Holy Cacti & Succulents, Batman!

We spent the last day of our trip in the Phoenix area before heading back to home base in Colorado.  We weren’t sure what we’d do with the day, that is until my husband got on the interwebs as the trip got closer and found the Desert Botanical Gardens were not far from where we were staying.  Since he’s a desert/cactus/succulent/nature nerd (and I mean that in the best and most loving way!), it seemed like a good way to spend our day.

We arrived at the gardens not long after they opened, only expecting to spend a couple of hours there and then head off to do something else.  Boy, were we wrong!  The Gardens were so much bigger than we realized with tons to see, starting from the get-go with a gorgeous mix of cacti and succulents greeting you just after the entrance.

Cactus Wonderland Awaits

Admittedly, I screwed up a little by not checking out their camera & tripod policies prior to arriving.  Knowing that many botanical gardens have restrictions on cameras – especially with tripods – I played it safe and only brought my phone.  To say I started kicking myself for that mistake immediately is an understatement!  Not long after we arrived, I was seeing all kinds of macro shots I wanted to take.  Then I saw folks coming in with tripod setups!  Blerg!  I did what I could with the camera on my phone during the day.  Guess we’ll just have to go back!  (Oh darn.)

Putting my camera mis-planning aside, we dove in.  There were so many cool things to see.  There’s gobs of variety – a lot of the species of plants in the complex are native to Arizona and they have a lot of non-native species too.  The Gardens are setup as a central hub with desert plants, then 4 or 5 different loop trails shoot off of that main hub.  One loop takes you through wildflowers native to the area (though we were a few weeks too early for the bloom), another takes you on a nature trail, etc.  It was a really nice setup that lent itself to leisurely wandering and taking it all in at our own pace.

Along the way we ran into several awesome docents who filled us in on the different plants around us, how the plants function in the desert, and so on.  It also happened to be a bird watching day at the Gardens, so there were a lot of folks running around with binoculars trying to spot what types of birds were passing through.  A few of the birders chatted us up, adding to our knowledge of the creatures in this part of the southwestern desert.

The Gardens did have a few art pieces mixed in along the way.  My 2 favorites were representations of cacti.  The first piece was a sculpture made of the iron spikes that are part of a cactus transplant system developed back in the 30s (if I recall correctly) that’s still in use today to preserve native cacti when they need to be relocated due to construction.  The other piece was a Chihuly glass sculpture near the entrance that was sparkling brilliantly as we left.  My mother-in-law makes stained glass and fused glass pieces as a hobby, and generally loves anything related to glass.  Thanks to her, I knew those had to be Chihuly pieces because it fit both in style and placement when I think of his work.

We spent a considerable part of our day at the Desert Botanic Gardens, so there wasn’t much time to do anything else in Phoenix other than to grab a bite and try some more of the local beer before going home.  That’s when I happened upon a near-match of an all-time favorite beer of mine that’s been out of production for 2 years now, so the beer quest was a massive success in my book!  (Thank you McFate’s for ending our trip on that tasty note!!)

– JC

Macro Mania – Cactus Edition

With the new camera, I’m finding a rekindled interest in shots I used to mess with all the time.  In this particular case, it’s macros.  I haven’t done a lot of them in recent years, but I’ve been hunkered down with the tripod in the backyard each of the last two weekends grabbing shots.  What’s caught my eye lately?  Cactus.

My husband started a little cactus garden a couple of years ago not long after we moved into our new house.  We had a nook over the TV area that we didn’t know what to do with, so he started filling it with potted succulents a little at a time.  The first year or two they did great, but this winter they didn’t like it so much.  (I blame my black thumb presence simply being near them.)

Come spring, outside they went for “rehab”.  Luckily for us, they’re coming back like champs and growing like gangbusters!  Better for me that their growth spurt is creating all kinds of funky-ness for macro photography.

Below are a few shots I captured – some spines from a barrel cactus, and some sprouting additions on a paddle cactus.  I may be adding to the photographic collection as these guys continue to (hopefully) flourish during the summer!

– JC

Wildflowers for a Monday

It’s the start of another workweek, but it’s a workweek where I’m off from my “real job” for 2 days.  Why not share some happiness with folks who do have to be at work today?

Here’s some wildflowers from another run of test shots the other week – this time at Rabbit Mountain outside of Longmont, Colorado where the flowers were abundant, colorful, and downright cheery.


– JC

Long Lost Mums

(Originally posted August 22, 2012)

Magenta Mums Macro
Magenta Mums Macro

The construction of the Alpha Pup Photography online inventory continues!  Tonight while I was adding a few more of the many shots I’m sifting through to create our galleries, I came across an old favorite of mine.  My eye tends to catch the little details in everyday life.  One day I may be staring at a pen on a table and see an interesting detail shot I need to take, while other days I’ll see a pretty flower or a great landscape and want to capture that somehow.  It’s that kind of thinking that was behind this shot.

No far-flung trip was involved to get this image.  I simply went to the grocery store down the street!  I happened to pass a display with these fantastically fun mums and decided to grab a pot of them to take home, using photography practice with my still-new camera and brand new macro lens as my “excuse”.  The setup was super-simple because I just put the flowers on the island in our kitchen, setup the camera on the tripod, and clicked away!

Of that little photo session, I think this shot was my favorite by far.  It certainly still brings a smile to my face even all these years later.  (I guess that’s the power of cheery, happy-looking flowers!)