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Watson Lake Park is located four miles north of downtown Prescott, Arizona. This iconic reservoir may be one of the most photographed landscapes in all of central Arizona. Originally built for irrigation in the early 1900s, the lake has been owned and operated by the City of Prescott since 1997 to preserve flora, fauna and water, as well as to provide a variety of recreational resources. Hiking trails encompass the lake, and there’s no shortage of spectacular vantage points. The infamous Granite Dells seemingly arise from the lake. Other nearby lakes, mountains and the Prescott National Forest provide plenty of photo opportunities.
Springtime in the area often brings abundant wildflowers and dozens of species of migrating birds and waterfowl. At an elevation of just over a mile high (5,400 feet), Prescott boasts some of the mildest weather anywhere. Average temperatures in April range from 37º to 67º F (3 to 20º C). It’s not unusual to need a change of clothing, from a warm jacket in the morning to shorts and a T-shirt in the afternoon, so plan to wear layers. An occasional winter snow or late summer monsoon rains aren’t uncommon. Warmer Phoenix to the south and cooler Flagstaff to the north are each about an hour’s drive to the lake.
I shot this image on a cloudless day while attending a photography workshop in January 2015 with people from all around the western United States. This photo was taken in late afternoon along the Peavine Trail, which borders the east side of the lake. I wanted to capture the different textures of the boulders and mountains, as well as the contrast between warm late-afternoon hues and the cool blues of water and sky. I used a Panasonic Lumix G6 with a Lumix G Vario 14-140mm ƒ/3.5-5.6, and shot wide at 19mm (38mm full-frame equivalent). A sturdy tripod and cable release were essential to getting a sharp image. I often use a circular polarizer, which can help to cut the water’s reflections and bring out the rich colors of the boulders and vegetation, as well as cut down the bright sunlight. Early mornings and late afternoons are the best times to photograph in the often-harsh Arizona sun.
There’s no one season more popular than another in the Prescott area—outdoor photography is a year-round venture there. Restaurants, hotels, shopping, antiques and art galleries are just a few of the other offerings available in this tight-knit community. Lake area activities include boating, fishing, bird watching, rock climbing and camping. As of this writing, the daily entrance fee is $2 (including parking pass; longer-term parking passes are available). Camping is available for an additional fee.
Contact: City of Prescott, prescott-az.gov; Arizona Office of Tourism, visitarizona.com/places-to-visit/north-central-arizona/watson-lake. See Karen Martin’s work at facebook.com/karenmartinphoto.
When temperatures can span a wide range in just a few hours, smart layering will keep you comfortable and your gear light. Patagonia’s R1 Pullover for men and women features Polartec Power Grid fabric that’s lightweight and breathable—wear it under a shell for extra warmth or as an outer layer when the weather is mild. Off-shoulder seams reduce chafing from your camera backpack’s straps. It also compresses to be highly packable when temperatures rise. List Price: $129. Contact: Patagonia, patagonia.com.