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Ocotillo Sunset from Saguaro National Park, a diary Part 4

The Nursed Saguaro

This is a retrospective diary of the day I created my print “Ocotillo Sunset.” 

Choices

Choices of the Evening

As the Golden Hour approached I had a choice to make.

My perch on Lime Kiln Falls was not safe. As the sunset developed, while I focused on the work, the trail would be lost in the gathering darkness and, even with a headlamp, I decided to avoid picking a way down a 1+ mile pitch dark deserted desert trail. Choosing not to stay, for the second time I packed up and was on the move.

That time of day wildlife is also moving and, in a short time, a rattlesnake, javalina (wild pig of the desert) and jack-rabbit crossed my path. Part of my photography kit is a Sony digital camera with a variable lens carried across the front in a readily accessible “fanny pack.” That day, I walked with the camera out and ready. I needed to be in place for an increasingly promising sunset and so spent a minimum of time with wildlife photography.

Saguaro Sky

I was only half way to the car at the time when the sun was a few degrees above the western horizon and sunlight raked across the desert. The northeast sky lit up. In these perfect moments I captured this personable saguaro on Lime Kiln ridge with a tripod mounted Kodak SLR body with an excellent 50 mm (“portrait”) lens (EF 50mm f/1.2L USM) fitted with a flexible hood. ISO 160, f13 with auto settings choosing 1/5 second.

The ocotillo branches, to the right, caught my eye. “A nice effect”, I thought. There were some high level winds shaping the clouds that evening. The Santa Catalinas are in the distance.

Click any photograph to view Ocotillo Sunset
Saguaro Sky

Nurse Tree

I set up back against the Tanque Verde ridge, the highest point of the road, on the western shoulder.

Front and center was this “adolescent” saguaro still growing in the shelter of a “nurse” Palo Verde tree. This saguaro benefited from the shade and protection of the tree as a seedling and juvenile. It has grown beyond the need for this protection. Eventually, the requirements of the larger cactus will starve the tree and it will be left alone, as you see it in the previous photograph. That is the shoulder of the Rincon Mountains in the distance. The direction if between northeast and east.

I am using the same camera and lens, ISO 160, f13 and auto exposure choosing .6 second. It is twilight.

Click any photograph to view Ocotillo Sunset
Nursed Saguaro and Sunset

Here’s the first blog in this series.

Copyright 2021 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved

Headed Up Cottage Road, Inishmore

View from a horse trap on the Aran Islands, Galway Bay, Ireland

Enjoying travel on a horse trap, a type of carriage, on Inishmore (Inis Mór), the largest Aran Island in Galway Bay we headed up Cottage Road from Kilronan, the main island settlement.  It was there we embarked from the ferry, hired the driver, his horse drawn trap.  Our destination an iron age fort, Dun Aengus (Dún Aonghasa, the Irish language name) and the sights along the way. 

Headed up Cottage Road, I captured this view of dry stone walls and homes against the May sky over the shoulder of our horse.

Click the link for my Getty IStock photography of the Aran Islands
Headed up Cottage Road

Copyright 2019 All Rights Reserved Michael Stephen Wills

Copyright 2021 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved

Saguaro Sky

dramatic skies from Saguaro National Park

November is a special time for the ranges and basins of southern Arizona deserts.  Climb a bajada of foothills, face west and wait for the sunset.  That is what I did this day, November 3, 2005.  East of Tucson the Saguaro National Monument at the foot of the Rincon Mountain Wilderness is where I parked, unpacked the photo gear and climbed the side of the Tanque Verde Ridge for a favorable view.  Weather was pushing high level moisture from the west, clouds were developing.

You see here a shot from that session.  In the distance, looking across Tanque Verde, are the Santa Catalina mountains.  Months since the last rainfall, the giant Saguaros are using internal moisture reserves drawn up from a shallow root system, the flesh is less plump, the supporting structure of the ribs, always evident, are more pronounced.  The last light catches these ribs in relief against a dramatic sky.

Click this link or the photograph for my Online gallery of this offering
Saguaro Sunset -- CLICK ME!!!!

Click me for another Arizona sunset post.

Copyright 2021 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved

Autumn Clouds

catching late light

This evening cirrus clouds filled the sky at sunset. View the following photographs to understand how these forms are named from the Latin word for a ringlet, or curl, of hair. Formed above 16,500 feet, on this day the cirrus glow with the light of a sun low in the sky.

Here is a wide view from our driveway that includes a deteriorating con trail and possibly a mixture of other cloud types, I am no expert. I used a Canon “zoom” lens for flexibility in framing. To minimize exposure time for a crisp capture of the moving object, ISO was set to to 1,000 and the f-stop minimized.

Click any image for a larger views. Then, click again to return to post.

Post production I needed to spend time removing dust spots (neglected to clean the image sensor), some of the images still have those annoying spots.

We enjoy looking west across the valley when the hills are glowing.

Click this link for another Autumn posting, “Thin Crescent Bowl Filled with Earthglow.”

References: search for Cirrus Cloud on Wikipedia.

Copyright 2021 All Rights Reserved Michael Stephen Wills

Ocotillo Sunset from Saguaro National Park, a diary Part 3

View from the bajada

 

SaguaroEast20051104-4

This is a retrospective diary of the day I created my print “Octillo Sunset.” You can visit “Octillo Sunset” on my online gallery by clicking on any of my blog photographs.

Choices of the Evening

Angled to the Sun

The following photograph of saguaros and distant Santa Catalina mountains is a similar view from Part 2 of this diary.  Notice the saguaro on the right is also on the left in the Part 2 photo. What is happening is I turned the lens more toward the west and the sun. At this angle the lens hood offers less protection, especially as the sun is lower in the west and the time of day is passing to the best light from the lowering sun that rakes across the landscape.  All this means I can bring the lens further to the west even though the lens hood is less effective.

Click any photograph to view Ocotillo Sunset Catalinas, Finger Rock, and Saguaros – CLICK ME to view Ocotillo Sunset.

Finger Rock!!

One reason why I am offering it, is high on the Catalina mountains, in the distance, you can just see a formation called “Finger Rock”.
This time of day, the lower angle of the sun brings out the canyon-shadows.  Finger Rock canyon has a high western wall, you can see it as a high long shadow starting toward the very center of the picture and building up and to the right.

The following photograph is the view of Finger Rock from the floor of that canyon taken during a Spring 2011 Tucson visit. I started hiking in pre-dawn hours to catch the dawn rays on the finger.

Click any photograph to view Ocotillo Sunset Catalinas, Finger Rock, and Saguaros – CLICK ME to view Ocotillo Sunset.

The Importance of Knowing Topography

Another aspect of this photograph is the landscape. There is a sloping bajada (alluvial fan) formed by water breaking up the mountain (in this case the Rincons) and washing it into the valley. It is the reason the saguaros appear to march into the distance. The same effect is used in movie theaters to allow the people in the rear to see over the head of people in the front.

This bajada and the higher elevation is the reason I moved from Sabino Canyon to here for a better position to view the sunset. Here is a nearly identical view, same 200 mm lens, in landscape format. The sloping land of the bajada is more visible.

Click any photograph to view Ocotillo Sunset Catalinas, Finger Rock, and Saguaros – CLICK ME to view Ocotillo Sunset.

Changing the Lens/Sun Angle

Looking in the opposite direction, back over Lime Kiln Falls to the Rincon (mountain) foothills, the lens hood offers maximum protection. The sun is at my back and, even though it is low in the sky at the beginning of the Golden Hour, this aspect gives great color depth at the expense of loss of shadows losing some depth of field.  Still, this is an interesting photograph.

Click any photograph to view Ocotillo Sunset NortheastFromLimeKilnsCopyrightSmall – CLICK ME to view Ocotillo Sunset.

Click me for the next post in this series.

Click me for the first post in this series.

Copyright 2021 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved

Firebush

slow burn

After we came home from the Underground Railroad excursion, with a camera and time on my hands, this Euonymus bush fringed with scarlet leaves caught my eye. Starting with a leaf here and there in September the flame-like color spreads until it takes on the character it is named for “Firebush.”

Springtime it is covered with tiny green flowers, each turns to a small, fleshy fruit encapsulating tiny seeds said to be loved by birds. As ours neglect the fruits, I’ve taken to collecting them to spread along the borders of our back property. Here and there some have sprouted around the bush, this year I marked a few to move this winter when the plant is dormant. I have high hopes for success of this project as the species is known as “invasive” in 21 states.

Click pic for larger view in a new browser tab. If you are in WordPress Reader, open the post to use this feature.

We feel the planting is in an excellent place, though it is difficult to photograph for the clutter I was reluctant to resolve at that moment. In one of the following photographs is the gangly Cereus plant atop its water barrel.

All parts of the plant are toxic, causing severe discomfort when eaten. The name “Spindle plant” was given it in England for the corky wings that grow long the length of stems, not so pronounced with our Euonymus species.

Here are macros of the flaming leaves and fleshy berry.

Click this link for another Autumn posting, “Thin Crescent Bowl Filled with Earthglow.”

References: search Wikipedia for Euonymus alatus

Copyright 2021 All Rights Reserved Michael Stephen Wills

Ocotillo Sunset from Saguaro National Park, a diary Part 2

The creation of a photograph

A retrospective diary of the day I captured “Octillo Sunset, continued from PART 1

 

Moving to a Better Location

On the ground in Sabino Canyon, I rethought my plans for the afternoon, given the potential of an incredible desert sunset, and decided to seek the high ground east of Tucson up against the Rincon Mountains in the Saguaro National Monument. There was still plenty of time to travel there and set up.

On arrival at the monument I took the scenic “loop” road that meandered around the desert. The Lime Kiln Falls trail makes some elevation, so I hiked that to the end. In the 1800’s the rocks in the area were exploited for their mineral content by heating them, on site, to high temperatures that released a highly caustic (chemically reactive) “quick lime” that was in high demand. All that’s left of this work is some ground discoloration.

The Dry Water Fall and former Mining Site

The “Falls” in question were a totally dry rock ledge that I climbed for these views. In the first photo, on the right in the distance, you can see the same mountain peaks I shared in Part One. I used the same 200 mm telephoto lens because that interesting stand of saguaros were over 100 feet away across a steep slope.

Young Saguaros

The saguaros are interesting, to me, because they are all so young and grouped together. As though s clutch of seeds from the same specimen landed together on the same spot. The saguaros are notable for their lack of arms which will form with the passing years.

A View of the Catalinas

Late afternoon is the perfect time to photograph the Catalinas in the distance and the high, thin gathering cloud cover made for dramatic shading of the peaks. I needed to wait for a perfect moment because the light and view changed, literally, second by second. If you look closely, the city of Tucson can be seen among the foothills, to the left.

Why the Distance Stands Out (high contrast)

The lens was fitted with a deep hood. Besides being black, the interior of the hood is surfaced with black felt, the same as used for large telescopes, to capture any stray light. Light falling across the lens surface causes reflections, which is what this hood prevents. The result is the amount of contrast I captured, using the appropriate exposure and other settings. For this photograph I used F14, 1/125 and ISO160.

Click any photograph to view Ocotillo Sunset Young Saguaros and the Catalinas – CLICK ME to view Ocotillo Sunset.

Another Catalina View

A bit further down the same trail, the desert view features an army of saguaros marching into Tucson.

Click any photograph to view Ocotillo Sunset Saguaros and the Catalinas – CLICK ME to view Ocotillo Sunset.

The Catalina Highway runs along the escarpment, in the distance, and to the top of Mount Lemmon, a 9157 foot peak. In season, you can ski in the morning, on the peak, and in an hour or so travel to the desert to sunbathe comfortably. From the trail to the top of the Rincon Mountains this view just keeps opening up farther and farther and farther. My wife, Pam, and I backpacked up there April 2011.

Click me for the next post in this series.

Copyright 2021 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved

Underground Railroad

Autumn Wonder

We have often travelled Lower Creek Road as an alternate route to visit my son and his family who live in Freeville, a village named for the activity of the Underground Railroad. After noticing this sign in passing for years, this week we stopped on a glorious autumn morning to capture it. I had packed the Sony Alpha 700 dslr for just such an opportunity.

Just off the road, under a maple tree in full autumn color (yellow), ground covered with fallen leaves (brown) on a fine early October morning, the sign reads, “New York, UNDERGROUND RAILROAD, HOME OF WILLIAM HANFORD AND WIFE ALTHA C. TODD, WHO SHELTERED FUGITIVE SLAVES ON THE WAY TO CANADA AND FREEDOM, STATE EDUCATION DEPARTMENT 1932”. These dark blue background, bright yellow letter signed are found throughout this region and much appreciated.

An added plus for me is the acceptance of both photographs by Getty Istock. Click this link to view a selection of my Getty photography in and around Ithaca, New York.

Copyright 2021 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved

Ocotillo Sunset, a diary

The creation of a photograph

This is a retrospective diary of the day I created my print “Ocotillo Sunset.” You can see “Ocotillo Sunset” by clicking on any of the following photographs.

On a Tucson November 2005 afternoon, after my volunteer work for the University of Arizona, CALS college, alumni board of directors, in the mid-afternoon I headed for Sabino Canyon with my photography kit.

With a 25-pound pack on my back, walking from the parking lot I looked up at the incredible rock formations of the Santa Catalina mountains. It took some time to set up the tripod (at that time I was using a cheap swivel head on adjustable aluminum legs) with a 200mm telephoto lens (Canon L-series EF 200mm USM) I grabbed this shot of the hoodoo fringed peaks beyond the foothills (f16, 1/30, ISO160). The lower sun angle made the formations pop out.

Hoodoos in the Hills

That is Window Peak, at the head of Ventana Canyon. Among the hoodoos is a spectacular rock arch, or window, not visible from this direction. “Ventana” is window in the Spanish language.

You call those strange formations of upright rocks “hoodoos. Some people believe the fantastic shapes were created by spirits, today the explanation is wind, water and time create hoodoos from rock of the right stuff. It is a wonderful experience to wander among hoodoos, though unsettling because some of these large rocks are seemingly in danger of falling over at any moment.

Click any photograph to view Ocotillo Sunset Santa Catalina Hoodoos – CLICK ME to view Ocotillo Sunset.

Moving On

I have a mental list of photographic “to do’s” and the gathering clouds, typical for a Tucson November day, reminded me an awesome desert sunset was on this list, so I packed up to head for the east side of Tucson for a shot looking toward the Tucson Mountains (on the west side).

Clouds gather at sunset above a ridge serrated by saguaros.

Click any photograph to view Ocotillo Sunset Gathering Clouds – CLICK ME to view Ocotillo Sunset.

Sabino Canyon House

Before we move on, this is a fascinating image of a typical southern Arizona house perched on a ridge at the mouth of Sabino Canyon. In this image the viewer sympathizes because the telephoto lens gathers the majestic rocks around the tiny structure.

Click any photograph to view Ocotillo Sunset Desert Foothill Home – CLICK ME to view Ocotillo Sunset.

The house is perched on a Santa Catalina foothill ridge running east west, a wall of picture windows facing south with a view across the Tucson valley toward Mount Wrightson of the Santa Rita mountains, 42 miles distant. Summer thunderstorms gather on this peak, wreathing it with lightening. These times, evenings and night, the view pays for the inconvenience of this distant, hot ridge. Another time to be there is for sunsets.

Click Me for the next post in this series.

Copyright 2021 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved

Thin Crescent with McGraw Tower, Venus and Star

pre-dawn sky event

Here are two photographs taken about the same time, 6:30 am, October 18, 2017, companions to the photograph shared earlier this week.

The moon rises later each day, so these shots include a larger disk closer to Cornell University.  Both components, the crescent and earth-glow, were dimmer this morning.    In each photograph Jenny McGraw Tower is visible.

Crescent, McjGraw Tower, Regulus, Venus
The star is Regulus, the brightest in the constellation Leo, close below the moon.  I don’t know the star close to Venus.

Here the tower is slightly to the right of the crescent, the arch of Schoellkopf stadium further right.  Among the trees on left, is the baleful red glow of Bradford Hall.

Cresent, McGraw Tower, Regulus
Click for another view of McGraw Tower from my Online gallery.

The tower is outlined by the lights of Uris library, presumably filled with early rising students.

The light of Regulus (“small king”),  below and to the right, is a composite of four stars moving together through space.  The position of Regulus on the path in the sky of the moon, planets and asteroids (called the ecliptic) leads to the occultation of the star by the disks of the moon and, less regularly, the planets and asteroids.

Copyright 2021 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved