Captured last winter but never posted. I scouted these colorful cacti the day before and then after struggling to find them again in the dark, I set up for sunrise. For awhile it looked like the light was going to be a bust but just before sunrise the light broke through illuminating the storm clouds over the Sierra. Open to all comments, critiques and suggestions.

5DSr, 16-35 f/4 IS L @ 23mm
two image focus stack @ f/16

You may only download this image to demonstrate post-processing techniques.

Dave, as soon as I saw the clustered barrel cactus I knew where you’d been…:cowboy_hat_face:
I’ve got several scenes from the area with these very photogenic cacti as a key focal point. One is my all time favorites from this area.
I can’t say I’ve captured any this unique with the 3 clusters in the same image. I really like that outcome very much. The resulting cacti plants really support the sierra backdrop in the scene very nicely…:+1:

Dave, a very fine image. Beautiful scene, beautiful colors, great mood. I like it a lot.
Before I saw your explanation, I guessed that this is a focus stack. The mountains in the distance and the first cluster of cacti are very sharp, the second cluster a bit less. Maybe 3 images in the stack next time?
But even without focus stack I would have loved this image.

Dave, this is certainly well titled. You had good timing here in terms of the distant lighting. While that aspect is great, as well as the atmosphere, I think that the most appealing components are the cacti and other parts of the middle ground.
Granted this is my personal preference, but for much of my work, admittedly avian and closeup stuff, I prefer a bit of breathing room around my subject matter given the choice. In this case it seems the cacti feel a little crowded at the bottom. Maybe opening up the scene to around 18-20mm would be a good option, as there’s lots of nice detail in the gravel below the foremost plant. To me the cacti are the real stars of the show in this.

This is such a beautiful landscape photo, Dave! I really love everything about it - the light, the cactus, the arrangement of the composition, and the perfect colors throughout. I also like that you processed this in a way that looks completely natural but also has the high impact that comes with magic light. The only tiny comment I have is that the cactus on the left feels a bit close to the left edge. That doesn’t reduce the impact of the photo for me and is just an observation since this is in the critique gallery.

Wonderful strong image. I like the way the cacti lead me back to the mountains.

Incredibly good image. And inspirational too, now that I spend my winters in Baja. I tried a really small crop off the top to make it look even more wide angle. See what you think.

This is really fantastic! The composition looks very intentional - I like the line coming from the lower left corner, and the way the main cactus and mountains sit in the frame with a nice amount of spacing around them. After I read Sarah’s comment I agree a bit about the left cactus being too close to the edge, but what can you do? And of course, the light and conditions are breathtaking. Depending on your processing philosophy, I could see stretching the top third of the image just a little further up to make the mountains slightly taller. I wonder if a wide lens shortened them a bit.

Gorgeous light! I have chased these same species of cactus (some scores of miles to the east of your image, I believe) but never got anything this beautiful. Nicely done.

This scene is beautiful. The light is amazing, I’m jealous (in a good way). I really like how my eyes jump in between the three cacti and the make it to the mountains and that beautiful light.
Before I read Sarah’s comment the only thing I was going to suggest was to give some breathing room to the cactus to the left. Don’t know if you cropped the image in and have extra space available of if you are willing to do a little bit of stretch in PS; it doesn’t have to be a lot. Sometime just a little bit can make a big difference.
I just did a quick content aware fill and added a bit to the canvas size.

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Simply stunning Dave, a real masterpiece. I really love the color palette in this image, and the similarity in color between the cactus and the pink clouds in the sky.

I am really enjoying the light here, Dave. It is gentle and subtle on the FG cacti and dramatic and in your face on the BG mountain peaks. I think I prefer the original post without the extra canvas on the left. Beautifully done.

This is beautiful Dave! The light in the background is killer, and the foreground subject is a perfect match. I love the visual contrast of the clouds with the spiky cactus, and it’s great that the colors of the cactus and the sky are a good match. I only wish there was a bit more room on the bottom edge, and like Sarah mentioned, a bit more space on the left. I always find that if I add a bit more foreground that I feel is necessary, I end up with the perfect amount by the time I see it on the computer.

Beautiful light and scene, Dave. I prefer the original post over the extra added on the left or the cropped top. Looks pretty dang good as is.

@Paul_Breitkreuz, @Han_Schutten, @Bill_Leggett, @Sarah_Marino, @Tony_Kuyper, @Igor_Doncov, @Brent_Clark, @Alberto_Patino-Douce, @Jose_A_Feliciano, @Ed_McGuirk, @Ed_Lowe, @Ben_Horne, @Harley_Goldman, thanks for all your thoughtful comments.

Thanks for the crop suggestion. I think it makes for a valid alternate.

Bill, Sarah, Brent, Jose, Ben,
Thanks all for the comments on the tightness of the cacti to the frame edges. I actually have a slight bit more canvas at the bottom and on the left and will consider if I should add a bit more breathing room. With the left side cacti, I was trying to balance the mountains in the back that sort of tail off to the left. Food for thought…


Great image… The Cacti alone would make a great subject.

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Beautifully composed and captured and the processing is spot on. Thanks for sharing Dave.

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Getting low with a wide angle lens opens all sorts of creative doors, which you’ve amply demonstrated here. I call it “belly flop” photography, and anyone remaining upright to shoot is truly missing a lot. The colors and light really set it off.

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Outstanding near/far composition. Obvious emphasis on the cacti by your focused comp, but also great drama with the light, mountains and clouds up top. I would keep the top and would agree with others some additional space left and bottom would be good. Understand your reasoning, so just a personal taste of not wanting the cactus elements so cramped; but that’s fairly minor. Light and colors are amazing.


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A captivating comp and incredible light! Very nice!!!