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Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Gallery Week, Equipment Week

I spent a week at the Ironwood Gallery helping to hang the Vanishing Circles exhibit one of the Arizona Sonora Desert Museum's permanent collections dedicated to endangered species here in the Sonoran Desert. This exhibit is a selection of works depicting disappearing wildlife of the Sonoran Desert. The Art Institute which operates the Ironwood Gallery has at the core of it's mission to expose people to conservation through art education which dovetails nicely with my mission of getting people interested in the natural world through photography. In addition to it's Art Institute the Desert Museum has many ongoing conservation projects including the reintroduction of the Mexican Garter Snake and the Tarahumara Frog to name a couple.

This was also the week I agreed to review the Aperlite YH-500C Flash Unit in exchange for flash unit that I had been looking to purchase anyway. I actually gave the unit a 5 star rating on Amazon because I ha already researched it and it did indeed perform extremely well when I tested it. My review is included here. The following three photographs are from my evaluation of the flash unit.

By Ray Goodwin (Tucson, AZ, US)
This review is from: Aperlite YH-500C Professional Flash Flashlight for Canon Digital SLR Camera [Supports TTL, Wireless S1 & S2 Modes] (Electronics)
I’ve been looking for a reasonably priced TTL capable flash unit and the Aperlite YH-500C (for Canon) meets all of my requirements. As an event photographer I shoot lots of indoor, low light, difficult and fast moving venues and the Aperlite YH-500C performs beautifully, helping me to produce photos that are sharp, properly lit, with little if any grain. I recently photographed a gallery opening for a museum using the YH-500C and the resulting photos were of excellent quality and should they need to be, they can easily be made into very large prints or used in the museums published materials.
The YH-500C’s controls are easy to use and changing settings is fast and the units recharge rate is very quick so I rarely miss a desired shot. Although TTL is my preferred mode the YH-500C offers Manual and Stroboflash modes as well as 2 off camera options which come in handy in a variety of different shooting situations.
The YH-500C performs equally well outside in the world where I spend the bulk of my time photographing nature. Great for fill flash in mottled sunlight and deep shade this flash has allowed me to get the shots that I would have otherwise walked right by before I started carrying the Aperlite.
The best reason’s to buy the Aperlite YH-500 flash is how well it performs in a variety of situations but on top of that is the fact that is is extremely reasonably priced, affordable for those of us who don’t have unlimited funds for equipment. The Aperlite YH-500C has great overall build, TTLMaster/Slave capabilities, fast recharge rate, very consistent TTL exposures and many, many other good qualities.
My overall rating for the Aperlite YH-500C is that it is an excellent flash unit at an excellent price!

I also purchased a new Canon EF 50mm 1.8 lens due to it's reputation for very sharp photographs and so far I ave been very happy with the results although it's taking a little time to get used to having to move back and forth to get the subject in the viewfinder. I do love this lens and here are a couple of the first photos that I took with the lens mounted on my Canon 7D.

Juvenile Arizona Gray Squirrels

Yucca Blossom

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Palo Verde Bloom

Most everything that has already bloomed this year has been exceptional but without a doubt the most impressive and far reaching display of color this year has been the Palo Verde trees. Although there are four different Palo Verde trees in the Sonoran Desert two species are the most prevalent and widely known. The first to bloom is the Blue Palo Verde which is the more upright of the two and grows to thirty feet. The second is the Foothills Palo Verde also known as the Littleleaf Palo Verde which is shrubbier and only grows to about twenty feet.

Most of the photos here were taken at various points in or near Tucson Mountain Park over several days. Most folks I've spoken to say they have never seen the Palo Verde's bloom this spectacular and in the ten years i have lived in Tucson I have never seen a bloom this massive.

As we approach May the bloom will fade and be replaced with the Saguaro blossom which will once again bring me into the desert to try my hand at getting the quintessential Saguaro blossom for my database.

 6 A.M.

6 P.M.

Taken from Gates Pass.

Looking south.

The above photo was taken just outside TMP in Saguaro National Park where the bloom had already reached it's peak.

On the way home I couldn't resist stopping and waiting to see the sunset in the park. Turned out to be worth the wait.

Friday, March 6, 2015

Mexico City Exhibit and Sabino Creek Portraits

February has been a busy month for me with two major photo projects completed.

The first and most important project involved providing the Arizona Sonora Desert Museums Art Institute with 120 photographs of plants, animals and landscapes taken here in the Sonoran Desert. Many of these photos will be used in a video that is part of the Sonoran Intersections exhibit at the National Autonomous University of Mexico in Mexico City. 

Sonoran Intersections, The Biodiversity of the Sonoran Desert, Portraits of Vanishing Wildlife opens Thursday March 12th in the main gallery at Universum, the Science Museum of the National Autonomous University of Mexico, which is Mexico’s primary museum dedicated to promoting science and technology to the public . The museum has thirteen halls divided by theme dedicated to various permanent exhibitions. Sonoran Intersections will be exhibited in the main gallery of the museum.
Below are a few of the photos I submitted for use in the video and in a children's interactive game during the exhibit.




Endangered Bees


 The second project is five framed 13x19 photos of Sabino Creek taken on December 17, 2012. These are some of my favorite autumn photographs from here in the Sonoran Desert. Sabino Creek for those of you are unfamiliar is runoff from the Santa Catalina Mountains which during periods of heavy rain is quite a robust stream, even raging at times. At other times of year when there is little moisture here in the desert it can completely dry up.
I have been fortunate to experience it in all of it's iterations from raging to completely dry but it is at it's most beautiful when there is steady flow.
When photographing the canyon because of its vastness the obvious way to capture its essence is to get as much into the frame as possible. However for this series I wanted a more intimate view of the canyon, to look away from the sweeping panoramas and share the detail of it's autumn splendor.


Thursday, January 29, 2015

Silverbell Lake Tucson, Arizona

On my way to Sweetwater Wetlands as I approached Christopher Columbus Park the morning light was an amazing golden yellow so I decided to stop in and check out Silverbell Lake which is located inside the park. I arrived just as the sun was peaking out from behind the horizon so I decided to spend some time and see what was around for wildlife and walk the perimeter of the 13 acre "lake".

I have to admit that I have a hard time thinking of 13 acres as anything but a pond having hailed from New England where there are some pretty large bodies of water but here in extreme Southern Arizona I have encountered a number of small bodies of water that are referred to as lakes and there is so few of them that I guess I can go along with that designation.

The first large bird I encountered was this Great White Egret wading just off shore. Birds here are used to the presence of humans but they still manage to keep their distance. I had a 135 mm lens on the camera and was primarily interested in landscapes so my first walk around the lake was with this one lens. The light at this time of day changes rapidly and within a few minutes the whole scene can change completely so I moved quickly around the lake taking hand-held photos to use here on my blog.

There are quite a few big trees along the water's edge including this one which I believe is a eucalyptus. It has taken quite a bit of abuse in the form of carvings but still looks extremely healthy in spite of the vandalism. Most of the ducks were common varieties but I still enjoy seeing them here in the desert.

This island has two rather large trees on it and although you can't see them well from this angle there are four Great Blue Heron nests in the largest of the two. I counted eight Great Blues altogether mostly in or around the nests with occasional trips out for food or nest building material. This is a place that's really worth a visit especially during the early hours of the day. I'm thinking of taking a trip there for sunset because the best view of the birds and nests is from the west side of the lake.

I have always had a soft spot for large trees and especially so here in the desert where there are so few of them. Most of the truly big one's that I have seen are along rivers and streams or next to man made bodies of water like these.

The tree on the left was home to many cormorant's including Double-crested and in the past I have seen Neotropic Cormorants here. I left my binoculars home so I can't say if there were Neotropics or not.

Every time I have visited the lake there have been people fishing for catfish, trout, sunfish and white amur. The lake is also a very popular picnic area on week-ends and can be quite crowded during nice weather.

Some trees here in the desert hold their leaves year round others drop them and there is quite a variety of looks during the winter. Some green and vibrant, some completely nude and some part way.

These are a few photos of the nesting site which is well camouflaged in the tree and the birds themselves are difficult to pick out from a distance but these are huge nest's and large birds.

This Vermillion Flycatcher just lit up in the morning sun and even though I wasn't able to approach too closely I spotted it from a great distance. If I'm not mistaken this ones an immature male.

After leaving Silverbell I headed over to Sweetwater, my original destination and was greeted by this Great White Egret just as I entered the facility.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Snow in the Sonoran Desert

On January 1st 2015 we woke up to snow on the desert floor. I got up at 4 A.M. and headed out before sunrise to enjoy this unusual event and of course to get some photographs to share here at Sonoran Connection. As you can imagine not too many people are out that early and as a matter of fact I had to stand around,camera mounted on my tripod and wait for the light to find me. Even though I dressed warmly it was still a challenge to stay warm as I am not that used to cold weather anymore. My hands were the hardest to warm even with gloves partially because my tripod is metal and iT got very cold lugging it around.

This a photo of Golden Gate Mountain which rises 1500 ft above the desert floor.

Gates Pass in the distance.

Tucson Mountain Park is loaded with hiking trails.

Tucson Mountains

 Even though it was fairly cold the snow began to melt as soon as the sun was up and was almost totally gone by 11:00 A.M.

Fog shrouded the mountain as the sun began to melt the snow. it was quite beautiful but hard to capture.