noticed the photo blog activity has slowed down a bit, partly because this rainy, snow-less winter has had me concentrating on office work, and has not provided me with new material for the blog. But, mostly because we have been trying to get everything wrapped up before our next trip which we leave for on Monday!
Where are we going? At first we fly to Palm Springs and then head down to Anza-Borrego where we will stay for about a month, and where I will do my Anza-Borrego photo workshop.
After that, believe it or not, we haven’t decided. With all the rain the Southwest has received, there is a good chance we will chase some wildflowers possibly to Arizona. But, we have kicked around a few other ideas and may go a different direction. For now, we have not booked a flight home – we will pick our departure city and date later which makes it kind of fun.
Sabino Canon, Tucson, Arizona.
Tucson is another of our newly updated sections from this winter. Our time in Tucson turned out to be a bit brief, but fun, thanks in part to discovering Sabino Canyon. So check out some new Tucson photos!
Bartlett Lake at sunset, near Phoenix, Arizona.
Sticking with the new update theme – Janine now has our website updated with new photos of Phoenix Arizona. Many of these were captured during our spring trip to the area.
Bartlett Lake, Arizona.
A recently adjusted photo from our spring trip of the wildflowers around Bartlett Lake, Arizona.