Sunbeams, cochise stronghold, dragoon mountains, AZ photographed by luxagraf
Dragoon Mountains, Arizona, United States

Dragoon Mountains

Black and white backlight

Southeastern Arizona is one of my favorite places in the desert southwest. The nearest big city is Tucson, but even that’s a couple hours away. It’s a lonely area, I love it. The Dragoons Mountains are among my favorite spots in the area. I’ve spent a few weeks in and around them over the years, entering from both the east and west sides, as well as from the south on foot. The west entrance is my favorite, but that road is too rough for the big blue bus so on this trip we came in from the east.

The east is home to Cochise Stronghold, the place where Chihuicahui leader Cochise lived, later hid, and eventually died and was buried. As I’ve written elsewhere, Cochise’s presence is still easy to feel in the Dragoons.

On this trip we spent most of our time hiking and hanging around the campground. During the week we had the place to ourselves. There was a dry creek bed a few yards beyond our campsite and for the kids it was like having a giant sandbox to play in.

It was down in the creek bed, where I sat watching the kids, the birds, the world, when I noticed the way the sunbeams were coming through this yucca tree. I knew when I was taking it that the lens was going to flare, that’s just what older lenses do, so I was thinking black and white from the moment I took it.

Watch on YouTube

In redeveloping it using 2021 darktable, I ended up with almost exactly the same look at the original, which you can see here. The difference is that this version, which uses the Color Calibration module, took about half the time as the original. It’s slightly ironic perhaps but my favorite feature of the Color Calibration module is how easy it is to get the black and white look I want.

For this one I wanted to replicate the look of my favorite black and white film, Tmax 3200. Alas, the magic of Tmax 3200 is about more than grain and when I made this image grainy the result looked terrible to me. So if you’re reading this on and you notice the large image above doesn’t have the grain that’s in the video it’s because I decided it didn’t work. Tmax 3200 has something about it (softness perhaps?) that I just can’t get out of Sony’s sensors. That’s okay though, I’m happy enough with this image. As with the rest, it’s not a work of art, but it reminds me of the experience of making it, and it illustrated a part of the story I wanted to tell about the Dragoons.