Arizona is a beautiful state, there is no doubt. With one of the most varied climates in the world, it is the backyard of choice for many landscape and nature photographers. It even has magazine dedicated to its beauty that garners world wide circulation, Arizona Highways. While this state offers such beauty, the relentless Arizona sun can be a challenge for even the most experienced photographers. The challenges don't stop there, everything in this state pinches, bites, pokes or is venomous. The rugged, remote terrain, extreme heat and dry climate make dehydration a real threat. These were just the major considerations when I decided that photography was the hobby for me. It wasn't long before I discovered just how difficult it can be, but I was determined (and still am) to capture and share images of my Arizona.
At first my desert landscapes often look washed out, or just very plain... boring. Beautifully sculpted mountains looked flat, and vegetation appeared half dead. Dust or haze would pollute the air, which made it difficult to get any detail in that mountain range off in the distance. Wildlife was hard to find as most is nocturnal and/or skittish. The terrain, difficult to traverse. And then there's that glaring sun. It was frustrating, But I soon discovered a few tricks to help get past these obstacles, and was pleased to finally turn out some descent shots.
I found an early morning (at dawn) or late afternoon/evening (at dusk) sun is best. When that is not possible, filters are my friend. Early morning shots provide a nice cool light, while at dusk its a warmer light. Either helps with interesting shadows and highlights. The colors really pop and textures are enhanced. There is also a better chance of an interesting sky during those times. If the sky is clear blue, I shoot low and leave little sky for better composition.
Each season in Arizona offers different opportunities too. I especially love this time of year (late summer), as the monsoons bring big billowy clouds that glow brilliant reds and golds. I like spring as well, with everything in bloom the desert comes to life. Critters are also more apt to be seen, and yes, I have stumbled upon my share of venomous species. Even in the high country one has to be cautious.
In spite of the challenges, the opportunities for spectacular images are endless. It has never been easy work, but it has been fun and rewarding. It is a hobby I have grown to love.