Week of Nov 19 - Photo of the Week, Agave Plant

November 19, 2023  |  Torrey Pines, California
Blood Swords

Shaw's Agave plant growing in Torrey Pines California

Canon R5 - 24-105mm at 45mm - f/18 - 1/80 second - ISO 1600 (hand held)

This was the first time I can recall photographing an agave plant. I was captivated by the beauty of the colorful tips along with the subtle pattern of the serrated edges seen on each leaf. Prior to this day I knew there are different species of agave plants, yet wasn't aware this is one of approximately 200. I have heard of Blue Agave and it's the one many people know as the one grown in Mexico for tequila, even though I am not a fan of the drink personally.

What I photographed this day is Shaw's Agave which is indigenous to the lower coastal region of California and down into Mexico. That doesn't mean it's found all over, it's not. In fact it's endangered since over the decades development has reduced the population. Now typically only found in parks and nature reserves. I was out hiking Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve with my family when I saw this one and others.

Creating this particular photo was a challenge for a few reasons.

  • Light - We were enjoying a nice blue bird day in September with surprisingly pretty mild temps even with the sun beating straight down on us. That presented a problem photographing since most were in direct sun. This one was in partial shade which allowed me to stand in a certain way while holding a coat to get the remaining direct sun out of the frame.

  • Tripod - I did not bring a tripod with me, which is sometimes the case when traveling with non-photographers to help avoid me falling behind because I am dealing with setup and take down. The irony here is that given the challenge of lighting and other factors having a tripod for more precision would have been faster.
  • Composition - It was not easy to get this right standing at an angle with my camera pointed in a somewhat awkward direction. Zoom in too much and it's a tighter comp than I want. Zoom out too much and I have distractions of the ground, pathway, or other plants to contend with. Hand holding this scene took more time which resulted in ~30 frames of different comps before I felt like I was good to move on.

  • Sharp! - If you are thinking those beautifully colorful serrated edges are razor sharp, you are correct. They are sharp as a sword which is how I ended up with the name "Blood Sword". I got a little too close one time and it was either this one or it's just as sharp neighbor that wasted no time telling me my presence wasn't welcome. It quickly pierced the skin and drew blood. I didn't get that close again.