Snow day in Saguaro National Park with the Nikon J5 and Samsung NX 500
And with my husband Thomas, of course.
We had an epic snowstorm on Wednesday night. It was snowing around 10:30pm when I looked out the window and donned a robe so I could go out and leave some footprints on the deck…
And it was still snowing in the early morning, before Thomas woke me around 6:30 so we could get to the national park — and higher elevation — before the sunrise melted it off.
Snow in Tucson, Arizona only lasts a couple hours in the daylight.
But today, the snow stuck around a little longer than usual. Because there was a lot more of it.
View the Flickr album.
I'd been struck with insomnia the night before and had barely 5 hours, if that… I considered rolling over and going back to bed. Thankfully I looked out the window before making my decision. It was a wonderland.
So I got ready as fast as I could… we'd charged the cameras the night before, I took my medicine and sugar-free Red Bull, I pulled on fuzzy fleece pants and a Columbia omni-heat reflective shirt and another fleece on top, and a lined hat. No gloves. I need to figure a way to operate a camera with gloves on. Glove liners, maybe?
We rolled out to the national park just 15 minutes away and drove to a trailhead hidden in a dark valley.
The snow was beautiful, unearthly. The roads and paths had already melted; the last time we were out here in the snow, it was at least an hour earlier, and the sun hadn't reached the ground. But this time it had. Although not by much.
We were still in a part of the park sheltered by mountains; direct sun was rare on our visit. Too bad for my photography but definitely the best thing for the snow.
By the time we were too cold to continue, the snow had mostly melted out of the more exposed areas along the drive out of the park.
That's how it always goes around here. A brief snow won't harm the cactus, since it's normal for it to hit freezing several nights every winter. It typically only snows in the dark, and then the snow melts and even evaporates once the sun comes up again. The high hit 51 this day.
Snow isn't unheard of in the Sonoran desert, especially around Tucson. It snows multiple times, most years, on Mt Lemmon, the site of the southernmost ski resort in the country. It snows on the surrounding hills with some frequency too, although it doesn't stick long at lower elevations.
Once every year or two or three, it snows on the ground in the valley, but it usually doesn't stick at all, or perhaps for an hour or two. Streets and sidewalks — anything that holds thermal mass — never get snow accumulation, for any amount of time.
This March 1st snow was a rare amount, but it wasn't a record. There are 7 other March snowfalls that beat it, going back to when records began in 1922.
The solid monsoon activity plus the winter precipitation is likely going to give us a superbloom later this month!
Living 15 minutes from a national park has been one of the biggest upgrades we've ever made in our quality of life. We're even closer to a tiny patch of national park not connected to the rest; we can see it from our windows. I don't think I could ever live anywhere else for the rest of my life. Certainly I don't want to.
On the camera equipment…
Last time it snowed, I took my Sigma fp and two manual focus lenses. This time, I'd learned my lesson: I packed the Nikon J5 and 70-300mm VR, plus the 6.7-13mm in case I decided I wanted to swap, and the Samsung NX500 with 16mm and 18-55mm. When your fingers are freezing, autofocus is key. And when you're tired and achey, the tilt screen is indispensible.
Of course, the Nikon 1 70-300mm has simply superlative optics, zero complaints there. But the J5 is more prone to noise, also of course, because it's got 20 megapixels packed into a sensor the size of a fingernail… just 0.52″ on the long side.
On the other hand, the Samsung NX500 has a beautiful APS-C sensor and excellent higher ISO performance… but the optics of the lenses I had were not the best. I don't think most people would notice the aberrations but they do bug me.
I think I really do need one system with excellent optics and low noise. But I can't think of what modern system that could possibly be, since I don't like Sony and couldn't stomach the price of first-party lenses for Fuji or Sigma.