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POTD: Palm Canyon

Palm Canyon
Kofa Mountains, Arizona
2022

I first heard about Palm Canyon when I was living in Arizona in the mid 1970s. It’s the only place in Arizona where one can find California fan palm trees growing in their native habitat. I thought that would be worth a visit someday. About 45 years later I finally made it there. We camped just outside the mouth of the canyon one night and while there hiked the short trail up the canyon to see the palm trees way up in niches in a narrow side canyon. It was neat to (finally) see the palm trees but I was much more taken by the canyon itself as well as the whole Kofa mountain setting. The photos I took of the palm trees are not particularly worthy but the ones of the mountains were I think. This one is looking out the mouth of the canyon from up near the palm tree viewing area.

POTD: Earthshine

Earthshine
Mojave National Preserve, California
2022

The earthshine (the sunlight reflected from the earth’s surface that illuminates part of the moon not directly lighted by the sun) during the crescent moon was quite visible when we were out on the Mojave Desert last month. It looked great so I thought it worth trying to capture it with my camera. This is an o.k. image but how I got it was pretty much a textbook example of how not to do it.

With the human eye (aided by binoculars or a long telephoto lens of course) it’s easy to see both the craters on the sunlit part of the moon as well as some of the detail on the moon’s night side which is much less brightly lit by the reflected light from the earth. But a single exposure with a camera will generally either result in the sunlight part of the moon being way overexposed or the earthlit part being way underexposed. There is no real middle ground for the exposure settings that will give a decent single result.

To address this issue is pretty easy if you use the kinds of advanced camera and computer tools available to the modern photographer. First of course you should really shoot with a tripod. I have two nice tripods, both safely stashed at home in Montana, so I was shooting handheld. Secondly, you should take advantage of the high dynamic range (HDR) settings available on many cameras and/or the appropriate computer software. But that approach only works well if you’re using a tripod.

So I did it the old fashioned kludgy way–I took one image exposed for the sunlit part of the moon and one exposed for the earthshine part and laboriously combined them in Photoshop. I say laborious because for a number of reasons it was much more difficult to get a decent looking image than I thought it would be. I easily spent a couple hours tweaking what I had to get what you see here. It’s not perfect but gives a good representation of what I could see with my eye looking through my telephoto camera lens. And it was a good lesson in being better prepared in the field next time!

POTD: The Problem With Sunsets

The Problem With Sunsets
Mojave National Preserve, California
2022

It’s not really a problem with sunsets themselves, rather it’s a problem with digital photography. You can see a perfect sunset and create a photograph of it that is extremely true to life, but given Photoshop’s enhancement capabilities, no one will believe you. Be that as it may, this image is as close to the simply lovely sunset colors I saw last Christmas Eve as I could get it. I believe that is the planet Venus in the middle right portion of the photo. I’m not sure though as one reason I had my camera out that evening was because it was possible to see Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn all at the same time.

POTD: Color Guard

Color Guard
Mojave National Preserve, California
2022

I can wander around photographing, very comfortably thinking in terms of black and white compositions, when I come across something that just has to be shown in color. It’s good to shake things (my brain in this case) up once in a while I guess. I actually saw several barrel cacti with these brightly colored thorns but this one was the only one I saw surrounded by an almost complete ring of protective brush–as if such a cactus needs protection.

POTD: Impenetrable

Impenetrable
Mojave National Preserve, California
2022

Not impenetrable to all living things I’m sure, but I’m not sticking my hand down in anything like that!

POTD: S’Up?

S’Up?
Mojave National Preserve, California
2022

Out on a bike ride one day, I came across a small herd of horses. At first I thought they might be wild horses, although I wasn’t aware there were any in that area. But I soon realized they were anything but. Not only were they way less small and gaunt the the wild horses I’ve seen before, there were also way more curious and friendly (or maybe just bored). Discovering they were wearing horseshoes was the ultimate giveaway as to their domestic status.

POTD: Standing Stone

Standing Stone
Mojave National Preserve, California
2022

If this were in Ireland instead of the wilds of the Mojave desert, my money would be on this stone being placed on end by man rather than nature.