Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

There’s that profile again

with 18 comments

Saguaro Cactus Backlit 1796

Behind the chain fruit cholla of the last post you saw the profile of Flat Iron Peak in the Superstition Mountains east of Phoenix. Here’s a portion of that profile again, but now less conspicuous because it appears at the base of a saguaro cactus, Carnegiea gigantea, that was blocking the morning sun on September 29th at the Lost Dutchman State Park. This is the first time I’ve ever shown one of these giants, but it won’t be the last.

If you’re interested in photography as a craft, you’ll find that newly added point 26 in About My Techniques is relevant to this photograph.

© 2014 Steven Schwartzman



This is another entry from the saw (as in the past tense of see) part of the see-saw that’s been oscillating between pictures from my trip to the American Southwest in late September and more-recent pictures showing what’s been going on in Austin.

Written by Steve Schwartzman

November 18, 2014 at 5:36 AM

18 Responses

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  1. This should include a link to your techniques page where an entry describing this technique should be listed. Hiding the sun in this way can produce some dramatic effects – as you have well demonstrated. We’ve got 19F this morning (with winds and a windchill of 0F) … your image makes me feel warm … many thanks. D

    Pairodox Farm

    November 18, 2014 at 5:49 AM

    • Done: I’ve updated the post by mentioning the newly added technique 26. Thanks for your suggestion, D.

      As for today’s picture from the desert, you’re welcome to any warmth it brings you. Even here in milder (in winter) central Texas the overnight low has been around freezing for the last few days.

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 18, 2014 at 8:15 AM

  2. it’s BIG


    November 18, 2014 at 6:38 AM

  3. Now that is one impressive cactus and you just added even more drama with your techniques. Picture perfect, worthy of a magazine page!


    November 18, 2014 at 11:13 AM

    • For years I’ve been eager for a chance to photograph these giants, and I got my fill during the six days I spent in Arizona. More will be forthcoming.

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 18, 2014 at 4:12 PM

  4. These behemoths feature prominently in my life. My grandfather painted them often (one features the Superstitions). My parents loved to tell a story about traveling in the desert and taking turns driving to get there faster… one of them fell asleep at the wheel and almost wore one of these as a hood ornament (I’m certain it would have killed them if they hadn’t woken up on leaving the road). AND, we traveled the 4 corners area on a camping honeymoon and have many saguaro studded photographic memories of those two weeks in 1981!

    Nicely captured, Steve!


    November 18, 2014 at 2:00 PM

    • The things we don’t know till people tell us: I had no reason to suspect that saguaros played such a role in your family history, even to the point of including (in one instance) the Superstition Mountains. I’m relieved to hear your parents didn’t wear one of these behemoths as a hood ornament; the colors probably wouldn’t have harmonized, and you might not be here now to tell the tale. As for your honeymoon memories, I like the way you called them saguaro-studded. We also visited the Four Corners on this trip.

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 18, 2014 at 4:18 PM

  5. Zounds. That’s a big cactus. Shades of 2001.

    Steve Gingold

    November 18, 2014 at 6:55 PM

    • I don’t know about 2001, but in 2014 I stood in the shade of this saguaro to take its picture.

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 18, 2014 at 7:20 PM

      • At the beginning of the film there is a mysterious monolith which the Saguaro brought to mind.

        Steve Gingold

        November 18, 2014 at 7:36 PM

        • And now I hear the opening strains of “Also Sprach Zarathustra,” the tone poem by Richard Strauss, which the makers of the film used in conjunction with the monolith.

          Steve Schwartzman

          November 18, 2014 at 7:48 PM

  6. I’m at the other end of the saguaro-familiarity spectrum. I’ve never seen one in person, but I certainly hope to one day. Like the redwoods, they’re not just big, they’re big and beautiful. Do you know if those dark spots are bird “houses” side by side? I do know that birds will nest in saguaro, like this.


    November 18, 2014 at 7:24 PM

    • The spot on the right went into the cactus a little, and the one on the left a little more, but neither one was deep enough for a bird. These could have been “bird houses in progress,” but I don’t know enough to rule out the possibility that a fungus or something else could have caused the depressions. In other saguaro cacti I saw what were clearly little animal houses, and they were fairly common.

      I’d seen saguaro cacti at a distance on several non-stop trips across Arizona, but this visit was intended to give me a little of the familiarity you say you’re still lacking. Sounds like you may have a destination for a future trip.

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 18, 2014 at 8:02 PM

  7. So…smaller aperture? Or is it simply the underexposure that *crisps* up the image? Nicely done. I need to play a bit more with sun-and-shade shots. It’s always nice revisiting your page of tips.


    November 22, 2014 at 11:10 AM

    • I just checked the photograph’s metadata and found that you’re right: the aperture was f/22, the smallest one on the lens I was using. That accounts for the fact that the distance mountain range also came out in focus.

      As for the photo tips, may you wear them well.

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 22, 2014 at 12:40 PM

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