Arizona

Great Blue Heron at Red Rock Crossing

Great Blue Heron in the grass - 2014 © Christopher Martin
The Great Blue Herons (Ardea herodias) I see are usually wading in the water or flying above it. When I was in Sedona I went down to Red Rock Crossing and was surprised to catch sight of one not by Oak Creek but in a field of tall grass a couple of hundred meters away from the water.

Heron under the red rocks - 2014 © Christopher Martin
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Down in the grass - 2014 © Christopher Martin
The bird was walking on a path leading up towards a ridge but lingered fairly close which allowed me to change lenses for a couple of different looks.  I really love these birds and it was a treat to see one in an unusual environment.

Walking away - 2014 © Christopher Martin
I noticed some crimson flecks on its bill and when I left the bird and went back towards Oak Creek, I figured out why the Heron stayed nearby.  I realized I had interrupted its dinner.  I left the area and returned to the edge of the clearing an hour later to find it had left but not before returning to finish the meal.


Night Herons in Arizona

Out of the shadows - 2014 © Christopher Martin
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Among the tangles - 2014 © Christopher Martin

When we were in Sedona a couple of weeks ago, I drove to the Page Springs Sanctuary in search of birds to photograph.  Arizona is the winter home to many species that summer in Canada and I enjoyed seeing a pair of Black-crowned Night Herons (Nycticorax nycticorax) during my visit to the river near the springs.

Heron's yawn - 2014 © Christopher Martin
It was mid-morning and they were not active.  They were perched over the river deep in the tangled branches of the huge trees.  This yawn was the most action that I saw while I watched them.  Didn’t bother me, they were great to see resting in this quiet forest.

Perched in shadow - 2014 © Christopher Martin
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A red eye in the trees - 2014 © Christopher Martin


Storms and light trails over Sedona

Storm over Sedona - 2014 © Christopher MartinStorm over Sedona
Canon 5D Mark III + 24-105mm f/4 lens at 105mm: 1/13th of a second at f/11 on ISO 100

Rain has been a rare commodity in northern Arizona for the last couple of months.  When clouds started to roll in from the north while we were down there people were hopeful that they would drop some of their precipitation before moving on.  The rain did come eventually and the evening before I hiked along the airport trail to watch the storm’s approach.

Winter storm - 2014 © Christopher MartinWinter storm in Northern Arizona
Canon 5D Mark III + 24-105mm f/4 lens at 65mm: 1/10th of a second at f/11 on ISO 100

I was content to watch the blues and greys in the sky deepen with night coming.  However, a break in the clouds to the west allowed for some color to break through and I turned my attention out over West Sedona’s forested cityscape.

West Sedona at night - 2014 © Christopher MartinWest Sedona at night
Canon 5D Mark III + 24-105mm f/4 lens at 58mm: 2.5 seconds at f/11 on ISO 200

There was an uneven stream of traffic passing below me towards the airport and the lookouts around the mesa.  Long exposures of cars driving up and down the road to the airport seemed to work well with this sunset.

Sunset and car lights in Sedona - 2014 © Christopher MartinSunset and car lights in Sedona
Canon 5D Mark III + 24-105mm f/4 lens at 50mm: 128 seconds at f/16 on ISO 1600

Light trails up to sunset - 2014 © Christopher MartinLight trails up to sunset
Canon 5D Mark III + 24-105mm f/4 lens at 24mm: 30 seconds at f/16 on ISO 800


Evening at Cathedral Rock

Alpen light on the Cathedral - 2014 © Christopher MartinAlpen glow over Red Rock Crossing
Canon 5D Mark III + 70-200mm f/4 lens at 140mm: 2 seconds at f/11 on ISO 200

The afternoon I spent at Red Rock Crossing was a fun trek along Oak Creek but when the shadows lengthened, I trotted back to where I could have a view of Cathedral Rock.  It’s an iconic location and with the evening light moving into deep reds I was enthralled by her beautiful cliffs and spires.

Nighttime at the Cathedral - 2014 © Christopher MartinNighttime at the Cathedral
Canon 5D Mark III + 70-200mm f/4 lens at 184mm: 5 seconds at f/4 on ISO 2500

After a couple minutes of splashing around, the red color disappeared quickly, leaving pink clouds above and darkening rock below.  It did not take very long for the stars to start standing out against evening’s blanket.  A beautiful evening in Sedona, Arizona.

Sedona into sleep - 2014 © Christopher MartinSedona to sleep
Canon 5D Mark III + 70-200mm f/4 lens at 140mm: 5 seconds at f/4 on ISO 3200


Winter Hummingbirds

Anna's Hummingbird - 2014 © Christopher MartinCanon 5D Mark III + 300mm f/4 lens: 1/800th of a second at f/4 on ISO 1600

… Not in Alberta though.  Bobbi and I were in Sedona, Arizona last week and we learned that there was one species of Hummingbird that stays in the area through the winter.  In the spring and summer, there can be up to 14 different types of Hummingbirds there but only the Anna’s Hummingbird (Calypte anna) will spend the full year.

Touchdown - 2014 © Christopher MartinCanon 5D Mark III + 300mm f/4 lens: 1/800th of a second at f/4 on ISO 1600

I went to the Red Rock State Park where I had been told a couple of these birds had staked out the feeder put out by the park staff as their territory.  Tucked off to the side of the visitor center, they have a sheltered garden with native trees surrounding a few benches and various bird feeders catering to those who overwinter nearby.  The Hummingbird feeder is in a slightly unusual position beside an exit door and close to the large bay windows of smoked glass.  I suppose it allows people to stand close to the window on the inside and watch these speedy fellows at close range.  I liked the clean background afforded by the opaque window so it suited my purposes.

Hovering around - 2014 © Christopher MartinCanon 5D Mark III + 300mm f/4 lens: 1/800th of a second at f/4 on ISO 1600

I believe there were two individuals that I saw but they never appeared at the same time so it could have been one, two or more as I’m not familiar with this species and could easily mistake the unique number observed.  Regardless, I was entranced by their iridescent feathers, the speed and precision of these birds as I always am with Hummingbirds.  It will be several months until they return to my home so it was a treat to spend some time with them last week.

Incoming - 2014 © Christopher MartinCanon 5D Mark III + 500mm f/4 lens and 1.4X extender: 1/3200th of a second at f/6.3 on ISO 3200


Winter at Red Rock Crossing

Winter under the Cathedral - 2014 © Christopher MartinWinter at Red Rock Crossing
Canon 5D Mark III + 24-105mm f/4 lens at 24mm: 1/8th of a second at f/16 on ISO 200

Winter in Sedona is a relative term.  I spent the morning scrambling over the odd icy patch but was in shorts for most of the day.  It can snow here but only a few times a year.  Coming from Canada’s frozen lands, I find this part of Arizona’s version of this season very appealing.  I hiked around for much of the day and ended up at Red Rock Crossing in the afternoon.  Cathedral Rock is a siren’s call for artists and I spent hours enjoying the views across Oak Creek and up to the red rocks.  I love the colour palette with the gray branches of the dormant trees, the colourful rocks above and below with the yellow grasses providing a nice bridge to tie them together.  A beautiful place to spend time.


A Cactus Blossom in Sedona

A simple photograph of a lovely flower in the hills near Sedona.

The yellow blossom from the deep purple cactus were a surprising pairing for me.  It was these complementary colours which drew me in and I worked with the shaded hedge in the background to isolate these two elements.


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