Jul 2 2010

Friday Photo: Bustin’ Blooms

Melissa Crytzer Fry

Earlier this week I shared a photo of a flowering saguaro cactus, the flowers pristine and crisp in their infancy. Today I share the effects of a month’s worth of 90- and 100-degree heat: wilted blooms and ripe fruit that the birds love to eat. When the fruit starts to burst open, the tops of the cacti along our hillsides become dotted with blood red, flesh-colored fruits – a stark contrast to the browning desert.

Did you know that saguaro fruit can be harvested and made into jelly? Or that nectar-eating bats (southern long-nosed bats) love pollinating the saguaro’s flowers? I’ve got bat photos, too, from our trail camera. Stay tuned! Click to enlarge.

Consider this, writers: If you had to rely on description alone to ‘show’ your readers the inside of a ripe saguaro fruit – or even the entire tip of a fruited saguaro cactus – how would you describe it? I see so much more when I study the photo than I did with my naked eye … and so many more interesting ways of describing it.

Jun 30 2010

Rhythm of the Cicada

Melissa Crytzer Fry

Do you have any idea how difficult it is to photograph a cicada? I’ve been chasing these noisy insects around for weeks, and to no avail. How quickly I felt outsmarted! Each time I’d approach a bush or tree – abuzz with the distinctive cicada cacophony – I’d get very close, scanning and scanning, yet seeing nothing.

One of thousands of cicadas along the San Pedro riverbed in southern Arizona. Click photo to enlarge.

They’d toy with me. A sharp “buzz,” then silence. Another “buzz,” then silence. One even flew into my ear when I was on the four-wheeler, heading to my “Cicada Rendezvous” by the river. Talk about taunting (and did I mention, Ouch? They’re pretty darn big when they bounce off an ear hole!). And one day, during a jog, one of them let off this offensive screeching noise low to the ground as I ran by. Let’s just say that it startled me so much, I did an in-the-air-cartoon dust cloud. I think I was levitating.

So, yes … I wanted to photograph these elusive, ornery bugs. My fascination was also influenced by the fact that I appreciate their ‘wit.’ Plus, it’s pretty impressive that they can live underground for most of the year, feeding on roots – only to emerge from holes in May or June in droves, filling the desert days and nights with song. The first trill of a cicada – to me, at least – means that Arizona’s overbearing summer heat has arrived. And the trees that get a natural pruning each year, as a result, seem none the worse for wear (the females cut slits into branches to deposit eggs; then the branches fall off – at the outer tips of a limb – the eggs falling to the ground. Repeat the cycle.).

So while I jest about the cicada’s elusive qualities and wit, the reality is that when the end of August nears and the cicadas crawl back into the ground, the desert will be a bit less noisy. And, admittedly, I’ll miss those ornery insects.

Listen to the sounds of Arizona’s cicadas on the video below, then, writers, scroll for tips.

For Writers:

How would you describe what you hear in the above video? Is the sound reminiscent of the rattle of a rattlesnake? The vigorous shaking of maracas? My description: the sound was so intense, so nearly deafening, that when I spoke, I was sure I was slurring my speech. It felt like my S’es were coming out all wrong, blended in so perfectly with the hiss of the cicadas that even I couldn’t tell if I’d spoken them … Really, it was that loud. The audio doesn’t really do the scenario justice, unfortunately. But use your imagination!