Lightning Photographer Missing!

A photographer friend has gone missing!

His name is Steve Davidson and he is a resident of Mesa, Arizona. Car last seen: Superstition Mountains. This is a rugged area with craggy terrain. There has been high heat and fierce flash flooding throughout the desert areas. I went out there last weekend to check trailheads and talk to rangers, but the area is vast and so many other areas there need to be checked. His son and sister are also now in Arizona, combing the Superstitions as well. The Superstition range is a probable spot, but also not the only possibility. Photographers move around, as we know.

Steve is a dedicated photographer of lightning, rock art, and desert subjects. Steve also has a heart condition. Things are very serious, friends and family worried. If you are in Arizona...please keep your eyes open and see the link below!

Last seen: 7/23/06. This is an official Missing Persons case now with Mesa Police Dept (480) 644-2211.
HIS CAR MAKE: 1998 Silver Honda Accord
Last probable location: Superstition Mountains

Good point Matthew - yes during monsoon is not the time to shoot slot canyons that's for sure. Steve's pretty experienced though, I'm sure he wouldn't have done that. The flash flood that swept 11 hikers to their deaths up at Antelope Canyon during August 1997 is still pretty fresh in our memory.

As we speak, it is flash flood season. They have been pretty fierce around here. Severe mudslides have occured in Sedona/Hwy 89, Bartlett Lake area, Seven Springs, Tucson, and major flooding going on in the Central Deserts right now in towns south of Casa Grande such as Arizona City, and on the Tohono O'Odham reservation.

So you're right, no chaser would want to tangle with any flood just for a photograph.

Regarding Steve, they think he might be around the Superstition range. When I was out there Sunday the flooding wasn't too bad, on the north side anyway. However, photographers move around a lot, so the Superstitions are probable but not definite.

Here is Steve's Web site, showing his favorite places to shoot.

Steve's Gallery
I am hoping for the best of news. We will keep him in our prayers.

After reading Between a Rock and a Hard Place, this scares me with him being alone.
I have passed along the information to one of our customer's in the Tucson/Green Valley area. She has lots of contacts in the area and she be spreading the word out to them. This is certainly a tough situation and hope and pray for the best of outcomes.
Thank you so much. It is so nice to know that people care.

As of today, Steve is still missing. His sister and son are in town from out of state, combing the Superstitions and viscinity as well and doing TV interviews. His friend Tina is coordinating a lot of the effort and sending out regular updates. I'm helping with some media stuff and contacting desert/outdoors people. Everyone is really hoping. I have never had this happen to someone I know before. It is a really weird and frustrating feeling. I look out at the desert and it is a big place. I wish the phone would ring with good news any minute.

Thanks, Susan
I just stumbled onto this thread tonite (Mon. 8-7 @ 9:46pm mtn. time).
Any new news or good news at this point?
Do you think there's any chance that he'd be working storms between Tucson and Phnx?
I'll probably be chasing in my favorite area here in the state tomorrow, which is the "old" road to Phoenix...aka known as the "back way" to Phnx. which is the road between Florence and Oracle Junction.

Sorry, but did you already list what he drives? I'll go back and check. Thanks Joel
Thanks Joel. That back highway would also be a logical place Steve would go too as he lives in East Mesa and his photography reflects a lot of activity east of Phoenix. That road is very photogenic and not far from the Superstition Mountains, where he was last seen on 7/30 by a Pinal County Sheriff who was patrolling (it wasn't an official missing persons case at the time so no report was made about seeing him there). I'm not entirely sold on the idea that the Superstitions are the only place to look. The terrain is so big out there Steve could be anywhere. Even in closeby areas you have the Apache Trail, Saguaro/Canyon/Apache/Roosevelt lakes on the Salt River, Globe, Miami, Tonto Natl Forest, historic Florence, Superior/Picketpost area, Queen Valley and more. So thanks for keeping an eye out. You just never know.

Here is some more press. Seems that he also was battling depression. Some people hide it well I guess. Last couple times I saw him and his girlfriend at a hiking area he was so friendly and very chatty, talking about all kinds of interesting things. You never know about people I guess. Here is some more coverage:
Jacob Waltz Street/Mountain View Rd. where he and his car were probably last seen is right off the Apache Trail. What I'm thinking is so not what I'm hoping, but I fear he drove off the Apache Trail someplace. Every time I drive that road I'm amazed that more vehicles don't slip off its sharp curves and precipitous shoulders. :(

My prayers go out for him and all his family and friends.
Jacob Waltz Street/Mountain View Rd. where he and his car were probably last seen is right off the Apache Trail. What I'm thinking is so not what I'm hoping, but I fear he drove off the Apache Trail someplace. Every time I drive that road I'm amazed that more vehicles don't slip off its sharp curves and precipitous shoulders. :(

My prayers go out for him and all his family and friends.

I had that same scary thought. That is a gnarly road, especially as it climbs to Tortilla Flat. There are so many places he could be though. The south side of the mountain has many trailheads too. He may not even be in the Superstitions, that is just where his car was last seen. It is all such a mystery at this point. Lastnight I was looking east at the lightning over the Salt River lakes. The desert was so huge and dark and just seemed to go on forever. I was wondering where could he have gone. I think about how his friends and family feel all the time.
No matter what the outcome is, I hope the family finds him for either better or worse. The worst feeling is having no closure...

It's an odd situation. Assuming it was him in the car on the 30th, it seems as if he doesn't want to be found/contacted. I wonder if he's had some sort of emotional meltdown, gone on a drug or alcohol binge, or has perhaps suffered a small stroke or other brain injury that is affecting his behaviour. With luck, he'll just drive home some day, althouth that seems less likely as time passes.

For what little it's worth - the area is far from his beaten path - I've been checking guest registries and asking around during my chase travels, most of which have been SE of Tucson, in the Benson, Wilcox, Sonoita, Tombstone, Chircahua area, south of I 10.

Thanks to Susan and others for their efforts.

I'm leaving foe Arizona tomorrow and I'll be there for about 10 days. As I'm out and about I'll be looking out for any signs of him while I'm on lightning patrol.

Adding another set of eyes is the least I can do...

George Kourounis
There has been a possible (only a possible) sighting.

From the point person in the search this morning:

"We received notification that someone who had seen our media coverage may have spotted Steve’s car driving on Highway 260 between Payson and Show Low. This is an *unconfirmed* sighting as the people who reported it to local police weren’t positive of the license plate number but thought it may have ended in EEL and it was a silver Honda. Besides not knowing for sure if it was Steve’s car, we don’t know if it was him driving it. However, these people did think enough of the car to tell police who in turn called it in to Mesa PD. Based on that possible sighting, Mesa PD has added the Northern AZ region to the ATL (Attempt to Locate)."

The Show Low paper was contacted and may run a story.

Although this might not mean anything, it does reiterate one point...that Steve could be anywhere, not just in or around the Superstition Mountains as one news report indicated. That is just where he was last seen. Because Steve is a photographer, plus according to the articles in the paper, was battling depression, nothing can be ruled out about his whereabouts.

Thanks to those who are following this and are willing to keep an eye out while chasing monsoon. Anything is possible, you just never know. You could be the one to see him.

BIG FISH, small world
Although Arizona is big, I'm reminded this morning that spotting specific cars even in this landscape is not impossible. For the fourth time in the last couple weeks, I saw a big white pickup truck with license place "BIG FISH" this morning on the 202 freeway. I have seen him on the Beeline Hwy twice. It reminds me that although PHX metro is approaching 4 million, the same car has shared the road with me a number of occasions. It truly is a small world. So it is not impossible to be out there in the desert or alpine areas and possibly see Steve's car. (1998 Silver Honda 072-EEL AZ plates). Plus, in many areas around here, you can see forever.

Thanks for keeping an eye out, and pls include the Northern Arizona plateaus and Rim Country on the list of possible places. Nothing can be ruled out though, including southern AZ. To get an idea of his work, visit

Steve's gallery
Yes he was! And he's fine. He was lost in the Superstition Wilderness and other than needing to be taken by ambulance to hospital for dehydration, he emerged unscathed.

He is SO lucky. Since the gold rush days, 74 people went into those mountains and never returned, so the local lore around here says. Not surprising, the place is a labyrinth of 2,000-3,000 foot cliffs, intense desert heat, flash floods, snakes. Some of those from the old west who disappeared met with foul play as well.

When I got the call from a park ranger that Steve was missing, I went out there to check trailheads for his car and talk to more park rangers. I was able to cover the north and northeast side of the mountain (pictured below) before the daylight was gone. Later, Steve told me that he had parked in a non-trailhead area right in that same spot, which I had passed about four times, but never saw his car because it was hidden by tall chaparral! I couldn't believe it how close I had been.

The Superstitions seem to mysteriously attact lightning, which is why I'm always shooting from the ghost town there. They say Superstition mountain is the birthplace of the Apache thunder god. I think there might be something to that! The 3000 ft. cliff face of one of the mountains is seen below. There is actually a (poorly maintained) trail called the Siphon Draw that goes up to the top. I understand it is an arduous hike that will even exhaust the experienced, plus the trail tends to appear and disappear as well. One day I might try it (in winter).



I can see part of the Superstition wilderness from my town (see the far mountain). During August chases I'd stare out at these cliffs, feel the hot desert wind and wonder just where the heck in that maze Steve could be.

I'm just glad that Steve's ok. Quite honestly as the days wore on everybody was having doubts whether we would ever see him again. We were all elated the way it turned out.

Back in 1983 when I was in high school in Tucson, a girl in my architecture class got lost up in the Mt Charleston area and went missing for a day. It was big news on the local media. She eventually made it down the canyons into the Tucson suburbs, fine and a little scratched up.

Well, the next day in school some guys in the machine shop found some tape that had arrows on it, and they laid out a path on the ground that went hundreds of yards across the school campus from her math class to the architecture class. I'm sure it wasn't very nice, but it was still funny nonetheless.

Glad Steve made it out of there.

She was lucky too. That's rugged country with similar terrain to Superstition wilderness. More big kitties though I think running around those hills.

I'm glad she came back in one piece and could laugh about it later...
I hope you find him. Keep us posted on any news. Our hearts are with him and his family.