The last week in February and first week of March I had a big trip planned to Nevada, Arizona, and California. My grand scheme was to attend the Western Veterinary Conference in Las Vegas for four days, drive south to Arizona to spend time with friends and family in the Phoenix area for four more days, and then to spend six days camping in the desert to chase wildflowers to photograph. The first part of the trip went exactly as planned.
On the drive to Arizona though, about half way I started to feel tired and achy. By the time I made it to Cottonwood (I took an indirect route to Phoenix to visit my grandfather’s grave), I was really feeling sick. I stopped by a pharmacy to buy a COVID test, and sure enough it lit up like a Christmas tree. I called my friends and family and told them I didn’t hate them enough to come stay with them, grabbed one of the few hotel rooms I could find at a casino in nearby Camp Verde, and enjoyed the unique pleasure of shivering through chills in a bed far from the comforts of home. I would have been more than happy to keep staying at that hotel, but they were sold out the next night. (It was Friday night, and in addition the Interstate just north of there was temporarily closed due to winter weather; there just weren’t hotel rooms to be had.)
I crawled into the car and headed towards Phoenix. I ended up at a flea-bite hotel for a second fun night; that second night with COVID was better than the first though.
Tired of cheap hotels and feeling brave enough to get a little farther from hospitals with ventilators, I hopped in the car and surrounded by a sea of spent tissue drove west to camp in the Kofa National Wildlife Refuge.
I wanted to photograph the Milky Way there, but it was overcast the first night (and honestly I had no energy to crawl out into the dark and cold…). By the next night the skies had cleared and I was definitely feeling better; I was able to get up and shoot the Milky Way. (Fortunately no one was camping close enough to hear me hack up a lung at that hour.)
From there I headed west again to Anza Borrego. I had never been there before, and even though it wasn’t spring yet I was hoping the flowers would be doing well. They weren’t bad, and the first evening I camped at June Wash. Sand Verbena was the dominant flower, and I hiked as much as my COVID-recovering body was able exploring possible compositions both for sunset and the next day’s sunrise.
Although the flowers weren’t bad, the weather was and the wind was ripping. Clouds cut off a sunset (which was probably a blessing; with the wind it would have been action photography), so I headed back to the protection of the car to lick my wounds
Although the wind was still blowing some the next morning, it was definitely better, and the sky looked like it might provide a sunrise. The composition I planned on photographing was oriented to the northwest, and I knew if it got color it would be later than the color to the east. I decided that while waiting for the color to move to my planned composition I would play with shooting to the east as the color developed there, and then quickly switch to the originally planned composition as the color moved across the sky. My choice of a foreground looking east was lackluster, so my heart really wasn’t in it despite there being some reasonable color the east. I kept my eye to the northwest and my original comp, but the color never really took off. Somewhat disappointed, I stood back up as the sun began to creep onto the landscape.
When I turned around, the photo above was what I saw.
In a panic I scrounged for a foreground. I was fortunately able to just adjust my planned northwest view to a west view. Maybe not the best, but I was happy to have anything to work with at that moment.
It was raining, and I had forgotten to bring a cloth to wipe the lens with. I’m sure it was a bit comical as I repeatedly had to squat over the camera and tug my shirt down to wipe the lens between photographs, but it mostly got the job done.
The panic continued as I tried to get it all captured before everything melted away, I first photographed the rainbow. The field of view was so wide that even at 14mm it was tight on the sides and I couldn’t get both the rainbow and much verbena in the same photograph. In addition to the centered image of the rainbow, I took an image to the left, and another to the right, hoping to blend them in later for a wider view. I then tipped the camera down to shoot the foreground to get more verbena. Knowing the foreground would be wider than the background when the final image was assembled, I shot the foreground in two instead of three, one to the left and one to the right. I used Focus Shift shooting to take images of the verbena that I could stack to hopefully get it all in focus. The wind was getting nasty again, but fortunately there were a couple breaks I was able to take advantage of.
Walking back to the car later, I worried about wind movement, water spots, focus issues, etc., etc. I wondered if I actually had usable images to stack and stitch. Fortunately it all worked out. (Which was good, because from there the weather got much worse for the rest of my stay in Anza Borrego. In addition, after Anza Borrego I planned to shoot for two days in the Mojave National Preserve. When I got there, they had closed it due to the weather. Ah, the best laid plans…)