The pleated green trunk, patterned spines and enormous columnar body define the iconic tree for which Saguaro National Park is named. Ubiquitous across southern Arizona, the saguaro (Carnegiea gigantea) is a keystone species in this borderland region of the Sonoran Desert. Sinks for drenching rains, the pleated bodies expand as roots absorb ephemeral bursts of water. Gila woodpeckers (Melanerpes uropygialis) and gilded flickers (Colaptes chrysoides) peck at the soft flesh excavating nesting cavities that serve as a refuge to numerous birds and small mammals. Fragrant hints of ripe melon lure bats to white nocturnal blooms, while bees pollenate saguaros throughout the morning hours. Damaged flesh becomes a meal to collared peccary (Tayassu tajacu) and a source of water to any that chews the soft “meat.”
|Saguaro During Sunset - Saguaro National Park, AZ|
Canon 5D Mark II + Canon 17-40L @ 17mm
A model for a lesson in community ecology, botanical inhabitants of the Sonoran clearly illustrate the way plants compete for limited resources while restricting the impact of invertebrate and vertebrate herbivores. Saguaros grow in the shade of old acacia and mesquite trees, while shading the growth of Opuntia, ocotillos and smaller plant species. Vestigial leaves form sharp spines that protect the tree from herbivory, however once penetrated, a wounded cactus will seal the damaged flesh with a tough tissue called a callus.
|Midday Sonoran Desert - Saguaro National Park, AZ|
Canon 5D Mark II + Zeiss ZE 35mm f2.0 1 @ f/11
Three shot-HDR stack processed to capture detail in both the highlight and shadow
For this tip, I suggest that you look to photograph iconic subjects in different light, times and locations. The saguaro is synonymous with Tucson, Arizona. Like white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) and monarch butterflies (Danaus plexippus), it is an over-photographed subject in nature photography. Rather than despair about what has been done in the past, seek to define the icon for yourself. Search for angle and composition that pleases eye, and don’t fear the work that precedes you. It may be a familiar subject, but if you have not done a careful study, it remains to be novel and open to your unique vision. On these occasions, it is important to state the obvious...
|Saguaro Night - Hacienda del Desierto, AZ|
Canon 5D Mark II + Canon 17-40L @ 20mm
240 second exposure @ iso 400
Light makes the photograph and the photographer captures the light.
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