Spring 2009 Desert Photo Walks

by Derrick Bostrom in


After my wife's ankle surgery last summer, I was forced to pursue my love of strenuous exploratory hiking without her. But there was a bright side to this, since she has never been as keen for climbing as I am. Last spring, I was able to spend just about every Sunday morning at the the top of one of the many small mountains near my house.

I brought along my camera to keep me company. But an hour after sunrise, Arizona skies are bright and hot and the shadows are deep and dark. Getting a correct exposure under such high-contrast conditions is a challenge. While it's usually best to let the smart machine in my hands make most the decisions, I still have to know how to help it along if I want to avoid white skies and crushed shadows. There's only so much I can fix in post-processing.

I have to say I made a lot of progress working under these conditions. But one of the many skills I've not yet mastered is how to shake off my early-morning exhilaration long enough to really capture the magic of a mountain-top vantage point. I took hundreds of photos, but only a small handful of shots really give a sense of the terrain's sparse beauty. I hope this selection manages to convey the quiet extremes of the desert landscape.

Alas, you can short-list a bad picture, but its not so easy to cull Paradise Valley's rampant population. Who knew that the top of Camelback Mountain is as crowded as a shopping mall at 9AM on a Sunday? On the other hand, though it's surrounded on all sides by expensive, well-patrolled private residences, the expansive summit of Mummy Mountain is nearly desolate. Hopefully, once the summer abates, I can continue my exploration before all the remaining open space is fenced off.

North Mountain Park, Phoenix Arizona

Phoenix Mountain Preserve, Phoenix Arizona

Phoenix Mountain Preserve, Phoenix Arizona

Dreamy Draw Park, Phoenix Arizona

Dreamy Draw Park, Phoenix Arizona

Dreamy Draw Park, Phoenix Arizona

Camelback Mountain, Phoenix Arizona

Phoenix Mountain Preserve, Phoenix Arizona

Phoenix Mountain Preserve, Phoenix Arizona

Phoenix Mountain Preserve, Phoenix Arizona

Phoenix Mountain Preserve, Phoenix Arizona

Mummy Mountain, Paradise Valley Arizona

Camelback Mountain, Phoenix Arizona

Mummy Mountain, Paradise Valley Arizona

Mummy Mountain, Paradise Valley Arizona

Mummy Mountain, Paradise Valley Arizona

Phoenix Mountain Preserve, Phoenix Arizona

North Mountain Park, Phoenix Arizona

North Mountain Park, Phoenix Arizona

Camelback Mountain, Phoenix Arizona

Camelback Mountain, Phoenix Arizona