I started out the day chasing the light in Saguaro National Park. I love backlit cacti and I noticed that there are some great opportunities for these kind of images at Saguaro NP. The shapes of the saguaro are so distinctive that just a hint of their outline is enough to suggest the cacti.
There are many different kinds of cacti in Saguaro National Park besides the saguaro. I found this one on a ridgeline. The way the Tucson mountains layered behind it made the image work for me. Normally most images I take like this would have a large depth of field, but here I wanted just the colors and the vaguest hint of the texture of the distant mountains so I opted for a shallow depth of field.
As the sun rises in the sky, landscape opportunities dry up. Before it gets too harsh, it’s a great time to go lizard hunting. The lizards get a bit more active as it warms up too (although they do shut down for the hottest part of the day). Most of the lizards scurry away as you approach, but persistence pays off when you finally find one that you can crawl up to. I loved the texture and colors of this common side-blotched lizard. If you look closely, you can discern some of the special scales that cover its ear opening.
It’s easy to think that all the best landscapes and wildlife are in the “big places” like the national parks. While these are great locales, there are smaller gems that don’t get the credit they deserve. One such place is the Tucson Mountain State Park that adjoins Saguaro National Park. The Tucson Mountains run through both the State Park and the National Park, but at this time of year with the trajectory the sun follows, some of the best views are actually from the State Park.
A log in the middle of the desert? Actually when the saguaros die, they leave behind a woody skeleton that looks a lot like a tree depending on how it breaks up. I thought it made for a good foreground in front of the Tucson Mountains – again from State Park land.
I really can’t resist a backlit cactus. The cholla cacti especially pick up the light with their lighter colors. This is probably the sharpest cactus in the Sonoran desert. They took quite a toll on me – a month later I was still removing cactus spines. Part of the problem is that the spines don’t just stay on the plant. They drop off small pieces of the cactus or spines and when you’re crawling around photographing lizards, let’s just say that your chances of emerging unscathed aren’t so good. Of course, you can’t have a reaction when you get impaled either, or else the lizard that you’ve taken half the morning to approach is sure to run away.