Fremont’s Phacelia (Phacelia fremontii)

Fremont’s Phacelia (Phacelia fremontii) is a small delicate looking flowering plant commonly commonly found in the southwestern United States including Nevada, Arizona and California. The flower is named for John C. Fremont who was the 5th Governor of the Arizona Territory as well as a soldier, explorer and first Republican Candidate for President of the United States.

Fremont's Phacelia (Phacelia fremontii) photographed in Valley of Fire State Park, Nevada
Fremont’s Phacelia (Phacelia fremontii) photographed in Valley of Fire State Park, Nevada

The Phacelia is a small annual plant which only grows to a height of 12 inches. The small flowers are funnel or bell shape and typically blue or lavender with a yellow throat and between 7 and 15 mm in size. The throat is typically crossed with purple veins to offer a wonderful contrast against the yellow throat. The deeply lobbed leaves are oblong in shape.

Fremont’s Phacelia is known to grow in the Mojave Desert, Sierra Nevada and the above photograph was taken in Valley of Fire State Park near the Lake Mead National Recreation Area. The little plant commonly grows in gravelly or sandy soils and flowers between March and June each spring and may be found at elevations up to 8000 feet.

Fremonts Phacelia is named for John C. Frémont - 5th Governor of the Arizona Territory
John C. Frémont – 5th Governor of the Arizona Territory

Indian Paintbrush (Castilleja miniata)

The Giant Red Indian Paintbrush or Indian Paintbrush (Castilleja miniata) is a wildflower and perennial which is quite common in the western United States, including California, Nevada and Utah. The genus Castilleja contains about 200 species of hemiparasitic wildlowers.

Indian Paintbrush (Castilleja miniata)
Indian Paintbrush (Castilleja miniata)

The plant is known to grow between 1.5 and 3 feet tall and their stems may be unbranded of semi-branched. The flower cluster of the plant is said to resemble a paintbrush which gives the plant its common name. The bracts beneath the flower are known to be brightly colored and may be a bright orange, pink or a crimson red. Typically the paint brush will bloom May through Sepetember, however this event is subject to environmental conditions such as altitude and water availability.

The paint brush generally prefers sunlight and moist well drained soils. The root system will connect with and grow into the root system of other planets to harvest nutrients from the host plant. For this reason, they are no able to be transplanted easily.

Native American tribes are known to consume the edible flowers of the paintbrush. The selenium rich flowers were also used as a hair wash by the Ojibwe people. The Owls Clover is a member of the same genus as the Indian Paintbrush.

Wikipedia article of Castilleja.

Mustang

A lone mustang is the symbol of wild, power and freedom
A lone mustang is the symbol of wild, power and freedom

Left behind by Spanish explorers and settlers, the Mustang of the desert south west is alive and well in Nevada and a symbol of the southwest. Due to the fact that this animal population is descendant from a domesticated population the Mustang is actually a feral horse. The imagery of a wild mustang galloping across the desert as burnt into the memories of kids who watched “Western” movies or appreciate classic cars. The wild mustang brings one to think of power and freedom.

A mustang taking in some shade next to a pool of water.
A mustang taking in some shade next to a pool of water.

There is much debate when it comes to the wild Mustangs of Nevada. Some will debate weather you consider them an invasive species and a natural species. However, you consider them, they are thriving and a part of the landscape at this point. Should you happen upon them, you can not help but feel lucky.

The wild horse populations are separated by long distances, so each isolated herd has developed specific genetic traits. Some consider the horse populations a nuisance which destroy the terrain with their appetite. Their hooves can be quite destructive to the landscape and ranch land. Although considered “culturally significant”, the horse populations are closely monitored by the Bureau of Land Management to ensure healthy herd populations.

Two will fed mustangs near Cold Creek, Nevada
Two will fed mustangs near Cold Creek, Nevada

Population increases of about 20% per year have prompted the BLM to capture some of the horses. The captured horses are not euthanized, and instead are available for adoption for the cost of $125. Horses which are not adopted are held in “long term holding”, which costs the US Tax Payer about $50,000 over the lifetime of each individual horse.

On a trip to see the mustangs near Cold Creek, Nevada, we ran across the local herd lazily walking along the side of the road. We slowed the jeep down, and which point the horses started to walk up to the car looking for some food (which we did not provide). Not exactly the in line with the western movies of my youth.

BLM Mustang Range Map
BLM Mustang Range Map

For more information on Mustang Adoption visit the BLM Website.

California Poppy ( Eschscholzia californica )

The California Poppy the state flower of California.
The California Poppy the state flower of California.

As the name implies, the California Poppy is that state flower of California. However, this little flower is extremely wide spread and flourishes throughout most of the United States. The flower was first described by a Germain naturalist and poet, Adelbert von Chamisso. Chamisso was travelling on the Russian exploring ship “Rurick”. The “Rurick” was travelling around in the world in 1815, when the ship sailed in the San Francisco Bar Area.

This species of flowering plant with an international pedigree is a perennial and can range in height from 5 – 60 inches. The four petals of the flower are about two inches in size and range in colors from a vibrant orange to yellow, red and in some cases pink. They typically flower between February and September depending upon location.

A Field of Poppies photographed at their maximum display in Antelope Valley California Poppy Reserve
A Field of Poppies photographed at their maximum display in Antelope Valley California Poppy Reserve

When in full display, the California Poppy can carpet the landscape in a sea of color as happens in the Antelope Valley California Poppy Reserve. Such an event is spectacular to witness and will make the local news outlets in Southern California.

The flowers have four petals, which will close each night or when windy and or cloudy. The delicate little flowers will open again each morning to once again showcase this little plant.

Utah Trip Fall 2001

Entering Lower Antelope Canyon, Page, Arizona
Entering Lower Antelope Canyon, Page, Arizona

Now it was the time to get serious on a Utah Trip. I am been all over California, and have had a bit of success but have yet to capture the jaw dropping color and composition that I have been working towards. I have taken several images that were interesting, but nothing that I have really been happy about.

In October, I took two weeks off, and spent one week on a house boat at Lake Powell with friends. Each afternoon I would hike out into the country looking for the right light. However, I was never able to find the images I was looking for. I found that I had some problems being on the wrong side of the lake, when the sun light began to soften.

After a week on the lake, I was finally able to relax from the office, and wind down. The second week of my trip was spent with my good friend John and his wife. John has been taking photographs for several years, but only began after I stopped. So this is the first time we have ever taken pictures together. A truly fine photographer, John has taught me much in the last year and has been instrumental in helping me develop my technique and style.

The Slot Canyons

Metal Stairs inside of Lower Antelop Canyon, Arizona
Metal Stairs inside of Lower Antelop Canyon, Arizona

Our first day was spent around page Arizona, We got ourselves organized, and headed off to Antelope Canyon. Each toting two cameras, several lenses, tripods, multiple rolls of film, we jumped on a Native American truck and drove up the road to Upper Antelope Canyon. Upper Antelope is a truly amazing place, and I consider myself fortunate to have visited this place.

The light at midday was inspiring and I found it difficult to shoot as I was just content to look. However, after a quick walk through the canyon we went to work with the cameras with some good results. The only negative thing that I could say about Upper Antelope Canyon, was that it has become quick popular, and was rather crowded. There was only 25 people or so in the canyon, and this may not seem like many, but when you are in a canyon that is only 3 feet wide, you are constantly moving and relocating to let someone pass.

Lower Antelope canyon is just across the road from Upper Antelope, but could not have been more different. Upper Antelope is known for it’s Grandeur, Lower Antelope Canyon is a much more intermit place to visit. The whole time that we were there, we only saw two other people. I could not have planned it better. Lower Antelope canyon starts literally as a small crack in a river bed. It opens up into one of the prettiest places on earth. Words can not do it justice, and the images that can be capture are beyond description. Hours past in an instant

Escalante & Bryce

After leaving Page Arizona, we head North West on our Utah trip, and took a dirt shortcut up to Bryce. We spent the next day exploring Escalante Canyon. We got a late start, and we did not really have a good plan of attack for Escalante Canyon. I took some good shots of around Calf Creek Falls.

Zion

I had not been to Zion in many years. It had been so long, that I was not too sure what to expect. However, John knew exactly where to go, and had previously obtained all the back country permits. Our Utah trip was made when we discovered that we would be in the same valley as one of our mutual influences. We hiked down into the small river canyon that contain our goal. A tubular structure carved into the canyon wall known as the subway. The nine mile hike into the subway is strewn with a lot of boulder hoping along a “trail” that is missing most the time. It was rough going, but was truly worth the effort. Leading up to the subway itself is a series of cascades. It was on these cascades that John and I met the man who has so influenced our work.

After a quick lunch we started shooting the water falls, and let the other photographer work further up the valley unimpeded. Although careful, I quickly was completely soaked with water from the knees down. Continuing up the canyon, we found our goal, the subway itself. Standing in near freezing water, for hours at a time had its toll, but the time continued to fly by. However, the longer we waited the better the light became.

After just four short hours we had to leave. The climb out of the canyon is steep up a heavily eroded trail that is best navigated with some remaining light.

The next two days were spent relaxing a bit. On the hike out of the subway, I aggravated an old knee injury, and my knee had quickly swollen and became painful. It was worth it though. I captured some good photographs, and met one of my influences out in the field, doing what we both love. Truly a great Utah trip.