Arizona Winter Wonderland: A Little Something for the Season

Writer Grace Hill
Photographers Herb Cover, Dave Wilson, and Robert Elenbaas

The “Four Gift Rule,” a holiday trend gaining more popularity with each passing year, attempts to remove the overspending that occurs during Christmastime. If the rule doesn’t sound familiar, here’s how it works. On Christmas morning, children only receive something to wear, something to read, something they want and, lastly, something they need. Four gifts, and no more.

While not everyone approves of limiting gift-giving to four presents, making Christmas a little less complicated should still seem appealing. In honor of the “Four Gift Rule,” here are four presents — in the form of holiday activities — you should give yourself and your family this holiday season.

Something to Wear
Give yourself the gift of wearing something outside your normal wardrobe this holiday season. While our winters don’t necessarily call for snowsuits, still endeavor to bundle up and find the chill in the air. Throughout December, you’ll find temperatures dropping at places like the Fairmont Scottsdale Princess’ Desert Ice Skating Rink and CitySkate’s Holiday Ice Rink, or at events with real snow such as the Carefree Christmas Festival and the Children’s Museum Snow Much Fun Day. Your dusty scarves and mittens will thank you.

Something to Read
Whether you desire to cook a Christmas ham or bake holiday cookies, take some time to read a new recipe and then try it out. Who knows? You might find a new holiday staple that your family will love for years to come. If you don’t hear the kitchen calling your name, maybe you can spread some holiday cheer by reading a Christmas story or singing some favorite carols at a local nursing home. And what could give you more joy than to read the name of a local child in need who you’ll bless by being their Secret Santa this year?

Something You Want
With wonderful holiday shows like Ballet Arizona’s “The Nutcracker,” Arizona Broadway Theatre’s “A Christmas Carol,” Cirque de la Symphonie’s “Holiday Spectacular with the Phoenix Symphony” and “Mannheim Steamroller Christmas” at ASU’s Gammage Auditorium, now makes for the perfect time to give yourself something you want — the best seat in the house! Don’t make excuses this year. Choose to be as close to the action as possible, and you’ll cherish the memories for the rest of your life.

Something You Need
Most importantly, spend this holiday season with the ones you love. Take the family out and enjoy a magical evening surrounded by the glow of Christmas lights. Stroll the beautifully lit up pathways at the Desert Botanical Garden’s Las Noches de las Luminarias, or the historic streets at Glendale Glitters. As the beauty of the evening makes its way into your heart, grab those close to you and don’t let them go until they know how much you love them.

As the holiday season makes its way upon us, let our minds remember that sometimes less is more. Maybe you are in need of a “Four Gift Rule” this year. Instead of packing the calendar with countless things to do, allow yourself to narrow your activity list down to four (or any number of your choosing). With less to do, you can be more present during the loveliest time of the year.

Dave Wilson,
Hometown: Tucson,
Current: Phoenix

Professional experience: Twenty years of commercial photography, overlapping with 11 years of photographing nature and landscapes. In addition, he has opened a gallery in Tubac, Arizona, located at 12 Tubac Rd., Unit B.

Advice to new photographers: “In the digital age, with everyone proclaiming to be a landscape photographer, your greatest challenge will be making unique, original images. Get off the beaten path. Interpret the natural world in your own way. With skill, creativity and persistence you should be able to hike into any landscape, even the most seemingly mundane places, and come away with something spectacular. That’s because landscape photography isn’t about finding glamourous locations; it’s about finding the glamour in any location.”

Best part of Arizona winters: “In Arizona, the best part of winter is that it looks out of place. Snow in the desert is like a wedding veil on a nun. It shouldn’t be there. Yet it is there, and the soft white covering gives cacti, desert trees and rock formations an unorthodox sort of beauty that seduces even the sleepiest photographer into crawling out of bed extra early to capture the snow before the rising sun melts it all off the saguaros.”


Bob Elenbaas,
Hometown: Raised in California; working years in Kansas City, Missouri.
Current: Anthem

Photography experience: A dedicated amateur who developed a serious interest in landscape photography as an extension of his wilderness backpacking experiences.

Photography niche: “Landscape. I am frequently awed by both the literal and abstract beauty created by nature’s shapes, textures, colors and tones. My hope is that my photography is able to share with others at least some of that awe.”

Advice to new photographers: “It’s actually advice attributed to famous wilderness photographer Galen Rowell: come early and stay late. Many amateur landscape photographers miss the best light because they arrived on location too late or left too early.”

Best part of Arizona winters: “The cool, crisp mornings and warm days of the North Valley. Being able to visit, but not having to shovel snow! Playing golf in February.”

A professional photographer you admire: “Guy Tal and Sean Bagshaw. Both are true artists with the camera and in the digital darkroom.”

Herb Cover,
Hometown: Boston,
Current: North Scottsdale

Photography experience: “Photography has been a major part of my life for the past 25 years. I enjoy photographing whatever catches my eye, be it landscape, flowers, people or anything that seems to appeal to me. I try to convey the essence of that moment when I release the shutter. I feel that this process has allowed me to both capture that moment in time, as well as communicate my creative observations to others.”

Photography niche: “I tend to focus my efforts in the beauty of Arizona’s landscapes, be it at sunset or anytime that can reflect its beauty. In addition, still life photos of various flowers native to Arizona are some of my very favorites.”

Advice to new photographers: “My advice to new photographers is first to really know and understand your camera and lens. Second, try to learn the basics of the different shooting priorities, such as aperture and speed modes. Third, do not be afraid to take a shot, no matter what the conditions may be.”

Best part of Arizona winters: “The best part is primarily reflected in my favorite series of photos of Sedona. This place is truly unique and attracts millions of visitors annually. We are fortunate enough to live only a couple hours away by car. It is very unique; every sunrise and sunset. However, it is a wonderland place when it snows. Whenever that happens, I try to get up there as soon as I can. Each visit is different.”

A professional photographer you admire: “I admire a photographer named Dave Morrow. He specializes in night sky photography and is a master of it.”


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