2023 Nature Photography Summit

Field Trips

Photo of the front of a white, Spanish mission church, San Xavier del Bac, in Tucson. Photo credit: Frank Gallagher

San Xavier del Bac. Photo credit: Frank Gallagher

Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum | Sweetwater Wetlands | Tohono Chul Gardens| Tucson Botanical Gardens | San Xavier Mission in Black and White | Hummingbird Photography Stations | Desert Plants in the Hotel Gardens | Santa Cruz River | Gates Pass, Tucson Mountain Park | Catalina State Park | Agua Caliente

NANPA is pleased to offer a variety of field trips in the grounds of the hotel and at a number of nearby locations. Local NANPA members have volunteered to guide conference attendees to some of their favorite places to photograph, from desert landscapes to macro shots of cactus flowers, from wetlands alive with birds, to reptiles, to an old Spanish mission church, you’ll be amazed at the range of subjects you can choose from.

What can I expect on the field trips?

  • Most field trips are included in your registration fee, but you will need to sign up in advance to reserve your spot, and so we’ll know how many people to expect at each site. **Note that the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum ($17.95/per person) and the Tucson Botanical Garden ($12.00/per person) charge admission, payable during registration. Tohono Chul charges a variety of admission prices based on age. For this field trip, participants will receive a group discount but must pay at the gate.
  • Guides will be available at each site at the specified times and locations.
  • They will give an overview of the site and show you the best spots to photograph.
  • No formal instruction will be provided, and transportation is on your own.
  • Field trips are scheduled at different times and days, with varying travel times and physical or equipment requirements. Carefully read the descriptions and sign up for the ones you want during the registration process. Many field trips are offered twice.

Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum

Photo of a bighorn sheep ram standing on a rocky hill. Photo credit: Frank Gallagher

Photo credit: Frank Gallagher

Covering almost 100 acres, this is a zoo, botanical garden, natural history museum, art gallery, and much, much more. Docents and volunteers are scattered throughout the location to answer your questions about the habitat and wildlife.  Photograph hummingbirds and native birds in two walk-through aviaries, cactus and Sonoran Desert plants are along the trails, mammals are in free-roaming enclosures, and native wildlife can be found through the location.  Photography is available in most of the indoor exhibits.  Please comply with all posted signs, do not obstruct the trails, and check the tips and rules on the museum’s website.

Wednesday, May 3  8:30 a.m.

Sunday, May 7  8:30 a.m.

Maximum number of people for the field trip:  20

Where will attendees meet and park?

The museum is located at 2021 North Kinney Road, about 22 miles or 45 minutes from the hotel. Meet at the entrance gates at 8:30 a.m. to enter as a group.  Your discounted ticket gives full access to the location for the entire day.  Feel free to explore and photograph on your own and stay as long as you want. The gates open at 8:30 and, as the day goes on, the trails get more crowded.

Recommended experience level

  • Beginner
  • Intermediate
  • Advanced

Recommended equipment

Bring your normal photography gear. There will be a wide variety of things to photograph, from macro to telephoto. Also bring some heat protection, sunscreen, a hat, and water.

Physical requirements

Short walks on well-maintained trails.  Many areas are accessible and there are only small elevation changes.

Leader

There is no leader for this trip. The museum has many knowledgeable and helpful docents stationed throughout the grounds.

 

Sweetwater Wetlands

Photo of a northern shoveler duck swimming at Sweetwater Wetlands © Chris Wessselman

Northern shoveler © Chris Wessselman

Sweetwater Wetlands is a well-known birding location. Originally built in the mid 1990s as part of a reclaimed water system, the parks multiple ponds quickly became popular with birds and birders. Today, there are nearly 2.5 miles of trails through this oasis in the desert.

Thursday, May 4  8 – 10 a.m.

Maximum number of people for the field trip:  20

Where will attendees meet and park?

Sweetwater Wetlands is located at 2511 West Sweetwater Drive, west of I-10 and roughly 11 miles from the hotel. It is accessible from the westside feeder road from the Camino del Cerro/Ruthrauff exit of I-10. Meet at the gate by the parking lot.

Recommended experience level

  • Beginner
  • Intermediate
  • Advanced

Recommended equipment

Bring your normal bird photography gear–tripods, long lenses, plus some heat protection, sunscreen and plenty of water.

Physical requirements

Short walks on a mostly paved trail.  Be prepared for strong sun and excessive heat.

Field Trip Leader

Headshot of Chris Wesselman

Chris Wesselman

Chris Wesselman is the Wildlife Special Interest Group leader, Club Camera Tucson.

A Taste of the Sonoran Desert at Tohno Chul Gardens

 

Close up of cactus leaves. Photo credit: Kathy Adams Clark

Photo credit: Kathy Adams Clark

Tohono Chul is a botanical garden. The giant saguaro cactus might be in bloom along with a variety of other desert plants. Photograph along the paths or include the garden’s sculptures in your photo. Park close to the entrance and photograph the gardens nearby or spend your time in the Barrio Garden, Xeriscape Gardens, or the other special spaces through this interesting location. Head out on the one-mile walking loop to get deeper in the desert. Tripods are allowed but they can’t block any paths. Bring camera, lenses, and travel light of maximize your enjoyment. Restrooms, water, and shade are available throughout the garden. Tohono Chul is roughly a 15-minute drive from the hotel.

Thursday, May 4  8 – 10 a.m.
Friday, May 5, 8 – 10 a.m.

Maximum number of people for each field trip:  20

Where will attendees meet and park?

Please gather in the Tohono Chul parking area, 7366 Paseo del Norte, at 7:45 a.m. Look for the NANPA host to check-in. Our group receives a 10% discount when we enter as a group.
Adult: $15
Student (with ID): $13
Senior (62+): $13
Active Military: $13
Tohono Chul Members: Free

Recommended experience level

  • Beginner
  • Intermediate
  • Advanced

Recommended equipment

Any lens or lenses that work in a garden setting, a polarizing filter, Lensbaby, or other gadgets. Tripods are useful but please don’t block paths. Water fountains are available but we recommend bringing your own water bottle. Bring a hat, sunscreen, and other items for this climate.

Physical requirements

Paved walking trails along with more natural trails. Grounds, buildings, and most trails are accessible. Several gardens are close to the entrance.

Field Trip Leader

Photo of Jeff Vanuga

Jeff Vanuga

Jeff Vanuga is based in Dubois, Wyoming and specializes in both advertising an editorial media. His work has been published worldwide in magazines and major advertising campaigns. Jeff leads tours for the largest photography tour company in the world and leads tours for National Geographic Expeditions, Joseph Van Os Photo Safaris, First Light Workshops and the Moab Photography Symposium. His work is represented by the Nature Picture Library stock agency. Some notable career highlights include:

  • First place in the BBC Wildlife Photographer of the Year and the National Wildlife Photographic Competition
  • His book entitled “Fodor’s Compass Guide to Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks” took a silver medal in the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill School of Journalism and Mass Communication from a field of 1,161 entries.
  • Photo District News featured Jeff as one of their top 50 States Photographers and he has hosted TV shows on nature photography for the Outdoor Life Channel and Nature’s Best Magazine.

Jeff has been a NANPA Regional Events Leader in 2018, 2020 and 2022.

Tucson Botanical Gardens

Photo of a cactus flower close up. "Apricot Glow" © Donna Sisley

“Apricot Glow” © Donna Sisley

Join Donna L Sisley photographing at the Tucson Botanical Gardens, where you will find a large variety of desert cacti, wildflowers, iris gardens, a butterfly garden, an herb garden and more. There is a wonderful display of orchids that is within the butterfly enclosure featuring butterflies from around the world. Also, visiting the garden throughout the year are many varieties of both lizards and birds. Birds commonly seen in the garden include quail, cardinals, doves, hawks and hummingbirds. In addition, there are several small art galleries and other special exhibits. Donna looks forward to sharing her love of Tucson wildlife and fauna at one of Tucson’s treasures.

Thursday, May 4  8:30 – 11 a.m.
Friday, May 5, 8:30 – 11:00 a.m.

Maximum number of people for each field trip:  20

Note: $12 per person admission charge is payable during registration.

Where will attendees meet and, if applicable, where will they park?

Tucson Botanical Gardens is located at 2150 N. Alvernon Way in Tucson. There is parking at the gardens but, if that’s full, you can park in the shopping center to the north of the gardens at Alvernon and Grant.

Recommended experience level

  • Beginner
  • Intermediate
  • Advanced

Recommended equipment

Medium to long range zoom lens, macro lens, your favorite birding lens, small photo diffuser. Tripod optional. Water, hats and sunscreen and good shoes with closed toes recommended.

Physical requirements

Easy walk on paving, as well as some dirt paths.

Field Trip Leader

Headshot of Donna Sisley

Donna L Sisley

“Photography is that place I go, camera in hand, to celebrate not only the beauty and joy in the world, but to create a shelter for myself, temporarily freed from life’s momentary stresses.” A Tucson resident for 48 years, Donna L Sisley is a locally-known photographer who is passionate about her work and the sharing of knowledge with fellow photographers. Her background in design and her joy in learning fueled a true avocation in photography expanded by classes at the University of Arizona, Rocky Mountain School of Photography and multitudes of photo workshops. For twenty years, Donna was an active member and leader of Club Camera Tucson. Sisley’s career was in convention services. Her freelance photo images have been acquired by offices and web-based businesses. Her work has won several major photo competitions and been published in Popular Photography magazine as well as numerous local publications. Seldom without a camera, Donna is active in joining and leading field trips, theme-based photo challenges and is also completing her own current 365-day-single-themed project. Donna Sisley’s focus is broad…from macro to landscape, critters to still-life and everything else in between.

San Xavier Mission in Black and White

Blakc and white photo of one of the towers of Mission San Xavier del Bac, historic Spanish Catholic mission, near Tucson, Arizona, on the Tohono O'odham San Xavier Indian Reservation. Built in 1797. Known locally as the White Dove of the Desert. © Kathy Adams Clark

Mission San Xavier del Bac, historic Spanish Catholic mission, near Tucson, Arizona, on the Tohono O’odham San Xavier Indian Reservation. Built in 1797. Known locally as the White Dove of the Desert. © Kathy Adams Clark

The historic San Xavier del Bac Mission is a perfect place to practice black and white photography. The snow-white church rests in the stark scrub of the Sonoran desert, giving it the name “white dove of the desert.” Photographers have been drawn to this location for years. Couple this field trip with Ron Rosenstock’s breakout session to enhance the educational value. A wide-angle lens is a good starting point but a medium telephoto also produces interesting images. A polarizing filter is useful, as is a tripod. Limited restrooms on site. Bring your own water. Relatively flat but there is a vantage point on a hill on the grounds.

Thursday, May 4, 6 – 9 p.m.
Saturday, May 6, 6 – 9 a.m.

Maximum number of people for each field trip: 20

Where will attendees meet and park?

There is a large parking area in front of the mission, 1950 W San Xavier Rd. Park there and meet Ron Rosenstock in front of the church. The church is on Tribal Land so please respect all traffic and posted signs. The church is active so please respect any forms of worship. The church is open from 9:00am to 4:00pm daily. Restrooms are open from 9:00am to 4:00pm daily. Gift shop is opened from 8:00am to 5:00pm.

Recommended experience level

  • Beginner
  • Intermediate
  • Advanced

Recommended equipment

Wide angle lens is a good starting point but a medium telephoto also produces interesting images. Polarizing filter is useful as is a tripod. Please bring water, sun protection, and footwear appropriate for gravel pathways.

Physical requirements

Relatively flat but there is a vantage point on a hill on the grounds. Interesting photos await on the front of the church as well as around back.

Field Trip Leader

Headshot of Ron Rosenstock

Ron Rosenstock

Ron Rosenstock was awarded the NANPA Fine Art in Nature Photography award in 2021. He retired from Clark University after teaching photography there for thirty years. He’s published six books of his photographs, and his work has been featured in over 100 exhibitions, both in the U.S. and abroad, the most recent at The National Museum of Iceland. There are permanent collections of his work at the Fogg Art Museum at Harvard University, the Worcester Art Museum in Worcester, MA, The Polaroid Collection in Cambridge, MA, and the International Center of Photography in New York. Ron teaches workshops and leads photo tours for Strabo Photo Tour Collections.

Hummingbird Photography Stations

Photo of a black-chinned hummingbird hovering by a flowering plant. © Kathy Adams Clark

Black-chinned hummingbird © Kathy Adams Clark

For this morning session, we’ll set up several hummingbird photography stations on the grounds of La Paloma. Each station will have a single port hummingbird feeder to control the hummingbird’s position. There could be a couple multi-flash set-ups and a couple ambient light set-ups, depending on conditions. The set-ups will be used first for demonstrations and then for participants to photograph hummingbirds using their own equipment.

Friday, May 5, 6 – 10:00 a.m.

Maximum number of people for this field trip: 10

Where will attendees meet?

Meet at the hotel lobby.

Recommended experience level

  • Beginner
  • Intermediate
  • Advanced

Recommended equipment

Bring any gear you want, since it’s on the hotel grounds. Bring water, sunscreen and a hat (it is Arizona).

Physical requirements

This will be on the hotel grounds, with only short walks.

Field Trip Leader

Steve Vaughan is an award-winning professional nature photographer, ornithologist and instructor. Steve has presented on hummingbird photography at the Tucson Audubon’s Southeast Arizona Birding Festival and set up hummingbird photo stations at NANPA’s Tucson Regional Event. He currently lives in Tucson, Arizona.

Desert Plants in the Hotel Gardens

Photo of a flower spike from a cactus. © JP Bruce

© JP Bruce

Many plants are available to photograph at this beautifully landscaped hotel. Let’s tour the grounds getting some images of southwestern plants. I’ve lived in Tucson for over 30 years, so if you have questions about the area please come and ask. I had polio as a child so have had mobility problems during my life. I have made changes to equipment and technique to overcome problems as they arose. If you have questions please approach me with them.

Friday, May 5, 7 – 10:00 a.m.

Maximum number of people for this field trip: 20

Where will attendees meet?

Meet outside the lobby and look for me on mobility scooter.

Recommended experience level

  • Beginner
  • Intermediate
  • Advanced

Recommended equipment

You may want to do macro images of plants. In general whatever you prefer for landscape photography. Apply some sunscreen and bring water if planning on staying out for any duration. Snacks for leader would also be good idea. 🙂

Physical requirements

We should be on pavement most of the time. Although there are some fairly steep elevation changes, it should be okay for all abilities.

Field Trip Leader

Headshot of JP Bruce by Paul Martin

Photo credit: Paul Martin

JP Bruce

JP Bruce has been doing photography since the mid 1970s and serious, digital, nature photography since 2001. He led the NANPA Meetup Group in Tucson during its entire existence, was an administrator for NANPA’s Facebook page and a member of Regional Events committee. He has made presentations to many camera clubs in Tucson and the Phoenix area. JP has attended many educational seminars and outings and has exhibited in galleries. He wrote a book, “Photography from Your Car, or Very Near,” that is still available on Amazon.

The Santa Cruz: A Trip to an Urban River

Photo of an owl in a tree © Miguel Grageda

© Miguel Grageda

The Santa Cruz is one of several rivers in the Tucson area. While it used to flow all year long, today some sections dry up during parts of the year. There is an extensive park and walking trail along the river’s banks and enough vegetation and water to attract a variety of birds and other wildlife. We will visit a section of the Santa Cruz River located on the west side of Tucson. We will be walking in and along the river, but the water level is very shallow (1 foot deep or shallower). We will be looking mainly for birds, so you may want to use a telephoto.

Friday, May 5, 7 – 9 a.m.

Maximum number of people for this field trip: 8

Where will attendees meet and park?

Meet in the parking lot Santa Cruz and West Ina Road, west of I-10 and just southwest of the West Ina Road Bridge over the Santa Cruz River.  It’s 11.5 miles from the hotel.

Recommended experience level

  • Beginner

Recommended equipment

Sunscreen, hat, water shoes or sandals and your telephoto lens.

Physical requirements

The park is flat with paved walkways and excellent paths. There are picnic tables and benches at intervals throughout the park.

Headshot of Miguel Grageda. Photo credit: Zazil-Ha Baruch

Photo credit: Zazil-Ha Baruch

Miguel Grageda

Miguel Angel Grageda Garcia is a graduate student at the School of Natural Resources and the Environment in the University of Arizona. His main interest is photographing and documenting wildlife in the desert.

Gates Pass, Tucson Mountain Park

Evening sun creates a 'star burst' behind a saguaro cactus in the desert. "Star Burst" © Don Carter

“Star Burst” © Don Carter

Gates Pass is one of the most beautiful locations in Tucson, located next to Saguaro National Park West. This locations puts you in a saguaro cactus forest along the cliffs of the desert mountains. You will be able to photograph the sunset over these beautiful saguaros and desert mountains. Once the sun sets, the full moon will rise allowing another wonderful photographic opportunity.

Friday, May 5, 6 – 9:00 p.m.

Maximum number of people for this field trip: 8

Where will attendees meet?

Meet at the hotel and ride-share to the parking lot at the top of Gates Pass.

Recommended experience level

  • Beginner
  • Intermediate
  • Advanced

Recommended equipment

This is Arizona, bring lots of water. Also bring all of your camera gear and tripod. You will have the opportunity to use your widest to your longest lens.

Physical requirements

There are a variety of trails at this location providing opportunities for both easy short walks to the more rugged and steep mountain trails. All of the trails are located within the saguaro cactus and are not paved. Photographing from smaller parking locations are available.

Field Trip Leader

Photo of Don Carter

Don Carter

Don Carter is a retired computer science and digital imaging professor who lives in Tucson during the winter. He is a past NANPA president and board member. Don has led many photo tours throughout the southwest.

 

Catalina State Park

Photo fo a gila monster crawling across the desert floor. © Miguel Grageda

© Miguel Grageda

Come to Catalina State Park and look for reptiles, like the zebra-tailed lizard and horned lizard. May will also be a good time to look for desert wildflowers. We will explore the foothills of the Catalina State Park, a beautiful area with iconic Sonoran desert vegetation. If we are lucky we may even find Gila monsters or desert tortoises.

Saturday, May 6, 7 –  9:30 a.m.

Maximum number of people for this field trip: 8

Where will attendees meet?

Catalina State Park, 11570 North Oracle Road, about 12 miles from the Summit hotel. Meet in the parking lot by the Romero Canyon Trailhead.

Recommended experience level

  • Beginner

Recommended equipment

Sunscreen, hat, water, wide-angle lens, macro lens

Physical requirements

Easy walks on and near a trail on sandy and rocky surfaces

Field Trip Leader

Headshot of Miguel Grageda. Photo credit: Zazil-Ha Baruch

Photo credit: Zazil-Ha Baruch

Miguel Grageda

Miguel Angel Grageda Garcia is a graduate student at the School of Natural Resources and the Environment in the University of Arizona. His main interest is photographing and documenting wildlife in the desert.

Morning Bird and Landscape Photography at Agua Caliente County Regional Park

Photo of one adult bird standing on a branch facing two baby birds with their beaks open demanding food. © Henry Johnson

© Henry Johnson

Join us for a morning of bird and landscape photography at Agua Caliente Regional Park, a former ranch and hot springs on the east side of town in the Tanque Verde Valley. This is an exceptional venue where ponds and date palm trees of the historic ranch meet mesquite and saguaro cactus of the Sonoran desert, providing food and habitat for resident and migrating birds alike. In May expect to see nests and fledgling songbirds as well as ducks, herons and egrets. Common ravens and Cooper’s hawks have nested in the park in some prior years.

Saturday, May 6, 7 – 9 a.m.

Maximum number of people for this field trip: 8

Where will attendees meet and park?

Meet in the parking lot at Agua Caliente Regional Park, 12325 East Roger Road, Tucson, AZ 85749. The park is at the corner of Soldier Trail and East Roger Road, north of East Tanque Verde Road. Allow 35 to 40 minutes to drive to the park from the Westin.

Recommended experience level

  • Beginner
  • Intermediate
  • Advanced

Recommended equipment

Bring water or a water bottle. Potable (city) water is available, as are men’s and women’s restrooms. Wear sunscreen and bring a good hat. Be ready for bird photography: a telephoto lens of greater than 400 mm is preferred. Tripods are OK, but not required. Bring a wide angle lens, or be ready to use a second camera, including your phone, for landscape shots. Wear good walking shoes. The area is flat and well maintained by the county.

Physical requirements

The park is flat with paved walkways and excellent paths. There are picnic tables and benches at intervals throughout the park.

Field Trip Leader

Photo of Henry JohnsonPhoto credit: Carol Niehoff

Photo credit: Carol Niehoff

Henry Johnson

Henry Johnson is a bird photographer with an interest in Southeast Arizona, including the Sonoran desert and the sky island of Mt. Lemmon. He writes a blog on his website, www.mtlemmonazimages.com.