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Sometimes when I’m out in the field I come across unexpected opportunities. Such is the case with today’s image, a Desert Spiny Lizard that I caught in the act of warming up in morning sunshine.
A couple of weekends ago I was on one of my typical cruises through rural southern Arizona looking for subjects to photograph. I was employing my usual technique for finding subjects, driving at about 10 miles per hour down a deserted farm road and scanning low trees and bushes for perching birds. Suddenly, my co-photographer of that morning, Rene Clark, exclaimed that there were lizards sitting on fence posts. I immediately shifted my gaze and, sure enough, there were lizards perching on most of the fence posts that we were driving past.
Photographing one of these lizards suddenly became our objective. It took us more than one try. The lizards — Desert Spiny Lizards — are high on many predators’ snack food list, and nearly all of them dove off their posts as I braked in order to photograph them. The one depicted above stayed on its post just long enough for us to make an image.
Desert Spiny Lizards are among the most frequently seen lizards in the Tucson area. They are fairly large, as our local lizards go, measuring nine or ten inches from nose to tip of tail. They subsist on insects and small invertebrates and are utterly harmless to humans. The individual depicted here is not particularly colorful. Some Desert Spiny Lizards, however, are brilliantly colored, often in hues of blue, yellow, turquoise, and orange.
I very much like this image. I find it difficult to make photos of lizards in which my subjects are completely in focus. Typically, some part of the animal is blurred. If I capture the lizard’s head in sharp focus the tail will be blurred and vice versa. It’s also difficult to make images in which the lizard’s entire body is in the frame due to that long tail. Here, I succeeded (thanks to the lizard) in capturing all of it and in sharp focus. I was very lucky in that respect. My lens was set wide open at f5.6, producing very limited depth of field. You’ll notice that the front of the post on which the lizard is perching, just a couple of inches forward of the lizard, is very much out of focus. With that very narrow depth of field just the slightest error in focusing would have rendered the lizard a blurred mess. It is indeed sometimes better to be lucky than good.
Image made with a Canon 5Div, 400mm f4 DO II lens+1.4x telextender, aperture priority setting, ISO 640, f5.6 @ 1/4000.