Peeks at Tower Peak


Tower Peak peeks over a shadowed saddle near Brown Mountain west of Tucson, Arizona.


Last weekend I drove west over Gates Pass in the Tucson Mountains in the hope of finding an interesting location to photograph the sunset. Actually, it would be more accurate to say that I was interested in photographing at sunset—more often than not in this area I shoot away from the sunset towards the mountains since they get such nice light, as do the saguaro and any clouds in the sky. One of the reasons I went out was that there were some clouds around (definitely not a given in Tucson), and I hoped they would pick up some color. Sunset wasn’t for over an hour, so I drove around for a while looking for a nice location and I noticed this view along McCain Loop Road, not far from the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum. I knew that with the scattered clouds and coming sunset there was a chance of getting contrasting light on the far peak and the foreground hills, which should make for some interesting photographs. When the moon first rose, it was right next to the peak, but there was not yet any warmth or variety in the light. In the end, although there really wasn’t any color on the clouds until after the sun was too far below the horizon to light up the peak, I still ended up with several nice photographs, and my prediction about contrasting light on the near and far peaks certainly came true. The three images shown here are remarkably different from each other despite having basically the same composition. Two, actually, were taken without even moving the camera; the only reason the third is different is because the moon had risen above the top of the frame and I had to zoom out and tilt the camera up to chase it.

Tower Peak, in shadow, peeks over a saddle near Brown Mountain west of Tucson, Arizona.
The nearly-full moon rises over the Tucson Mountains just after sunset west of Tucson, Arizona.

Technical Details

All three images were taken with a Nikon Z7 and Nikkor Z 24-70mm f/4 S. The first two images were taken at 43mm, 1/60 sec, f/8.0, ISO 64. The third image is a blend of two exposures, both at 35mm, f/9.5, ISO 64: 1/2 sec for the landscape and 1/15 sec for the moon; these were subsequently blended in Affinity Photo. All images were initially processed in Adobe Lightroom Classic and then finished in Affinity Photo.