Itching to shoot, especially after our recent photography seminar, “Shoot Like a Pro,” with Scott Kelby, we were ready to try something new. We had left the last of the fall colors back in Massachusetts, and we were now in the Sonoran Desert of Arizona. As you may know, the desert in November is, well, pretty much just a desert. Anything of interest is long since dead from the heat of the summer months. The question loomed, “What to shoot?

Friends from out of town recommended a visit to the Boyce Thompson Arboretum, an Arizona State Park in Superior, Arizona.  We didn’t expect much. After all, it is still the desert. But having never been to this park before and with the arboretum only an hour away, we decided to give it a try.  After all, we were itching to get out and use our cameras….

The arboretum is nestled in and around a canyon, which translates to interesting terrain and cool shade on sunny days, which we appreciated as it was a warm and sunny day.  As we entered the park, there was some stirrings of life as the leaves of the Chinese Pistachio trees were starting to turn red and the Eucalyptus trees were awesomely white and tall in stature.  Live music floated through the canyon. The air held possibilities.

We started our walk on the main loop through the arboretum.  We walked slow, paused and looked for some magic in the plants and the surroundings.  After all, it was an opportunity to shoot…

However, as we might have expected most of the plants were “past their peak”, aka, dead. A few faded and shriveled pomegranates hung on the bushes, the legume garden had patterns of dried pods on the ground, and a few petals clung to a couple remaining roses in a rose garden. There didn’t appear to be anything in bloom, cacti or otherwise. We continued onward.

We tried shooting the cactus backlit by the sun, but couldn’t quite capture the golden needles. The desert pond was void of water foul or flowering plants. The canyon area was nice, but at midday, the views were harsh and flat. The Chinese Pistachio trees were indeed starting to turn red, but without other colors or context within the canyon, it was not much of a photo.

Perhaps, we just needed to be a bit more creative — look a little harder.

Cafe Chair with Complex Shadows

Cafe Chair with Complex Shadows

On a patio near the legume Garden, we explored the creative shadows of an old metal cafe chair.


Sunlit Succulent

I took a closer look at the succulents in the cacti garden.

Eucalyptus Tree Crevas

Eucalyptus Tree Crevas

We explored different angles on the Eucalyptus trees in the Eucalyptus forest. Shooting from different angles and up close.

In changing our perspective and thinking beyond the usual flowers and trees,  we found we had to work harder to find what might be pleasing to the eye. The results:  photographs that were a bit more abstract than our usual compositions.

Certainly, not what you might expect from photos taken at an arboretum, but we did get out and shoot and enjoy the day.

What do you think, was it a successful photography outing?