Monday, March 11, 2013


I have a new favorite trail to hike in the Phoenix area, the Tom's Thumb Trail, located in the McDowell Sonoran Conservancy.  In the last couple of years the conservancy has built a beautiful new trailhead for this hike at the south end of 128th Street in north Scottsdale.  Although the trailhead does not have water, it does have ample parking, an attractive shelter, detailed trail maps, and clean restrooms.  Many of the trails in this region wend through fairly nondescript desert landscape, but this trail features a good deal of rock formations as well as great vistas looking both north toward the mountains and south toward the metropolitan area.

This is the fourth hike I have taken since our arrival in Arizona and the first on which I have taken more than just a few shots.  But I have to say that I was pretty disappointed with most of the shots I took.  Here, for example, is a shot of the Tom's Thumb formation early on the hike.

Tom's Thumb is visible on the ridge, but the photo fails provide any sense of distance.  Instead, the ridge looks like a minor collection of rubble that could have been left by a few dump trucks rather than being a steep ridge over 1,000 feet high.  At least I included the trail in the shot.

Here's another disappointing shot.

Again, there is no sense of distance in this shot.  Tom's Thumb is 140 feet high, but that's not apparent in this shot.  Instead, it looks like a random rock at the top of a heap of rubble.  Too far away, maybe.

Here's another shot that does a better job.

Close inspection reveals another hiker at the base of the formation to the right of center.

And here is a shot of the formation from its base.

Now I'm way too close.

The trail featured ample opportunities for broad vista shots.  Here are a few of those.


These shots looked a bit better, perhaps because I made an attempt to frame the shot or at least include something in the foreground.  And here's a shot on the way back of a tree that I framed against the background mountains.

The fact is that only the left side of the tree was interesting; the right side was a disorganized mess, so I just left it out.

And finally I took a couple of obligatory shots of rocks.

I took all of these shots with my Canon point and shoot.  It's small enough to put in my pocket, so it doesn't add much weight.  Moreover, unlike my DSLR, it isn't hanging off my neck, so that I don't have to worry that it will get banged up inadvertently and I can keep my hands free for scrambling up and down the trail.  It does have its optical limitations, though, and I'm wondering to what extent I can use those limitations as an excuse for the mediocre results that I got on this hike.

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