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.

A Photo Stroll in Tubac Arizona

Hanging Fish

Hanging Fish © 2014 Bo Mackison

Sundays are a great day to wander, snap a few shots to capture a place.

Art hangs on so many of the walls in Tubac. The art against the adobe background is striking.

Dry Wash

Dry Wash © 2014 Bo Mackison

A dry wash separates the main part of town. Signs warn to cross only in fair weather. A flash flood following monsoonal rains will fill this wash to overflowing.

Wall Decor

Wall Decor © 2014 Bo Mackison

Moons, cacti, lizards – colorful and happy – decorate the outside walls of many of the shops. One would never run out of display space.


Gyros © 2014 Bo Mackison

Happy trucks – the food trucks offer a variety of foods during crowd-pleasing events. Would you enjoy a gyro or a Greek salad from the “Sleek Greek”?

Golden Sculpture, Golden Acacia

Golden Sculpture, Golden Palo Verde © 2014 Bo Mackison

A part of a golden kinetic sculpture gleams against the background of a golden-flowering palo verde.

Shadow Play

Shadow Play © 2014 Bo Mackison

Lines and light and shadow.


WindowLess © 2014 Bo Mackison

What can you see from this window, even though it is blocked with bricks?

Keep Off

Keep Off © 2014 Bo Mackison

In the Midwest, the signs read “Keep Off the Grass.” Not so in Arizona.

Roof Lines

Roof Lines © 2014 Bo Mackison

Blue sky. Yellow roof. Metal awning. Orange rafters. White lights. Open windows.

Sidewalk Shadow

Sidewalk Shadow © 2014 Bo Mackison

Always there are shadows on the pavement, courtesy of the Arizona’s nearly ever-present sun. Tree shadows. My favorites.

Brick Wall and Pavement

Aggregate © 2014 Bo Mackison

Things can sometimes be very simple. A wall. A sidewalk. Lean against the adobe brick, and breathe a while. Rest.

Bench Warmer

Bench Warmer © 2014 Bo Mackison

The bench warmer in bronze. I’d expect to see this esteemed man in a different setting – not in a desert gallery. There is swirling dust about his feet.

These photos were taken with my iPhone using the Hipstamatic app.

One of my favorite parts of this app is its shakability. Shake the cell phone camera and the filter changes, so I’m never sure which filter will appear next. Serendipity photography.

A Touch of Autumn, Reminders of Impermanance

Autumn's Touch © 2013 Bo Mackison

Autumn’s Touch © 2013 Bo Mackison

“Nothing in the world is permanent, and we’re foolish when we ask anything to last,
but surely we’re still more foolish not to take delight in it while we have it.” ~ W. Somerset Maugham

A dozen geese, in formation, fly over my back porch as I stand watching traces of sunlight shimmer through the rainclouds. They are so near I can see the layering of their feathers, their muscles flexing, hear the whirr-whirr of their wings in synchronous flight.

I am on my porch, a screened affair, three sides visually open to the back yard, the gardens and trees. The skies, blue earlier, are now gray and threatening. A path meanders along the back of the garden and through the neighborhood. There are occasional lamp posts – Narnia style – to light the way at night. The lamp flickers on mid-morning, gradually emitting a soft glow.

There is a glider on the porch and a side table. I sit there for thinking time, quiet time, connecting time. Often I light the candle on the table – its flame a reminder of the light in the world, the energy contained in the small flame, useful in containment, but enlivened fury when out of control. I think about self-direction and discipline.

There is a round table and two chairs opposite the glider. I set up a work station on the table. It doubles as office during the day, dining nook on warm summer evenings. I have assembled piles of journals, books, a pad of notes, my computer. My Miro coffee cup.

Tucker, the Writing Companion Cat © 2013 Bo Mackison

Tucker, the Writing Companion Cat © 2013 Bo Mackison

There is a cat. He alternately snoozes in the comfy space behind my open computer screen and peeks around at the monitor’s ever changing screen, ready to attack the cursor as it moves. He prowls the edges of the porch, on the look out for baby rabbits who recently ventured from their underground nest, a late brood.When he can’t pounce on his preferred furry targets, he slinks along the polished floor, and substitutes my toes for target practice. A cat is distraction, entertainment. I consider coaxing him into the house with catnip treats, but I like his company, and his cat sense of humor.

There is an approaching storm. Thunder rolls, rain plops in spattery drops on large-leafed hosta in the north garden. Leaves sprawled in disarray, as if an elephant used the plants as his foot path. Bright green only a week ago, today they are a green-gray, wrinkled and yellow-tipped. Touched by autumn’s early breath, they quickly aged.

There is the work I’ve just begun. A writing project with an encroaching due date. But the rain is blowing, the thunder fiercer as it approaches with a slow rumble. The cat has gone inside to hide under the couch, waiting for me to pack up my papers and books, my journals and computer, and come join him in the softly lit study.

There I am warmer, it is a much quieter space. Not nearly as evocative for story-imagining, dreaming, nature-study. The cat watches from under his protective furniture, his golden eyes aglow. I re-settle. It is a good day to write, wherever I find my space.


Bo Mackison is artist, photographer, book-maker, naturalist, poet, curator, and owner of Seeded Earth Studio LLC. It is a good day for writing projects, accompanied by rainfall, whispering trees, and a jumpy cat.