The Digital Photo Guy

Benson, AZ and Surrounds

by on Apr.01, 2013, under Articles, gear, Monday Morning Tips

Free Fire Zone for Photography

Lest I lead you astray, Benson itself is a dreary little town like so many towns that refuse to grow up. Benson advertises itself as the “Home of Kartchner Caverns State Park” but nothing in the town leverages the attraction. To be perfectly fair, I gave up after an hour and set out on my own to find photo opportunities.

The first place I found turned out to be a winner. Gammon’s Gulch is an old west town built specifically to be a movie set. The town is an amazing collection of (mostly) period appropriate artifacts, buildings and props that have been used in various westerns. Many buildings were purchased in toto, disassembled and reassembled on site. What really makes the town is the founder and raconteur Jay Gammon who seems to know the history and provenance of every single item in town. And, if he doesn’t know, he’ll make up a story so quickly that you’ll never know or mind.

There are 10 buildings open to the public including a mining camp. I never made it past the first 3 because there was so much to photograph. If you go, bring a wide angle (16-35 or 17-40) and a moderate standard zoom like a Canon 2-105. If you have a tilt-shift, that would make the indoor shot much easier. Also, don’t forget to bring a tripod. The indoor scenes just scream out for HDR. These three were made inside the general store using a Canon 5D MkII and a 17-40/4 on a Gitzo tripod with a Cullmann ballhead. Each is a 3 frame HDR at +2, 0 and -2.

Gammons Gulch-2 Gammons Gulch-1-2 Gammons Gulch-1

Cost is $7 dollars suggested donation if you like the tour. With Jay’s humor and vast knowledge of all things western, I can’t see how anyone wouldn’t be impressed enough to kick in a sawbuck or two. I plan to go back in the winter when there’s snow on the Chiricahua Mountains.

Chiricahua National Monument

Speaking of the Chiricahuas, we spent a day there and were impressed with the rocks but not the cloudless, bright skies. We intend to go back in Jan-Feb 2014 when there’s a good chance snow will be covering the rocks and clouds softening the light.


Tombstone, AZ

Tombstone is everything that Gammon’s Gulch isn’t. So crassly overcommercialized, it’s like a cartoon caricature of itself. Finding myself bereft of suitable subjects that didn’t make me gag, I decided to make a game of it and chronicle the absurdity of Tombstone. Tell me if I captured the true crassness of this hokey town.

Cowboys sure rode some fancy buggies in old Tombstone.   How did Wyatt Earp ever get a clear shot in this corral?   Even back then, Tombstone was a very progressive town!

Inflation was rampant in Tombstone if hitching your horse cost $5.   The Clantons would have won with one of these!   My favorite. Closing the school is one way to ensure a drug free school.

Salton Sea Burrowng Owls by Charles

My friend, Charles, sent me these BO photos to rub my nose into the fact that I never got a single flight photo of a BO. Actually, in my defense, I was using my 300/2.8 with a 2x TC for an effective field of view (FOV) of 960mm. It’s awfully difficult to frame a fast, agile bird like a BO at 30 ft. Next year, I’ll try Charles’ technique with a 200/4 for about 300mm FOV. Good shots, Charles.

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6 Comments for this entry

  • Dick Schroeder

    This fall we’ll be seeing Spain & Portugal, hopefully with less snow than the Eastern Sierras :~)

  • Dick Schroeder

    Hi Lee, sounds like you’re having a great time in AZ & not missing ol’ Escondido too much :~) I enjoy your reports and photos.

    • Lee

      Hi Dick,
      Thanks for being such a faithful reader. Yes, AZ is much more central to the places I like to photograph. About the only thing missing in Wickenburg is a college or university.

      Mabe you can join me in the Eastern Sierras this fall.


  • Jill Johnson

    OOOOPS! I just read that the photos were from
    Charles. so sorry, Lee.

  • Jill Johnson

    I love your Burrowing Owls. Neat PHOTOS.

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