Desert Botanical Gardens: A Feast for the Eye and Camera


The Sonoran Desert offers more when it comes to plant life than you might initially suspect. Phoenix’s Desert Botanical Gardens offers the opportunity to shoot this diversity in a space that will offer you tons of different shots in the span of an hour or two. So pack your best Lomo camera and get ready for a gorgeous slice of the desert.

People don’t usually associate a large diversity of beautiful flora with the Sonoran Desert. They picture a roadrunner, a few droopy saguaros and a coyote with a penchant for mail order explosives. These people are missing out. The brutal conditions of the Sonoran Desert are home to mesquite, agave, palm, and legume. And yes, the desert supports cacti but more than the ubiquitous saguaro. You’ll find organ pipe, beavertail, prickly pair, and dozens of other types as well.

So now that you know that the Sonoran holds a cornucopia of opportunities for you to shoot where should you start? My suggestion is the Desert Botanical Gardens of Papago Park in Phoenix, Arizona. The Desert Botanical Gardens boasts of 140 acres of amazing desert diversity. Bring your favorite cameras and films. You’ll need them!
The Desert Botanical Gardens has over 21,000 plants wherein 139 types of plants there are rare/endangered. What this means, my fellow Lomographer is that you can take pictures of plants that have an eerie or otherwordly quality. Most viewers aren’t used to the diversity of desert life, let alone it’s weirder flavors or rare species. The cristate saguaro is a bizarre crested cactus that looks like a tall, angry piece of broccoli. Its intense green colors ache for some nice, slow, slide film to shoot it.

What cameras should you bring to the Desert Botanical Gardens? Well, be prepared for an hour-and-a-half to a two-hour walk so don’t over pack but I think you’ll want to make sure that you bring at least one square format camera and one wide angle lens camera. The square format is suited for showcasing individual plants or single objects. If you want to back up and grab all the desert you can dig out that wide angle. I brought a Diana F+ and Eximus Wide and Slim and they were up to the task. I think other good fits for this location would be the Diana Mini and the Sprocket Rocket.

Film is where you really want to pack heavy. I suggest that you bring black and white, color negative films, and slide films. You’ll find such a wide array of things to shoot that one roll of film just won’t do. I found that individual plants really benefited from black and white. Also, since cacti and agave are so large they don’t suffer from the minimum focal length of most toy cameras. So get in there and shoot some B&W close-ups!
Your slide film will love all the intense colors of the place. Unlike shooting in a forest or a cityscape where a casually selected shot might net you a homogenous collection of color a casual shot here will be bursting with reds, yellows, greens and some blue. Grabbing as many wide angles with red rocks of Papago in the background as possible will give your shots a kinetic, alien look. Totally awesome. And the C-41 will be perfect for those plants or butterflies that are beautifully perfect just the way they are. Which, as you’ll find, are a lot.

Open all year round, the best time to shoot in this lomo location is still during fall and winter. It’s cooler which allows you to invest some time without getting heatstroke. But not to worry, even though it’s a little cooler in the winter all the photos you’ll shoot here will be hot. Lomo on, desert fans.

written by bcartwright on 2010-12-02 #places #location #travel-destination #arizona-desert-flora-saguaro-agave-outdoors-landscapes-plants-wide-angle-southwest-sonoran-desert-mesquite


  1. bovine
    bovine ·

    Beautiful shots! I love the shapes of those cacti. :D

  2. 110isnotdead
    110isnotdead ·

    Love the shots. It is a magical place no matter the season. I went there this past winter and it was a dream. I got some shots of my trip at my lomohome.

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