Photo Shoot: Salt River

 We had unseasonably warm weather and  incredible sunsets in October here in Arizona’s Mogollon Rim country. Put those two together and getting out with the camera had to happen. I settled on a spot I have visited before, on the Salt River just south of Sagauro Lake. The outing turned into an exercise in flexibility when things didn’t go as planned, something all photographers are familiar with.

For starters, there was no real sunset and clouds were minimal, meaning there was little drama in the sky to aid the shot. The spot I intended to set up at was under water so I could not get the shot I anticipated. Could anything else go wrong? Yes, as a matter of fact, it could. I was dressed for evening chill and it was 75 degrees, and the standing water was the mother of all mosquito breeding grounds. This is why landscape photographers love to trek the great outdoors, looking for that one spot at that one moment when everything works. Sometimes it doesn’t and you go with what nature planned.

I adapted out of necessity. I hiked around until I found this little niche spot with a view of a rock face I knew would catch the golden hour’s glow. It had some interest in the foreground and a nice mix of colors and textures. I decided to abandon the hike and settle in, planning to shoot a series of shots as the evening progressed. Originally intending to stay until after dark, I later decided on an early exit because I was in an area I wasn’t that familiar with, and the terrain was everything but easy to navigate.

Then my biggest pre-trip planning assumption came home to haunt me. I had my DSLR and a good lens choice … for the shot I planned on getting. It was a horrible lens for the spot I found myself in. What’s a guy to do? I decided to force the object with my DSLR and 20mm prime lens and hope for the best in post processing. Thankfully, I also decided to shoot a few images with my iPhone, mainly to text to my wife so she could see the scene and have a visual reference for my location. Thank goodness I did. Every shot you see here is from my iPhone 11. Yes, I got a couple of good shots with the DSLR, but the limitations of its lens just didn’t allow capturing a good composition of what the scene presented. So, iPhone it was.

The results are better than I imagined they would be, although not great. The iPhone lens does not capture details like a DSLR sensor, and not shooting in RAW limits what can be accomplished in post processing. That said, I am happy given the circumstances. I use LuminarAI for post, a new tool I am still getting familiar with. It doesn’t do much that other editors such as Lightroom don’t do, but the AI is a great time saver.

And I have a list of lessons learned from this outing. Boy, do I! Pack multiple lenses (honey, I need a new camera bag), take alternate clothing just in case, and always carry the mosquito repellant. Most importantly, anticipate the unanticipated and be prepared to pivot.

Landscape photography is kind of like life. Stuff happens, or doesn’t, and you must figure it out on the fly. That is part of the experience, and the experience is what it is all about.

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