Moving to Oracle, Arizona, three years ago has had a profound effect on my photography. For the first time in my life, I am in the ecosystem that surrounds me. I don’t have to get in the car and drive for miles to find natural places to shoot. I walk out my door and I’m there. I watch my environment change with the seasons. I feel connected to the land in a way I have never really experienced before.

Juvenile Cooper's Hawk-Accipiter cooperii

Juvenile Cooper’s hawk in my oak tree

When I began the US Route 89 project, I was living in Phoenix in a home with an irrigated lawn and citrus trees, not exactly a natural environment for the desert. Part of the motivation for the project was to find and photograph the untouched landscapes of the West. That meant road trips with all of the planning and expense entailed. I’m not complaining; I love being on the road, exploring new places. But being able to pick up my camera when something out the window catches my eye is new and special to me.

Oracle is in the chaparral at an elevation just above the Sonoran desert. The weather is cooler with milder summer temperatures and an occasional snow storm in the winter. There are a couple of very old oak trees behind the house. Last spring a pair of juvenile Cooper’s hawks visited often perching in the oaks watching for prey. I was able to observe and photograph them through the window of our sun room. It was thrlling to see them grow and I was sad when they left to find a new territory to call their own.

In front of the house is a hillside that had been stripped of vegetation before we moved in. We are in the process of returning it to a more natural state by recontouring the slope and planting native vegetation. We have also been discovering wildflowers that grow here and planting them among the scrubs and trees. I couldn’t resist photographing the beautiful colors and varied shapes of the flowers. Because I only had to walk out the door, I could shoot them all day as the light changed.

Here is a gallery wildflowers that I added to my photography website. If you would like a print of any of the images, click on the photograph to go to the website to order.

Wildflowers – Images byJames Cowlin