Indigo Bush Studies (9 photos)

I went to Anza Borrego Desert State Park yesterday afternoon, to beat the weekend crowds for a brief afternoon and sunset visit. I met my friend Peter Tellone for coffee (it was 91F but can it ever be too hot for coffee?), then we went to make some photos.We first stopped at Hoberg Road near the Anza Borrego visitor center (I’ll post photos from there later) and then drove a short bit into Coyote Canyon. After some wandering around I discovered an Indigo Bush (Psorothamnus schottii) in bloom – and was instantly hooked. It’s one of the craggy, hardy desert shrubs with thin, spiny leaves (which helps them to conserve water) that don’t look like much for most of the year… except when they’re in bloom!

The dark blue/purple of the flowers is intense, and the subtle smell of the flowers becomes intoxicating when getting up close. Each bush is an olfactory candy factory! Looking around, I began to see more and more or them – some chock-full with flowers, others with only sparsely flower-dotted twigs. I began to walk uphill on a slope where the Indigo Bushes were almost isolated, growing amidst beautiful white/grey granite rocks. I got so absorbed photographing them that I completely missed the sunset. :-) No regrets!

I’ve spent (far) more time than usual processing these photos – if you know how digital sensors react to pure, deep blue you know why. What the camera captures is absolutely not accurate in terms of brightness and color. Now the color profiles in Lightroom’s “Camera Calibration” panel do have quite some influence on it, but for the most part, I had to reduce the luminance of “Purple” dramatically in the “HSL” panel to get the flowers to look what they were actually like.

On top of that, the dry and bright bare twigs of the bush posed an additional challenge – I’ve tamed with negative Clarity as a local adjustment, but most importantly, the “Basic” settings are really odd – negative Highlights, negative Whites (!) and then I carefully tried to bring some contrast back in, stretching the histogram in the Tone Curve.

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