Crested Saguaro

July 26th, 2011 | Posted by Steve in Arizona

Hi all,

I know I promised I would send some photos from a visit to the March AFB Air Museum, but after reviewing them I found none impressed me so those won’t follow.  I’m sure airplane photos will come another time so those of you who love them don’t despair, I’m sure to shoot more & send them along.

A few weeks ago my job took me to Las Cruces, NM for a week at the White Sands Missile Range. I elected to drive because I can carry a lot more junk.  That, of course, adds to the comfort of a trip.  It also gives me a chance to make some side trips with photography in mind.

I left home on Saturday, July 9 intending to find a place to stay in Tucson.  On the way I called a friend of mine from the postage stamp business, Ron Cipolla.  Ron lives near Phoenix and insisted I stay the night at his home.    Ron & I share both stamp collecting and photography as a hobby. He is an excellent photographer and has led or co-led many an Arizona Highway Photo Workshop. He also knows some great places to shoot photos in Arizona.

We had a fine time catching up on lost time, and before I left for Las Cruces the next morning we drove a few miles to visit a Crested Saguaro cactus.  Most Saguaros grow pretty much straight up, but a very, very few are crested or have a fan like shape. Because of this they are named ‘Crested’ and probably occur less than 1% of the time.  No one knows why they grow a crest. One theory is a DNA mutation.  Another theory is from an external cause such as a lightning strike or freeze damage.  In any event each one is unique and makes for a wonderful photographic form.

10 or 15 years ago this particular cactus was probably unapproachable except on foot.  Since then a park & some very expensive homes have been developed around it.

Here are the photos.  These are distilled from 4 different visits to the same site, and are not presented in chronological order.

(click on photos to enlarge)

This is a snapshot of Ron with his vehicle in the background.  It was terribly hot this day, somewhat over 100.  After about 15 minutes the heat drove us back into the comfort of his air conditioned vehicle.

Like I said, civilization has almost surrounded this particular cactus.  The photo is shot with the fisheye lens to give a general view of the place.  Ron and I shoot with almost identical equipment. Our camera bodies are the same & many of our lenses are the same, but when I told him I had a fisheye he pooh-poohed it – that is until he got to try it. Now he wants one.

I should also mention that when I find a good shooting spot I hope for multiple follow up visits. This is true of many photographers. The light changes each time you visit and your choice of angles, lenses, etc. may change, each time with the promise of a good photo.

This is from our first visit.  The weather was pleasant, but the sky was almost overcast.  The color photos from this visit lost almost all contrast in the sky.  I made this one into a B&W which, fortunately, brings out the sky.

This and all the rest of the shots are at ISO 640.  I found out that ISO 640 yields very little more background noise than ISO 200 and is of course 1 2/3 stops faster.  More importantly is my tripod broke early in the trip so I had to shoot everything hand held. This and the rest of the photos are with the 24-105mm lens.  It is shot at 28mm focal length, 1/400th of a second at f 10.

Here are two color photos shot of different sides of the cactus and on different visits.  The second photo shows the moon setting. The first is 24mm focal length, 1/500th of a second at f 16.

This is 28mm focal length, 1/500th of a second at f 16.

This next to last photo shows a close up of the crest with the moon in the background.  Despite the small aperture of f 16 the moon is still a bit out of focus.  This is shot at 105mm focal length, f 16, 1/400th of a second. I’ve made it into a B&W because it seems to give me a better feel for the texture of the cactus.

The final photo of this posting is a color closeup of the crest.  I’ve enhanced the colors a little, but hopefully not enough to make it unbelievable.  This is shot at 105mm focal length, f 16, 1/320th of a second.

Thats all for now.  I’ll send more photos of other parts of the trip as time allows.



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