Book Review: Wild in Arizona: Photographing Arizona’s Wildflowers – A Guide to When, Where, & How

For those who like no-fuss product reviews and a quick cut to the chase: Paul Gill and Colleen Miniuk-Sperry’s Wild in Arizona: Photographing Arizona’s Wildflowers – A Guide to When, Where, & How is an excellent guide that belongs on your shelf if you plan to chase fickle wildflowers in Arizona.

Although most are climbing and hiking guides, I own quite a few guidebooks. And once one owns and uses enough of them, one comes to a determination about what they most like about them and what they’d do away with. Although I haven’t written any field guides, Gill and Miniuk-Sperry’s highly logical approach to content, layout, and design is the one I would follow. This guide is designed in a fashion that works perfectly for me: Detailed (but not too much; you still need to bring your creativity to the shoots); indexing by location, flower color, AND bloom calendar; a section on AZ’s wildflowers and how to predict them; and filled with inspirational photos and detailed technical info (including 17 different photography tip sections). This guide is a robust 224 pages and features over 280 color photographs and describes 60 locations with detailed maps & driving directions. Further, guidebooks that get handled a lot tend to fall apart quickly. Wild in Arizona has a 6″ x 9″ laminated glossy soft cover that I believe will hold up to a lot of leafing and thumbing.

This book is not just for photographers: Leaf peeping is everyone’s business, and the painter, naturalist, and hiker will find plenty about this book to enjoy. Gill and Miniuk-Sperry have also established a blog to share “eyes-on” reports about what’s currently happening in the [Arizona] field. They’ve been posting fall color reports recently, but come spring they’ll shift back to wildflower reports. What I really like about the book is that alongside the detailed location specifics, they’ve included a legend/key that indicates where you can expect to find specific flowers (right).

An honest review of a product should explain its shortcomings or at least recommend ways to improve it. Quite honestly, I’m at a loss to recommend decisive improvements for this guide. One minor point for me: I’m not a fan of unnatural-looking HDR photography as Gill appears to be (as evidenced by a number of his photographs within), but HDR-style photographs have no bearing on this book’s effectiveness or its quality as a guidebook. The captions are detailed and include HDR notes (and aperture/shutter speed/ISO), should novice photographers with limited technical abilities question why their photographs do not look like Gill’s.

Wild in Arizona: Photographing Arizona’s Wildflowers – A Guide to When, Where, & How will help you discover new places to experience and enjoy within Arizona while saving you an enormous amount of scouting time. At only $24.95, I’d call it a great value. Order online and you get an autographed copy!

You are visiting the blog of fine art landscape photographer Michael E. Gordon. For additional photos and information, please visit his official website.

Save a Desert Tortoise – Buy this Book

Tortoises Through the Lens – it’s not just a photography class, but a movement to change the continuous struggle that tortoises must go through because of human interference. Rachel Wilson, TTTL Student

Until you’ve met and made the acquaintance of a Desert Tortoise (Gopherus agassizii), you’ll never know just how incredible are these creatures. I met this tortoise (at left) on April 3 in Joshua Tree National Park, and as I sat beside and talked to him/her – all the while snapping photographs – I felt the same joy I feel each time I am lucky to have one of these chance encounters. Here before me is a distinct and unusual species that has roamed North America for 50 million years or longer, and has existed in its current form – before the Mojave was a Desert – for roughly 18 million years. Beyond humility and respect, I can think of few other ways to behave and honor the presence of this incredible creature. To see these fellows succeeding and feasting on greens warms my heart. Yet their lives are far from without challenges….

Icons of the Mojave Desert, they were once ubiquitous, and many southern Californian’s unwittingly diminished their numbers by taking them home and keeping them as pets. I had one during the earliest years of my life, and it troubles me to think that my family (and the family from whom we adopted the tortoise) helped to possibly push this species towards the danger zone. Urban/suburban sprawl pushed development and housing directly into their Mojave and Colorado desert habitats, and by 1990 landed them on the Threatened list of the Endangered Species Act. Unfortunately, without human intervention and corrective actions, Gopherus agassizii will eventually land on the Endangered Species List and their lives will hang in the balance.

Enter my good friend David Lamfrom, the California Desert Program Manager for the National Parks Conservation Association. In 2008, David created a wonderful program entitled Tortoises Through the Lens; “a community-based action project created to provide thirteen California high school students with an opportunity to explore and experience the Mojave Desert.” For two years, David and his long-time partner (and great wildlife photographer) Rana Knighten, led these thirteen teenagers on trips into the Mojave. They would not only be given cameras and learn how to photograph under David’s tutelage, but they’d also learn how to commune with nature and tortoises and would document their encounters through their photographs. In late 2010, the results were published in a beautiful book entitled Tortoises Through the Lens – an important collection of images and words. This 50-page book details their natural history; the serious threats they face; and what the future has in store for them. Beautifully designed and printed by Sunbelt Publications – and only a mere $14.95 – this book should be added to your collection. Most importantly, proceeds go directly towards tortoise conservation. David Lamfrom is one of those true desert tortoise heroes; I ask that you please support the tortoises and his work with your purchase. Thank you!

Please purchase directly from Sunbelt Publications.

You are visiting the blog of fine art photographer Michael E. Gordon. For additional photos and information, please visit his official website.