Saguaro National Park's 'Best Sunsets' Claim Starts Instagram Fight

Maribeth Brady | Saguaro National Park

A good-natured battle erupted recently on social media — and the Tucson area's Saguaro National Park was at the center of it.

As National Geographic reported, the park posted a photo of one of its gorgeous sunsets on Instagram, then asked its 70,000 or so fans if they knew the park has "the best sunsets in the world." That spurred a skeptical comment from Joshua Tree National Park, just across the state line in Southern California, and after some ribbing back and forth, the parks agreed to a "sunset-off."

Since then, they've traded several spectacular sunset photos using the hashtag #parksunsetwars. Park visitors have joined the fun, and so have other National Park Service sites, including Death Valley National Park in California and our own Grand Canyon National Park.

The "war" seems to have died down now, without a clear victor. We're biased, but we think it's hard to beat a sunset at any of Arizona's national parks.

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Now Appearing in the Arizona Highways Gift Shop: Randy Prentice

Randy Prentice and his wife, Diana May, in front of Prentice's work in the Arizona Highways gift shop. | Keith Whitney

A longtime contributor to Arizona Highways is displaying his photographic work in the magazine's gift shop during the holiday season.

Randy Prentice, a Tucson-based photographer, has been shooting professionally since 1986 and contributing to Arizona Highways since the 1990s. His work also has been used in Conde Nast Traveler, Sunset and Natural History magazines; in projects by the National Park Service, the Arizona Game and Fish Department, and the Western National Parks Association; and in Fodor's travel guides, among other credits.

The photographer's book projects include Desert Rivers: From Lush Headwaters to Sonoran Sands, a collaboration with former Arizona Highways Editor Peter Aleshire.

Prentice specializes in landscape photography and has used both digital cameras and a large-format 4x5 film camera. He's also an accomplished musician and fronts the Randy Prentice Band alongside his wife, Diana May.

You can see Prentice's work and buy prints at the Arizona Highways gift shop, located at 2039 W. Lewis Avenue (near the Arizona State Fairgrounds) in Phoenix. It's open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Mondays through Fridays. A portion of the sale price benefits the magazine's mission of promoting tourism in Arizona.

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Contemporary Navajo Life, One Portrait at a Time

Photos of participants in "E Pluribus Unum: Dinétah" are pasted on the Axle Contemporary truck. | Courtesy of Axle Contemporary

In September 2016, artists Matthew Chase-Daniel and Jerry Wellman took their mobile art gallery, Axle Contemporary, to the Navajo Nation and surrounding areas to create the third project in an ongoing series called E Pluribus Unum

The ongoing series captures portraits of individuals across parts of the Southwest. The individual photos are then digitally blended to create one final image — one face that represents all who participated in the project.

“For us, the title of the project, E Pluribus Unum, is about this notion that with the individual and blended portraits, that the individual and individual personality, culture, thoughts and identity are all very important, and also, the blend of all those individuals make a coherent whole. We’re all very different and we’re all very similar at the same time,” Chase-Daniel said.

The artists stayed in each community for one to three days, depending on the size of the town, and offered free portraits to those interested in participating in the art project. 

“This project was all done digitally, and it was a wonderful way to engage people in a direct and immediate way,” Chase-Daniel said. “We 

have solar panels on the roof of the truck to run a printer on board, so people come in, have their portrait taken and within five minutes are handed a free copy of their picture, and another [is] pasted on the outside of the truck. Over the course of the project, the truck becomes a gallery where the outside has hundreds of photographs that draw new people in.” 

In all, the two artists captured more than 800 photos for E Pluribus Unum: Dinétah

“When we showed up in a little town like Chinle, people were fascinated. They came, they participated. We just didn’t know if we would gain any interest or traction, showing up in a little town,” Wellman said. “People showed up and wanted to participate. They understood what we were doing and our project. I thought that understanding of what we were doing indicated a level of sophistication and understanding that was really heartening to see.” 

Participants were asked to bring along an item that was important to them. People brought their children, pets and everyday items like water bottles, keys and cellphones.

“At the time, a lot of people were saying, 'Water; water is life.’ If you want to talk about something that is very beautifully meaningful to everybody and anybody, it would be water. Between the water, car keys and the cellphone, those are very important things today,” Wellman said. 

Many of the items brought helped to tell a story and place a timestamp on the portraits. That was by design.
“Some of what you see in the photos are traditional and very identifiable as Native American or Navajo, and then you have other things that are much more cross-culture and very much 'of the time,'” Wellman explained. “So even what kind of cellphone they have will identify this project in time. If you look at these pictures 50 years from now or 100 years from now, you’ll be able to tell digitally when they were made. If the portraits were made 10 years earlier or 10 years later, the objects, clothing, all things like that would be different. 

“It’s really a portrait of a people and community in a place and in a time. And that’s what we tried to do in all the projects, including the Santa Fe and Albuquerque projects. As we go through this series of E Pluribus Unum projects, we’re creating this portrait of life in New Mexico and the greater Southwest in this time, this decade.”

E Pluribus Unum: Dinétah will be exhibiting at the Navajo Nation Museum in Window Rock from July 12 through January 31. The opening reception will be held July 12 from 5:30 to 7 p.m. A book containing the entire collection of photographs, as well as essays by the artists and by Navajo Nation Museum zfirector Manuelito Wheeler, and a poem by Navajo Nation poet laureate Laura Tohe, has been published. 

To learn more about E Pluribus Unum: Dinétah, click here.

— Kirsten Kraklio

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Now in the Arizona Highways Gift Shop: Jeff Maltzman

Jeff Maltzman's work is now on display at the Arizona Highways gift shop. | Keith Whitney

The latest photographer to display his work at the Arizona Highways gift shop is a relative newcomer to the magazine.

Jeff Maltzman has been contributing to the magazine since August 2015 — most recently, his photo of a Sonoita-Patagonia monsoon storm appeared in our April issue. Now, you can view and buy prints of Maltzman's work at our gift shop at 2039 W. Lewis Avenue in Phoenix.

Maltzman's day job is as an ophthalmologist. As he notes on his website: "I spend my days peering into the depths of the human eye, studying the complexity of this little world within. Photography gives me the opportunity to turn my lens in the other direction, to explore the world beyond."

Look for more of Maltzman's work in upcoming issues of Arizona Highways. Or, if you'd like a print for yourself or a loved one, come on down to the gift shop. A portion of the sale price benefits the magazine's mission of promoting tourism to and through the state of Arizona.

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Kids in Focus Partners With Arizona Science Center

A Kids in Focus participant lines up a shot. | Courtesy of Kids in Focus

A Phoenix-based nonprofit that uses photography to help at-risk kids has partnered with the Arizona Science Center in Phoenix on a new exhibit.

On Friday, April 7, from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m., Kids in Focus, founded by Arizona Highways contributor Karen Shell, will unveil 60 photos made by this year's class of 30 at-risk youths at the Science Center's CREATE space (600 E. Washington Street).

The photographs are the culmination of an eight-week program for the students, who were mentored by 14 professional photographers during classroom lessons and photo shoots at locations around the Phoenix area. The students attend Children First Leadership Academy and the Bob & Renee Parsons Branch of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Metro Phoenix.

In a news release, Shell says learning photography skills helps the students, who all live at or below the poverty line, to see beyond their circumstances. "The kids are empowered to explore, to trust and to see the world in a new light," she says. "The kids learn to see the world differently, changing their perspectives about themselves and their environment."

The exhibit will include the students' biographies, their photos and the accompanying captions they wrote. They'll be on display through June 11 at the Science Center. Images by the students will also be displayed at the Children's Museum of Phoenix in June and July, at the state Capitol from March through May, at Sky Harbor International Airport from March through September, and at Burton Barr Central Library in September and October.

For more information about Kids in Focus, visit

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The Grand Canyon's Splendor at Tilt Gallery in Scottsdale

Mike Buchheit's "Yaki Point Sunrise" is among the images being exhibited this month in Scottsdale. | Courtesy of Tilt Gallery

A photography exhibit this month in the Phoenix area celebrates the grandeur and subtlety of Arizona's most famous natural wonder.

Grand Views: Intimate Spaces: The Grand Canyon, an exhibition by Mike Buchheit and Rachel Brace-Stille, opened last week and continues through Friday, March 31, at Tilt Gallery (7077 E. Main Street, Suite 14) in Scottsdale.

"With this exhibit, the artists' intent is to share their deep reverence for the magnificent landscape that has served as a tether for their longstanding friendship and artistic collaboration," the gallery said in a news release. "Their sincere hope is that the stories they share through their selection of images will underscore the need to preserve and protect the Grand Canyon, and all of the natural places that have the ability to sustain and inspire humankind."

Arizona Highways readers might recognize Buchheit's name — he's spent more than 20 years as the director of the Grand Canyon Association Field Institute, which leads educational tours at the Canyon. He teaches landscape photography for the institute and is also a travel writer and outdoors educator.

Brace-Stille is a longtime educator at Scottsdale Community College who also leads demonstrations, workshops and international educational tours.

Buchheit's metal prints and Brace-Stille's gelatin silver abrasion toned prints allow the Canyon's "signature color and detail to radiate from every piece," the gallery said.

You can meet the photographers at an artist reception Thursday, March 30, from 7 to 9 p.m., during Scottsdale's ArtWalk. Otherwise, the gallery is open Tuesdays through Saturdays from 10:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. For more information, visit

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Student Nature Photo Contest Now Accepting Entries

Wyatt Mendez's photo of a praying mantis took second place in the 2016 Adventures in Nature Student Photo Contest.

Arizona teenagers can win cash prizes, gift certificates and more in an annual photo contest co-sponsored by The Nature Conservancy, Cox Communications and Arizona Highways.

The 2017 Adventures in Nature Student Photo Contest is open to Arizona student photographers ages 13 to 18. Entries are being accepted now, and you have until April 10 to submit your photos of Arizona's plants, animals and landscapes. Students entered more than 1,000 photos in last year's contest; the first-place photo, by Randy Davidson, was published in the September 2017 issue of Arizona Highways.

In addition to being published in the magazine and on our website, the first-place winner this year receives $5,000. The other nine finalists will receive cash prizes as well, and finalists also will get gift certificates for Arizona Highways Photo Workshops and Arizona camera shops, along with passes to Nature Conservancy preserves.

"We hope this contest helps connect young people, and the people they touch, to the outdoors through photography,” says Pat Graham, state director of The Nature Conservancy in Arizona.

To upload your photo or learn more about the contest, visit the contest page on our website.

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Now Featured in the Arizona Highways Gift Shop: Joel Hazelton

You can now view and buy prints of Joel Hazelton's work at the Arizona Highways gift shop in Phoenix. | Keith Whitney

We told you in October that we're now featuring work by Arizona Highways photographers at our gift shop (2039 W. Lewis Avenue, Phoenix). Starting this month, we welcome someone who's relatively new to the magazine but is already making a big impression.

Joel Hazelton says Arizona Highways had an impact on him long before he became a contributor. "My parents had a subscription ... and I would stare at the magazine for hours," he says. "This was during the early 2000s, when guys like Jeff Snyder and Nick Berezenko were out shooting these crazy canyons, and that was the style that really spoke to me and largely influenced the work I do now."

Hazelton first contributed to the magazine in 2014. You can read more about him and see his work in an upcoming issue of Arizona Highways.

Or, if you're looking for a unique and spectacular holiday gift, come on down to the gift shop and buy a print of a Hazelton photo. A portion of the cost benefits the magazine's mission of promoting tourism to and through the state of Arizona.

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Arizona Photographer's Work Appears in New Stamp Collection

Tom Bean's photograph from Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve in Alaska will soon be immortalized on a stamp. | Courtesy of U.S. Postal Service

Flagstaff photographer Tom Bean, a frequent contributor to Arizona Highways, is getting national attention for a very un-Arizona image.

Bean's photo of Reid Inlet at Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve in Alaska will be featured in a forthcoming collection of U.S. Postal Service stamps celebrating this year's centennial of the National Park Service.

As the Arizona Daily Sun reported earlier this month, Bean made the photo around sunset in July 1987 during a three-week assignment from the National Geographic Society. A few months ago, he was contacted about allowing the photo to be considered for the stamp collection. His image is one of the lucky ones: Only about 20 new stamp designs are produced every year out of more than 40,000 suggestions.

Bean moved to Flagstaff in 1982 and became a professional photographer. His most recent assignment for Arizona Highways was a multi-year look at thinning projects in Arizona's ponderosa pine forests. His photographs accompanied Cutting It Down to Size, Terry Greene Sterling's story in our April 2015 issue.

You can read more about Bean's background and the stamp collection at the Daily Sun's website.

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Arizona Photographer Works to Capture Frank Lloyd Wright's Work

Taliesin West, Scottsdale | Courtesy of Andrew Pielage

Our February issue, on newsstands now, features the David and Gladys Wright House, a Phoenix residence Frank Lloyd Wright designed for his son and daughter-in-law. As it turns out, an Arizona photographer is on a mission to photograph as many of Wright's designs as he can.

As KJZZ reported last month, Andrew Pielage got his start on Wright's designs when he photographed Taliesin West about five years ago. Since then, he's visited five states and shot 15 properties. But he says his favorite is the David and Gladys Wright House, which once was scheduled for demolition.

At the time, he worked at a hotel where he ran into the owner of the house and asked him if he could come document it before it was demolished. The owner let him come by the next day, Pielage said.

“Just the access alone to that place, as a photographer, was immeasurable,” Pielage said. “It’s such an awe-inspiring place, and to be there by myself alone with the architecture in the beautiful Sonoran Desert at sunset, you know, it’s unbelievable, it’s a dream come true.”

Pielage said he uses a tilt-shift lens and shoots two images of each room — one pointed toward the floor and one toward the ceiling. He then combines the images in Photoshop to capture the full design of the room.

To see more of Pielage's work, visit his website. He now teaches photography classes at Taliesin West.

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