After my wife's ankle surgery last summer, I was forced to pursue my love of strenuous exploratory hiking without her. But there was a bright side to this, since she has never been as keen for climbing as I am. Last spring, I was able to spend just about every Sunday morning at the the top of one of the many small mountains near my house.
I brought along my camera to keep me company. But an hour after sunrise, Arizona skies are bright and hot and the shadows are deep and dark. Getting a correct exposure under such high-contrast conditions is a challenge. While it's usually best to let the smart machine in my hands make most the decisions, I still have to know how to help it along if I want to avoid white skies and crushed shadows. There's only so much I can fix in post-processing.
I have to say I made a lot of progress working under these conditions. But one of the many skills I've not yet mastered is how to shake off my early-morning exhilaration long enough to really capture the magic of a mountain-top vantage point. I took hundreds of photos, but only a small handful of shots really give a sense of the terrain's sparse beauty. I hope this selection manages to convey the quiet extremes of the desert landscape.
Alas, you can short-list a bad picture, but its not so easy to cull Paradise Valley's rampant population. Who knew that the top of Camelback Mountain is as crowded as a shopping mall at 9AM on a Sunday? On the other hand, though it's surrounded on all sides by expensive, well-patrolled private residences, the expansive summit of Mummy Mountain is nearly desolate. Hopefully, once the summer abates, I can continue my exploration before all the remaining open space is fenced off.