Image no. OPC0102: Moon over Eden. March 13, 2017, 6:52:27 AM. Nikon D7000, 18-200mm lens at 20mm, ISO 100, f/16, ⅓ second. 4928 x 3264 pixels, 3.7 MB file size.
The spring of 2017 was known for a “super bloom” in the deserts of southern California, and this desert park in Arizona was not far behind. On my last morning at the park, arriving near the top of the nature trail at Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument. I was rushing to set up the shot before the sun’s first light appeared. In my haste I brushed against a cholla cactus and stepped on some cholla pods, too.
There’s a reason it’s called “jumping cholla,” the plant world’s rattlesnake in the Garden of Eden. The spines easily penetrated my pants and lodged in my thigh, which magically detached a fist-size, spiny pod from the main plant, which clung to my pants as if it were an alien life form, and a pod also lodged securely in my shoe. I used a couple of sharp rocks as forceps to remove the prickly pods, but it left a few spines behind, embedded in my thigh. The barbs on the spines made it impossible to remove them completely from my thigh without taking off my pants. Since the material of my pants was rubbing the spines in my thigh, aggravating the pain and embedding them further, I “dropped trou” on that hilltop, where I was still alone, fortunately. But I didn’t have time to complete the spine extraction operation, as the sunrise was too imminent. I paused in my surgery and concentrated instead on composing the shot and setting the f-stop and exposure compensation, etc., with my pants around my knees. I got the shot I wanted, and the magic light passed about two minutes later. One might say there were two moons on the hill that morning, and fortunately only one of them was captured on camera.
A 27×40 print now hangs in my foyer, illuminated by a ceiling spotlight, a reminder of my new twist to the “suffering artist” cliche: