Nature photographer, Colleen Miniuk-Sperry sent me a copy of Wild in Arizona: Photographing Arizona’s Wildflowers – A Guide to When, Where & How in exchange for a honest book review. Colleen co-authored the book with fellow Arizona photographer, Paul Gill. I was not familiar with either photographer’s work prior to receiving the book so I was glad to see some excellent nature photography to go along with the text.
The book does a good job at the beginning with explaining how wildflowers form and under what conditions to expect them. Without giving too much away, the author’s explain that it is not just about having precipitation during the winter months but the timing and how consistent the rainfall is. There was even a side-by-side comparison of one scene exactly a year apart. The prior year had vibrant wildflowers in the scene while the next year looked like an arid landscape.
As for the actual location descriptions, there were at least two pages devoted per location. Within that amount of space, the author’s provided tips on what wildflowers to generally expect and when along with mini-map illustrations. In some locations such as Sunset Crater National Monument, they suggest taking unnamed forest roads to seek wildflowers. To be able to provide that sort of detail means that the authors did their research and didn’t just talk about popular hotspots that anyone can find with a quick online search. If you seek that kind of knowledge however, it requires responsibility because for instance I’ve heard of locations in California that have been trampled upon by crowds of photographers with little regard for the well-being of the landscape and private property concerns. That sort of behavior gives us all a bad name. So if you are going to buy this book, don’t be an idiot and ruin it for everyone else.
Since this is a book review, I will mention that the book does have some HDR photos (multiple exposures of a scene composited into one file.) Though the majority of images in the book were single-exposure images, some of the landscapes were labeled as HDR including the cover. A lot of photographers like photographing this way nowadays; I won’t pass any judgment on that. I do commend the author’s for labeling which images were HDR because anytime extensive post-processing techniques are used it’s generally a good thing to call it out because people don’t want to feel deceived when looking at photos.
Another point of curiosity I’d like to point out are the chapters about Desert Botanical Garden, Boyce Thompson Arboretum, and Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum. Though I have no doubt that those places have wildflowers, I was kind of surprised to see man-made locations such as these included in nature photography book. This is only a small part of the book however so it’s not really criticism per se; I just had to point it out.
All-in-all, this is a good guidebook for photographing Arizona wildflowers. The book is well-illustrated and I’d recommend it to anyone looking to photograph Arizona’s scenic landscapes. Finally, I want to thank Colleen for sending me the book to review as I’m glad to add it to my collection of photo books.
You can also keep up to date with Colleen and Paul’s latest field reports from Arizona by following the book’s blog: http://wildinarizona.com/wordpress/
Update: January 19, 2012 – the authors have recently released an PDF eBook version of Wild in Arizona for sale as well at half the price of the print edition.