Valentine’s month ‘Hearts Rock’ photography at the Arboretum

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BTA waterfall by Madsen.

February is a special month for lovers, including lovers of the Boyce Thompson Arboretum (BTA).

In celebration of this special month, with its mid-month emphasis on hearts, flowers, and romance, the BTA has some wonderful displays and events planned. Come to the BTA for the daily 11 am naturalist-guided tours of the main trail. Stay for the classes.
On Feb. 8 there will be a painting class held by Heather Coen, for a fee of $20 – $30. Want something more active? How about the Edible-Medicinal Desert Plants Walk guided by Jean Groen?

Gilbert photographer Michael Madsen and Fountain Hills mixed-media artist Heidi Golden share an affinity for heart-shaped stones. Both artists have a keen sense for spotting that familiar coronary shape in nature; they’ve collected and photographed them for years.

When the artists began staging gallery exhibits of photos they discovered how many others seek and celebrate ‘heart rocks’ in nature. If you are one who does, bring a few of your favorites along with you and visit Boyce Thompson Arboretum on Sat., Feb. 8 when Madsen and Golden host a gallery opening reception for their HeartsRock photo arrangements.

“There’s good reason for the word ‘art’ to appear within the word heart,” said Madsen; “and what we’re trying to create is a ‘heARTwork,’ a singular art project that taps into this unique community!”

Their colorful and timely gallery exhibition returns by popular demand during the month of Valentines; visitors last year embraced Madsen’s larger-than-life gallery-wrap prints on stretched canvas.

Madsen continued: “We are eager to meet fellow heart rock collectors at our gallery opening reception at the Arboretum, and hope they’ll bring their most special heart rocks along for us to see and appreciate; and to share their heart rock stories with us, and meet other enthusiasts.”

One of their more recent photo arrangements was local: vivid sycamore leaves lined the floor of Queen Creek Canyon east of Superior when Madsen hiked the riparian drainage in search of Autumn scenery.
“That was a perfect day. I even found a new stone.” recalls Madsen: “A heart-shaped rock with black and gold, complementing the vivid burnt-orange color of the fallen sycamore leaves along Queen Creek Canyon.”

“We have created more than a thousand photographs from careful collaboration and heartfelt composing,” said Madsen, whose heart rock photography greeting cards are featured Emerson Art Gallery at Fountain Hills. BTA’s visitor center art gallery is included with daily admission of $10 for adults, $5 for ages 5-12.

On Feb. 9, take a Bird Walk ,guided by Richard Ditch, which start out at 8:30am. Another walk, Plants of the Bible Lands guided by Rich Adams begins at 1:30pm.

A Feb. 15 photography class “post-processing and workflow” with Rim will take place from 1 pm -3pm. Cost for this class is $20 -$30.

On Feb. 16 the Switching-To-Manual Photo Class with Michael Madsen and Patty Van Herpen Feb. 16 is a workshop featuring these two unique photographers with their gear.

Madsen is an expert with Nikon cameras and lenses; Van Herpen prefers Canon. Classes with Michael and Patty coach beginning-to-intermediate photographers who are ready to harness the horsepower of their digital cameras by getting past the auto settings in favor of manually controlling their own aperture, shutter speed, ISO, and white balance.

“We will switch our cameras to manual mode and learn to take charge of our cameras, and explore the creative side of photography,” says Madsen. “You’ll be taught how to adjust your camera settings, and the photographic effects that occur based on these settings. Heading outdoors after lunch allows us to apply techniques we have learned in the classroom and experiment with camera settings together and one-on-one.”
Two hours in the classroom from 10am – 12 noon will be followed by an optional lunch break together at the Jade Grill or another restaurant in the nearby town of Superior; then another 90-minutes outside from 1:30 pm -3:00 pm, shooting and practicing alongside Madsen and Van Herpen in Arboretum gardens. Enrollment is $30-$40; with a credit card eady, call 520-689-2723. Read a more complete class description and follow links to the artists’ websites at

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