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If you’ve ever had a close encounter with the cholla cactus, it probably left an impression on you.  The cholla spines are barbed, and the tips of the branches will pop off the plant even if you just brush against it ever…so…gently, and attach to your clothing or skin.  This characteristic is what gave the plant its nickname “Jumpin’ Cholla.”

If you’re the type of photographer that’s in the habit of walking backwards to compose a shot, a day of outdoor photography in the high Sonoran desert will either quickly cure you of that habit, or put you in the local emergency room!  Cholla, saguaro, ocotillo and a variety of cacti too large to list can make even one mis-step a memorable one.

Cholla is a favorite subject of desert photographers, though, especially when backlit.  The pale spines form glowing halos around the branches when you shoot through or over them into the rising or setting sun.  My time in the desert on this last trip was marked by heavy overcast, cool temperatures, strong winds, and even a couple of days of rain! And the one day I got a semi-decent sunset, I was driving in an area devoid of cacti, believe it or not.  No glowing cholla for me this time.

But the heavy cloud cover did eliminate harsh shadows, and though it discouraged including much sky in my landscape images, it was good for the macro shots and “plant portraits.”  And there was no shortage of willing subjects!



  1. Nice, love it!

    Sent from my iPad

  2. This is a terrific image of the cholla; it seems like there was a warm shaft of sunlight illuminating it against the steely cool gray overcast; an excellent interplay of a warm, yet sharp/spikey foreground with the cold, yet softer clouds in the background. Nicely done!!!!

    • Thanks Kirk,

      What a nice description of my image! 🙂

      I, too, like the contrast of both the colors and the textures.

      Are you a photographer too? (If not, you should be!)

      RPRT Photo

      • Yep, I’m a photographer. I think I was the last visitor at your open studio last fall; I got there at 5 pm. Keep up the great work!

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