Desert marigold blooming in Paul's garden

Will we have a good wildflower season in 2012?  That’s the million-dollar question, one we’re already trying to answer!

Though the start of the Arizona wildflower season is still several months away, we’ve started to actively track the precipitation now to help predict what will happen next year.  The current models say the Grand Canyon State will experience another La Nina year, which indicates a drier than normal year.  That said, forecasters are expecting weekly erratic rains now through January.  Keep your eye on the current weather and the Farmer’s Almanac for the Southwest region at http://www.farmersalmanac.com/long-range-weather-forecast/southwest-us/, which provides predictions for the next two months.

Mother Nature will ultimately decide how next year’s wildflower season turns out, but we’re already seeing signs of beautiful blooms.  The photos here are from Paul’s wildflower test garden this week, which show some wild poppies and scorpionweed beginning to show.  There’s even a desert marigold in full bloom!  The small poppy sprouts still could freeze off.  Marigolds bloom year-round so this type of growth is normal, but it looks better than last year.

Poppy sprouts from Paul's garden

Stay tuned to our Wild in Arizona blog, as we’ll be posting up-to-date information from the field as things develop now thru next March.  In the meantime, be sure to grab your copy of our newest book, “Wild in Arizona:  Photographing Arizona’s Wildflowers, A Guide to When, Where, and How” (http://www.wildinarizona.com) to read more information about predicting wildflowers and to get ready for next spring’s bounty in Arizona!

~Paul and Colleen

We’re excited to announce our first Book Signing Event with one of our valued book sponsors, Tempe Camera, on December 10th from 9 am to 5 pm.

Stop by to pick up your copy of our newly released book, “Wild in Arizona: Photographing Arizona’s Wildflowers, A Guide to When, Where, and How.”

Co-authors Colleen Miniuk-Sperry and Paul Gill will be on hand to sign books, share behind the scenes stories about the photos in the book, and chat about the 2012 spring bloom forecast.

In addition to the book signing, Colleen will be presenting two educational 30 minute sessions (times TBD) about “When, Where, and How to Photograph Arizona’s Wildflowers.”

And thanks to our book sponsors, we’ll also be raffling off great prizes from Wimberley, Think Tank Photo, Hoodman, and more throughout the day!

So come on down to Tempe Camera on December 10th to have some photo fun and gear up for the holidays and next year’s wildflower season! Friends, family, and photo enthusiasts all welcome at this FREE event.

Colleen and Paul look forward to seeing you there!

Yep, it's real!

Though we’ve had plenty of time to think about it – 18 months to be precise – we didn’t know how we’d react to seeing our first book in our hands.

Just seconds after the moving truck came to a halt in front of my house and the driver revealed the contents of his cargo, Paul grabbed a heavy, back-breaking cardboard box of 54 books off the truck, ran up the short driveway, sliced open the box as fast as he could with a key, and pulled out a single copy.  To smell it.  Nothing like fresh ink on glossy pages to prove an existence.

We didn't expect a moving truck to deliver our books! But 3200 pounds of books arrived on two very large pallets...

As I grabbed the now three-dimensional version of our book out of the same box, my hand covered my mouth as tears welled up in my eyes.  I whispered, “Oh my, look at what have we done.”

Then, celebratory hugs were in order, “We did it.  We really did it!!  It’s here!  Whoohoo!”

Jubilation turned instantaneously to panic for us two Type-A personalities, though:  quick, thumb through it.  Did any of the page numbers get cut off ?  (No, of course not, that’s just silly!)  How do the photos look?  (Wow, they look like photos printed on photo paper!  Two thumbs up to our printer!  Awesome!)  And holy crap, are all those boxes really going to fit in my garage?!  (Yes, so long as we re-stack them on the pallets…and let’s just hope lots of our friends have lots of friends!!)

Temporary insanity aside, both Paul and I now feel an overwhelming sense of gratefulness.  I’ll spare you an Academy Awards-like “thank you” speech, but we have an incredibly long laundry list of people to thank for helping us and encouraging us in seeing this book – our dream – come to fruition…we hope to be able to thank you each of you in person soon.

Shipping our pre-orders today. Thank you!

For those of you who pre-ordered the book:  THANK YOU!  We’ve signed and shipped your order to you late this afternoon, so be on the watch for it this week (U.S. based) or next week or so (international).  For those who haven’t ordered a copy yet or are considering gifts for the upcoming holidays, we have plenty of copies hot-off-the-press waiting to send to you (and all your friends! HA!)!

Whenever you get a chance to take a peek at it, we’d love to hear what you think so drop us a note either here, on Facebook, G+, or via email.

The truck didn't have a lift gate, so we had to unload all the books from the street to my garage.

Happy reading and happy shooting!  And most of all, thank you.

~Colleen

W. Clear Creek fall cascade

The Verde Valley is showing fall color now.

WEST CLEAR CREEK at Bull Pen is at peak now and should be good for the next week. FR618 to FR 215, high clearance is a good idea.

Beaver Creek

WET BEAVER CREEK on the Bell Trail is still a week away from good color but the lower picnic area across from the campground is showing some color. Paved 179 east off of I17

Montezuma Well sycamore

MONTEZUMA WELL & CASTLE are near peak and should be good for at least 1 more week.

Montezuma Castle

DEAD HORSE STATE PARK is not looking good lots of brown on the ground with green cottonwood/sycamore, only about 1/3 color last week could get better?

 

Dead Horse S.P. lake

 

Paul is too modest to toot his own horn, but I’m sure happy to!

I just opened the December 2011 issue of the Arizona Highways magazine, and saw that one of Paul’s photographs has been included in the “50 Greatest Photographs” to have appeared in the magazine.  You might recognize this exquisite shot, as it was first published this past March as the opening two-page spread for the Wildflower portfolio.

One things for sure, Paul knows how to photograph wildflowers!

Congratulations, Paul!

Dew drops cling to a Mexican Golden Poppy and refract a nearby saguaro in the droplets. Sonoran Desert west of Bartlett Lake, Arizona. Paul Gill Photography

 

There are few places in Arizona where aspen and maples grow together, the Pinal Mountains just southwest of Globe is one of them. Probably the closest aspens to Phoenix, it’s the long winding dirt FR 651 that makes it seem farther. There are two great locations on top of the mountain, the photographs here were taken on Nov. 2nd unfortunately a large wind/snow storm hit the area on Friday night and I can’t promise any of this is left. ICEHOUSE TRAIL  A steep drop into aspen and maples that run for about a mile is the first trail, this area has the best aspen and parking is just south of the trailhead. SIXSHOOTER TRAIL drive towards the peak and turn left at the Ferndale split then drop down to the trailhead parking area. This is a great location with 4 trailheads all are great for aspen, maple, walnut, oak and other ground color.

Arizona Autumn 2011
By Paul Gill

View looking northwest at sunset from the point at Tsegi Overlook, Canyon de Chelly National Monument

Looking for something to do this weekend?

I honestly can’t think of a bad time to visit, experience, and photograph Canyon de Chelly National Monument, but in late October and early November, this culturally and geologically rich place gets even more beautiful when a splash of autumnal color outlines the canyon floor below soaring Navajo sandstone cliffs.  Fall has come a little late to this area – as it has across much of Arizona this year – so this weekend would be the perfect time to see the finale of fall colors here!

Throughout the entire canyon, the cottonwoods are peaking as we speak, so no matter which overlook you stop at, you’re bound to bring home the beauty of this park on your memory cards.   My favorite place to shoot sunrise is from Junction Overlook, looking into the sun as it rises above Canyon de Chelly.  Great places to put your tripod at sunset are Tsegi Overlook and Spider Rock Overlook looking west at sunset.

Photographing Canyon de Chelly and Canyon del Muerto from the south or north rim respectively can make capturing a “correct” exposure difficult, even at sunrise and sunset.  Direct light skimming across the canyon on clear days tends to cast odd-shaped shadows on the walls and floor, resulting in a sharp contrast between highlights and shadows.  With such dramatic difference in the tones, U-shaped histograms are common…even in low light…

Pre-dawn light at Junction Overlook

If a blue sky is overhead, pull out your telephoto lens to isolate patterns and lines of trees at the bottom of the canyon.  Look for compositions that fall entirely within a deep shadow to capture more even lighting across the scene.  Cloudy days or during civil twilight (the 30 minutes before a sunrise and after a sunset) provide the best opportunity to record saturated colors.  Both types of light enable beautiful directional, but more even illumination across the canyon…making exposures much easier to manage!

If you have the time, hire a Navajo guide to take you inside the canyon for a magical experience during the day.  Depending on your tour, you’ll see the photogenic Antelope House Ruin, White House Ruin, and Spider Rock up close and personal.  Look for ways to include the yellow leaves of the changing cottonwood trees as a framing device to help create the illusion of depth in your photograph.

The Day Use area at the entrance to the Cottonwood Campground near the Thunderbird Lodge offers an unlikely, but outstanding place to photograph within a massive grove of colorful cottonwood trees.  Emphasize the height of a single tree or a group of them by getting close to the tree trunk(s) and pointing your widest angle lens upwards.

For more information about this national monument, visit www.nps.gov/cach.  Before you visit, consider also checking the Photographer’s Ephemeris tool (available at photoephemeris.com, where you can get a free computer download, $8.99 for the iPhone app, and/or $4.99 for the Android app).  This software program allows you to pre-visualize the light’s direction at a location using Google maps, which helps save you time when you arrive on-site.

Happy shooting,

-Colleen

Fremont cottonwood grove at the Day Use area near the Cottonwood Campground

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