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.

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Mojave Mound Cactus (photo)

Mojave Mound Cactus (Echinocereus triglochidiatus)

I found the granddaddy of all Mojave Mound cacti (Echinocereus triglochidiatus) this weekend in California’s Mojave National Preserve. This was the largest, healthiest, and happiest Mojave mound I’ve ever seen (sure, I’m anthropomorphizing, but it’s my blog :)), and it had no less than approximately 100 buds and flowers on it. The plant was at least 36″ across and about 30″ or more inches tall. Chances are that I’ll be heading back to it in about a week to catch it at its fullest bloom.

It’s not what most would consider a “great year” for wildflowers in California’s Mojave Desert, but if one gets out there with open eyes and willing legs and feet, one will find an incredibly lush, vibrant, and yeah, happy desert! So get out there before it gets hot!

Info for photographers: I made this photograph during the middle of the day under hard light. Why then does the light look so appealing? A 32″ Adorama-brand 5-in-1 (now branded “Flashpoint”) lives in my truck and allows me to shoot small scenes like this under any light. I typically use the diffuser most during middle-of-the-day light such as this. No nature photographer should be without this useful tool!

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