After visiting the Upper Tanque Verde Falls in February (see previous week’s post), I hiked up to the Lower Falls in March. The hike to the Lower Falls allowed for a bit of exploration and boulder hopping, but I preferred to photograph the clearly delineated cliff striations at the Upper Falls. After using an ND filter to make the water flatten out, I was able to walk away with at least one good panorama of the Lower Falls.
Glassy Water and Lower Tanque Verde Falls, near Tucson, AZ (16″x54″)
While photographing Tanque Verde Falls, the striations in the rock kept drawing my attention. I tried to get in close to the cliff face to use the striped rock to both frame the falls and lead the viewer’s eye towards the cascading water.
Striations and Tanque Verde Falls, near Tucson, AZ (16″x36″)
After taking a few photographs of Tanque Verde Falls from above, I tried to get below the falls to photograph the water from below. I made the main focus of the three-frame vertical panorama the small cascade at my feet, but I tried to capture the larger falls in the upper right corner of the composition.
Looking Up at Upper Tanque Verde Falls, near Tucson, AZ (16″x15″)
Last February, I took a late winter walk out to the upper portion of Tanque Verde Falls. After scrambling around on the rock shelves for a few minutes, I found a spot that allowed me to photograph both the cascading water and the striations in the cliff face.
Looking Down on Upper Tanque Verde Falls (color), near Tucson, AZ (16″x32″)
Looking Down on Upper Tanque Verde Falls (B&W), near Tucson, AZ (16″x32″)
I went for a January pre winter storm (in Tucson read: rainstorm) hike in the Tucson Mountains. Cactus spines and arms stood out in front of the approaching clouds.
Cactus Top and Clouds, Tucson Mountains, AZ (12″x18″)
Saguaro Cacti in the Clouds, Tucson Mountains, AZ (12″x18″)
Another angle on the monsoon storm over Tucson.
Monsoon Storm over Tucson from Windy Point, Coronado National Forest, AZ (14″x48″)
While climbing on one of the fins at Windy Point (along the Catalina Highway outside Tucson, AZ) in August, I watched a monsoon storm rumble across the valley below. I took a few minutes to photograph the storm clouds as they approached us. After I drove home I realized that I had also captured a lightning bolt in the panorama.
Lightning and Monsoon Clouds fromWindy Point, Coronado National Forest, AZ (26″x64″)
When I stepped off the plane from Nepal in late June, it was about 110F (~40C) here in southern Arizona. Fortunately, the monsoon started soon after I arrived. After work one evening I drove up to the top of Sentinel Peak (near downtown Tucson) and shot a few panoramas of the lumbering monsoon storms as they approached from the south.
Monsoon Storm from Sentinel Peak #2, Tucson Mountains, AZ (16″x74″)
Routes on the north and west faces of the rock promontory above the Prison Camp area make for great spring climbing along the Catalina Highway on Mt Lemmon. I especially liked the shadows of the passing clouds on the hills in the background.
Boot Hill Cliffs and Clouds, Coronado National Forest, AZ (16″x39″)
Just past Milepost 9.9 and the Seven Cataracts Overlook, the road cut along the Catalina Highway (General Hitchcock Highway) forms two vertical cliffs on either side of the road. The climbing cliffs just uphill from this pullout are called The Green Slabs. There are a variety of traditional (‘trad’) routes on the south face and sport climbing on the north face. Here are a few photographs from the area.
Focus on the Rock, Coronado National Forest, AZ (12″x18″)
Green Slabs Cliffs and Highway, Coronado National Forest, AZ (16″x49″)
Here is a second series of photographs from my Milagrosa to Agua Caliente Canyon loop hike. I was amazed to see water flowing near the top of Agua Caliente (second photograph) even though we had received so little moisture for most of the winter.
Looking down Milagrosa Canyon, Milagrosa Canyon, AZ (16″x33″)
Falls in Agua Caliente, Agua Caliente Canyon, AZ (12″x18″)
In March, I hiked up Milagrosa Canyon (I have posted climbing photographs from this canyon in the past). I exited the top of Milagrosa by scrambling up a series of stepped dry waterfalls. I then picked my way across a hill through the Sonoran Desert until I hit a trail that dropped back down into the head of Agua Caliente Canyon. After a brief swim at a lunch time pool, I boulder-hopped down Agua Caliente to where the two canyons join near the road. As I was sliding from boulder to boulder, countless thumb-sized, camouflaged desert toads hopped out of the way of my feet. Overall, the day was at least an 8/10 stars for fun- it felt rugged without ever being more than three hours from a trailhead.
Saguaro Cacti Marching into Milagrosa, Milagrosa Canyon, AZ (14″x16″)
Agua Caliente Pools, Agua Caliente Canyon, AZ (16″x42″)
After hiking to Ventana Arch, we scrambled up the rock towers of Window Peak. The approach to the summit took a few hours; we had to ascend at least 4,500 feet from the trailhead to the peak, but the views were worth the walk. The hike down to Sabino Canyon was also gorgeous- a few rainclouds blew over and spat a few drops of water on us as we passed the last ridge near sunset.
Looking Down from Window Peak, Coronado National Forest, AZ (16″x57″)
Saguaro and Evening Clouds, Coronado National Forest, AZ (16″x36″)
Early in March, I hiked up the Ventana Canyon trail to Ventana Arch and back down through Sabino Canyon. Here are a few panoramas I took on the way up to the Arch.
Ventana Arch, Cliff, Hills, and Sky, Coronado National Forest, AZ (16″x53″)
Maiden Pools Rocks and Cacti, Ventana Canyon, AZ (16″x50″)
The vertical panorama can help give a sense of scale from the base of a cliff, but the perspective inherent in this type of panorama can also distort the image. As I’ve been working on my climbing photography, I have tried a few techniques that I would normally never employ in my landscape work; here I wanted to emphasize the artificial, human aspect that we bring to a traditional (‘trad’) climbing route even if we remove all the gear when we’re finished.
On Lead up Turret Rock, Coronado National Forest, AZ (16″x42″)
Some 2,000 climbing routes line the Catalina Highway (the 2-lane road leading to the top of Mt Lemmon outside Tucson, AZ). This year, my goal has been to try a new climbing area every weekend; back in February, I hiked up the steep wash around Milepost 10 to the Chessman cliffs. Circling birds of prey, ravens, and canyon wrens surrounded us all day. I took this vertical panorama of the spectacular 5.11-, Two Kings and a Pawn, as one of my friends was leading it.
Sending Two Kings and a Pawn, Coronado National Forest, AZ (16″x36″)
The southwest-facing cliff at The Ruins crag provides a great location for a pleasant day of winter climbing in southern Arizona. I wanted to capture the full size of the rock face, a little foreground at the base, and the mountains fading into the distance off to the south (right), so I ended up stitching together a series of stacked photographs for this double-tall panorama.
The Ruins Cliff, Coronado National Forest, AZ (20″x40″)
Winter rain and snow on Mt Lemmon brought enough moisture to the Sonoran Desert to make this usually dry stream bed in Hairpin Canyon fill with water. On this particular day, I didn’t expect to take many photographs (I was out to climb), so I didn’t have my tripod in my backpack. I used a rock instead (bottom photograph) and managed to take a long(er) exposure set of photographs for the panorama using image stabilization (basically a gyroscope in the lens)- it’s amazing how well this relatively new technology works in a pinch (but I still wish I had my tripod!).
Falls and Cliffs at Hairpin Canyon, Coronado National Forest, AZ (16″x47″)
Falls, Log, and Sky at Hairpin, Coronado National Forest, AZ (12″x18″)
While climbing in January near the base of Mt Lemmon, I stopped at the mouth of a small canyon to take this vertical panorama of the rock, vegetation, and clouds.
Bush and Winter Clouds, Coronado National Forest, AZ (16″x38″)
In early January, one of our only winter storms blew through southern Arizona (in what was supposed to be an unusually wet El Nino winter here in the Southwest). I was hoping to go climbing further up in the Catalina Mountains, but the Highway was closed, so we parked and walked our climbing gear up to Hairpin and spent a gorgeous day listening to a flowing creek and climbing beneath a ceiling of billowing winter clouds.
Hairpin Cliffs and Winter Clouds, Coronado National Forest, AZ (16″x50″)
If you happen to live in Tucson or pass through Tucson in the next month, please come see my show Ocean to Deserts at the Ward 6 City Council office (3202 E 1st St, just behind the Rum Runner near Country Club and Speedway) from now until January 3.
The series begins on the rocky cliffs of La Jolla, CA and moves inland, ending in the arid grasslands at Cochise Stronghold, AZ. As you walk around the room clockwise, you will proceed geographically from west to east, from ocean to deserts.
This February I visited Saguaro National Park West to photograph the petroglyphs around Signal Hill. A mid-winter rainstorm rolled through while I was exploring the Hill and surrounding washes; I tried to take a few panoramas with the rain clouds in the background. In some place, the human effect on the landscape is so ephemeral, but here in the desert even small rock carvings can remain for centuries.
Camino de Oeste trailhead (a part of the Yetman trail system) begins in the Tucson Mountains just west of the city. I head out to the area for a trail run or an evening walk whenever I get the chance. Here are a few long-exposure photographs of the wash after dark. I particularly liked the way the relatively stationary stars anchored the sky behind the fast-moving clouds.
Here are a few more panoramas from a post-rain hike up the Finger Rock canyon trail into the Pusch Ridge Wilderness.