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Saguaro Sunset

Posted by
CW McGowen (Morgan Hill, United States) on 2 September 2013 in Plant & Nature and Portfolio.

South of Phoenix and west of Chandler, I found this Saguaro with the Sierra Estrellas in the background.

I was faced with a rather boring cloudless sky and not much color available to shoot until a band of yellow grew on the horizon. To isolate the cactus in the yellow band of color, I backed up and shot this image with a telephoto capturing the Saguaro as the sky darkened to orange.

Find more about C.W. McGowen at:

Curly from South Shields, United Kingdom

A great result too, this must have been very satisfying.

2 Sep 2013 7:30am

Josep from Barcelona, Spain

Wonderful composition and execution. Though I would have expected this saguaro to appear as a dark silhouettes, I like too this green tonality. Lovely colors!!

2 Sep 2013 7:58pm

@Josep: Thanks Josep, In most photos of this nature you are right that a silhouette would result. Frankly, that is a result of how the camera sees the world and how a harshly lighted untouched photo would present. However the human eye sees something very different, we are able to see multiple lighting conditions clearly, except in the absolutely harshest of conditions like looking into the sun. At this shoot, I was able to see both the saguaro and the sky clearly, no silhouette, so I wanted to present what I saw. Today's technology allows me to duplicate that vision of what my eye saw in the finished photo. My Nikon D800 has a large dynamic range and so was able to catch the detail of both the sky and the cactus in a single exposure. In PhotoShop, I used a mask to display the cactus and foreground at the correct exposure and separately to display the background sky at its proper exposure. This is typically called luminosity masking and allows a photographer to better present what was seen at the shoot. I hope you like the result.

Viewfinder from Bradenton, FL, United States

Good technique.

3 Sep 2013 12:27am

DarkElf from Perth, Australia

wonderful work and thanks for the description too! you managed the light and cloudless sky very well indeed!

3 Sep 2013 2:01am

L'angevine from Angers, France

superbe cette ambiance

3 Sep 2013 7:03am

Josep from Barcelona, Spain

I definitely like!!! Thanks for your explanations! As you said, the usual result is a silhouette but I was positively surprised with your image, as I could see all these green tonalities nicely exposed.

3 Sep 2013 7:48am

omid from mashhad, Iran

very nice!
so beautiful composition, lsyers, colors & lights!
Amazing view!

3 Sep 2013 9:54am

Japanalia from Yokohama, Japan

The Saguaro looks the proper kind of "monument" for the area and, moreover, in that special light.

15 Oct 2013 1:08pm