Teddy-bear Chollas - KOFA NWR, AZ

Here is a shot from the beginning of this year, when we were boondocking in KOFA. It was quite emotional. I really like Chollas, they are very mesmerizing. And the image came out as I pre-visualized it.

Specific Feedback Requested

Every critique and comment is greatly appreciated.

Technical Details

Is this a composite: No
Nikon D810, 24mm f1.8, Gitzo tripod.


Great use of backlight on the cholla, and your careful positioning really nailed the shape of the sunstar. Your processing looks really good to me, you maintained good shadow detail, and the colors came out nice, especially in the rim light. Some folks may comment on the distracting contrails in the sky, it’s a matter of personal choice as to whether you want to try cloning them away or not.

My suggestions for this image relate to composition. I would prefer to see slightly more breathing room above the mountain, it feels a bit cramped there. I would also crop a small slice away from the bottom, to eliminate some of the complexity in the lower right corner (LRC). Here is a rework reflecting those suggestions, I went into Photoshop and used Content Aware Fill to add 3% canvas to the top.

I also do not like how the cholla merges with the mountain, and maybe you should have tried moving to the left for a different angle of view that would have eliminated this merger. I think you still could have got a sunstar from this different angle, albeit one that might not be centered.

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Thanks for taking the time to critique my image, Ed.

I totally forgot to mention that the image was cropped, sorry about that. So there is plenty of space on top. I attached a re-cropped version.

As you said, the contrails are a matter of taste. And I’d rather have contrails than just a blue sky, if they are not to obvious.

The merging of the mountain with the Cholla is a weak point of the image. You are right. A step, or two, to the left would have been much better. This is not the first time that this happens to me. I really should pay more attention to geometry. And this is where NPN is so helpful. The next time I am in the field, I will remember this thread and hopefully screw not around with geometry. lol

Again, thanks for your critique, this is really helpful.


I agree with you. The contrail I would clone away is the small one above the mountain. I might also consider cloning away the " X shape" on the right, but leave the long stretch of the contrail to fill the blue sky.

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You found a very nice group of chollas for this image. Could possibly see burning down the plant on the right a bit to provide better focus on this group w/o getting pulled to the side by the brightness of this plant.

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@Ed_McGuirk Good idea. I will look into it when I am back.

@Tony_Kuyper Thanks Tony. Those shrubs are always an annoyance. I tried to find a group without it, but as it seams every Cholla has one. I am not a botanist, maybe there is some kind of a symbioses going on here.

At the moment we are traveling with our RV again. Houston - Albuquerque - Yuma, and my master catalog is at home.