Senior Spotlight Shadow
The seniors climbed to the top of a ridge in the Palo Verde Mountains for one last photo. Photo by Victor Moreno

When we asked Victor Moreno to photograph our Senior Spotlight students for the May cover, he immediately said, “I want to shoot them in the desert.”

And that’s what he did.

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Ten seniors — six from Maricopa High School, two from Sequoia Pathway and two from Heritage Academy — trekked to Hidden Valley on a sunny, early April afternoon with temperatures in the low 90s to help Moreno get his shots.

In the shadow of the Palo Verde Mountains, as the Golden Hour approached, the students posed and jumped among the cacti in their graduation gowns, some of the girls throwing their caps skyward in high heels. Like the camera, the group from three schools just clicked.

Then it was back into the car for a short ride, to smile for the lens among the boulders at the southern terminus of the range. An early attempt at a balanced arrangement was reconfigured.

Some students were lucky enough to have a seat on a flat rock, but others tensed their muscles to hold themselves in the proper place in Moreno’s viewfinder. Perched on a stepladder to get the right angle, Moreno snapped away.

“Victor’s a great guy and always makes us do difficult things to get the shot,” said Heritage Academy senior Tyler Kientzler. “And we appreciate it with all our hearts.”

If the photo session had ended with that shot, the seniors would have proved themselves a courageous bunch — with nary a complaint heard — but their boldness was to reach new heights.

Moments after that image was captured, Moreno’s eyes lifted to the top of the hill rising behind the boulders and the sun preparing to set behind. Senior TJ Boyd of Sequoia Pathway immediately sensed an edgier, bonus shot in the offing, asking the photographer if he wanted the group to climb the mountain.

Before anyone could say “Hey, I’ve got to get home!” eight of the 10 students were on their way, trying to find a path upward, feet slipping the whole way up, some of the young men steadying the young women.

Minutes later, they were perched confidently at the edge, striking poses choreographed by Moreno, who shouted his instructions from below.

Click, click, click and the students had the shot they wanted.

Senior Spotlight Victor Moreno
Photographer Victor Moreno checks his camera display to make sure he got the shot in Hidden Valley. Photo by Bob McGovern

“The photoshoot was super fun as I got to see a couple friends that I had not seen in a while,” said Victor Moreno, the photographer’s son. “Hiking a mountain in a suit was also super fun as it was the first, and probably last, time I will be doing that.”

A fellow Ram agreed.

“I had a lot of fun doing the Senior Spotlight photoshoot,” Jasmine Tafolla said. “It was nice getting to meet new people and even see some familiar faces. Although the heat was no fun and almost face-planting down a hill, I would do it all over again.”

This story appears in the May issue of InMaricopa magazine.