Where The Action Is — Sometimes
Occasionally I post images of the venues in which I take photographs so that you, the readers, have at least some idea of where I go and what the conditions are like there. Tonight, I’m posting a couple of images that I made recently in the valleys that lie between Tucson and Phoenix, more than 100 miles to the northwest. There is a contiguous chain of valleys that begins in the vicinity of Phoenix and that stretches all the way down through Tucson and beyond, continuing into northern Mexico. These valleys present as flat or nearly flat plains bounded by mountains and they are an extremely important corridor for wildlife. In spring and fall vast numbers of birds of numerous species travel through the valleys. Some species continue on to other destinations, some species winter in the valleys, and others spend their summers there. Some wild creatures benefit from the intense agricultural activity that takes place in parts of these valleys. Large areas are divided into gigantic fields, one square mile in size, and these fields are irrigated by canals. The fields, when under cultivation, provide shelter and habitat for prey species and they attract predators.
Driving through the agricultural lands can give one a sense of isolation. The area is crisscrossed with dirt roads, running east-west and north-south, as straight as if they’d been drawn on the ground with rulers. Sometimes one can drive for miles on one of these roads and not see a single other vehicle. The fields fade off into infinity, their furrows resembling something out of an art class perspective drawing. It’s all a bit surreal.
Finding wildlife in such a vast area isn’t easy. Simply driving around is more likely to burn gasoline than to produce success. My photographer friends and I have visited these lands many times and we’ve learned where wildlife hangs out, mostly through trial and error. Sometimes, too, we get lucky. Perseverance pays off. Those hours of driving can be immensely rewarding when something really exciting suddenly looms large in one’s viewfinder.
And, then, there are the times when a long day’s driving produces very little, even when one knows where the wildlife is likely to be found. The following image is proof of that. A half day’s hunt for Crested Caracara in all of that emptiness produced this one image of a bird, many yards away. Even with a lot of cropping of the final image and a long telephoto lens, this bird was a very small creature in a very big place.
But, I wouldn’t be doing this if it were easy. The reward lies in the challenge.
The first image made with a Canon 5DS-R, 24-105mm f4L IS zoom lens @ 24mm, aperture priority setting, ISO 200, f11 @ 1/100. The second image made with a Canon 5Diii, 400 DO+1.4X Extender, aperture priority setting, ISO 500, f7.1 @ 1/2500.