Cholla in Superstition Wilderness

Arizona is a fun place to photograph nature, especially in the winter, when you’re visiting from up north where everything is in full “winter drab” mode. I know the desert is more beautiful in the spring when everything is blooming, and I really want to make a trip to see and shoot that, but for now we’re the typical Arizona visitors who fly down in January or February.

Our recent trip to visit my parents in Sun Lakes included several day trips to local wilderness areas and parks. Our short hike on the Peralta Trail in the Superstition Wilderness was a treat despite the large numbers of people competing for trail space. We arrived mid-afternoon hoping for some good “golden hour” shooting once we explored the area for a while. We didn’t have time to do the popular hike to see Weaver’s Needle, so instead we explored a couple of other trails in the area.

I thought for this first post about our trip I would highlight a landscape shot from that afternoon and how I “massaged” it into what I was envisioning for the image.

Superstition Wilderness Cacti and Landscape
Cholla Cacti in Superstition Wilderness, Nikkor 16-35mm @ 16mm, 1/125 sec @ f/13, ISO 400

I used Adobe Camera Raw to process this image. After some minor color balance tweaks, I applied the Lens Profile Corrections for the lens I used, the Nikkor 16-35mm VR AF-S. I actually dialed back the “Distortion” setting a bit; I think in an image like this with no straight lines, a little barrel distortion isn’t a deal breaker.

Next I created a graduated filter over the sky area at top that decreased the exposure and boosted the contrast and saturation.

In order to edit the shaded foreground and remove a bit of the blue color cast, I used an adjustment brush and painted two masks: One covering the entire shaded area, and another for just the cholla and red rock in the foreground. Each adjustment brush has different settings to increase contrast, exposure and color balance.

I like the adjustment brush technique for images where the edit boundary is relatively well-defined yet there aren’t intricate, sharp details to worry about. I may give this image a shot using another HDR technique like tone mapping, but for now I think it works.

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One Response to “Cholla in Superstition Wilderness”

  1. Diane

    WOW! Beautiful!!


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