Saturday, July 17, 2010

It Happened One Night!

All it took was a little news brief in the on-line version of the Arizona Daily Star - Bloom Night at Tohono Chul Park! As a result, everyone and their brother showed up at the private park on the near northwest side from 6pm to midnight. "Bloom Night" is chosen as the night-blooming Cereus, (Peniocereus greggii) is at peak blooming season, when the flowers will come out for a single night. Years ago, the astronomy club and I were actually part of the entertainment with telescopes and one of my slide shows, as people wandered the grounds. With nearly 50 acres, miles of trails, and 350 of the night-blooming cacti, it is quite the destination for families, photographers, and children of all ages

I arrived a little after 9pm, and the place was packed. I had difficulty finding parking in the huge lot, and the docent staff was stretched pretty thin, so it was difficult getting oriented. Eventually, I learned to seek out the groups of people and camera flashes going off to locate the plants. You actually had to wait in line to get up to the flowers, so I initially went after people photographing the blooms. I wanted to catch the flashes going off, but many were using LED flashlights with phone cameras, which didn't work as well. I roamed on some of the lumnaria-lit trails and put some distance from the crowds, and eventually got some "face time" with the fragrant blossoms. The displays were nice, some plants with only a single bloom, one spectacular one growing among the branches of a Palo Verde tree had 15 blooms on display!

It was a whole new set of problems working in the dark, yet doing "normal" imaging and not astronomical objects. The on-camera flash was a lifesaver, and I used a monopod, since the flash froze any user or wind-induced motion. I got some nice shots, even a couple stereo pairs. A little after 11 as I was leaving, the crowds had dwindled and the parking lot nearly empty. A fun evening but Melinda wasn't able to join me - she was working tonight... Blooming only one night, she'll have to try for next year!

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