Always on the lookout for free camping in a photo-worthy location, one of my favourite new finds from this year’s snowbird season is Saddle Mountain near Tonopah, Arizona.
Located about 50 miles west of Phoenix, it’s a large dispersed camping area where you can have lots of space to yourself while enjoying the peaceful wilderness location.
One of my favourite desert compositions is to find a majestic Saguaro cactus and highlight it by positioning it between the mountains.
One of the things I find challenging about photographing in the desert is that I am always trying to create clean compositions and the desert is a messy place. There are all sorts of shrubs and scrubby bushes that are always in the way.
Often the nicest Saguaros have nurse plants that grow around the base of them making them messy looking. But the nurse plants protect the Saguaro from the sun and the wind when it is a young plant, and that’s probably why it grew up to be so strong and majestic. So I’ve tried to train myself to stop trying to find a way around the shrubs and just accept them. They are a vital part of the desert after all.
In the next shot, I used the road as a leading line to draw your eye towards the mountains. I love mountains at twilight!
In the image below, instead of placing the Saguaro between mountains, I used one of the mountains to create a background frame for it. Unfortunately, there were no clouds in the sky on this day, but I did manage to catch the day’s last golden light on the tops of the mountain.
To make the next image, I got a bit farther away from the mountain, which made its layers more obvious. I also found another useful purpose for the shrubs! I used the big shrub in the foreground to cover up an RV that was back there. In post-processing, I used my “Chinese Ink Wash” Lightroom preset which I created specifically for a series of my photos from China, but I thought it looked nice here too.
We can usually stay at a location for a week or so before we need to go dump the RV’s tanks and pick up fresh water. Usually we’re ready to move on by then anyway. But we were enjoying this place so much that we decided to go dump and fill and just come back to the same place. When we came back, we picked a different road to drive down and found a new spot.
Lucky us, we discovered this cool rock art near our new site! I don’t usually include man-made things in my photographs, but this time I just had to. Ray even dragged our ladder over there so I could get some elevation on the rock art.
Thank you to whoever made this, your art was very much appreciated!
I love finding new places to explore and Saddle Mountain definitely fit the bill since it was not crowded, absolutely gorgeous, and free!