Capturing the Wild West

The past few years have enabled Brad Nordlof a fresh chance to explore the wild landscape of the southwestern United States. Here, the Rockford photographer shares some of the most captivating aspects of the Arizona landscape.

The past few unusual years have allowed local photographer Bradley Nordlof to explore and capture the spectacular Wild West landscape with his cameras. His love of the west is reflected in these magical and untamed images that follow.

I’ve visited Horseshoe Bend many times throughout the years and, like all things, it has evolved. In fact, it has turned into a tourist destination. What was once a rough trail from an old gravel parking lot is now a beautiful walkway that has many amenities built along the way. It ends at a beautiful paved and railed overlook. One thing that has not changed is that Horseshoe Bend is still one of the most spectacular overlooks in the country.

The Saguaro Cactus is the primary image of Arizona and the Wild West. The Saguaro can grow more than 40 feet tall and live between 150 and 200 years. The cactus may not even have a second arm for 70 years.

There are many slot caves in the canyons of Arizona. This is a photo from one of the more famous slot caves, Lower Antelope Canyon. Tours visit daily, and the site is very accessible to visitors.

I love this collage of the Bunny Ears Cactus. Some call them Angel Wings or Polka Dot Catcus. The cacti are native to northern Mexico and desert regions stretching into Arizona.

This is an area called White Pocket. It’s an amazing piece of landscape in the Paria Plateau in northern Arizona. It’s very difficult to get to without knowledge of the area or a guide with a serious off-road vehicle. It’s a wild ride and worth the trip!

I had the pleasure of visiting the Desert Botanical Gardens, in Scottsdale, Ariz., with my family in January. We were fortunate enough to visit the Chihuly Desert Exhibit. What a spectacular show that was.

The Yellow Chandelier Glass sculpture is one of the Chihuly displays placed amongst the cacti in the gardens. The exhibit continues well into June. If you are in the Phoenix area, I’d highly recommend it.

The chandelier form is one of the most famous Chihuly styles. This amazing gold and white chandelier stood out among the rest, and I imagined the process and planning it must take to exhibit this type of artwork.

Zion National Park is located in Utah, just north of the Arizona border. The locals call the mountain in the background The Watchmen. In this photo, I love the remaining backlit fall colors with the North Fork Virgin River running through the foreground.

White Pocket, seen late in the day, did not disappoint. The soft light at sunset, with the moon starting to glow in the upper left of the photo, makes a fun composition of structures.

The Antelope Canyon creates a wonderful show of the light and erosion. The textures of the slot walls are created by water, wind and time. It’s Mother Nature’s ever-changing canvas.

I have never been to Mars, but I imagine the landscape of White Pocket is a lot like the red planet.

The slot caves of Lower Antelope Canyon are a motivational and spiritual place. Legends tell of spirits and ghosts in the caves.