December Tudor crept to the very edge of the water-smoothed boulder above the narrow slot of the foaming East Verde River in the narrows of Water Wheel.

She gulped. Squeezed her eyes shut. Took a deep breath and confronted her fear of heights.

“Sit on my feet,” she told her friend.

She had to get the shot.

I’m so proud.

December was one of the students in my photography class at Gila Community College last semester. A working mom with a demanding job, she somehow squeezed out the time to attend the twice-a-week class. She started off knowing very little about photography — and wound up full of joy and enthusiasm. She even conquered her fear of heights for the photoshoot at Water Wheel, which became one of her favorite places.

The class was full of the kind of people that prompted me to fall in love with Rim Country, after I stumbled upon this magical place a decade ago.

So I asked them to do a photobook about falling in love with Rim Country — since they all had similar tales about discovering this place. They each set out in the course of the semester to document two or three of the places they love best in Rim Country. I put it all together in a book, which you can see online attached to this story at

In the meantime, I couldn’t resist the urge to share some of their best work with my beloved Roundup readers.

I wish you could meet them. You’d love them. Some are already accomplished photographers, having taken to the camera in retirement. Others are creative, hard-working youngsters willing to jump in over their heads and dog paddle like crazy.

You already know DJ Craig, a one-time record company executive and producer who retired to Rim Country and couldn’t resist setting up a now-thriving photography business. Lord knows why he took the class — except he likes to hang out with photographers.

Same holds for Sue Zen, who retired from a career in human resources for big corporations and fell in love first with photography — then with Rim Country.

You’ll also encounter the images of Michele Megura, a physical therapist who struggled with thumb drives, but nonetheless produced luminous images. And Joe Bowman, a retired, high-dollar patent attorney, who loves mules, backcountry rides, the rodeo and his Nikon. But see, I’m using up space for the wonderful pictures of Saul Solis who loves his music store and Esmeralda Bainori who works at Arby’s and Leah Brahm who’s a painter and tilter of windmills and Keith Foster who swam behind the waterfall and Roger Dawson who’s fascinated by flower petals and Michael Perry who fell in love with Green Valley Park, and Denise Hancock who meticulously documented the making of a butterfly.

They each discovered the central joy of photography, which if you’ll let it in will change the way you see the world.

But I’ll get out of the way now and let them show you some of their favorite places. Take a look at their book online. In the meantime, this is my little thank you to each of them.

Because students always teach the teacher more than the learners learn.

Contact the writer at

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