I realize that I am remiss in only rarely showing the settings in which I take most of my photographs. I discuss a place and then post pictures of creatures that I’ve photographed there, without ever providing an image of the actual location.
So, tonight, I’m posting an image of a place. This is Sweetwater Wetlands, where I take about 80-90 percent of my photographs in the fall and winter months. I took this photo the other morning just at sunrise. It shows one of the wetlands’ several interior ponds, surrounded by reeds and low trees. In the background one sees taller trees. These taller trees are actually located across the road from the wetlands on the grounds of a now-vacant water treatment plant.
It’s a pretty image, I think, and it conveys an impression of a spacious area of water and vegetation. Looks can be deceiving. The wetlands occupies, in total, barely more than 100 acres of land, if that. One can easily walk the entire perimeter of the place in a half-hour or less. The wetlands are situated in a neighborhood that is decidedly industrial. The shuttered water treatment plant lies to the north. On the east side is Interstate 10, barely a couple of hundred yards away. On the south side are warehouses and factories, and the wetlands’ western boundary is the nearly always dry bed of the Santa Cruz River.
And yet, this tiny area teems with life. I have taken literally tens of thousands of photographs here over the years: dozens of species of birds; several species of mammals; numerous reptiles; and, innumerable insects.
How can such a small place be such a vibrant repository of life? Well, I think the answer lies in the abundant water. That water makes everything possible. It provides the habitat for a myriad of species and for a chain of creatures starting with microscopic organisms and running all the way up to apex predators. I am staggered by the amount of life at this place.
Once upon a time, within the last 100 years or so, much of southeastern Arizona had running water, marshes, and swamps like Sweetwater Wetlands. The profusion of life then is almost unimaginable today. I am delighted that a small sample of it is preserved, but my delight is bittersweet. I wish I’d been alive to witness what once was.
Image made with a Sony RX100 III, Manual Setting, Zeiss Vario Sonnar 9-36mm zoom lens @ 9 mm, ISO 500, M setting, f8 @ 1/250.