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On Friday, December 26th, I made my way to McDowell Mountain Park in northeast Phoenix metropolitan area, for a mountain bike (MTB) ride.  My initial plan was to head southwest on the Pemberton Loop and ride until I felt the need to start heading back to my vehicle.  Having not ridden since early September, I knew to start out slow, get the muscles into the rhythm before really pushing myself.

As I rode along, I quickly realized that the Pemberton Loop would be one I’d have to ride again and again.  The desert area near Four Peaks Wilderness and the Goldfield Mountains is just gorgeous (to me) and it seemed that I was seeing all sorts of compositions as I rode along.  The trail was a mixture of hard-pack and semi-soft sand, but nothing too difficult.

Most other riders on the trail were wearing long riding pants, so I definitely stuck out like a sore thumb with shorts on.  The temp was +52F (roughly), so it was quite comfortable to me.  In any case, I continued to ride along, stopping here and there to take in the vistas and compose images in my mind.  Given the right conditions, there are literally dozens of spots along the Pemberton Loop where beautiful images of the Four Peaks Wilderness can be made.

The ride also provided me with additional views of the Goldfield Mountains (a part of Usury Mountain Park, near Apache Junction).  As time passed, I approached the junction of Pemberton Loop and Tonto Tank Trail.  I wanted to take a slight detour in my drive back to my folks place in northwest Phoenix metro, through Blue Point Recreation Site to scout out the area.  Deciding that the time was right, I turned onto Tonto Tank Trail for the fast & fun downhill back towards my vehicle.

Once back at my vehicle, I cooled down for 15 – 20 minutes, walked around a bit and got my mountain bike onto the bike rack and put my hydration pack, helmet and riding shoes into the car.  Felt good to ride, even with the shorter ride than I had planned (8.98 miles instead of the full 15.x miles around Pemberton Loop), I was content.

Looking towards Saguaro Lake area and the Goldfield Mountains, the light was the best, but I knew that this was merely a scouting trip, so exact image creation was not the goal.  Made my way to the Bush Highway and started South.  Cresting a hill, I saw an opportunity to pull over and create a few shots.  This area, with the correct light, atmospheric conditions, etc., will be amazing!!

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The Cholla and Saguaro are gorgeous in this area; finding just the right place to create the image will take a bit of exploring (oh darn!).

This location has a lot of potential!  I had one more stop to make to scout so I got back into the vehicle and continued on down the road.  Just beyond Blue Point Recreation Site was a pullout on the south side of the road.  Pulled in, parked and grabbed the gear.

Again, my focus for the day was to research potential spots for future visits, when the conditions were more conducive to photography.

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Potential…lots and lots of potential!

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I can see the sun setting, making the rock faces just glow spectacularly!!

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So what is the point of all this?  Landscape photographers typically want to have a few clouds in the sky, just the right light and a quality subject for shooting.  Serendipity plays a part in much of what we do.  Research can aide in making your creations hit the mark just that little bit more!  As the old saying goes, “Chance favors the prepared mind!”  Knowing the lay of the land for a particular area helps to be prepared for that one time when everything fits together and magical images are created!

Another aspect to these scouting outings, at least for me, is that it keeps me active with my camera.  I know the images I created on the scouting mission were just that, but I still enjoy the process of framing and getting the scene right!  Keep the mind sharp; you never know when you will need that one skill stored somewhere in the mind!

I leave you with these thoughts:  2014 has been a magnificent year.  Looking back over the year, I feel I’ve made great strides with my photography.  2015 is nearly upon us and I have started to put together a list of places I would like to shoot as well as some ideas for blog posts.  Where will you go in 2015?  What photographic inspiration do you have in mind?  What stories do you wish to tell in 2015?

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