Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Not All Desert Pictures Look Like Arizona Highways!

The secret to those smashing Arizona Highways pictures is to avoid the midday sun -- like the plague. Get out in the early morning or late afternoon, when there are shadows and the light is that famous reddish color. Else you fry and your pictures are likely to wash out. I didn't have that option the day I had persuaded LindaG and Eeyore of The One Acre Wood to take me down to the Santa Maria for spring wildflower pictures last year. It was my first major photography expedition and I was totally new to the digital camera.

Along the roadside heading down to the river, all was greyed out green. Except that if you squinch your eyes, you can see that there's a touch of pink in the photo above. That's why we stopped the car.

On closer inspection, a pretty fairy duster plant in bloom (above). And a close look at the "duster" itself (below.)

Of course, cacti are a major attraction down at lower elevations. The sahuaro were not yet in bloom (and we didn't have a tall ladder on this expedition.) But there were two types of mammary cactus that were open. FYI, the Santa Maria is at about 1200 ft. elevation at the Bagdad Road. True desert.

Another feature of the Arizona desert is ocotillo which looks like a bunch of tall dead sticks with stickers until it gets water. For a rustic and highly effective desert fence, ocotillo canes are rooted in a row, spaced tightly together; not much gets through -- or bothers to try.

Now here is what my late husband and I consider perhaps the most photogenic of all Arizona wildflowers, the prickly poppy. The slightest breeze catches those big, delicate petals -- LH could scarcely restrain himself from photographing every poppy we saw! BTW, the stems and leaves of the plant really merit the word prickly; they are nasty! Though this plant is classed as a desert dweller, it is common enough at Prescott's elevation (5200-5400 ft.); there used to be a nice stand over on McCormick Street before Freas' place was turned into a parking lot.

Just to prove that there are patches of bright green during a dry desert spring, there's the mesquite tree, like other acacias a member of the legume family.

This pink flower is, I believe, one of the zillion types of buckwheat found in Arizona.

We also found this one lone red penstemon frying in the heat, plus the daisy below. Both were probably leftovers from the cooler, earlier portion of spring.

For the record: these pictures were taken on April 21 of a year with very low winter rainfall. Any year that we have what used to be considered "average" winter rainfall, the time to visit the Santa Maria River area for beautiful, non-cactus wildflowers would be early to late March. There's a graded county road (dirt) on the east side of the river between the Bagdad Road and US93 where you will find a wonderful mix of Sonoran and Mohave desert flowers in a good spring. However, note that the paved road which parallels the river on the west isn't nearly as florific. A final note about wildflowers hereabouts: we've recently had a spot of rain, which seems to be enough to sustain the little patch of wild delphiniums in our neighborhood. I may have pictures soon!


linda g said...

That was such a fun day. I snapped a couple of GJ at work. I'll post them one of these days..

Granny J said...

LH snapped a lot of pictures of me in one of two poses. 1) Looking afar thru binoculars. 2) Bent over, examining the ground (and its contents.) BTW, I found that binoculars were very, very useful for spotting wildflowers.

Anonymous said...

the contrast from the harsh desert and the colorful flowers is superb. Early morning or late afternoon is good advice.

Granny J said...

...especially later on as the desert really heats up! It's still bearable in April (just in case anybody wonders why I live in the mountains!)

herhimnbryn said...

It could be Australia. It looks similar and we prefer early morning or late afternoon.

In the spring here, the wildflowers carpet roadsides and the desert blooms.

Thankyou for taking me on your wild flower hunt.

Granny J said...

My mother was fortunate enough to be visiting my brother, who lives in your corner of the world, in wildflower season. The bro sent her off on a wildflower tour that she still talks about.

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