We selected 10 finalists and let our Facebook followers vote for their favorite.

6th Annual Reader Photography Contest: Old Arizona

Written by Faith Miller & Nicole Tyau Category: Arts Issue: June 2016
Group Free


Michael Wilson

Spring Canyon


Wilson, a geotechnical engineer from Prescott, set up his Nikon D750 overlooking Canyon de Chelly to photograph the ancient formation exploding with autumn colors as the sun set low. “The official overlook did not give me the composition or feeling I was hoping to photograph, so I wandered along the cliff’s edge until I came upon this location,” he says. “I really love the warm sunset light illuminating the tops of the canyon walls, and the exhilarating feeling it gives one of looking out over the top of the cliff.” The result: a quintessential Arizona canyon image, celebrating the poetry of permanence.

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Anamika Deokar

Lost in the Trains 

High school student Deokar took this photo at the Arizona Railway Museum for her AP Photography class. Her portfolio is focused heavily on trains, so she thought the museum would give her a great opportunity to capture something memorable. With her Canon Rebel T5i, she shot this brooding image of a boy running and playing between the retired machines – a clever paradoxical twist on our Old Arizona theme. “The photo represents that the train is sort of like an obstacle that the little boy is trying to accomplish or persevere through it, and just like how in life we will always have obstacles that will get in our way,” she says. 

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Charles Harker

Last Trip


“I was driving back to Phoenix after my niece’s graduation in Flagstaff and decided to give up the asphalt for an adventure,” Harker says of his chance encounter with this rusted beauty – believed to be a 1930s-era Auburn hardtop – near Cleator. He immediately hopped out of his vehicle to take a photo with his Canon Rebel EF-S. He likes to imagine the car’s passengers once rolled down the windows to “cool off and smell the orange blossoms,” before the unfortunate vehicle became target-practice fodder. Harker is a photographer and graphic designer in the Valley, and has contributed work to Getty Images and Shutterstock. 

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Cass Lipton

Young. Old.


Cass Lipton was on a day trip in Cherry Creek outside Payson when her travel partner’s truck broke down. That night, they stayed at the Dead Broke Inn in Young and met a couple of new friends, who took them on a tour the next day of an old gas station they planned on restoring and converting into a museum. Nearby, Lipton came across an old barn. Intrigued by its slanted silhouette, she captured it with an AF-S DX Nikkor lens at a shutter speed at 1/2500 of a second. Lipton, a high school student, specializes in landscape photographs. “I love being able to get out in the wild and enjoy the beauty,” she says. 

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AO Tucker 

Starlite, Star Bright


Tucker first learned about the Starlite Motel’s historical neon sign, the Diving Lady, by reading an article in the East Valley Tribune. In April 2013, the Litchfield Park-based IT professional attended the relighting ceremony for the newly restored sign, where Mesa Mayor Scott Smith flipped the switch to reanimate the aqueous beauty. Tucker used a long exposure (2.5 seconds) to capture all four progressions of the sign (animated to simulate a woman diving into a blue neon pool) in one image. The part-time photographer mainly shoots landscapes, plants and wildlife, having developed a passion for photography after purchasing a new camera a few years ago. The Diving Lady photo was taken with a Sony A77V and a Sony DT 18-250 Zoom Lens. 

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Andrew Roberts

Years Gone By


Roberts spotted this ancient, desiccated pine tree stump on Boynton Canyon Trail in Sedona while on his honeymoon. “Each raised segment seemed like a specific unit or memory, stored permanently as it grew another ring,” the Maryland resident says. He estimates the tree was 30 years old at the time it was cut. Shooting with his Canon T3i in low crepuscular light, Roberts – a marketing and advertising professional who hopes to relocate to the Valley – sought out minute details in the warp of the wood, framing the image so it looks – at first blush – like an aerial photo of a gray, decaying metropolis.

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Jean Higgins 

Fill’er Up

When Higgins was 5 years old, she announced to her parents she was taking the train to see a friend some 30 miles away. (In the 1940s, she says, that was “akin to going across the country.”) “To their credit,” the Mesa resident says, “they made the arrangements, put me on the train with a sign on me, introduced me to the conductor, and off I went… I credit this early experience with instilling in me a sense of independence and love of travel.” The retired Air Force officer has traveled to 64 countries to take photos, and has photographed all seven continents (including Antarctica). This photo was taken just off Highway 93 between Kingman and the Hoover Dam in Chloride, an old mining town. Higgins shot it with her Canon EOS Rebel T1i with a wide-angle Canon 10-20 lens, at an aperture speed of f/13. 

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Steve Kaller 

Bisbee Pitstop

Kaller was on a road trip in southeastern Arizona with a friend when he stopped in Bisbee for the day. The San Tan Valley retail professional, who favors photographing architecture, travel and the “wonder of Roadside America,” was intrigued by a street with a collection of old buildings and antique signs. “There was nobody else on the street and it looked like it had been frozen in time,” he says. Starting at the top of the street, Kaller worked his way down and back up again taking photos of different subjects and perspectives, but this one, which he appreciated for its bold colors, was his favorite. The photo was captured with a Nikon D3100 camera and a Nikkor 18-55mm lens. 

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Sarah Spiekermeier



Tucson health plan administrator Spiekermeier was happy to oblige a friend who wanted her to photograph Vulture Mine, an abandoned mining outpost near Wickenburg that has long fascinated ghost hunters and other believers in the paranormal. Tucked into a corner of an abandoned schoolhouse, this grime-encrusted piano had “spooky ghost town” written all over it. Spiekermeier says she wanted to convey the keys’ eeriness, saying “it looks as though someone is pressing down on some of them.” Tourists who attempt “Chopsticks” on the piano are bound to be disappointed – the keys remain ghostly silent.

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Steve Schwartz 

Old Marine 

Schwartz, a Vietnam War veteran, took this photo of a fellow former serviceman at the National Memorial Cemetery of Arizona last Veterans Day. “Knowing the honor and love that most vets have for their country, I knew I would find some great pictures of vets in uniform,” Schwartz says. The Marine in question caught Schwartz’s eye by virtue of his strong but silent patriotism and worn, stained uniform. Schwartz used a Nikon D300 and a shutter speed of 1/250 of a second, with an aperture speed at f/10, to capture the bittersweet intensity of the moment. A photography class in high school led to a lifetime hobby for Schwartz, who also collects autographs in his free time. 

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