Goodbye Phoenix


Sunset from atop South Mountain in Phoenix, Arizona

After 29 years of calling Phoenix home, I am leaving the Valley of the Sun.  Why?  That has been a common question as many people have been quite surprised.  While some may think it is a rash decision, it has actually been on my mind for quite a while.  And when the universe starts to line up, you just go with it!  Besides, it’s not really goodbye, it’s see you next time, as my dad use to say to me.

Over 10 years ago during one of the first photography workshops through Arizona Highways Photo Workshops, J. Peter Mortimer stated you have to be passionate about what you are photographing.  Arizona is known to be a photographer’s playground, so why would I choose to leave?  This past spring I applied to be a Volunteer Trip Leader through Arizona Highways Photo Workshops and started the interview process.  After the first interview, I thought long and hard about this amazing opportunity.  I have met so many wonderful people through this organization with the opportunity to meet more, including some well-known photographers.  Again, why leave you are asking?


Sunset from atop South Mountain in Phoenix, Arizona

I’m leaving because as much as I have tried to be passionate about the desert, my heart is not here.  Where am I headed?  To the Midwest, the Heartland of the U.S. and my home state of Iowa.  Back to the prairie.

Iowa you ask?  Isn’t it just cornfields?  No, Iowa has more to offer than cornfields.   Are you ready for snow after living in the desert?  Another popular question, and yes ready for four distinct seasons, including snow in winter.   Doesn’t Arizona have four seasons including snow in northern Arizona and in the White Mountains?  Yes, but they aren’t outside my back door.  But you are so passionate about wildflowers, some say.  Yes, but Iowa has wildflowers too.  And I know a place or two in Arizona to photograph wildflowers should the opportunity arise to come back during wildflower season.  Have I made some beautiful images here in the desert?  I have received many compliments of my images here in Arizona.  Unfortunately, I do not have an emotional attachment to them.  Something that is key in photography.

My mind is full with visions of macro shots of snow and ice, black and white images of rural scenes with snow.  Rural scenes galore to be seen and images made.  My mind is full thanks in part to Peter Carroll, a Canadian photographer, that I had the pleasure of meeting a few years ago.

Peter had participated in a photography exchange with the organization Through Each Others Eyes and one of the Arizona photographers was Colleen Miniuk-Sperry whom I have had as an instructor through Arizona Highways Photo Workshops (you can follow their blog here).  I went to the opening of the exhibit between the Phoenix photographers and the photographers from Alberta, Canada.  Admiring all of the images, I came across one by Peter and told Colleen, “I have photographed that same guy”.  She immediately introduced me to Peter and I told him the story about the day I photographed the same guy.  Since then, I have followed Peter’s work and found it to be so inspiring and constantly tugging at my heartstrings to be back in the Midwest on the prairie every time I see one of his images of rural Canada.

So, with much thought, I am headed back to the prairie.  High on my bucket list is wildflowers on the prairie, but not just any wildflowers.  There are only a few areas of the prairie that have never been touched, and those are the part of the prairie I want to experience.  Do I know where they can be found?  Yes.  I have been reading Iowa Outdoors for the last few years and have kept all of the issues.  They are valuable research.  If you look close in the image below, you will see several issues and not one cover is a photo of cornfields.

Surprised by what you are seeing?  I hope so and hope you continue to follow me on my journey of photography from the Southwest to the Midwest!



Iowa Outdoors – valuable photography research

How Many Compositions?

pink-cactus-flower-6254Last year my night blooming cactus had seven blooms and exploded in pink and they opened on May 7th.  This year there is only one bloom and it finally opened last night.  With only one cactus flower this year, it would be a challenge to come up with several compositions (there will be a gallery at the end of the post and you may click on any of the images to see a larger view).  How many compositions?

I set my alarm for 5:30 a.m. in order to photograph this one flower during the golden hour.  My alarm went off and I hit the snooze button and then hit it again.  A couple of minutes after hitting the snooze for the second time, I arose and looked out the window to see a complete overcast sky.  Not the light I was hoping for but it looked like mother nature would be providing a soft box for several hours.  With this in mind I went back to bed for about an hour.  Then outside I went with my camera, tripod, reflector and speedlight.


Pink cactus flower using only available light.

The first few images I made with only available light and was not satisfied.  My next thought was to use my speedlight off camera.  As I rarely use it, I do not have a wireless transmitter to trigger the flash off-camera  such as a Pocket Wizard.  Instead, I use an off-camera shoe cord that attaches to the hotshoe on my DSLR and to the speed light.  I know this is a bit technical, but thought it was important to share.  I didn’t like how those images turned out either.  So then it was time to attach my speedlight to my DSLR, turn the head to the side so that I could bounce the light from the flash off my gold reflector in order to create a warm sidelight.  pink-cactus-flower-9427 I held my gold reflector above and to the left of the cactus flower.  Success!  I learned how to do this while reading The Hot Show Diaries by Joe McNally.




As my cactus is in a terra-cotta pot, it can be moved to obtain different light and/or background.  We have a small area of grass in our backyard and wondered how it would look as a background.  The images (in the gallery below) certainly have a different feel to them.  Now that there was more room to move around the pot, more compositions were coming to mind.  Some of the images are quite close and only a portion of the flower is in the images.  By now the clouds were breaking up, but the sun still wasn’t able to breakthrough.  I went inside for about an hour until the sun was shining.  However, it was now too high and the light was harsh.  Time to move the cactus back into the shade.  Then using my reflector I was able to bounce light onto the cactus flower without using my speedlight.  The last two images in the gallery are the same composition, however, the light is different.  In the second to last image I held my gold reflector above and to the left of the cactus flower creating warm sidelight.  The final image the light is coming from behind the cactus flower without moving the pot.  Instead, I held my gold reflector above and behind the cactus flower to create backlight.  And the gray background?  That is the rock in our yard which normally doesn’t look gray, but with sidelight and backlight it looks much darker.  How many compositions?  There are 11 different compositions in the gallery below, but with the use of flash and holding my reflector in different positions, 13 images are shown.