During my second day in Saguaro National Park, I had a chance to truly start to take in many of its treasures. A park like this you never feel like you can see everything, but having spent one day already I knew at least a little bit about its major features and how the light falls on the park. Two things dominate the landscape everywhere you look: the huge Saguaro cacti and the Tucson Mountains in the background.
There are other plants in the Sonoran desert besides the cacti. One of my favorites is the ocotillo. This plant grows as long spindly rods that shoot straight up from a central point on the ground, never branching or seeming to bend. It’s covered with long spines all year long. Although the desert suffered a serious drought, a few of the plants were beginning to leaf out.
It seems that the area of Saguaro National Park was popular for many hundreds of years. The Hohokam people once lived in this area, although they were gone before the first Europeans arrived in North America. One on hill top, they have created marvelous designs on the rocks known as petroglyphs. Most of these designs are abstract shapes, spirals are especially common, but a few depict animals or people. Whether there was some purpose to the design or they were just created for enjoyment remains a mystery.
After spending some time with the petroglyphs on Signal Hill, I went back to my tent area to eat some lunch and get out of the harsh sun. It always pays to keep your camera at your side. Fortunately I had it there when I noticed an ant lumbering beneath the weight of an enormous wood chip it was transporting. Suddenly the camera equipment I carry around felt a lot lighter.
Most of the time I take landscape photos by moving around and stopping when I see something that interests me or great light. I had a vision of a photograph I wished to take even before I arrived in Arizona. I had an inspiration to create a silhouette image of a Saguaro cactus. In my mind, the cactus would be on a diagonal ridgeline of a mountain with the sunset over the ridge. My first attempt at getting this shot was yesterday, but it was a miserable failure. So I tried again today at sunset, but with a couple of hours of looking I could not find a saguaro positioned as I hoped. Instead this was the best silhouette that came out of the evening – a far cry from what I was looking for. I was determined to come back and try for a third day to capture the image I wanted.