Photographing the Same Subject Over and Over

I frequently take and post images of the eastern side of the Chiricahua mountains as seen from around the Painted Pony Resort outside Rodeo New Mexico.  I have so many images of the same subject that a slideshow entitled "The Many Faces of the Chiricahua Mountains" was created.  The goals in constantly photographing Portal Peak and the eastern Chiricahuas are to create the perfect image as well as photo-document the changes in the landscape that create different moods I experience when observing the mountain range over time.  But what constitutes a perfect image of the Chiricahua mountains?  

From my perspective, several factors are important.  The first is scale.  Scale in this case refers to the physical distance encompassed in the image.  The landscape image below spans 5.75 miles in length, Cave Creek Canyon south to Sulphur Canyon, and 4000' in height, the floor of the San Simon valley to the top of the 8000' Portal Peak.  Since most cameras do not capture scale without forcing the subject into the background my landscape images require construction in a post production process.  A good image editor is required to piece together segments of the landscape taken closeup into a final product that recreates what I see with my eye, is pleasing to view, and encompasses the whole scene.  Since I shoot hand held with an inexpensive point and shoot camera this takes composing the final image in my mind and then collecting the individual elements for later construction.

The second factor is lighting.  Early morning just at sunrise is always the most productive time to capture images of the eastern flanks of the Chiricahua mountains.  The long light of the rising sun creates a series of colors, some lasting only a moment, across the flank of the mountains.  Starting in the reds the colors move in shorter and shorter wavelengths through the blues until the reflected colors begin to wash out.  

The third is color.  This is of course related to the lighting.  But in some cases, especially when clouds are present over the mountains and the shadows stark a presentation in black and white is more striking and evokes stronger emotions so I choose to desaturate the image after increasing contrast to to further enhance the elements of light and shadow.  

Finally depth.  A number of tools are available to enhance depth in a photograph and perhaps the most common is depth of field.  I have chased after techniques that enhance depth in 2 dimensional images to create a more realistic 3 dimensional image in the belief that good depth enhances the viewers experience. The image below shows good depth with dark clouds creating shadow over the ridges in the background while the foreground ridge line is complete sunlight.  This contrast in shadow naturally enhances the appearance of depth in the image making the almost 6 miles of ridge line stand out and away from the shadowed background.  This difference in shadowing was the result of the partial cloud cover present at that time and in combination with an old photographic technique developed in Germany in the 1930's, further enhances the depth.  Unsharp masking creates an apparent increase in resolution and is a useful tool for creating an image with increased depth helping the foreground ridge line jump out of the image. 

These are all easy to apply tools that anyone can implement to create images that capture the imagination and convey the emotions generated when viewing the scene.

black and white view of Portal Peak
Almost perfect, click on the image to see a larger version or follow this link.
More work with the original panoramic image data set has resulted in this new image.  Spanning further south and north, both Portal Peak and Darnell Peak are visible and the scene shifts from just Portal Peak to the whole east flank of the Chiricahua mountains. 


  1. Very nice. We like to see Darnell Peak. We were driving home from Douglas when lightning struck up there and a thin stream of smoke so we saw the very beginning of the Darnell Fire some years ago.

    Love your photos immensely no matter what the subject!

  2. Thank you, I certainly appreciate the feed back. I never know if the images I create are appealing to others. Although not as high as Portal Peak, Darnell Peak is really very interesting, visually, lots of formations and shadows that make it an interesting subject. I have never seen a lightening strike on the Chiricahua mountains and I imagine it was a spectacular sight.

  3. When it comes to figuring out "how people see" and quantifying the impact an image has on others I submit many to Google Earth. I just checked the submission to Google Earth and the bottom photograph was rejected so I'm at a loss and completely confused (I certainly like the result), I have resubmitted the image and hope it will be accepted.

  4. Yea, the second reviewer of the image found it acceptable for inclusion on Google Earth.

  5. Well good for you and good for all those who use Google Earth.

  6. Thank you, I receive only about 10-15% of the traffic from my images (down from about 40% after Google changed their image linking) but every little bit helps in encouraging visitation.