We fashion ourselves as photographers’ of the southwest. As such, we often times have the opportunity to photograph cactus. Cactus comes in all shapes, sizes, and even colors. Here are some tips to get your best cactus shots.
When we think of cactus, I think many of us first think of Saguaros. They are the arch- typical cactus in the southwest. In California, we also think Joshua Trees. I also include in here smaller ground cactus. Mary and I go to the Huntington Gardens in San Marion, CA often. They have a very large, varied, and beautiful dessert garden.
Sunrise and sunset are still the best time to photograph cactus. If you are shooting in the middle of the day, think black and white and convert your photos when you get home.
There is nothing like seeing a magnificent cactus in the context of its habitat.
Not only should you pay attention to the light at sunrise and sunset, but also during the day, so that you can use it for different effects – front lit, side lit, and back lit.
Macros, abstracts, shapes, and patterns
A few final hints. We carry a Swiss army knife with tweezers and a Gerber tool with pliers. We use these to clean up the cactus. I can not tell you how many times I have been stabbed when trying to get a leaf or twig out of a cactus macro shot. The worst cactus of all is the Cholla. It sticks to everything. If you get some on your clothes or shoes, do not touch it, you will never get it off with your hands. You must use pliers or tweezers.
We like cactus for macro shots on windy days, since they do not move like flowers.
Finally, practice good composition like the Rule of Thirds and using the power points (see our popular blog). We also seem to do a lot of portrait orientation, rather than landscape. Since the cactus are usually much taller than us, this seems to work as it isolates them better.
To see more of our dessert southwest photos, please go to www.pamphotography.com.