Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Twenty-six days and a dozen miles less than six thousand

with 43 comments


On October 16th we drove west out of Austin on what became a 26-day trip through the southwestern quadrant of the United States. The car’s odometer reported that the tour through parts of west Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, Utah, Nevada, and California covered 5,988 miles. The drive took us to some places we’d been before (for example El Paso, Tucson, Phoenix, Las Vegas, the San Francisco Bay area), but the goal was to see things in those areas that we hadn’t previously gotten to see. We succeeded. The weeks ahead will bring you photographs from some of those places.

One great difference from my usual fare in Austin was the continuing presence of Landscapes with a capital L. From the time we got a few hundred miles west of Austin on the first day of the trip until the beginning of the last several hundred miles on the final day, we were never out of sight of significant mountains. With that in mind, I’ve begun with a couple of pictures from the afternoon of October 18th as we approached Sedona from the south. After our trip to Arizona in 2014, almost everyone who heard that we’d gone there asked if we’d visited Sedona. We hadn’t, so that was a goal on this visit. Our first stop in the Sedona area was the Red Rock Country Visitor Center on Arizona Highway 179, a bit south of the village of Oak Creek. The photograph above shows the vista from there.

As the sun continued to get lower and the shadows longer, we hurried to see more of the rocks further north toward Sedona itself. In the second photograph, taken 52 minutes after the first one, look how much extra warmth the last light of the setting sun had added to the colors of the reddish rocks for which the region is so well known.


© 2016 Steven Schwartzman


Written by Steve Schwartzman

November 19, 2016 at 5:09 AM

43 Responses

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  1. What an amazing road trip.


    November 19, 2016 at 5:55 AM

  2. that must have been quite a trip !!!! we travelled through Arizona in March and I loved every second of it. great pictures !


    November 19, 2016 at 7:17 AM

    • It turned out to be the longest driving trip, in days and miles, since 1989. Why can’t Austin have deserts and mountains?

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 19, 2016 at 7:57 AM

      • Why can’t Belgium look and feel like Arizona ??? I told my husband I’d like to move to Arizona but he won’t !!! bummer !!!!


        November 19, 2016 at 9:06 AM

        • Now that’s a comparison I’ve never run across: Belgium and Arizona. How did you end up in Belgium?

          At least in Belgium you’re not likely to run out of water. People in the desert states, with their growing populations, are always worried about finding enough.

          Steve Schwartzman

          November 19, 2016 at 9:13 AM

          • How did I end up in Belgium ? Well I was born there and so were all my relatives back till 1512 ! People can’t choose where they want to be born…..And you are right, we won’t run out of water any time soon but it is horribly expensive that water !!!!


            November 19, 2016 at 8:17 AM

            • Being born there is a convenient way to get there, no doubt about it. Your English is so good I forgot you’re not from here. At least there’s nothing (I hope) to keep you from occasionally traveling to Arizona, which is so very different from Belgium (and nine times as large).

              Steve Schwartzman

              November 19, 2016 at 8:42 AM

              • I hope so. !!!


                November 19, 2016 at 9:19 AM

  3. Just great! I look forward to seeing more. Each trip presents more challenges to the photographer since conditions are different. Out west the vistas are grander and the light changes the scenery so much. The middle of the day arrives and you are at some spectacular site; you have to try to make something of it. I am sure with your expertise that you did just fine with that. I find the shadows a bit daunting. Also, the flora and fauna are often unique and enjoyable to preserve with a photo.


    November 19, 2016 at 7:22 AM

    • We were fortunate to end up with overcast skies or rain on only about a third of our days, so I could take pictures most of the times I wanted to—and of course there were plenty of the grand vistas you mentioned. Several times we got good sunsets, including once at the end of a mostly overcast and occasionally rainy day. We even got to see the rain flow into a temporary stream down the side of a normally dry rock formation in the desert. As for plants: I managed to identify some, but many species eluded me. Perhaps I’ll still figure out a few more. Even if not, the landscapes remain.

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 19, 2016 at 8:15 AM

  4. I’m looking forward to being the ‘armchair traveller’ on your journey of discoveries. The opening shots are grand and scenic and love the ambient light.

    Nature on the Edge

    November 19, 2016 at 7:45 AM

    • Sure, welcome to the armchair. The American West is certainly a great place for grand and scenic landscapes of many kinds.

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 19, 2016 at 8:26 AM

  5. Just gorgeous and majestic – hope to see more of your trip


    November 19, 2016 at 9:10 AM

    • And so you shall. My quandary is what to show and in what order, but there’s plenty. After days of work, I’m nearing the end of a preliminary sorting of all the pictures.

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 19, 2016 at 8:48 AM

  6. Good morning, Steve,
    That must have been a fantastic trip. Thanks for the gorgeous pictures here. I’m looking forward to more.
    Have a wonderful weekend,


    November 19, 2016 at 8:53 AM

    • It was a fantastic trip, sometimes tiring but well worth it. The desert predominated, but we also got to visit forests, rainforests, mountains, and the Pacific coast.

      Happy cool weather here. The temperature in Fredericksburg should be cold enough overnight that by Sunday morning you might see instances of frostweed having performed its ice trick. The overnight low in Austin is predicted to be 36°, cold enough that I’ll be duty-bound to check the frostweed plants just half a mile from my home.

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 19, 2016 at 9:02 AM

      • I can easily imagine how fantastic it was. It was in the summer of 2004 that we went to California by car and enjoyed that a lot. As we enjoyed our recent “RailTrailsRoadTrip” through the Midwest up to southern Nebraska. I really love the diverse American landscape.
        As to the weather: it’s a wonderful brisk morning, isn’t it? And you’re right: we might be in for the first frost of the year. The forecast is 31 for tonight.
        So: stay warm! 😉


        November 19, 2016 at 9:15 AM

        • Sounds like you had a similarly great trip back in 2004. I’m glad you were able to follow up more recently with a visit as far north as Nebraska (one of four states I’ve not yet seen).

          I’m all too happy to stay inside and keep warm, but a nature photographer’s duty impels me to at least check on the frostweed tomorrow morning. If there’s anything worth photographing, I’ll have to bundle up and spend time out in the cold.

          Steve Schwartzman

          November 19, 2016 at 9:34 AM

          • We really enjoyed our tour this year [http://tinyurl.com/jfu9bep]. And we hope to be able to do something similar next year.


            November 19, 2016 at 9:37 AM

  7. It’s funny that my first thought was math-related. I traveled 4,040 miles in 21 days. Your average miles-per-day-traveled (never mind decimal points) was 230 miles, and mine, 192. Given days spent in the same spot, days devoted to the long haul, and so on, that’s similar enough to be interesting — although it’s unimportant in the grand scheme of things.

    The pairing of the two photos is great. The light was a huge factor on the prairie, too. Remember my puzzlement about the grasses at the bottom of the Kemah-Seabrook bridge –their change from red to gold to dull brown as the light changed? I’d forgotten about that, until I started trying to figure out why I couldn’t get the beautiful, rich color of the grasses that others capture. Finally, I started going out just after sunrise and sunset and lo! The different light did the trick.

    The second photo looks (color-wise) like Goliad’s Presidio in a nice sunset.


    November 19, 2016 at 9:12 AM

    • Hooray for math: the bug is catching. One thousand of my six thousand miles got eaten up just getting to the end of Texas on the first day and back from New Mexico on the last. Take out those two days, and our averages are closer.

      Landscape photographers crave the soft light at the beginning and end of the day. Only once did I go out near sunrise, and it paid off. The light during the day in the desert was harsh, but daytime is mostly what I had to deal with and I did what I could. You can appreciate Steve Gingold’s dedication to going out in the dark to wait for the sun to come up. His subtle photographs are the reward he reaps. Sounds like you began reaping rewards as well. Let’s see what you do at those times on the Texas coast.

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 19, 2016 at 8:34 AM

    • Speaking of numbers again: someone looking at our interchange will seem to see that I answered your comment more than half an hour before you posted it. After I saw your comment’s time stamp of 9:12 AM, I realized I hadn’t gone to my WordPress settings to switch back to standard time, so I did that before replying to you.

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 19, 2016 at 8:46 AM

      • Along those lines, on the news last week I heard an interesting story about twins being born around the time of the changeover. The first of the twins was born before the switch, so the birth certificate reflects Daylight Saving Time. The second of the twins arrived after the change and therefore has a birth certificate seemingly showing a birth before the older sibling.

        Steve Schwartzman

        November 19, 2016 at 9:09 AM

    • Math seems to be the thought for the week! The title to this post reminded me of the formula to calculate f to c… subtract 32, multiply by 5, divide by 9?

      What a great road trip! My own road trip was short, though I hopscotched back and forth over the equator.. first to the west to pedernales, then south to jama… and five days later retracked the same route, dodging holes and cracks still waiting repair. Unfortunately most of the sights were not inspiring – silent sentinels that bear the scars of the earthquake…

      Seeing your photos was a nice tonic to the senses; those images are stunning with all-caps!

      Playamart - Zeebra Designs

      November 19, 2016 at 10:41 AM

      • Your Fahrenheit-to-Centigrade conversion algorithm is correct, but as I grew up B.C. (before calculators), we were taught in such cases to do the dividing (or canceling) first to keep the numbers smaller. For example, if we start with 212° in the Fahrenheit scale, we subtract 32° to get 180°, then divide that by 9 to get 20°, and finally multiply by 5 to get the 100° that is the boiling point of water in the Centigrade (or Celsius) scale.

        I get to see big mountains only occasionally, when I take a good-size trip, but I assume that in Ecuador you have the option to see the Andes, at least at a distance, without having to travel all that far.

        In any case, forthcoming posts will let you capitalize on views of the American Southwest. Happy viewing ahead.

        Steve Schwartzman

        November 19, 2016 at 11:00 AM

        • Thanks for the conversion trivia.. when i am sick – ha like with dengue or chikungunya – the thermometers are in C so the conversion has to be made before knowing just ‘how sick’ one is.. I know from my first round with dengue that 40 equals 104!! burned to memory for life!

          Mindo is on the western slope of the Andes, so the pastoral beauty is everywhere. Less that two hours by vehicle is Quito, quite high, and when approaching Quito, sometimes one can see three ‘snow capped’ volcanoes, but I recently learned those are glaciers! Doesn’t matter to one who has his senses, as they’re beautiful, even when puffing…

          Playamart - Zeebra Designs

          November 20, 2016 at 4:12 PM

          • You’re fortunate to see those things. Such high altitudes would quickly do me in, so I’m afraid I’ll have to see the Andes vicariously.

            If it’s any help to you, there are two temperature conversions (to the nearest whole degree) that can be accomplished merely by switching the digits:

            16°C = 61°F and 28°C = 82°F.

            They’re obviously not high enough for fevers, but they might help in other situations.

            Steve Schwartzman

            November 20, 2016 at 8:09 PM

            • Quito pops me often when I forget and walk too fast, take the stairs, etc, and then I’m semi drunk for the rest of the day….

              The 16/61 28/82 tips put a grand smile on my face! Thank you!

              Playamart - Zeebra Designs

              November 20, 2016 at 8:42 PM

  8. Just today I had been looking at some photos my wife took of Ayers Rock (Australia) back in 1980. Your second image, above, reminds me of that special sort of light some say only glows in the southern hemisphere.

    Pairodox Farm

    November 20, 2016 at 6:37 PM

    • That’s a place I hope to go to someday. Did you get to visit as well?

      You’ve made me wonder why some people believe there’s a special light in the southern hemisphere.

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 20, 2016 at 7:59 PM

  9. As I opened this post and saw the first image, before I’d read a word, I thought: ‘that reminds me of Sedona’. And lo and behold it is. We did a three thousand mile fly/drive of California including Death Valley, Grand Canyon and Las Vegas about two years ago. And somewhat by chance we ended up in Sedona for a night and fell in love with the place. An unassuming town surrounded by fantastic Buttes. I recall going out for a drive along a dirt road or two. It’s a place that has lingered in the mind far more than other more main-stream places we visited. Great images, Steve.


    November 22, 2016 at 2:45 AM

    • It’s good to share these pictures with someone who’s been to the place. On the first day we visited the area, we stopped at several of the parking lots along the main road, from which I took both of the pictures in this post. Two days later we stopped briefly in the town itself, which we found to be pretty touristy. Fortunately we drove around on some of the back streets and stumbled onto a road (which soon became unpaved) that goes out to a rural parking area with a good view of nearby mountains. Perhaps it was one of the roads you mentioned experiencing yourself.

      If you’re drawn to go back, try to visit Valley of Fire State Park in Nevada as well, which has great rock formations and not nearly as many tourists.

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 22, 2016 at 8:07 AM

      • I think you may be right with the road you stumbled upon, Steve. And thanks for the info – whether I will ever get out there again, I’m not sure.


        November 22, 2016 at 10:16 AM

        • In the weeks ahead I’ll have a few pictures from Valley of Fire to entice you. I hope you make it back to the fabulous Southwest.

          Steve Schwartzman

          November 22, 2016 at 10:35 AM

  10. As you can see from my comments I am working my way backwards through your trip! I envy you having 26 days to spend travelling around this region – we had six! Hardly anyone in the UK has heard of Sedona (or Zion for that matter), but I came across it whilst looking for a place to stay overnight on the way from San Diego to Grand Canyon. It was either Sedona or Lake Havasu City or Kingman (I fantasied about Route 66), but once I had seen the buttes of Sedona I was hooked. Only a brief visit, but I recognised that picture straight away. I wish I had spent more time in the region as we may never get back there, but I shall look forward to accompanying you from my armchair for the next few weeks and see what I missed 🙂


    November 25, 2016 at 5:30 AM

    • There’s no harm in going backwards and then forwards; I’m skipping around chronologically to avoid too many pictures in a row from the places with similar environments. I’m sorry you couldn’t have added a 2 in front of the 6 days you spent on your trip, but the brevity of your stay must have led you to take full advantage of the time. I’d say you made the right choice in picking Sedona. I do hope you’ll get back there. The area has plenty of other places worth visiting, several of which will appear here.

      I’m not surprised that most people in the UK don’t know about Sedona and Zion. It goes in both directions. I’d never have heard of Birnam Wood except that we read “Macbeth” in our 11th-grade English class, and the name (along with Dunsinane) has stayed with me all these years.

      On our trip to the Southwest two years ago we spent three nights in Albuquerque (New Mexico) in a motel right on the old Route 66. We were on it again on this trip in Flagstaff.

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 25, 2016 at 6:05 AM

      • Ah yes, but Sedona and Zion are much more spectacular than Birnam Wood! I know where I’d rather visit 🙂


        November 25, 2016 at 6:08 AM

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