I don't mind saying that I had trouble adapting to the Arizona landscape after returning here from Illinois in April.
This wasn't a new problem for me. Its happened during moves from the Midwest to Arizona or elsewhere.
It's also not unheard of for other the photographers I admire to be afflicted with the same issues. the greats like Edward Weston and Ansel Adams have written about going through the same thing.
I had arrived in the Sonoran desert in early April, and my first trips out in
to the landscape were frustrating; everything looked like a tangled mess: the shapes and textures were somehow unseeable, the skies were clear of dramatic clouds and the lighting was harsh.
I made a a few images, but nothing I created were worth showing; they lacked the depth and drama I want in my work. Nothing I was doing knocked my socks off.
Then came a visit to Honey Bee Canyon, a beautiful patch of the Sonoran desert that is home to saguaros, petrolglyphs from its ancient inhabitants, and hiking trails that wind up and down the canyon.
My first few frames there revealed a mistake I had made: poor timing, I had arrived to early. The light was harsh, which typically happens in the late afternoon. And the shapes of the cactus seemed to blend with the desert flowers into a tangled spiders web of confusion.
Two hours passed and I was still struggling to find a composition. So I decided to head home.
Walking through the parking lot, on the way back to the car, something clicked.
I noticed a group of tall Saguaros across the road standing in front of a dark blue sky painted with gentle clouds of pink.
In front of the Saaguars stood a spiky Cholla with yellow poppies peaking over the top and rubbing up against it on the bottom. The light was soft, but fading fast. So I made a few frames.
Viola! “Coexisting,” so named because it perfectly shows one aspect of desert life that continues to amaze; how such an amazing landscape can survive, together ,and in apparent harmony—in a hot desert climate.
The experience taught me another lesson: sometimes inspiration can strike at the strangest time...even walking through a parking lot, on your way home. Just don't give up.
“Coexisting,” a recent edition to my website, is available at www.ejschweit.com. Just click on the Arizona galleryFrustration, inspiration and a parking lot