I’m always looking for new ways to do the same old thing. A few days ago I took a morning photo expedition to Saguaro National Park near Tucson, Arizona. I was in Phoenix for Thanksgiving and arrived one day before the rest of my family, so decided to take a morning photo trip to this small National Park.
I’ve seen lots of photographs from Saguaro NP before, and all of them prominently featured the rugged landscape, filled with thousands and thousands of saguaro cacti. I was determined to create something different during my time there, so put on my thinking cat and tried to imagine different ways to represent the region. I started taking photographs of the large desert cacti, but just couldn’t get inspired by any of the compositions. Everything I was taking pictures of had been photographed a million times before and none of my shots contained anything original.
It wasn’t until I spent some time at the Red Hills visitor center that inspiration finally struck. I found a dead saguaro and knew that this was a way to represent the Saguaro Desert in a stark, yet new way. I shot this cactus with my Nikon D800 and 70-200mm f/2.8 lens. To process the shot, I used Adobe Lightroom 5 and Nik Silver Efex Pro 2.
After shooting the dead cactus, I spent some time photographing the architectural details of the visitor center. I became intrigued with the curved lines of the observation deck and then framed a sunstar to complete the composition. Again, I used Lightroom 5 and Nik Silver Efex Pro 2 to create the black and white conversion.
The photo below shows the scale and scope of Saguaro National Park. There are tens of thousands of saguaro cacti spread throughout the region. Finding a compelling composition takes significant effort. The shot below is a far cry from “compelling”. I shot a few hundred boring pictures of the mountains and the landscape, but finally found my muse close to civilization at the visitor center. Sometimes, you have to look past the obvious to find the best shots.