Desert Boulders


Atop. One boulder sits atop another in the desert east of Florence, Arizona.

In May of 2020 I decided to drive ninety minutes or so north from my home in Tucson to explore a boulder field in the desert that I had seen a picture of online somewhere. My wife tagged along, and I honestly don’t remember too much else about why we went; my wife and I were supposed to be in Cornwall and Wales around that time but thanks to COVID, weren’t, so I guess driving through the wasteland that hosts Arizona’s state prison and death row was the next best thing we could come up with. In any event, we enjoy little road trips since they give us a chance to talk without the household annoyances of dirty dishes and the like, so it worked for us.

I don’t really remember many details about my visit, which I suspect is because I must have just barely beaten sunset—the time between the first photo in my Lightroom catalog is only 26 minutes before the last one—and didn’t really have a lot of time to explore. It is really a pretty large boulder field and clearly deserves more, which now that I live in Colorado is not going to be convenient. That is one of the frustrating things about moving away from an area: even after living within ninety minutes of a place for 29 years I only visited it once for less than half an hour! I am trying hard to not make the same mistake in Colorado.

Here are a few other images from that brief outing. Again, I wasn’t there long, so you will see the some of the same boulders from different angles.

Adjacent. Two boulders are nestled next to each other in the desert east of Florence, Arizona.
Gaps. The setting sun grazes the tops of unusual boulders in the desert east of Florence, Arizona.
Desert Jumble. The setting sun illuminates boulders in the desert east of Florence, Arizona.
Boulders at Sundown. Shadows fall on the boulders at the end of the day east of Florence, Arizona.

It is very puzzling how some of these boulders ended up where they did. Since it doesn’t seem like an area where glaciers would have left them in the distant past, perhaps they were on top of a layer of soil that was all washed away and left them sitting on boulders that were originally buried more deeply, or they were hurled through the air by a volcanic eruption, or…? Hard to say.

Photographically, the challenge here is trying to find clean compositions despite the plants growing around the rocks. The other challenge, of course, is keeping one eye on the ground as you blunder around a rattlesnake paradise. (It was on this trip that I first saw someone wearing snake gaiters; I had never heard of such a thing, but I promptly bought a set.) A few of these did take a little extra clean-up in Affinity Photo to remove some distractions.

Definitely a shame I didn’t go here more often.

Technical notes. The photographs in this post were taken with a Nikon Z7 and the Nikkor Z 24-70mm f/4 S. All were processed from RAW in Adobe Lightroom Classic, and the second (“Adjacent”) and third (“Gaps”) received some finishing in Affinity Photo.

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2 responses to “Desert Boulders”

  1. Great photos as usual, Jim. I especially like the Desert Jumble. The Saguaro and whatever cactus is present in the upper right makes that composition work very well. Nice!

    • Thank you, Barrett! You like the most traditional photo of the bunch, rather than the more artsy ones. 🙂