While driving south along Highway 85 towards Ajo, Arizona, I noticed some really cool rock formations in the Barry M. Goldwater Air Force Range. Unfortunately, because it’s an air force range and they do air-to-ground bombing practice, you’re not allowed in.
In fact, when we drove by there were A10 Warthogs shooting 30mm canons at targets. It was quite an impressive sight to see!
There’s a fence that blocks access to most of the interesting rocks, and after seeing target practice I knew I wouldn’t be hopping the fence for photographs. Still, you can see quite a bit from the road and along the fence line, so I tucked this location away in my mind for a future sunset shot.
A few days later, I could see some good clouds forming in the sky and the horizon looked clear, so I knew there was a good chance of seeing one of the sunsets the desert is famous for.
I went back to the air force range well before sunset and scouted out some interesting rocks and cacti I could frame for my sunset shot. I thought I struck gold when I got this one:
After that, things fizzled out a bit and I asked myself “should I stay or should I go?”. Lately, my rule of thumb on that is that I answer “stay” at least the first three times I ask myself that question! Here’s why:
These are just some of the images I made that night. Of course I have a whole bunch of landscape oriented images too and some using a wider focal length. But I chose these 4 photos with similar compositions to demonstrate how important it is to wait for the moment. Over half an hour went by in between the first shot and the second shot. The skies can fizzle right out and come back to life over the course of the golden hour.
During the moments in between, I try to improve my composition and try different focal lengths and perspectives. You might notice in the third image, the prominent cactus on the right is missing. That’s because I got up in the bed of the truck for a higher perspective so the cactus fell below the mountain. I also took my camera off the tripod for that shot, so I increased the ISO so I would get a faster shutter speed for hand-holding the camera. I decided I didn’t like that perspective as much and went back to ground level.
I still think I might like the first one the most because it is so dark and moody, but I sure am glad I stuck around and waited for all the incredible moments to come in this amazing desert sunset.