It's Rattlesnake Season in Arizona: Here's How to Be Prepared

A rattlesnake in the Mazatzal Wilderness of Central Arizona. | Patrick Fuchs

Spring means higher temperatures, and that means more rattlesnakes are out and about in the deserts of Central and Southern Arizona.

As Doug Kreutz of the Arizona Daily Star reported last week, Arizona is home to 13 rattlesnake species. Most of those can be found in Southeastern Arizona, and they typically begin leaving their dens around this time of year. As of last week, though, only one rattlesnake bite had been reported to Tucson's Arizona Poison and Drug Information Center, the Daily Star reported.

The center received about 160 reports of bites last year, but there were no fatalities reported in Arizona. On average, the center's director told Kreutz, fewer than five people in the United States die from rattlesnake bites every year.

That doesn't mean rattlers should be taken lightly, though. Here are a few tips, some of them from our Arizona Highways Hiking Guide, for avoiding a painful and potentially life-threatening bite:

  • The best place to find rattlesnakes is in thick ground vegetation — under, around and in large logs, and tucked into rock cracks. If you don't put your hands and feet in places you can't see, you probably won't be bitten. And don't count on the snake to use its rattle to warn you of its presence — baby rattlesnakes, typically born in summer, can't yet produce an audible rattle. Use a stick to bat the brush ahead of you before your feet get there.
  • At night, snakes like to sprawl on warm, flat ground and on asphalt, so use a light.
  • If you encounter a rattlesnake, take one or two steps back to get out of striking range. As a Coolidge man learned last year, you should not play with the snake.
  • If you are bitten, try to stay calm and sit still. If possible, get to a hospital quickly. If you must hike out on your own, set a moderate pace and remind yourself that this injury is not fatal.

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New Book Details Pluto's Arizona Connection

Courtesy of Lowell Observatory

The distant planet (or dwarf planet) of Pluto will forever be tied to Flagstaff's Lowell Observatory, the place where Clyde Tombaugh discovered Pluto in 1930. And that connection endures: Lowell's scientists played key roles in the recent New Horizons mission, which sent a space probe hurtling past Pluto.

That relationship is the focus of Pluto and Lowell Observatory: A History of Discovery at Flagstaff, a new book by Kevin Schindler, a longtime Lowell employee who's now the observatory's historian, and Will Grundy, a Lowell planetary scientist who heads one of the New Horizons teams.

"We have a lot of visitors who come up here and are excited about learning about Lowell, and particularly Pluto," Schindler says. "When they leave, they're always asking, 'Is there something I can read to learn more?'"

That was part of the reason for writing the book, but Grundy says New Horizons added a new chapter to Pluto's story — one that wasn't included in earlier books about the planet.

That mission is the focus of the second half of the new book, but Grundy notes that even before New Horizons, Pluto's story was tied to Arizona. In the 1950s, for example, a Lowell telescope was used to determine Pluto's rotation period. Later, another telescope in the area helped discover Pluto's moon Charon, and methane on the planet's surface was detected at Kitt Peak National Observatory near Tucson. "It's almost sort of like our little planet," Grundy says.

Schindler says the book is a culmination of his more than 20 years at Lowell, during which he learned about Tombaugh's history and the circumstances of Pluto's discovery. He did additional research at New Mexico State University, where Tombaugh's post-Lowell correspondence is kept. "There really was a lot of neat stuff, especially the personal stuff — letters between him and his parents, and how they found out about the discovery," he says.

The book includes contributions from Tombaugh's daughter and son; from Lowell trustee W. Lowell Putnam, the great-grandnephew of observatory founder Percival Lowell; and from S. Alan Stern, principal investigator on the New Horizons mission. Additionally, Lowell Director Jeffrey Hall and astronomer Gerald van Belle wrote an epilogue on the well-known debate over whether Pluto is a planet or a dwarf planet.

That debate "resonates with people in a way that doesn't have anything to do with science," Grundy says. "They stick up for the underdog."

Schindler adds: "The closer people live to Flagstaff, the more outspoken they are that Pluto is a planet."

Kevin Schindler and Will Grundy's book Pluto and Lowell Observatory: A History of Discovery at Flagstaff is available at Lowell Observatory and on Amazon. Proceeds from sales of the book support the observatory's educational and scientific endeavors.

— Noah Austin, Associate Editor

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Throwback Thursday: Arizona Highways, March 1967

From the issue: "'Mountain Meadow' by Debs Metzong. Photo taken along Arizona 79 about fifteen miles south of Flagstaff. This is one of the rewarding scenes offered the motorist in summer traveling Arizona's Black Canyon Highway from Phoenix to Flagstaff." (This area now is traversed by Interstate 17.)

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As Coal Plant's Closure Looms, Navajo Nation Looks to the Future

The Navajo Nation hopes the Kayenta Solar Facility can usher in a new era of energy production for the tribe. | Nicholas Michaud

EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the second in a two-part series. Read the first part here.

By Melanie Whyte

KAYENTA — At the Kayenta Solar Facility, white lines create a grid on the surface of royal blue solar panels, a reminder of the electric grid that receives the facility’s energy. Dust and dirt lap at the bottom of the metal structures, a juxtaposition of nature and the sci-fi future that is now our energy reality.

For the Navajo Nation’s economy to go green, it will need more renewable-energy producers like this one.

Glenn Steiger was hired by the Navajo Tribal Utility Authority to act as a consultant for the utility as it works with renewables for the first time. In a company where 97 percent of its employees are Navajo, Steiger, a non-Navajo, was hired for his more than 40 years of experience in the energy and utility industries.

“The industry in general is moving much quicker towards renewable energy, some states much more quickly than others,” Steiger says. But there are challenges.

“It’s always good to have a balanced portfolio; you should never rely on one complete source,” Steiger says. “When I was in California, we relied quite a bit on Northern California hydro energy — until there was a significant drought and it all went away. You can’t just turn the lights off and say, ‘As soon as it rains again, we’ll turn it back on.’”

The same goes with solar. If communities solely relied only on solar power, they would run out of energy when the sun went down.

Regardless of whether renewable energy can quickly replace jobs, coal is on the decline, and the Navajo Nation will have to find a solution for the sake of its people.

The Kayenta Solar Facility sits on land donated by a Navajo grandmother, Mary Toadcheenee. It was part of her grazing permit, and when she signed it over, it opened the door for Navajo energy independence.

She was thinking beyond herself, the NTUA’s Vircynthia Charley says — “that as a nation and as a family, that this is going to create a connection and that tight-knit [community] that we’ve always been, but somewhere was lost.

“It does impact everybody all over, and that’s one thing that we need to remember: We are one, and not divided.”

Although Toadcheenee passed on two years ago, her children attended the ribbon-cutting ceremony and some were employed at the facility, Charley says.

“I think her vision was to provide something not just for her family, but for the entire Nation so that they could continue to develop and grow in specific areas, not just solar,” Charley says.

Renewables such as solar, wind and geothermal energy are important to Navajos because of their relationship with nature, an added incentive for a green economy.

“I think once we heard about the closures, obviously we were thinking, ‘What do we do with all of these employees? How do they continue to be employed elsewhere?’” Charley says. “However, on the other part of it, especially in the local community: ‘What can we do with the land?’”

More than 50 percent of Navajos leave tribal land to find jobs. For many, though, that’s not their first choice. Some have stayed in their homes for generations.

“To the outside world, I’m sure it makes more sense to move to a community where there is more infrastructure, but people are willing to forgo all that, because to them, their home is where their family has always lived,” Charley says. “It’s not an easy decision, because you’re torn between having to provide for your family or having to leave home.”

Now, it’s common for Navajo families to maintain two homesteads. They have the family homestead, and they work and live outside tribal land and occasionally come home.

“If the industry went away, they might try to get jobs here,” Deal says. “Our people with talent and experience would be able to come back to the land.”

Deal hopes Navajos will return when the coal industry leaves — theoretically for jobs in the renewable-energy industry.

“Once [coal] leaves Navajo Nation, we’ll start to think beyond the industry,” Deal says.

There are no words in Diné that translate directly to “solar energy.”

But the NTUA has taken the lead in demonstrating that a renewable facility can be built and operated here. Being the first comes with challenges, such as educating the community on renewables.

“We created words for ‘solar’ because ‘sun’ is a god, so we can’t use a name for the sun, and we shouldn’t use it,” Charley says. “We learned that the hard way.”

The basic word now used for solar is shuundin, or farm of sunrays — a solar farm.

The solar facility’s ribbon cutting ceremony was three days after the August 2017 total solar eclipse. To the Navajo people, an eclipse is a time when people think about the future and the blessings ahead.

“It’s rejuvenating everything that we’re connected to, whether it’s animals or plants or people,” Charley says. “When it collaborated almost in that same moment, it was definitely something to celebrate, because it was a renewal for us — something that is brand new.”

And Navajo hands helped build the Kayenta Solar Facility. At the height of construction, there were approximately 260 people employed, with 195 being Navajos from the region.

The construction brought a lot of workers home for a short time while they built the facility. According to Charley, it brought in $15 million to Kayenta through hotels, food and gas.

But it’s not yet a source of job creation. First Solar is handling the operation and maintenance remotely from Tempe for the next three years while the NTUA learns how to operate the facility. The tribal utility doesn’t yet have the internal expertise to operate a plant like this.

“This is NTUA’s first large-scale plant — first large-scale of any kind of generation,” Steiger says.

Many Navajos grew up under the impression that things aren’t built on the Navajo Nation. Now, the Kayenta Solar Facility is showing that it can be done, and it lays the groundwork for the Nation to build more generating plants on tribal land.

“This is just the beginning,” Steiger says.

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With Solar Facility, Navajo Nation Begins Shift to Renewable Energy

Solar panels generate electricity at the Navajo Nation's Kayenta Solar Facility. | Nicholas Michaud

EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the first in a two-part series. Read the second part Tuesday, March 20, on the Arizona Highways blog.

By Melanie Whyte

KAYENTA — Five miles from the center of this community, on the edge of the Navajo Nation in Northeastern Arizona, a solar facility glistens blue, like an oasis against the backsplash of red rocks and open desert. Wild horses graze on tufts of grass outside the gates. Nearby, solar panels track the sun like sunflowers.

Occasionally, a car drives past, carrying tourists on their way to Monument Valley, where picturesque sandstone buttes punctuate the horizon. A couple pulls over to the side of the road and takes a picture of a sign that reads: “First Solar Energy Production Plant Built and Owned by the Navajo Nation.”

In a place where the coal industry reigns, the solar plant, the Kayenta Solar Facility, is more than just a new source of energy in Navajoland. It’s a testament that the country’s largest Native American tribe can harness the powers of one of its deities to generate money, energy and jobs.

“Father, the sun, will be there, and he’s going to bless us without cost,” says Percy Deal, a retired Navajo County supervisor and board member of Diné CARE, an environmental advocacy organization.

For over 40 years, the Navajo Nation has relied heavily on a coal power plant and its associated mine, its largest employers, to sustain its people and economy. Now, the plant and mine may close because coal can’t compete with low natural gas prices or the declining cost of renewable energy. This leaves Navajos reason for concern, but also an opportunity to take control of their resources, their land and their future.

The new facility, built by the Navajo Tribal Utility Authority (NTUA), aims to set a precedent that new industries can be built and thrive on tribal land. This, in turn, could make the Navajo Nation more attractive to investors and bring in outside dollars to expand infrastructure and replenish revenue.

The NTUA’s Kayenta district manager, Vircynthia Charley, walks along the rows of solar panels, her hair wound in a tight bun reminiscent of her time in the military.

When she left high school, finding a job proved challenging, so she joined the Army. When she returned, the unemployment rate was still high, so she worked in Phoenix for five years before the NTUA position brought her back. She’s been with the utility for 22 years.

“I love being out here. I’m not much for a city,” Charley says. “I hated it and wanted to come home. I’m grounded here.”

Gravel crunches beneath Charley’s feet and the combiner boxes hum, but otherwise, there is silence — no buzz of energy, even standing so close to so much power.

“Whoever thought that we are going to build a utility company for Navajo run by Navajo, extending service to Navajo, had a great vision,” Charley says. “Somebody was very confident in us that we could take care of our own.”

It will not be an easy undertaking. The coal plant, the Navajo Generating Station (NGS), and Peabody Energy’s Kayenta Mine make up 40 percent of the tribe’s revenue, and there’s strong interest from tribal leadership to keep them going — and fear among some Navajos of what could happen if they shut down.

“People are getting nervous,” Charley says. “They ask, ‘What is this going to do to us at the grocery store?’ or ‘How many people are going to be shopping here?’”

The power plant will stay open only if a new owner is found. The same goes for the mine — the coal plant is its only customer.

The generating station’s owners, including majority owner Salt River Project, estimate they’ll lose $20 million if the coal plant runs through 2019, due to the high cost of running a coal plant with current market prices. But the owners are keeping it open to give the Navajo Nation time to transition from coal to a new economy.

“The Navajo Nation could look to plan their own energy future,” says Scott Harelson, a spokesman for SRP.  

Meanwhile, the Kayenta solar plant is generating 27 megawatts, enough energy to power 13,000 homes.

Charley looks past the gates, with high-voltage-warning signs in English and Diné, and asks, “What do we do for those that are going to lose those opportunities to remain here because of both of the closures at NGS and the coal mine?”

She then answers her own question: “It’s going to give them the opportunity to start learning in other areas.”

Ultimately, Charley says, the solar plant is about changing the minds of people on and outside tribal land about what the Navajos are able to do for themselves: “something that is genius.”

Navajos have long relied on the coal industry for revenue, jobs and reliable energy. In a place where unemployment hovers around 50 percent, the NGS is one of the largest employers in Navajoland, with more than 300 full-time employees. More than 90 percent are Navajo.

One NGS employee, who asks not to be named, says she worked her way up from the mailroom. She’s not yet ready to retire and isn’t comfortable with the idea of leaving tribal land for a new job. “I have my kids going to school here, I have my ranch here, I have everything here,” she says. “I can’t just leave like that.”

Her husband and 25-year-old son also work for the NGS. For now, they must wait for official news on what will happen next. "Every day we get ready, go to work, and we just do what we’re supposed to do,” she says. “One day we’ll get an email, or our boss will come to tell us the news.”

In February, the four remaining owners, including majority owner SRP, worked out an agreement to extend the plant’s 50-year lease to 2019 to accommodate decommissioning.

“NGS and coal continue to be essential to a diverse, reliable and secure energy portfolio for Arizona,” Beth Sutton, a spokesman for mine operator Peabody Energy, says in a statement. “Peabody believes NGS is an important engine for state and tribal economies and should continue operating well into the future.”

In a press release in early October, Peabody confirmed that several potential investors have expressed interest in pursuing an ownership position in the NGS for operation beyond 2019.

When the owners of the plant made their decision to close the NGS, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, a 24.3 percent owner of the venture, began investigating whether a viable ownership group could step in. But time is running short.

“It would be very complicated to come in and create a new lease with the Nation, meet with the [Environmental Protection Agency] and negotiate with the current ownership,” says Harelson, the SRP spokesman. “The work can be done, but to be frank, we would be surprised if there is another entity that believes that this is economical.”

Some say the plant’s closure is inevitable, while others are hoping a new owner will come along. But the people of Kayenta are left wondering how to prepare for the future.

People came from all over the Navajo Nation to Kayenta to work for the mine or the NGS. If they return to their homes, Kayenta will lose residents. How will the town fill those gaps?

“Assuming there is no new ownership and we start to dismantle the coal plant, we ask them, ‘What do you want to keep?’” Harelson says.

The transmission facilities will remain, the federal government will provide 500 megawatts of capacity to the Navajo Nation at no cost for 30 years, and SRP will pay for operations and maintenance for the next 10 years, Harelson says.

“It starts to give them the ability to develop if they decide to build a solar facility [here],” he says.

It’s a relationship of dependency. For decades, the Navajos have believed they could not survive without coal. But now, the energy industry is changing.

Just shy of the Navajo Nation, a sign reads: “Radioactive pollution kills — it’s time to clean the mines.” It’s a reference to uranium mining, a topic with echoes of the current battle over the coal industry — the economic benefits pitted against environmental and health hazards. In fact, the EPA is in the midst of a five-year-plan to conduct health studies and clean up contamination from uranium mining across the Navajo Nation.

In the shadow of that history, Navajo groups are working to establish a new economy — one that gives the tribe economic and environmental control.

Grass-roots organizations like Diné CARE and its board members, such as Deal, meet with the tribal government to educate representatives of the harmful effects coal mining has on the environment and public health.

Deal, 68, came out of college with an engineering degree. When he returned home after graduation, he attended an elders’ meeting and offered to translate a relocation policy from English to Diné, so the decision-makers could understand what they were getting involved in.

From that moment on, Deal hasn’t used his engineering degree. Instead, he’s spent more than 40 years in politics, helping to educate the community.

“I used to see elk, antelope, deer and turkey, but you don’t see them anymore,” Deal says, adjusting his Colorado State University cap. “Eagles and hawks are sacred animals to us and [the] Hopi. They play a role in the ceremonies. There is also a lot of asthma, lung and heart problems, and other diseases that coal and the plant have brought to us.”

Deal and Diné CARE are pushing for studies in the area to confirm the cause of those health issues. However, studies in other coal-dependent communities show a correlation to similar diseases.

Health concerns might not be the only reason the Navajo Nation faces an uphill battle in keeping the plant and mine open to preserve jobs and revenue.

The only way to stop the decline in U.S. coal consumption is if natural-gas prices increase, according to a report by Columbia University's Center on Global Energy Policy. But if prices stay near current levels or renewable costs continue to fall, coal consumption will continue to decline, the report says.

When the coal plant’s lease was set to expire, politicians on tribal land, in the state Legislature and in Congress started to talk about the loss of revenue and jobs. Deal says they failed to mention the water, health and environmental impacts.

“People may have to leave when NGS closes, but they will come back to work with renewables,” Deal says. “Coal is a dying industry, even with President Trump.”

Questions still linger. Will a green economy grow jobs? And how will the Navajo Nation handle the transition to a new economy without the coal industry?

Read this story’s conclusion on the Arizona Highways blog on Tuesday, March 20.

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Printmaker Richard Jackson Remembers Jerry Jacka

Jerry Jacka lines up a shot at Lake Powell. | Courtesy of the Jacka family

Our April issue, on newsstands now, honors legendary photographer Jerry Jacka, who contributed photographs to Arizona Highways for parts of seven decades before his death late last year. For the issue, we asked those who knew Jerry best to share their thoughts about him.

One of the people we asked was master printmaker Richard Jackson, who worked with Jerry many times over the years. While his full thoughts were too lengthy to include in the issue, we're happy to share them here.

I met Jerry in 1978 or 1979.  I had just moved to Phoenix, Arizona, from Illinois to start a new photo lab. I had read and admired the images presented in Arizona Highways while living in Illinois before moving to Phoenix. I had always dreamed that someday I would make prints for some of the photographers whose images I admired and were published in the magazine.

It wasn’t too many months after starting my new photo lab, Jerry Jacka walked into my lab. With all due respect to everyone else who had come in before him, I thought Jerry was my first important “really big deal” photographer that crossed my threshold.

The first time he came in, he didn’t give me an image to print.  He wanted to meet me and find out what services I was offering and, I think, just check me out. It wasn’t long after that he came in again, but this time he wanted me to make him a 16x20 print from one of his beautiful 4x5 transparencies. He asked me if I could match the print I made to his original transparency. Of course I said yes. I was pretty young, and thought I was a pretty good printer and this was my chance to prove my skills to none other than Jerry Jacka.

He didn’t like the print I made.  At first I couldn’t understand why, since I thought it was a really nice print. I put my all into making it the nicest print I thought it could be, and so when Jerry looked at the print and didn’t jump for joy, I was crushed. Not only did he not jump for joy, he proceeded to explain why the print didn’t work for him. He needed a little more detail in a shadow area, slightly more density in another place, and the color was a bit too warm overall.

Well, of course, I made those changes, and when he saw the second print, he liked it. I was pleased about that, but for some time, couldn’t understand why he didn’t like my first print. 

I made more prints for Jerry and other photographers and continued to run into the same issue. About half the time, I would need to make a second print with corrections indicated by Jerry and the other photographers for whom I was printing. This was even though I thought my prints were quite good.

Then one day I had an epiphany: The print I am making is not my print! It’s Jerry’s print. So what if I started asking questions of Jerry before I print to find out what he wanted before I go into the darkroom? That approach worked much better. Now my first-print approvals went way up! Once I started thinking about the needs of my client first, I got better results for them.

The reason I tell this story is I believe it was Jerry who first helped me realize that finding out more information about an image, and even the story behind the image, helps me create a print that then helps Jerry tell his story better for his client.

Learning about your subject in as much detail as possible was always Jerry’s approach to his creative photography and storytelling. He did his research. He met his subjects and got to know them before he pulled out his camera. His beautiful, groundbreaking photography of Native American artwork was because he knew what was important to the artist and then did whatever it took to present the artwork in a way that captured the artist's vision. He was a genius at doing this over and over again.

Jerry never compromised for his love of his family, his love of his work and the love he showed to so many he touched.

It was an honor to make some of Jerry’s prints over the years. He taught me so much by the example of excellence he set for himself. I owe him a lot and will miss him always.

— Richard Jackson

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Arizona Diamondbacks Bringing Bullpen Cart Back to Major Leagues

Courtesy of Arizona Diamondbacks

The last time a Major League Baseball team used a cart to take pitchers from the bullpen to the mound, the Arizona Diamondbacks didn't exist.

But that isn't stopping the team from bringing the longtime baseball tradition to Chase Field for the team's 20th anniversary season. The Diamondbacks announced the move last week, with baseball's spring training underway at several locations in the Phoenix area.

The use of a motorized vehicle to transport relief pitchers began in the 1950s, the team said in a news release. Its last known use was in 1995, when the Milwaukee Brewers employed one. The Diamondbacks began play in the 1998 season.

"We have been working on this idea for several years, and there's no more appropriate time to bring back the bullpen cart than this season, as we celebrate our 20th anniversary," D-Backs President and CEO Derrick Hall said.

Delivery company OnTrac will sponsor the cart, which is being built by SportsKartz, a Tampa-based company, the team said.

Online reaction to the news appeared mixed, with some baseball fans expressing optimism that the cart would speed up pitching changes and improve the pace of play at Chase Field. Others, however, wondered if the excitement of a star reliever entering a game might be tempered by having him ride in a cart, rather than run in from the bullpen.

What do you think about the move? Let us know in the comments.

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Q&A: Lisa Langell on Wildlife Photography and a Boyce Thompson Exhibition

Courtesy of Lisa Langell

You might recognize Lisa Langell’s name from the handful of her photos that have appeared in Arizona Highways recently. Langell, a Michigan native, specializes in wildlife photography, and her work is on display at Boyce Thompson Arboretum, near Superior, all this month. We asked Langell a few questions about her career, the show and her advice for budding wildlife photographers. (This interview was conducted via email and edited for length and clarity.)

Tell us a little about yourself and how you became interested in photography in general.
I currently live in Scottsdale; however, my passion started for me with my incredible great-aunt, Josephine James, who taught me about birds. When I was 14, in 1986, Canon A-1 (35 mm) in hand, we traveled to Point Pelee National Park in Ontario, Canada, for its world-renowned spring bird migration. We saw over 100 species in one day. The tiny, colorful warblers were my favorite. I drooled at not only the birds, but the many nature photographers with their long lenses. I distinctly remember thinking, I want to do that someday. That started my story and my journey.

Do you photograph full time, or do you do something else as well?
I am a full-time photographer now, but my journey to this career was definitely not on a straight, well-paved road. Photography and birding were hobbies for me since age 8. I was initially a floral designer and decorator for 15 years, from the time I was a young teen all the way through graduate school. I put myself through college in that wonderful career that I still often miss.

After grad school, I worked for 15 years as a psychologist, international consultant, researcher and speaker in education. I worked extensively with children with learning disabilities, focusing on early intervention and best practices. I loved the profession, yet photography always beckoned. In 2011, I set up my part-time photography business, and in 2015, I began working full time as a photographer. I love every moment, and I still get to help people daily — just in different ways than ever before.

Clearly, your focus is nature photography. What drew you to that particular discipline?
Initially, bird photography drew me in as a teen; however, I’ve loved being in the field, the woods, along the shores, in a marsh, etc., ever since I was a young child. I chuckle at it now, but as a 5-year-old, I used to make “mock” birds’ nests out of dead grasses and mud, prop them up in trees and fill my heart with hope that birds would choose them over building their own. In winter, I’d dig tunnels in the snow drifts to make “dens” for the local cottontails, then line them with the “fluff” from cattails. (It looked like rabbit fur to me!) I fed the birds, I participated in Christmas bird counts, I even tried to write my own little field guide of the neighborhood when I was a kid. I’ve always loved and cared about nature. Photographing and interpreting nature through the lens keeps me connected to it in a really personal and special way.

What are some of the challenges you encounter when photographing animals (as opposed to doing other kinds of photography)?
Wildlife to photograph and the “perfect storm” of conditions — the right light, moment, background, foreground, subject, action and composition — have to be there to create a memorable image. But the challenge I love most about wildlife photography is the one that also keeps me pushing forward. It is my genuine passion to create fresh, innovative, evocative and quality imagery, workshops and learning experiences for my audience. I also love connecting my audience with nature in increasingly powerful ways through my work.

What advice would you give someone just starting out in nature photography? 
First: The word “amateur” means “lover of something.” Embrace this beautiful word, and remember, no matter how much we already know, we are always a “newbie” at the next skill we are about to learn.

Second: This is a lifelong journey you are embarking upon. Do not get discouraged, even when the techniques become challenging or doubt creeps in. Find your inspiration in nature.

Third: Find places you love to shoot, and get to know them well. Knowing your subjects’ behavior patterns, habitat and unique quirks will help you anticipate a great shot in the making.

Above all, remember: Seek and appreciate the experiences and memories you encounter through your journey with photography, not just the images.

How did the Boyce Thompson show come together? Do you photograph there a lot, or have a relationship with them?
The Art Gallery at Boyce Thompson is a juried exhibition. I submitted my portfolio nearly a year ago and was awarded the opportunity to exhibit my work in for the month of March. I was honored to have my work hang in a place I dearly love. Also, 20 percent of sales from the show will benefit the arboretum.

I have been an Arizona State Parks volunteer since about 2010, focusing my work at Boyce Thompson. I teach classes, help with events, fundraise and do other tasks to support the park. Boyce Thompson is an absolute gem in Arizona — the views are simply stunning within and around the park. With wildlife, nature, hiking, beautiful botanicals and some of the most friendly, caring, amazing staff I have ever met, it is a place you will visit and quickly feel right at home. I love to photograph the park — it feels like home to me.

What can people expect to see at the show? Are the photos all from Arizona, or from elsewhere as well?
Aside from two images, each of the 30-plus pieces on display and for sale were photographed in Arizona. For the vintage-styled works, I then processed and hand-printed them via a multi-step method to create the vintage look, then mounted them to wooden backdrops made from reclaimed wood sourced in Arizona. I sourced antique-style zinc frames, found objects from Arizona and other embellishments to finish the pieces. The goal was to create the modern and rustic look while preserving the essence of the birds and animals I photographed. Of special importance, the wood backdrops were created jointly by my father, Sherman, and me.

To learn more about the exhibition, click here. The public can attend an artist’s reception Saturday, March 17, from 1 to 4 p.m.; click here to print a coupon that will get you free admission for the event. To learn more about Lisa Langell, click here.

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