Sometime back in January I got to thinking that I really had to do some serious photography. I was taking some photos during the winter in Michigan, but with only a little bit of time here and there it can be difficult to put the time in needed to get some good photos. So I quickly settled on going somewhere and late March was the first available time. This is a great time to photograph shorebirds and wading birds down in Florida, but I had a great time doing that the last two springs. March is a strange time of year – it’s not quite spring in most of the country and in many places the winter is noticeably not at its peak. I narrowed it down to options. The first was photographing adorable harp seals being born on the ice in Canada. I definitely need some work on my landscape photography, so I chose to head down to southern Arizona based on advice from a great book by one of the best, John Shaw. Before I say anything else, let me offer a big thanks to all the people I met down in Arizona. Their help was indispensable and let me have a wonderful time on my trip. The people were numerous – from campground hosts, to birders, to other photographers, to the pleasant people I met just walking around the parks I visited – I greatly appreciate all the help and advice I received.
Southern Arizona it was! After a late flight into Tucson, it was a few hours of sleep before heading out in the dark early enough to make it to Saguaro National Park before the faintest light. As a kid I had this view from movies and television that deserts were full of sand and not much else except the occasional cactus or lizard. When I found out the truth, it was a pleasant surprise. Saguaro National Park lies within the Sonoran desert – a very unique ecosystem that reaches about as far north as Tucson and extends down into Mexico. As you might guess from its name, it’s dominated by the might Saguaro cactus.
As it was my first day in SW Arizona, my priority wasn’t so much nailing great images (as you can tell from these), but rather starting to learn about the area and scouting around for the future. So I visited all corners of the park from before 6am until 8pm or so when the light was gone. The saguaros are everywhere and in many different shapes and sizes. The one you see here is a little baby. They live for around 200 years and grow to the size of huge trees (50 feet tall). So much of the life in the desert seems to be adapted to them – using them as homes, perches, or resting in their shade. The one thing you can’t tell from the photos is that the wind makes a unique sound blowing across the accordion folds in their skin.