“Nearly all the best things that came to me in life have been unexpected, unplanned by me.” ~Carl Sandburg

I remember the moment vividly, but to this day, cannot tell you why.  In the summer of 1997, after completing my final college course, “Creative Writing,” I candidly shared with my then-boyfriend-now-husband, Craig, “You know, I would love to write a book someday.  But I have no idea what to write about.”

Without salable topics and content, the notion of ever becoming a writer seemed far-fetched.  Instead, I happily headed to my first job at Intel Corporation in Phoenix, Arizona as a business analyst, ready to put my brand new Business Administration/Computer Information Systems degree to good use.  Corporate life was stressful for this Type-A personality, though.  At my mother’s insistence, I took an “Introduction to Photography” course at the local Chandler-Gilbert Community College to give me a creative outlet.  I showed up to the first class without a camera or a clue, and left five semesters later with an improbable dream of becoming a professional photographer someday.

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Paul Gill began photographing in 1975, after receiving his Bachelors of Fine Arts from Arizona State University and working as an art director for 17 years, designing and producing publications and fine art books for companies like the Scottsdale Center for the Arts.   Fifteen years ago, while exploring every nook and cranny of Arizona and building his landscape portfolio, Paul came up with what he thought would be an interesting tagline, “Wild in Arizona.”  But he had no idea how he could incorporate it with his photography.

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Paul's Poster

A draft of the poster Paul wanted to create in 2008 for Arizona's national and state parks using the tagline, "Wild in Arizona."

Our paths crossed in September 2003 while on an Arizona Highways Photography Workshop “Colorado Fall Colors” with photographer Jim Steinberg.   Paul was the trip leader/assistant; I was an eager student wanting to learn how to photograph using color slides, since my early training was exclusively in black and white film.  I also made some great friends on that trip, and Paul and I kept in contact once the trip ended.  After a phenomenal learning experience with Jim and Paul, I started to sell my photography at art shows and to editorial and commercial clients.  Then in early 2007,  I left Intel to pursue photography and writing full-time.

As I was trying to get my new business off the ground, Paul was reconsidering his “Wild in Arizona” idea.  In 2008, he pondered developing posters for Arizona’s state and national parks, each of which show the tagline, “Wild in Arizona” with a photograph of the unique wildflowers for that area.  A good idea, but it succumbed to higher priority submissions and assignments.  Arizona Highways, Natures Best, Smith-Southwestern, and numerous other paying gigs took precedence.

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On April 21, 2010 – in another moment I’ll never forget – Paul forwarded an email to me from a lady wishing to organize a private photography workshop to capture Arizona’s wildflowers.  After seeing Paul’s amazing wildflower photographs, she also asked, “I have googled Devils Potato Patch, Hills of Silver King and Silly Mountain to no avail.  Is their (sic) some resource book that would guide me to these locations?  Any help you could give me would help.  Thanks.”

Paul taking a break during a working session for the book at Colleen's home. Yes, that's a growler of Epicenter from San Tan Brewing, our "unofficial sponsor" who provided numerous liquid assets during our journey.

The answer to her question was, “No. There isn’t a book out there that shares this information.”

We hear these kinds of questions from people all the time.  I’m not sure what it was about this particular email, but it screamed, “OPPORTUNITY!!”

I typed a message back to Paul as fast as my little fingers would hit the keys, “Did you catch this – she’s given you an incredible opportunity!  “Write a book that guides people to the very best areas to photograph wildflowers in Phoenix or Arizona.”  Who else has done this?!”

Paul immediately responded, “Yes you can have all my images if you want to write and publish.  A book on locations and how to shoot. Love it. Should be called ‘Wild in Arizona.’  See all the opportunities opening.”

Five days later, Paul and I met at San Tan Brewing to review a proposal and outline for a book called “Wild in Arizona.”

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Today, we both chuckle when we reminisce about the many past, seemingly ridiculous thoughts we never let go of for some reason:  to write a book, to become a photographer, to put a great idea to use…somehow, someway, someday.  Here we are, after 10-15 years of dreaming and 15 months of the hardest work we’ve ever done, combining our unique talents and working  together on our final edits and preparing our book, “Wild in Arizona:  Photographing Arizona’s Wildflowers, A Guide to When, Where, and How” to go to the printer in mid-September.

It was unplanned, it was unexpected, but certainly it has been one of the best things we’ve worked towards in our lives thus far.  And we can’t wait to share it with all of you soon!

–Colleen

2 Responses to “How This All Started: The “Wild in Arizona: Photographing Arizona’s Wildflowers” Book”

  1. An incredible journey! Can’t wait to see the final product.

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