Panning for monsoon gold against all odds

Valencia and Mission area, Tucson, Arizona, at sunset.

Valencia and Mission area, Tucson, Arizona, at sunset.

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Though I have been deep into constructing panoramic images of the southwest for around five years now it remains a humbling experience.

Sometimes you pass a place for months and think, “This location would be perfect.”

Then you try it out and, not so much.

Today’s site, along Valencia west of Mission Road, was paradoxical. Not as immediately grabbing as I’d hoped, but I’m sure I’ll return.

Part of my reservation in declaring thumbs up or down relates to the peculiarity of today’s weather at this particular site. Not enough clouds to rain, but somehow keeping the landscape at least partially in shadow most of the day.

I was drawn to this locale by its proximity to the stubby, curiously-shaped mountain segments to the north of the road – the southernmost area of the Tucson Mountains.

They’re quite beautiful but they are neither numerous enough, nor do they reach high enough into the sky, to really demand attention the way some other features of late have.

One of the odd-shaped cluster of mountains nearby.

One of the odd-shaped cluster of mountains nearby.

But they are fascinating landmarks. I have the feeling I just need a different approach to cropping to play up their strengths, and a better lighting day to see how shadows would sculpt their rock faces.

As I am doing this project I am gaining a more intimate understanding of the mountains around the city that has been my home since 1971.

I mapped soils and geomorphology of the Tucson basin and Avra Valley back when I was a geology student, and surveyed A Mountain at that time as well, so I have some understanding of the forces involved in creating this place. But stopping and carefully photographing different features of the valley from various perspectives has given me a more comprehensive understanding of my city.

Today’s site is probably no more than a mile or two from San Xavier Mission, which I have photographed many times. But the mission is a very special place, adjacent to lush, green, well manicured farms that are a far cry from the desert norm.

Earlier in the day, during seconds of sunshine.

Earlier in the day, during seconds of sunshine.

I actually considered shooting at San Xavier, and had I done so I probably would have had less issues with sunlight and shadow. But all of this goes into the hopper of experience.

Relying on local weather forecasts has been less than fruitful. It is tough to predict. I think it’s time to seek the high ground, scan the horizons and determine where things are bubbling up. Then find a cool spot, set up and hope for the best.

~ by Daniel Buckley on July 28, 2014.

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