My two recent visits to Boyce Thompson Arboretum near Superior, AZ, were very productive photographically and I am continuing to work on images from those two trips. Although I almost always give priority to avian subjects like my recently posted Black Phoebe and Cooper’s Hawk, I also like to see and photograph other nature subjects.
One of the few advantages of living in the way too hot desert in central Arizona is the variety of lizards that can be seen – rather different than my years in New Jersey and Pennsylvania. The Desert Spiny Lizard is one of my favorites. Adults reach almost six inches in length, but the bulk and attitude makes them seem much larger. Like the other common lizards they come out in the hot weather and find a prominent location to soak up the heat from the sun. These idle periods provide the best opportunity for photos if the lizard doesn’t spook while the photographer approaches. This splendid specimen had found a large rock formation along the trail at Boyce that gave it a high vantage point, and when I set up for shots from various spots along the trail it remained.
The steep angle I had to work with wasn’t ideal as it blocked parts of the lizard and it meant I couldn’t get enough depth of field to keep the foreground sharp along with the lizard, but it did allow me to get some nice views or the throat and belly when the lizard assumed this display position. The males show off their bright colors to attract females and intimidate rival males. They also pump up and down (“push ups”) to very effectively attract attention.
Another challenge in photographing these animals is dealing with the high contrast light that usually prevails when they are active. This definitely isn’t the sweet light of early morning that I seek out for my bird photos.