Wine on the Vine

Photo by Tucson photographer Martha Lochert

Early October is harvest time for grape varietals in southern Arizona. Most people think desert when they think of southern Arizona, but the Elgin, Sonoita and Willcox areas – where elevation is higher at 4300 – 4700 ft. – is perfect for vines. There are numerous vineyards to visit and enjoy an afternoon of tasting.

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Liken It To a Lichen

Just what is lichen? It’s the symbiotic union of algae and fungus, with fungus being the dominant partner. Its combined form is different from either the fungus or algae.

Some varieties cling to rock surfaces and grow in a carpet-like state, while others branch out from the surface of damp wood in a more three-dimensional form. It fascinates me how similar lichen growing the woods looks like coral in the ocean.

Image created at ISO 200 – 1/200 sec. at f4 with a Canon 60mm macro and a subject to lens distance of about 8 inches and open shade under the forest canopy.

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Out with the Old and In with the New

Bee exoskeleton on rosemary - photo by Tucson photographer Martha Lochert.

Bee exoskeleton on a rosemary plant – photo by Tucson photographer Martha Lochert.


Bees and other insects like cicadas have their skeletons on the outside of their bodies (exoskeleton). So when they are ready to grow, they molt. The process begins with them taking on air, water or raising their blood pressure.

Once the shell is detached from the muscles and internal organs, the insect can climb out – with a new exoskeleton ready to protect its internal organs.

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Smells Like Rain; It’s the Creosote

Photo by Tucson photographer Martha Lochert

There is a welcome, distinctive smell in the desert when it rains, which comes from the creosote bush (Larrea tridentata), shown here.

We desert dwellers will say “it smells like rain”  but what we are actually smelling is the creosote, shown here. Did you know they could live thousands of years? According to Steve Archer, PhD and the School of Natural Resources at the University of Arizona,

new clones pop up in a ring around the edge as the main stem breaks off or dies, allowing the plant to survive for thousands of years. That’s amazing longevity for a plant that lives in an environment that a lot of visitors who are used to lush forests view as “dry and dead.”

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Columbine Beauty Moment

Photo by Tucson photographer Martha Lochert

Columbine (Aquilegia) growing by an aspen tree in southwest Colorado. The blue columbine, also referred to as the Rocky Mountain Columbine-White and Lavender species, is the state flower in Colorado, but the genus includes 60-70 species of high-altitude-loving perennials.

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Land of the Rock People

Photo by Tucson photographer Martha Lochert.

On a path in the canyon, next to Oak Creek, sits a strange little assemblage of  rock piles in the cool of the early evening light.

In the secluded, quiet space and soft light the stacks seemed animated – as if they had assembled to wait for communication from the mother ship! It was magical.

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The Yin and the Yang of Life in the Desert

Saguaro and skyline at night by Tucson photographer Martha Lochert.

Saguaro and skyline at night by Tucson photographer Martha Lochert.

I like the latent tension in this photograph between the peaceful glow of the city lights and the painful needles on the saguaro cactus. It’s a sort of commentary on life in Tucson. Those of us who live here are ever-vigilant to not get poked; not get dehydrated; not get sun stroke; not get bitten by scorpions or snakes – and yet, we have a laid-back, no worries, peacefulness to our city.

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Gazpacho “Martini”

I love making Gazpacho, but I find that every time I make it, I serve way too much. I can eat a huge bowl full, with a hunk of crusty bread, and call it a meal, but the average person doesn’t, in my experience, want that much soup. They would prefer the soup not be the main course, but rather, an accent side dish to go with other things. So here’s a creative way to serve a small portion of gazpacho, to go with whatever the plated main course will be. This is also a fun way to fancy up a happy hour gathering. My recipe follows, so feel free to give it a try. Chilled gazpacho is a great summertime meal.

Gazpacho photograph by Tucson photographer Martha Lochert.

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Martha’s Gazpacho

Serve with some crusty bread or crunchy flax seed crackers – or present in Martini glasses at a happy hour or cocktail party gathering

4 cups tomato juice or V8 (regular or low-sodium)
2 cups diced, fresh  tomatoes
1 peeled chopped cucumber (not too small)
½ to 1 cup chopped green bell pepper
½ cup chopped red bell pepper (*optional)
1 cup chopped celery
½ cup chopped red onion
2 chopped scallions, including most of the greens
2-3 cloves minced garlic
¼ bunch cilantro – stems removed and leaves whole or roughly chopped (or parsley, but I prefer cilantro)
2 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
2 Tbsp. lemon or lime juice (experiment & decide which you prefer)
1 to 2 Tbsp. olive oil (I use extra virgin)
Salt & pepper to taste
Dash of Worcestershire sauce (*optional – contains anchovies, so leave out, if guests are vegan or have seafood allergies)
Two or three dashes of Tabasco or other hot sauce
Combine all ingredients in a large bowl, stir and chill for at least three hours before serving. It’s good cold and the longer the flavors meld together the better it tastes, so I always make mine first thing in the morning for serving at dinner.

Have hot sauce on the table, so guests may add more spice, if they like things hotter.

*As an option, you may want to puree about ¼ or so of the batch, then stir into the rest, to create a thicker base.

*Another option is to add cooked cocktail shrimp – if your guests aren’t vegans or have seafood allergies.


(The number of servings this makes depends upon whether you are serving soup bowls full or smaller servings presented in Martini glasses.)

Garrapata State Park and The Carelessness of Selfish Hikers / Campers

Photo by Tucson photographer Martha Lochert of a hiker crossing Soberanes Creek on the Soberanes Creek Trail in Garrapata State Park, CA.

Photo by Tucson photographer Martha Lochert of a hiker crossing Soberanes Creek on the Soberanes Canyon Trail in Garrapata State Park, CA.


My daughter is getting married in Carmel, CA in October, so we have been watching the Soberanes Fire closely, ever since it started and her soon-to-be in-laws were evacuated from their Carmel Highlands home, which sits very close to the wedding venue. Luckily they are safe and have another home to go back to in Chicago and thus far, their Carmel home has been spared, as the fire has moved southeast of them.
Many forest fires start by lightning strikes, but yesterday investigators determined that this fire is the result of an unattended campfire. This discovery makes me sick. We hiked in Garrapata State Park (where the fire originated) in February – along the Soberanes Canyon Trail, crisscrossing the Soberanes Creek and walking among beautiful redwood trees that are now charred. I’m saddened that I can not take that hike and enjoy the beauty of that place again when we are there in October. My photographs are cherished memories of a pristine landscape that no longer exists.
On our annual 2-3 week camping trip last month I put out an abandoned fire in Colorado. I saw the car drive away, then looked over and saw their fire pit billowing smoke. They blatantly left it smoldering. Last year I had to do the same thing in another part of Colorado. Why do people think that if it’s within a fire ring it’s OK to leave smoldering wood? No flames, does NOT mean no fire! Not only can a wind spread sparks and start a forest fire, but if the bed of a fire pit is hot enough, underlying roots can smolder for weeks before erupting in a fire. If you don’t make sure a campfire is dead out, you may unknowingly be the cause of a forest fire! Seriously – drench your fires when done. You should be able to put your hand in the fire pit before you walk away.
In the case of the Soberanes Fire, the campfire was started in an area where fires are not even allowed, but selfishly, whoever started it, ignored the notice and chose to have a fire at a scenic spot by a waterfall, because they wanted to! Now 107,479 acres (44,300 at the time of my original post) are charred, 57 homes are destroyed, one man is dead and an exquisite landscape is ruined for the next several decades.
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Motion Is Your Friend

Photo by Tucson photographer Martha Lochert.

This post is for the photo hobbyists I teach. Don’t be afraid to use motion to your advantage.

Yes, we want to capture clear and stunning photos, but sometimes showing motion is the very thing that adds interest to a photo and makes it transcend a sterile documentation of an object.

I could have photographed this roulette wheel with an on-camera flash and a normal or fast shutter speed and documented it, but that’s all it would be – a nice clear picture of a roulette table. The numbers on the wheel would all be visible and static; the marble would hover on the edge, appearing to be stationary.

Instead, I opted to try and capture the excitement of the game by using a higher ISO (800) which allowed me to use ambient light instead of an on-camera flash. I also used a fairly wide aperture (f4.5) to keep most of the table out of focus and a slow speed (1/8th of a second) so that the wheel would move during the exposure.

Had I more time, I would have worked on perfecting this shot by using a tripod instead of hand-holding, but I did this during a party I was hired to photograph and didn’t have more time to spend on it. Even as is, I think it tells a much better story than snapping a crisp, yet boring image. It’s more dynamic now, since it captures the action of the game.

So allow motion to be recorded in your photographs when it makes sense. After all, photography captures the passing of time within a two-dimensional plane.

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You Don’t Have Tinnitus – It’s Just the Cicadas

Photo of a cicada by Tucson photographer Martha Lochert.

A friend of mine posted on Facebook this morning about how the sound of the bugs (she thought it was the June Bugs) was driving her nuts. I informed her that that piercing buzz was coming from the cicadas, whose ringing fills the air every summer in the desert, as they are on an annual cycle. Some cicadas (male and female) move their wings together to make sounds, but the stereotypical buzz is from them flexing their tymbals (a drum-like organ in their abdomens).

Broods in other parts of the country are on a periodic cycle, only emerging every 17 years! According to CNN the northwest is experiencing a huge influx of cicadas after their brood emerges from its 17-year cycle. There are also proto-periodical broods which are active every year, but on certain years come out in extra large numbers.

The cicadas only live two to four weeks after emerging, so those who can’t stand their song, have patience, while the photo geeks have fun finding and photographing them!

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Photographing Ceramics

Joni7456 Joni9980

Somebody asked me how to photograph ceramics. There’s not one answer to that question.

Here are a few samples of options I have chosen.

The first is a Raku urn by Joni Pevarnik that I photographed. I placed that on a 6 foot piece of textured art board, curved to create a seamless background, and added a diagonally projected background light to add drama. That had lights above and to the sides in front.

The clay art piece, also by Joni Pevarnik, had a lot of textural “folds” so I lighted that from above and behind with a huge (approx. 4 foot) soft box and bounce cards to fill the front. There were no lights in front. This created a beautiful soft light quality and showed the roundness of the base, by allowing the bottom to be in shadow. I also threw in a small light at the right to keep the background from going too dark, placing it behind the piece, but such that some of the light would spill onto the edge to create a bit of rim light. For this one, white foam core was placed under the piece to bounce light up and a vertically hung gray background placed in the back – with a gap of about four feet between.

There are many ways to photograph ceramics; these are but a few.

83 Years Ago – Construction Began in The Bay


Eighty-three years ago today (Jan. 5, 1933), construction began on the Golden Gate Bridge.

Joseph Baermann Strauss was appointed Chief Engineer for the Golden Gate Bridge project. His original bridge design was for a cantilever-suspension hybrid, but by the time it went into production, that design changed to the full-suspension bridge we all know.

When the bridge opened in 1937 it was the world’s longest suspension span (4,200 ft) over a straight deemed too treacherous to bridge. The Golden Gate straight proved  “bridgeable” after all and the bridge considered an engineering marvel. It links San Francisco with Marin County and is constantly bombarded with corrosive salt fog entering into San Francisco Bay from the Pacific Ocean.

All of the suspension cables were replaced in the mid-1970’s, after discovering many of them were highly corroded. The original paint replaced only a few times is now a water-borne inorganic zinc based primer with an acrylic topcoat, in the same orange vermilion (international orange) it has always been. It was never painted gold, because its name is for the straight it spans, not its color.

The Golden Gate Bridge has carried over two billion cars across its suspended steel framework since it opened May 28, 1937.

For more information on the bridge, please visit:

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Thanksgiving Abundance


Photo of harvested pumpkins by Tucson photographer Martha Lochert

A bounty of harvested pumpkins for this Thanksgiving week.

It’s really something to ponder.

There are bounties in our lives that go unnoticed. Stop and notice them. Sometimes they are like this pile of pumpkins that I photographed – haphazard, disorganized, even chaotic – yet in their random state they become a beautifully orchestrated arrangement.

Notice those random, seemingly unrelated little blessings, as together they represent an abundance of things for which we should feel gratitude. Let’s be thankful.

Those Busy Beavers …

Beaver-chewed tree trunk photo by Tucson photographer Martha Lochert.

I was walking in the woods and came across this tree. A beaver felled it. According to  http:// it probably only took about five to ten minutes! I wish I would have seen it in action.

While beavers can seem to be a nuisance, they actually help us in many ways. By building their dams, they create a habitat for a variety of fish, birds and plants, adding biodiversity to a stream. These ponds are helping to restore our country’s wetlands; their ponds slow down water absorption – reducing drought and erosion. The microbes in the beaver wetlands also acts as “kidneys” for the earth by breaking down the toxins in the water as it flows through the silt built up in older dams. So it is in our best interest to leave them be!

The National Wildlife Federation has a good article on beavers at:

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Little Gems in the Woods


One of my favorite places is Muir Woods in northern California. Walking through the giant Redwood forest is grounding; Mother Nature is in charge. The beauty of this forest is its richness in both the large and the small inhabitants.

That old figurative expression can be applied quite literally here; it is easy to actually “miss the forest for the trees” in a place like this. The giant trees claim most of the attention and it would be easy to leave having enjoyed the trees, yet having missed the other inhabitants of this wonderful place. If one looks down, there is a lot of flora to discover, such as this bacon fungi and moss growing on the base of a tree trunk.

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Blood Moon 2015

The Blood Moon - lunar eclipse September 27, 2015 photographed by Tucson photographer Martha Lochert.

The Blood Moon – lunar eclipse September 27, 2015 photographed by Tucson photographer Martha Lochert.

Tonight I had fun photographing the total lunar eclipse, which, combined with being the closest full moon of the year, produced the so-called Supermoon (and also called a blood moon, since it turns reddish-orange).

Think of how frightening it must have been for ancient people who neither had advanced warning of its occurrence nor scientific knowledge of why it turned red.

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The Tree Keeps Giving


Just south of Texas Canyon in Cochise County, Arizona stands this dead tree. It might be dead, but it is still a “giving tree.” Where once it gave shade, now it serves as a natural sculpture in the surrounding landscape for those who may happen to notice.

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Church Rock. I Could Pray Here …



This is Church Rock in the Navajo Nation off  US-160 west of Kayenta in northern Arizona. (36°44’02.9″N 110°07’07.1″W)

I think it is aptly named.


Reverence  noun rev·er·ence \ˈrev-rən(t)s, ˈre-və-; ˈre-vərn(t)s\ :honor or respect felt or shown :  deference; especially :  profound adoring awed respect

I felt that here.

Though just off the highway, there is very little traffic at dusk. It is a very silent and meditative place after the harshness of the daylight hours have passed.

I could not help but contemplate the majesty and grandeur of nature as I sat in the silence and observed the changing patterns and colors of light over these ancient rocks.

Humans do not dominate this land. The self-importance of mankind is laughable in a place like this. We think we are in charge. We create derision, strife, division, wars to control resources and build political power and all the while, being inharmonious with our fellow man and with nature. We ruin that which we were given stewardship during the blink of an eye in which we live, while the land, these monoliths and plateaus carry on despite our lack of reverence.


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