Colleen Miniuk-Sperry

If you are WILD about wildlife, then you won’t want to miss this upcoming event at the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum on October 21, 2018 with Bruce Taubert, a professional wildlife photographer and author of the award-winning guidebook “Wild in Arizona: Photographing Arizona’s Wildlife:”

Are you WILD about wildlife?

If so, then mark your calendars! Join photographer and author Bruce Taubert at enthralling photography workshop on April 28, 2018 at the Boyce Thompson Arboretum (BTA). During this special event, Bruce will narrate photographs, share anecdotes, and explain exposure and composition techniques from 9:00 to 11:00 a.m. He will also answer questions after the class concludes. The session costs $50 for non-members (or $37.50 for Arboretum annual members – who don’t pay separate garden admission). In addition to the two-hour slideshow and class, pre-paid enrollees will get a free copy of his award-winning guidebook, “Wild in Arizona: Photographing Arizona’s Wildlife” (a $25 value).

Bruce’s book spotlights 50 spectacular locations to find diverse animals to photograph across Arizona. It’s packed with 220 color photographs, technical information, instructional wildlife photography tips, “Making the Photo” stories,  a comprehensive checklist of photography basics and gear, and a calendar that predicts year-round wildlife photography opportunities.

For four decades, photographing Arizona wildlife has made Bruce’s life rich with experience and anecdotes, from netting bats after dark, to staying calm while face-to-face with massive bull elk on the Mogollon Rim. He earned a doctorate in wildlife management and retired a few years ago as assistant director for wildlife management at the Arizona Game and Fish Department. He has taught Arizona Highways photo workshops and lectured about wildlife photography at the BTA. Bruce’s work has been published in Arizona Highways, WildBird, Birders’ World, among dozens of other magazines.

To learn more about this photography workshop, visit https://arboretum.ag.arizona.edu/photoclass.html (scroll down to the April 28th event listing). To register, call the arboretum at 520.689.2723 during daytime business hours (8 a.m. to 4 p.m. AZ time). To see more of Taubert’s photos and read more about him at brucetaubert.com.

Javelina at the Desert Photo Ranch. Photo by Bruce Taubert.

If you are looking for a new place to photograph Arizona’s desert wildlife, then look no further than the new Desert Photo Retreat!

Ron and Janine Niebrugge recently acquired a 10-acre piece of the beautiful Upper Sonoran desert east of the town of Marana in the Tortolita Mountains (north of Tucson). Although the Niebrugge’s have lived at the property for three years, this is the first year they have opened it up to outside photographers.

According to his online bio: “Ron attended college at Eastern Washington and then went on to get his masters at UCI. After graduating from UCI he stayed on in So Cal where he met his wife, Janine. In 1991 they returned to Alaska and made Seward, Alaska home, where they still reside. In 2002 Ron, along with Janine, decided to follow his passion for photography on a full-time basis, leaving comfortable corporate jobs for the unknown life of a professional photographer. Ron and Janine never looked back.” His striking photography work can be found at http://www.wildnatureimages.com.

Fox at the Desert Photo Ranch. Photo by Bruce Taubert.

At the Desert Photo Retreat, saguaros, ironwood, palo verde, and tons of cactus pack the property. It also features a permanent water source, and the birds are fed abundantly. Thus, it’s a haven for wildlife.

Although Ron seemingly sees all of the desert birds visit his new home, I visited recently to specifically to photograph javelina and gray fox. The birds are easy, the fox predictable, and the javelina reliable. Two blinds on the property put you in the best position for great morning and evening light.

The javelina image is one of several I took on my first visit. These cute but voracious “pigs” are best photographed at the pond blind. The gray fox begin their activities at dusk and are active all night. Flashes and some knowledge of remote photography will help. The fox make several visits to the pond blind during the night. If you can stay up late, you should be successful. Ron’s other blind is set up primarily for desert birds and is incredibly active.

An airstream trailer is available for overnight stays on the property for singles or couples. It’s better than most hotels I stay at. For an additional fee, Ron can guide you for a half- or full-day.

The only downside? The Desert Photo Retreat is only open from October through April.

Give the Desert Photo Retreat a try! You will not regret it.  Learn more at Desert-photo-retreat.com.

~Bruce

Fox at the Desert Photo Ranch. Photo by Bruce Taubert.

Photo by Bruce Taubert

Spring has sprung at the Riparian Preserve at Water Ranch in Gilbert (location #20 in the Wild in Arizona: Photographing Arizona’s Wildlife guidebook).  The bad news is that most of the Northern migrants have left with the exception of some very photogenic ducks (green-winged teal, cinnamon teal, shovelers), dowitchers, and least sand pipers.  The good news is the black-necked stilts and American avocets are getting into their breeding garb and beginning to stake out territories.

Most years, the Riparian Preserve at Water Ranch is possibly the best place in Arizona to photograph breeding stilts and avocets.  From my trip to the ranch on March 19th, this year should be great. I observed in excess of 40 avocets and a like number of stilts. The avocets were about half way to their full breeding plumage and doing a little practice sexual behavior.

On the 19th, most of the birds were at ponds 1, 6, and 7.  The black-necked stilts at pond 6 were especially photogenic allowing me to approach within 30 feet.  The avocets were a little more shy but could be accessed with a 400 mm or greater lens.

During March, April, and May the stilts and avocets will be breeding, nesting, and beginning to take care of their young.  Mornings are best and the light is good until about 9 a. m.  Get there early for the best opportunities.  As the day progresses the wind picks up and chances for reflective water decreases.

–Bruce

Photo by Bruce Taubert

Photo by Bruce Taubert

Hesperaloe bloom. Photo by Colleen Miniuk-Sperry

Paul and I spent the past two weekends at the Boyce Thompson Arboretum teaching our annual “Wild about Wildflowers…and Macro Photography” workshops. A huge THANKS to all who attended and treated us to so much beauty through their own lenses. Lots of good laughs too!

At the arboretum, the Demonstration Garden has the best set of blooms so far, as the perennials like penstemon, coral aloe, Godding verbena, mescal bean (which you have to smell…smells like grape soda!), and a variety of barrel cactus are starting to show their beautiful colors. The Cactus Garden is also coming along, but will display a stronger cactus bloom in the next few weeks. There, we spotted desert marigolds, spiderwort, and even a couple of Mexican gold poppies, lupine, and globemallow.

It’s no surprise that we’re seeing a lack of annuals based on the lack of rain we’ve had this winter. Perennials, however, are showing how they are less affected by low precipitation and will likely continue to bloom over the next several weeks. Places like Boyce Thompson Arboretum, Desert Botanical Gardens, Tohono Chul, and Tucson Botanical Gardens will offer plenty of wildflower photography opportunities as spring turns into summer in the desert.

Near Gonsalez Pass to the west of Boyce Thompson Arboretum, the ocotillo are greening up, and small splashes of color from fairy duster, lupine, and brittlebush dot the desert landscape. Silly Mountain looks brown and burned out–not sure if even the normally reliable brittlebush bloom will happen here this year…

While Paul and I have been busy teaching, we’ve heard rumors of roadside flowers along Highway 60 south of Wickenburg and brittlebush off of Highway 17 north of Anthem. Also, there are reports of several locations in Tucson in bloom per this recently published article: http://tucson.com/thisistucson/5best/tucson-is-blooming-insta-worthy-spots-to-stop-and-smell/article_76700fd0-3132-11e8-b19c-9bd1681345bf.html.

Let us know what you’ve seen out in your wildflower explorations!

Ahead of the Rest

Are you WILD about wildflowers? Who wants to join the “poppy-razzi?”

The Arizona desert hasn’t seen much rain this winter to trigger a spectacular spring bloom. But, this is the perfect time to dust off your camera and macro lens and get ready for a more impressive bloom in the future. Besides, there will still be flowers to photograph…if you know where to look…

Join “Wild in Arizona: Photographing Arizona’s Wildflowers” authors/photographers Paul Gill and Colleen Miniuk-Sperry at the Boyce Thompson Arboretum (where the staff consistently water their plants…) on our fabulous “Wild About Wildflowers…and Macro Photography” workshop to polish up your flower and macro skills at the beginning of the spring season. We’re SO wild about wildflowers, we have not one but TWO two-day sessions planned: March 17-18, 2018 (sold out) and March 24-25, 2018 (9 spaces left).

Over these two jam-packed days, you’ll benefit from hearing approaches and ideas from two different successful photography instructors to help you refine your own style. You’ll not only have the opportunity to hone new skills out in a safe and supportive learning environment, but you will also create meaningful macro photographs to be proud of. Fun guaranteed!

If learning, playing, laughing, and photographing wildflowers is your thang, you won’t want to miss this outing! Come join the “poppy-razzi!”  For more information and registration visit http://cms-photo.com/Workshops/2018Wildflowers.

We hope to see you there!

Earlier this week, while camping in northern Arizona in the Coconino National Forest, I had the fortunate chance to witness the birth of an evening primrose flower as it slowly unfurled from its green bud at dusk. We watched a first bloom for almost 45 minutes; a second one nearby took less than 7 minutes to open. It was one of the most beautiful natural events I’ve ever seen.

If you’d like to see it too, check out the video I just posted of the second bloom at 2x real time speed (so it’s about 3 minutes long) – enjoy!

The evening primrose were well past peak and at the end of their season. Only a few buds remained on Monday, and it’s likely those have already bloomed.

That said, we’ve heard reports that areas near Mormon Lake (location 12 in the Wild in Arizona: Photographing Arizona’s Wildflowers (2nd Ed.) guidebook) are fields of gold right now…

The Wild in Arizona team cordially invites you to join us for the opening reception of Paul Gill’s “Wildflower Photography Exhibition” this Saturday, April 1 from 2-4 p.m. at the Boyce Thompson Arboretum near Superior, Arizona.

Stop by to view his breathtakingly beautiful 20 wildflower prints and chat with him about how he made his inspirational images. Paul suggests these photographs “..are some of my favorites from the past 25 years – from grand carpets of wildflowers in large landscapes to more intimate closeups, and getting inside the flowers unseen details.”  Read more about the exhibit at arboretum.ag.arizona.edu/paulgill.html. See more of Paul’s work on his website at paulgillphoto.com.

Paul will also be signing copies of his and Colleen Miniuk-Sperry’s award-winning guidebook, Wild in Arizona: Photographing Arizona’s Wildflowers, A Guide to When, Where, & How.

And bring your camera to make your own images!  Boyce Thompson Arboretum is in full bloom with a plethora of flowers showing off in the Demonstration and Cactus gardens.  The grounds are open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission is $12.50/person unless you possess an arboretum membership (which provides free entry).  For more information, visit arboretum.ag.arizona.edu/about_us.html.

We’ll see you at Boyce Thompson this Saturday!

A single Arizona lupine in a field of Mexican gold poppies in the Superstition Wilderness Area east of Phoenix, Arizona. By Colleen Miniuk-Sperry

As we anticipate the arrival of this year’s (hopefully) bountiful bloom in Arizona, now is a great time to ensure you have the right gear to make the most of your upcoming wildflower photography outings.

But first, let’s be clear. Possessing the fanciest or most expensive equipment will not make you the world’s best photographer or guarantee amazing images. Both Paul and I philosophically agree that THE most important tool in making personally meaningful photographs is your brain and eyeballs (and hey, those are free!). We also believe in the two sayings: “Less is more,” and “The best camera is the one you have with you.”

Paul has his Canon 65mm 1-5x macro lens on, his Hoodman Hoodloupe attached to his camera, and a cable release in his hand. He’s ready to photograph those brittlebush flowers!

However, some specialized gear for wildflower photography can help expand your ability to solve creative challenges in the field.  As such, here’s what we tuck in our camera bags before heading out on our flower photography shoots:

  • A camera! Bring a backup camera too, because, well, Murphy’s Law…
  • Extra batteries for camera: Be sure they are fully charged!
  • Extra memory cards
  • Lenses:
    • Macro lens (with a 1:1 or 1:2, not a 1:4, magnification ratio).  We prefer the 100mm focal length.  If you plan to photograph insects on flowers, you might invest in a longer focal length, as it will allow you to stay a far enough distance away without scaring off your bug or butterfly.
    • Telephoto or normal focal length lenses paired with extension tube(s) or a close-up filter
  • Tripod: Preferably one without a center column or one with an adjustable center column so you can get low to the ground (which is where the flowers are).  We prefer Manfrotto‘s carbon fiber options because they are lightweight and very easy to use.
  • Focusing rail: Make precise adjustments to you positioning and focusing instead of moving your tripod
  • Cable release or wireless shutter trigger:  Keep your camera from shaking during the exposure.
  • Reflector/diffuser: Add light to shadows with a reflector; create an “instant cloudy day” (aka, even, diffused illumination) over your smaller scene with a diffuser.
  • A Wimberley “Plamp”An indispensable contraption that can hold a flower or a clump of flowers still in the wind.
  • Hoodman Hoodloupe: So you can carefully review your image on your camera’s LCD even in the sunniest of conditions.
  • Filters - primarily for broad landscape scenes of expansive carpets of flowers.  We use and recommend Singh-Ray Filters (Use discount code Colleen10 to receive a 10% discount)
    • Polarizing filter: Reduce reflected glare and haze; increase color saturation; and enhance or eliminate reflections.
    • Graduated neutral density filters: Balance out exposures between the sky and land by holding back light over overly bright areas of the frame.  If you are new to this type of filter, we recommend investing in the Galen Rowell 2- or 3-stop soft gradation filter.  We find using the 4″x6″ sizes to enable the most flexibility to position over our lenses, especially with wide-angle ones.
  • Artificial backgrounds: Mat boards, scrapbook paper, or cloth in natural colors like blue, brown, green, and black.
  • Rain gear for your camera: Clear plastic garbage bags or shower caps work, but an OpTech rain sleeve works a bit better in a steady drizzling .  If it’s pouring, a Think Tank Hydrophobia won’t let you down. Don’t forget a golf umbrella, too!
  • Lens cloths: For keeping your lens free of raindrops and dust.
  • Knee pads or a small gardening pad for kneeling
  • Small backpack to put it all in:  We like ClikElite (Use discount code CEB10 to receive a 10% discount)

Colleen demonstrates how to use a Wimberley Plamp near Mormon Lake, Arizona

In our “Wild in Arizona: Photographing Arizona’s Wildflower (2nd Ed.)” guidebook, we not only present this list of equipment, but we also share in-depth tips on how to use a lot of it in the field through our the Photography Tips, Making the Photo stories, and various location write-ups.

While we’re happy to help, your best and most reliable resource for gear-related questions will certainly be the helpful experts at Tempe Camera in Tempe, Arizona (one of our valued book sponsors and the local shop we frequent).

Last Friday, I took a quick ride out along Highway 60 from Phoenix to Superior. While there are lupine and gold poppies in the center median near Gold Canyon, the desert around Superior still looks very green. I was encouraged by the leaves, though, and a smattering of white popcorn flowers, which typically serves as a good and an early indicator the rest of the flowers are on their way.

They are coming, so time to get yourself–and your gear–ready!

Author Bruce Taubert, editor/publisher Colleen Miniuk-Sperry, and graphic designer Paul Gill marvel over the new Wild in Arizona book (we might have been a little excited but this was pre-champagne…LOL!)

IT’S HERE and IT’S STUNNING!  We’re thrilled to share our newest guidebook, Wild in Arizona: Photographing Arizona’s Wildlife by Bruce Taubert arrived yesterday afternoon.

And do you know what that means?!  That’s right!  Yesterday and today were our fabulous “Book Ship Days” (one of my favorite days ever).  Bruce, Bruce’s wife Anne, Paul and Colleen were on hand to not only welcome the books off the truck, but also to ship you your pre-ordered, autographed copies!

We created a short behind-the-scenes video to give you an idea of what our day looked like yesterday on YouTube (direct link: https://youtu.be/O4H4cwNr09I):

Tell me Bruce’s first look at his first book isn’t totally priceless!  If you pre-ordered the book: YOU MADE THAT MOMENT HAPPEN!  THANK YOU!!

We couldn’t wait to get them into your hands, so all pre-ordered books have shipped as of this afternoon!  Those of you living in the Phoenix area can expect to receive your books in the next day or two.  For those who live outside of Phoenix but within the United States, I’d start checking the mail for your books in the next three to four days.  International shipments can vary tremendously depending on the country’s customs process, so those of you living outside the U.S. will probably receive your books in the next one to four weeks.

Those who pre-ordered eBooks were super lucky.  All eBooks were emailed via Analemma Press this morning (so check your inbox or your spam/junk folder if you ordered one but can’t find it) so they got an early sneak peek of what Bruce’s book looks like.

After working on for three years, we’d now love to hear what you think about the book/eBook.  If you drop Colleen an email at cms@cms-photo.com, I’ll be sure it gets to the whole team.  We might even add you to our new book testimonial page too!

We cannot thank our corporate sponsors, Indiegogo fundraising supporters, and everyone who has purchased a book thus far enough for the overwhelming and generous support we’ve received to bring this book (our dream!) to fruition.  Take a second to check out our awesome sponsors and those Indiegogo supporters who contributed $100 or more to our campaign at http://wildinarizona.com/sponsors_wildlife.html.

Then grab your new book and get WILD in Arizona!

P.S. If you love the book so much and want to pick up another copy for you or a friend–or you missed pre-ordering–the book/eBook is now available from http://www.wildinarizona.com so you can order additional signed copies.

© 2011 Wild in Arizona/Analemma Press, L. L. C. Suffusion theme by Sayontan Sinha