Estrella Star Tower – A Cosmic Zen Moment

I set off today on my shooting expedition with a clear plan in mind.  There was a festival going on at the Estrella Regional Park that I thought sounded interesting, and then I thought I would drive toward downtown Phoenix and get some shots of the buildings, and maybe hit Encanto Park.  The morning started off overcast, but by the time I got out of the hair salon with a fresh color/cut, the sun had started to come out, so I was in a hurry to get started.  My assistant (a.k.a. my hubby), however, was still in his robe and was standing at the toaster when I walked in the house, so I had to wait for him to get showered and primped and ready to go.  We finally got on the road a little before 11:00AM.

I headed west on I-10 and took the Estrella Parkway south, traveling past the new ballpark where the Cleveland Indians were playing a spring training game today.  Fortunately, traffic wasn’t too heavy and we zipped right through.  However, we zipped so quickly that I missed my turnoff to the park, so we decided to continue driving a little further south on the parkway to see what was out there.

The desert is still a beautiful emerald green from all the rain (and it’s raining again as I write this).  I’ve lived out here for almost ten years now and don’t remember ever seeing it so lush.  We were marveling at the beauty of the mountains against the blue of the sky when we rounded a curve and had our Zen moment.

We were looking at a stone and copper-colored structure sitting on a rise above a series of waterfalls.  I hit the brakes to get a closer look and then we saw there was a parking lot with an open gate and we pulled in.  We had discovered the Estrella Star Tower.  The site has several walking and hiking trails, a small covered picnic area, the tower and several streams and waterfalls which lend a peaceful, serene sound to the area.

According to the signs posted near the tower, it was constructed in a spiral shape to represent the shape of the galaxy.  It’s actually a spiral staircase that you can climb to an observation area at the top.  We thoroughly enjoyed the view from up there, as well as wandering around the water features.  While there I met a guy who was also trying out a new camera, and he told us that the best time to visit the tower is at night when it’s lit up.  There are small holes in the structure, and at night they look like stars in the spiral galaxy.

I took a lot of bracketed exposures using the tripod, and I’m uploading all of them to Flickr.  I processed them in Photomatix, and then did some post-processing in Paintshop Pro.  I tried some different settings in PSP this time, and decided to give these shots a little more of an HDR look, especially since some of my exposures got a little bit of flare from the overhead sun.  I also took quite a few unbracketed shots, mostly of the wildflowers which are really starting to bloom, but I haven’t started processing those yet–probably work on them tomorrow since it’s supposed to rain all day.

After spending quite some time at the tower, we drove further south to the end of the parkway, stopped at a convenience store for a bite to eat and a cold drink, and then we drove to our original destination, the Estrella Regional Park and the Tres Rios festival.  The festival turned out to be a disappointment, although we did get to see a collection of live rattlesnakes and several different live (tethered) birds, mostly falcons.  We drove around the park a little bit just to see what was out there.  From one spot we could see all the way to downtown, which was cool.

By the time we left the park, I was already tired and ready to come home and start processing photos, which I’ve been doing for hours now.  But once again, I’ve experienced that moment when you have to just go with the flow and let your plans fly out the window–if you’re open to what the Universe has to offer you, there’s no telling what good things you’ll find!

Update: To see the entire series of 32 HDR’s from today’s shoot at the Estrella Star Tower, visit my Flickr site and view the set “Estrella Star Tower“.




  1. Brilliant shot there, Suz. Nice composition. Beautiful! I’ve never heard of this place but now want to go for a run there if it’s runnable.

    • Thanks, Missy! I haven’t had a chance to check out all the trails around the area, but it looks like it could be really nice. I just love how green everything is right now…it’s almost surreal! Come on back and check it out before everything turns all brown and crunchy again! 🙂

    • Thanks, Thomas! The only filter I use regularly is a 1A filter on my “normal” lens, primarily to protect the lens from dust and scratches. Occasionally I use a polarizer, but not often.

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