Posted by: kerryl29 | September 6, 2012

Arizona Aftermath

My apologies to blog readers for the lengthy span between posts.  I spent last week on a photo workshop in northern Arizona and I’ll be detailing what turned out to be a phenomenal trip in several forthcoming entries.  Upon returning, late last Saturday evening, I found myself knee deep in responsibilities so I’ve scarcely had any time to even look at–let alone edit–my numerous images.  This will gradually take care of itself, but it’ll be awhile.

In the meantime…

The workshop began on Sunday (August 26) afternoon in Monument Valley, but I flew in the previous day and spent Saturday night in Flagstaff.  I arrived there late in the afternoon and then whisked my way to Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument, approximately 12 miles north of Flagstaff on US 89.  I discovered the monument just a few days before I left when I was searching for a place to photograph near Flagstaff that would be open through sunset.  I only had a couple of hours there before it got dark and with no familiarity with the location I just kind of wandered around and took only about five shots.

There’s an inclination to immediately think of the word “desert” when you consider Arizona, and that’s understandable since it aptly describes much of the state.  But there are areas of the state where the description is completely inappropriate and Flagstaff is one of those places.  Flagstaff is situated more than a mile above sea level and is much cooler–and wetter–than the desert areas of Arizona and is thick with coniferous growth and stands of aspen at the higher elevations.

With copious rains this August, the wildflowers were everywhere.  Upon driving into the monument, one of the first things I saw was a marvelous field of sunflowers.  I waded in with my gear and captured a couple of shots.

Sunflowers, Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument, Arizona

As the monument’s name implies, the area was geologically active at one time and thick black ash mounds and fields are in broad evidence.

Amidst the Ash, Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument, Arizona

Pine needles and pine cones are everywhere.

Pine Cone Closeup, Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument, Arizona

After the sun went down, I found the pastel sky, and this prominent pine, irresistible.

Dusk, Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument, Arizona

The next day meant a three-hour drive to Monument Valley and its iconic landscape.  That will be the subject of my next post.



  1. The word “desert” covers a lot of varied landscapes. That entire southwestern region is awash in fantastic shapes and colors. Nothing just “desert” about it at all. Anxiously awaiting your take on Monument Valley.

    • Absolutely, there are substantial differences from one desert area to the next. Monument Valley looks nothing like the Sonoran Desert, for instance, which is completely different from the Mojave, and so on. But the area around Flagstaff isn’t desert-like (in any form) at all.

      I’ll get started with Monument Valley in the next post. It was spectacular!

  2. Beautiful photos. 🙂

    • Thanks very much, Nandini.

  3. Great start, can’t wait for the upcoming posts

    • Thanks, Mike…more coming soon.

  4. The Flagstaff area is indeed a contrast of what most folks think of Arizona. I’ve spent several days there enjoying the lush scenery. Super intro of what I’m sure will be a treasure trove for the eyes!

    • Thanks, David.

  5. Love the repetition of colour in the sky and ground. Speaking of sky, it sure cooperated in the photo with the field of black-eyed susans.look forward to more.

    • Thanks, Jane. Yeah, the skies were terrific throughout the entire trip. The workshop was deliberately scheduled during the monsoon season in the hope that we’d get good clouds and we were not disappointed.

      BTW, those are sunflowers in that field, not black-eyed susans, though at the size presented I can certainly see why you thought they were the latter. I was there and when I look at the image on the blog they look like black-eyed susans to me. 🙂

  6. A beautiful start to what promises to be a great new series, Kerry. I find your “Amidst the Ash” photo particularly moving, and am seriously looking forward to more.

    • Thanks very much. That shot is pretty subtle and a bit on the somber side, so I wasn’t sure how it would go over. I’m glad you found some meaning in it.

  7. Cool!
    Is it bad that my first thought about the pine needles and pine cone shot was that they’d burn very quickly? I guess we had too many fires this summer. Anyway, back to your trip. I’d love to go to that monument. It’s so different from most of AZ and the west. As for the sunflowers, there’s just something about the little sunflowers that I like more than big ones. That was a very cheery shot 🙂

    • Thanks for the comment. You are the fourth person who has described the sunflower landscape image as “cheery” or “happy.” I sense a trend. 🙂

      I understand your reaction re fire and the pine needles; it was an epic year for wildfires out west. If it makes you feel any better–and it may not–all the fire probability signs I saw in the Kaibab National Forest showed fire danger probabilities as “low.” The area around Flagstaff was extremely wet. On the day I drove in (accompanied by a hard afternoon rain), I was told by a local that this was the 25th consecutive day of rain in the area. The extraordinarily damp conditions obviously led to the wildflower explosion which, I was assured by people in the know, is a rare phenomenon indeed.

      • That’s really cool. You had some great timing!

        • Thanks!

  8. These are all beautiful shots Kerry! I love the shot of the flowers and trees. I have always wanted to find a field of flowers to shoot, but it has eluded me so far. I am looking forward to your upcoming posts!

    • Thanks very much, Michael. Based on what I was told by people in a position to know, the wildflower explosion around Flagstaff this August was a rare occurrence.

  9. […] shooting for a couple of hours at Sunset Crater Volcano Crater National Monument on the day before the northern Arizona workshop began, I arose the following morning and drove the […]

  10. […] stop or two better than of the D700, which I already thought was amazing–given my experience shooting after the sun went down at Sunset Crater two days earlier.  I was to realize the impressive results again this morning at Monument Valley; […]

  11. Looking forward to catching up on these posts, Kerry! I remember driving to Flagstaff after spending several days in Sedona and the change of color from a predominantly red landscape to a cream and green landscape as we approached Flagstaff was remarkable. At the time, I had a square format Bronica with me and got a lot of gorgeous shots of the Grand Canyon and the Painted Desert, but would love to go back with a more experienced eye and shoot again with my Nikons.

    • Thanks, Lynn. There are definitely parts of Arizona that don’t fit the stereotypical impression of the state’s landscape. The area around Flagstaff is one of them.

  12. […] shooting for a couple of hours at Sunset Crater Volcano Crater National Monument on the day before the northern Arizona workshop began, I arose the following morning and drove the […]

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