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The Deer Ate My Picture . . . But That’s OK!

By July 17, 2018No Comments

Saguaro in Bloom, Saguaro National Park. © Peter Hawkins

Story & Photography by Peter Hawkins


Making a photograph of nature is not always as easy as one would think.  Searching for the right spot to create an image can be time-consuming in itself, then you need Mother Nature to cooperate.  Years ago I had an idea for a picture of Saguaro cacti in spring bloom.

USA, Arizona, Tucson, Saguaro National Park (west) © Peter Hawkins

The idea is of an arm coming off the main trunk and growing towards the ground before turning skyward. The end of the arm is in full bloom, the arm, and the main trunk would be the framing with the blooms at the bottom of the image and in the background, there would be another Saguaro with multiple arms reaching to the sky.

One day about a year ago I was out scouting locations when I came across the perfect setting for this image, and some buds were close to opening. So for the next week or so I would make regular trips to check the status of the buds.

Have a seat!  © Peter Hawkins

Then one day I could not make the trip out due to a medical appointment.  The next day when I went to check, it became evident that I was a day late as most of the buds had flowers and were now turning brown. While I was disappointed, I thought I would get them next year.

A few weeks ago I noticed that the Saguaro were starting to bloom and we had a trip planned for a four-night getaway, so I went out to visit this location to see if I might have a chance to get the image this year. Much to my delight the buds on this cactus were tiny and would need several more days or longer before they were ready to bloom.

USA, Arizona, Tucson, Saguaro National Park (west) © Peter Hawkins

After returning from our trip my day began before first light as would the next six or seven mornings. The Saguaro blooms at night and does not last 24 hours thus requiring early morning visits for the freshest flowers. Each day the buds seemed to be bigger and bigger, and I was sure that within the next 48 hours I would finally have the photo that I envisioned several years ago. I was very excited.

The next morning I was up and on my way by 5:00 a.m. I was about halfway to the location when I thought  “something has eaten all the buds.”  I chalked it up to over-imagination and exhaustion. Nearly a half-mile out I came across a doe and two yearling fawns grazing along the road. I stopped and watched them for a few minutes before they moved off the road. As I passed them, I told them to stay safe, and I hoped they had plenty to eat.

USA, Arizona, Tucson, Saguaro National Park (west) © Peter Hawkins

As I came upon the subject Saguaro, I notice that there were no buds left on the arm, and I surmised that someone had a good meal. I looked for tracks all around and did not see deer,  javelina or any other tracks. I was pretty sure that it would have been the deer that ate the buds, as they would have been out of reach of most javelina and the ground was undisturbed.

While I was disappointed that I would go through another bloom cycle (another whole year) without getting the image I had sought, I was relieved that the buds had supplied the deer with a good meal. I will keep trying to get the image from that cactus if Mother Nature allows me to.

Speaking of Mother Nature, she did smile on me about fifteen minutes later with another cactus with a swooping arm and several fresh flowers and many buds. I made several images at this location. It is essential to keep an open mind and stay focused even when the plan goes way off track, and never give up.