Here is a good news/bad news conundrum you run into in Big Bend National Park.

The good news is that the cactus (of which there are many very different types) are really beautiful when they bloom. The bad news is that most of them don’t really open up until the middle of the day, and landscape photographers generally don’t shoot in the middle of the day, since the contrast between shadows and highlights is so extreme.

So what do you do?  Shoot anyway and find some way to make it work!

For example, carefully find compositions that are mainly all highlights (and less shadows), add a little light to the shadows with a fill flash or reflectors (first image below), or get low and isolate highlight areas against highlight areas with a long lens (second image below).

Strawberry Hedgehog Cactus and Bluebonets

Strawberry hedgehog cactus and bluebonnets in bloom on ridge in the Dagger Flats, Big Bend National Park, Texas, USA. Canon 1Dx. 16mm. ISO 1000. f/16 @ 1/250 second.  EV +⅔. Fill flash with reflector to lighten shadows, especially of foreground cactus). I made a mistake on this image. I should have waited until the white clouds pass behind the bluebonnets so that the bluebonnets stood out better. Oh well.

Strawberry Hedgehog Cactus and Bluebonets

Canon 1Dx. 16mm. ISO 800. f/7.1 @ 1/640 second (it was windy and I didn’t want no blurry flowers so I keep the shutter speed up). EV +⅔. Fill light from reflector to lighten shadows).