Ornate Tree Lizard — A Portrait

You may enlarge any image in this blog by clicking on it.  Click again for a full screen image.

I was over at Sabino Canyon yesterday morning and, after hiking around in the desert for nearly three hours, I had a substantial load of gravel and debris in my shoes.  I sat down on a large rock, removed each shoe, shook it out, then replaced it and retied it.  As I was doing that I looked to one side and was startled to find an Ornate Tree Lizard, sitting on the same rock as I was, and staring at me.

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Ornate Tree Lizards are just one of many species of lizards that inhabit our local desert.  They are among the smallest lizards, rarely exceeding five or six inches in length (including tail).  They sometimes appear to be “friendlier” than other species in that they are less likely to flee when approached than others are.  This is misleading.  They are just as wary around humans as are other species.  Ornate Tree Lizards rely on camouflage for self-protection and that means they will frequently freeze in place rather than run away when approached.  This lizard probably was on the rock when I sat down.  It froze and I didn’t notice it at first.  I grabbed my camera, which had been sitting next to me on the rock while I retied my shoes, and made an image.  The lizard remained in place

I slid a bit closer to the lizard and it still didn’t budge.  I decided to see if I could make a portrait.  I carefully put my camera down on the rock with the lens facing the lizard, just a little more than a foot away from the lizard.  Without bending over to look through the viewfinder, I very slowly depressed the shutter, allowing my camera’s autofocus to lock on to the lizard’s head.  I heard the “beep” of the camera’s autofocus locking and I snapped one image.  At that distance, the camera’s flash disturbed the lizard and it ducked behind the rock.  I either had my portrait or I didn’t.  Here’s what I got.

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I often say that in nature photography it’s better to be lucky than good and I was very lucky with this shot.  The lizard’s brilliant yellow throat and its turquoise belly (see the previous photo) suggest that this one’s a male.  I find him to be extraordinarily beautiful.  From a distance Ornate Tree Lizards can seem to be rather drab, but up close they are gorgeous.

Images made with a Canon 5DS-R, 180 f3.5L Macro Lens assisted by Canon 600EX-RT Speedlite, M setting, ISO 160, f16 @ 1/160.

2 responses to “Ornate Tree Lizard — A Portrait”

  1. Julie Carpenter says :

    Always love your narrative an photos! Enlarging the throat and belly of the ornate tree Lizart really shows the colors. A great fan of your blog, J. Carpenter


  2. Tom Munson says :

    Fantastic close-up, Steve. SHARP!!

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