Welcome back to the final episode of our Mazatzal Mountains tour. This week, our magic bus has made it over the last mountain pass, and we’ve stopped in Rye, the quaint community nestled at the bottom of the final grade leading to Payson. Here, the Beeline Highway exits the Mazatzals, bidding farewell to the majestic mountains that have enchanted us throughout our journey.
This week’s featured photograph, Mount Ord’s Pine-Covered Heights, captures the awe-inspiring grandeur of this majestic peak. Standing tall at 7,128 feet, its proud summit is crowned by a lush and verdant pine forest, gazing serenely at the world below. Mount Ord’s presence commands the landscape like a sentinel guarding the horizon. While it may not claim the title of the tallest peak in the Mazatzal Range (that honor goes to the 7,903-foot Mazatzal Mountain hidden behind the camera), being the highest point in Gila County is no small feat—perhaps deserving a participation trophy for its natural splendor.
Near the mountain top, the dark green foliage is an honest-to-goodness pine forest. It’s a sight to behold, and, unfortunately, a locked gate restricts access to this cool, refreshing forest on the unpaved service road leading to the summit. However, the image allows us to appreciate the beauty of this hidden gem from a distance.
Another fascinating feature in the photograph is a rugged and dramatic limestone layer emerging from the Earth’s embrace, seemingly carved by the hands of ancient giants. These yellowish rocks bear the story of a primordial ocean, etched into their very essence through eons of geological transformations. This layer of limestone formed millions of years ago in the sea and was later thrust into its current location during the continental crash that shaped the Rocky Mountains. This geological history makes the Mazatzals a part of the fender dent of that ancient collision.
The second image we’ve posted this week is a closer look at the limestone layer on the west side of the highway. One particular jagged piece looks like a shard of glass ready to be used in a bar fight. I’ve also captured a beautiful Claret Cactus in full bloom for those seeking variety beyond the rocks.
We hope you’ve enjoyed our magic bus excursion through the Mazatzals and that you’ll appreciate the beauty of these mountains, even more the next time you drive up to Payson. As always, I invite you to view larger versions of “Mount Ord’s Pine-Covered Heights” on my website by following this link [Jim’s Website] or on Fine Art America using this link [FAA Page].
Next week, prepare to venture off the beaten path as we leave the comfort of our magic bus behind. In embracing cooler climes and untouched wilderness, we’ll embark on an invigorating hiking adventure to uncover the hidden gems of nature’s gallery.
Till next time,
Techniques: Mastering Back Lighting
In photography, an outdated rule advises shooting your subject with the light behind and to the side of the camera. While this approach works well in about 80% of cases, there’s still the other 20%—those tricky backlit situations. Today, I’ll share how I tackle such challenging conditions during the shoot, and next week, we’ll delve into post-processing in PhotoShop to perfect these images.
A common concern in modern digital photography is preserving the highlighted details in a scene. Overexposing the highlights can lead to blown-out areas and loss of detail and information. Fortunately, many cameras, including mine, have a helpful tool to address this—the zebra stripes.
Zebra stripes are diagonal lines that appear in your viewfinder, indicating areas where the light is too bright to be captured by the sensor. You can control when and where these stripes appear by setting the zebra threshold in your camera’s menu. For my workflow, I put the value to 100% to ensure a clear indication of potential overexposure.
Zebra stripes might appear in the sky or other bright areas when shooting in backlit conditions or during early morning or sunset. To tackle this, I slowly point my camera toward the bright area the stripes indicate until they disappear. This process helps me find the minimum exposure adjustment needed to avoid blowing out the highlights. Once the lines vanish, I half-press the shutter button to lock in the focus and exposure.
While holding the shutter button half-pressed, I recomposed the scene to my desired composition before fully pressing the shutter to take the shot. Finding the right half-press point takes practice, but with digital photography, you can afford to experiment and learn from your results.
Remember that when you review your shots taken using this method, the sky, and clouds might look perfect, but the ground could appear too dark with limited details. Don’t worry; next week, we’ll explore post-processing techniques in PhotoShop to enhance these images and achieve the perfect balance.
Until then, practice your zebra dance and keep saving those highlights!