When one thinks of the Arizona desert, what probably comes to mind are stately saguaros, glowing chollas, or vast stretches of sparse, brown terrain. And while those images are certainly accurate for much of the year, springtime brings a new and exciting look to many areas of our Sonoran Desert with the appearance of a profusion of beautiful wildflowers. Depending on the previous winter’s rainfall, wildflowers may begin to appear as early as February and may last until June. In our area, however, the big show generally takes place from mid-March to late April. This annual desert transformation presents us with opportunities to combine our love of photography with our desire to simply be outside enjoying one of nature’s wonders.
Often, the best time of day to photograph wildflowers is mid-morning, when flowers are fully open but haven’t yet begun to wilt from the day’s heat. And though it may seem counter-intuitive, overcast or cloudy days are better than bright, sunny ones, as clouds act as a great light diffuser, providing balanced light and eliminating the harsh shadows and overly-bright highlights on wildflowers, that make proper exposure difficult.
So, where are the best places in our area to see and photograph wildflowers? While any list is going to be subjective and certainly not exhaustive, here are some promising possibilities.
South Mountain Park, 10919 S. Central Ave., Phoenix: Free
Cave Creek Regional Park, 37900 E. Cave Creek Parkway, Cave Creek; $7 per vehicle
Lake Pleasant, 41835 N. Castle Hot Springs Road, Morristown; $7 per vehicle
Bartlett Lake, Rattlesnake Cove, 21 miles east of Carefree; $8 Tonto Day Pass
Usery Mountain Regional Park, 3939 N. Usery Pass Road, Mesa; $7 per vehicle
Estrella Mountain Regional Park, 14805 W. Vineyard Ave., Goodyear; $7 per vehicle
McDowell Sonoran Preserve; Free
Many of these locations have fine hiking trails to enjoy, but remember that this is also a prime season for rattlesnakes, so stay alert.
A reminder that on March 4, Cindy Marple of the Phoenix Camera Club will present her wildlife tour of Costa Rica on Zoom. The Sun Lakes Camera Club (SLCC) is offering this program free of charge to the community, and anyone interested may obtain a link and code by emailing our president, Lynn Thompson, at email@example.com.
SLCC meets the first and third Thursdays, from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m., in the Navajo Room of the Sun Lakes Country Club from October through April. During the summer, the club meets on the first Thursday of each month in the Ceramics Room of the Cottonwood Country Club. For more information about the SLCC and its activities, call SLCC President Lynn Thompson at 480-734-0040, Vice-President Judy Daidone at 480-216-3062, or Past President Jan Ballard at 602-621-3344, and visit our website at www.sunlakescameraclub.com.