Chiricahua and Beyond – Day 1


Drive east across southern Arizona
veer southeast at Willcox
and cross the high desert.


Here are the Chiricahua Mountains, a sky island,
and Chiricahua National Monument.
Begin in the mixed oak and conifer forest and


ascend 6000 feet, finish amidst the highest rocks,
Chiracahua Peak is 9,759 feet high.
An Apache place name, it  means “a wonderland of rocks”.


The rocks are rhyolite, volcanic rock,
the trees are juniper, pygmy trees,
and the Chiricahuan Raven calls this mountain his home.


Return the way one came, descending Bonita Canyon Road,
and return to the high desert.
The tumbleweed blow. A storm approaches.


Drive east again, towards New Mexico,
the first day of travel nearly done.
The air so dry and hot, the rain evaporates before it reaches the ground.


Cross country travel. Using iPhone and Hipstamatic app. There is little time to stop for photographs, so these are on-the-road shots.

Traveling to the Desert — Day One


December 31.

Heading west from Wisconsin.

Driving to the desert.


100 miles done, 1700 to go.

Crossing the Mississippi River at Dubuque, Iowa

River is icy, not frozen.


200 miles done, 1600 miles to go.

Iowa farm

Minimalist. Lines.


300 miles done, 1500 miles to go. break in travel for a hometown visit

crossing the Mississippi again, this time into Illinois

river is high on December 31st after unprecedented winter rains

much of Quincy is built high on the bluffs, natural flood protection


the bridge of my childhood travels

crossing this bridge always meant some version of travel adventure — a visit with family who across the river in Missouri or Iowa, or a weekend trip to St. Louis (the big city)


Since driving and arriving are the priority for this trip, all photos are drive by. And on the first leg of the journey, all shots are taken through winter-slushed windows.

Hipstamatic filters set on random (but still available for some post processing when desired) and my iPhone add a sense of photo adventure with a modicum of control.

A Series of Photographs – Exploring the Creative Process

Palo Verde

Palo Verde © 2014 Bo Mackison

Lens: Jimmy
Film: Claunch 72 Monochrome

Often I am a slow photographer.

I check the times of sunrise and sunset, and plan shooting times to take advantage of the golden light. I pack my camera bag with a combination of multiple lenses and diffusers and hoods, with dust protectors and extra batteries and memory cards. I attach a heavy tripod to the bag, too.

This is slow photography. I sit and absorb the feel of a place. I connect with the space. I may wait for a certain cloud formation to float into a certain location, or a shadow to darken a rock.

And though it can be hard work, I find most of  the process passionately engaging. (I could do without the extra gear weight, especially when hiking in the desert, but…that’s part of the experience.)

Palo Verde

Palo Verde © 2014 Bo Mackison

Lens: Jane
Film: Blanko

But sometimes I am a spur of the moment photographer.

I grab my iPhone. I open the camera and I start shooting.

One of my favorite techniques for letting go and giving myself full permission to enjoy the process is what I refer to as my “shake and take” technique.

Palo Verde

Palo Verde © 2014 Bo Mackison

Lens: Kaimal Mark II
Film: Blanko

Yep. I open the Hipstamatic app on my iPhone and I take a photo.

Then I simply shake my cell phone. The app randomly changes lenses and film and I retake the photograph. I often shake and take a dozen photos of the same subject. Then I look at the photographs.

I’ll get a few duplicates – same lens and film combination – and choose which one I prefer. Otherwise, I simply take what pops up randomly.

I find it fascinating how the different combinations change a simple subject.

Palo Verde

Palo Verde © 2014 Bo Mackison

Lens: Jane
Film: Claunch 72 Monochrome

In this series, I took photos of a palo verde tree while in my car.

I was waiting for a friend and noticed the overhanging branches dangling over the car. I opened the window, aimed towards the sky, took a photo, shook the cell phone, and then repeated. A lot!

Happily, the app records the lens, film, and other data, so when I find a combination I am fond of, I can replicate it with different subjects.

Palo Verde

Palo Verde © 2014 Bo Mackison

Lens: Lucifer VI
Film: Blanko

There’s a lot to be said for a creative process that can change with my mood.

Slow and pensive, quick and experimental, metaphorical or playful. The many moods of the photographer and the resulting photos.

Black and White Photography at Tucson Botanical Gardens

Black and Whites at Tucson Botanical Gardens

Black and White at Tucson Botanical Gardens © 2014 Bo Mackison

A planter.

Black and Whites at Tucson Botanical Gardens

Black and White at Tucson Botanical Gardens II © 2014 Bo Mackison

Lots of places to sit and admire the flowering plants.

Black and Whites at Tucson Botanical Gardens

Black and White at Tucson Botanical Gardens III © 2014 Bo Mackison

Lots of light and shadow play.

Black and Whites at Tucson Botanical Gardens

Black and White at Tucson Botanical Gardens IV © 2014 Bo Mackison

White Chairs.

Black and Whites at Tucson Botanical Gardens

Black and White at Tucson Botanical Gardens V © 2014 Bo Mackison


Black and Whites at Tucson Botanical Gardens

Black and White at Tucson Botanical Gardens VI © 2014 Bo Mackison


A trip to the Tucson Botanical Gardens on a sunny day.

Traveling East, A Spring Greening

The greening of the trees in spring rain,
see-through trees like a lacy negligee, the nesting bird
watches from the half-leafed trees.

Traveling in the Rain

Rain Travel © 2012 Bo Mackison

Calves balancing on gentle hills rub their noses in the wet grasses.
One stands wobbly, leans against its mother.
Others watch their mothers watching them, nibble a bit, suckle,
wander about the remains of last fall’s tattered harvest.

Darkest brown, Iowa’s earth, earth that dips
and dances. We’ve driven past the Kansas grasslands,
and not yet reached the prairie flat of Illinois.

See the family plot tucked tightly between
the edge of the woods and the tilled field;
Splintered posts and strands of wire mark its boundary.
Roughly hewed stones, two rows of three, the mossy inscriptions illegible.
Though one, a mother’s marker, is split in half – part upright,
part broken off and tipped into the rain-soaked grass.
The roughened quarry block, now a rest stop for crows,
splats of white the only sign of life.

Clouds hang gray, so low I yearn to stand
and push them high into the skies, high enough to punch an opening into the dim blueness
that is Midwestern sky, give sunlight to the earth.
Yet fog lingers, sky primed in deep grays.

We pass a highway sign, What Cheer, population 142. Twenty miles south.
I wish to see a town worthy of this name, but we’re on the fourth morning of steady travel.
There is no will to detour.
Tonight we sleep in the familiar ridges and valleys of our familiar bed.

First I will say hello to the house I left a hundred days ago,
walk through the rooms I know by memory, peer out the back window at the apple tree.
I’m told no blossoms remain.

Oklahoma, Gray Skies, and a White Truck

White Truck © 2012 Bo Mackison

I bought a primitive statue of a woman last summer from a stone sculptor the next booth over.
She toppled in a winter storm. My husband mentions this
as he pulls into the Save-n-Go in Dubuque for gas and coffee.

Tomorrow morning I’ll push her upright so we can watch the garden together.
We will meet, eye to eye, and reflect on the greenness of Midwest spring.


Bo Mackison is a photographer and owner of Seeded Earth Studio LLC. After four days of cross-country travel, Bo is back home in the Midwest.