You probably like looking at night lights. Most people do. Maybe you like the lights on Christmas trees, or Christmas lights on a house, or, maybe a city skyline just after dusk. Here in Arizona we do it differently. Phoenix had the Botanical Gardens commission Bruce Munro to create, “Sonoran Light at Desert Botanical Garden.” These lights are colorful “light sculptures” that are resident with the desert landscape, making for interesting lighting and, hopefully, interesting photography.
We haven’t been out on a photo shoot in awhile, and we were getting antsy to use our cameras (much like an addict needing a fix). We arrived at dusk to scope out the place to find the best spots from which to shoot. We were not alone. There were many other photographers with the same idea, each walking around dangerously with their tripod legs extended. It was amazing that we didn’t get speared along the way. Of course, our tripods were also extended, mine positioned properly for a joust.
We settled on shooting the mountain first. It was colorfully lit with purples, reds, greens, yellow and blues. Munro calls this “Field of Light.”
We then moved up the mountainside a bit and came across a few photographers doing a light painting shot. They were set up for a long exposure (it was dark) and periodically shining a flashlight on the big cactus in front of them. The resultant shot would be a nighttime shot with a lit up cactus. This ends up being a pretty cool shot. When some space opened up for us, we jumped in ready for our chance to capture the light painted cactus. We cozied up next to another photographer who graciously moved over to allow us a reasonable shooting angle. He asked me wether we wanted to light paint the cactus with him. Yes, “of course”, was my reply. We set up our cameras for the shot which would last upwards of 30 seconds. On the count of three we all pressed our shutter buttons, but the cactus remained dark. Where was the light painting on the cactus? I looked at him. He looked dumbfound at me. “Well, what about the light” I asked him? “I don’t have one, I thought you did,” he replied. Now that didn’t work out too well. Turns out that the guy with the flashlight left just a few moments earlier (that’s why we had gotten a spot). Note to self: bring flashlight to a night shoot.
We moved on to the next promising spot. This time the lights spread out in front of us like a lava stream. This was not too difficult a shot except the light changed colors every few seconds. It was a great way to get different photos without moving an inch or changing any camera settings.
Here is a sequence with the organ pipe cacti in the background.
And another sequence with the hillside in the background.
Our nighttime excursion was nearing its end. We had one more light sculpture left, the “Water-Towers.” We walked around, shot some photos, walked around some more, and shot some more photos. Captivated, we continued shooting for almost an hour. Here is an example of what we saw.
Just as we were about the leave, Rachel (our daughter) reminded us to turn around and look. Oh was she ever right. Here is the scene, 180 degrees from the Water-Towers.
Remember, its all about the light, sometimes natural, sometimes human generated!