Archive for the ‘desert’ Category

A collection of images from this year’s Joshua Tree workshop.  We had a great group of 10 participants who produced some very memorable images.  I found myself not pulling out my own camera much on this trip, but did manage a few pics in the 4 days in the park along with a quick stop in Antelope Valley for the poppy bloom on the ride home.


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I had a great time in Joshua Tree with a group of photographers attending the Camera West workshop led by my good friend Jason Bradley.  We were treated to the tail end of a very unusual bloom with Joshua Tree seed and flower production up about 40 percent as compared to the previous best season in the last 25 years.  Some researchers believe that the stress from drought and climate change may have induced the “once in a lifetime” bloom.  As a survival mechanism the trees go into high gear in an attempt to boost reproduction.  Others believe the unique bloom can be attributed to last year’s late summer thunderstorms and/or cool winter weather.

We spent every evening during the workshop in the field playing with techniques for night photography including light painting, long exposures, time-lapse, and using ambient moonlight, all of which produced some fantastic results.  During an afternoon exploring a cholla cactus garden I was fortunate enough to happen upon a unique wildlife encounter that a couple photographers from our group had discovered.  A gopher snake had climbed up a cholla cactus and invaded a cactus wren’s nest.  The wren parents were desperately trying to chase off the snake and protect 2 chicks inside the nest.  Ultimately they were unsuccessful and the snake got it’s dinner.  By the time I arrived, the snake had already done it’s thing and the wrens were still attempting to chase it off.  I felt awful for the birds of course, and somewhat happy for the snake, but mostly I felt privileged to witness a day in the life of these creatures so well adapted to the harsh desert environment.

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Joshua Trees at Hidden Valley ~ Joshua Tree National Park, CA
Tech: Canon 5DMKll, 400mm 2.8, tripod
Exposure: 1/15 sec. @ f/18, iso 100

Boulder Field at Sunset ~ Joshua Tree National Park, CA
Tech: Canon 5DMKll, 17 - 40mm @ 19mm, tripod, grad filter
Exposure: 3.2 sec. @ f/10, iso 100
Notes: I used a 2 stop hard-edged neutral density filter to balance the sky and foreground exposure

Juniper and Balanced Rock ~ Joshua Tree National Park, CA
Tech: Canon 5DMKll, 17 - 40mm @ 29mm, tripod, flash
Exposure: 6 sec. @ f/16, iso 100
Notes: Off camera flash with warming gel to fill in shadowed side of juniper and foreground rock

Luminous Night ~ Joshua Tree National Park, CA
Tech: Canon 5DMKll, 17 - 40mm @ 20mm, tripod
Exposure: 30 sec. @ f/7.1, iso 2500
Notes: The orange glow in the clouds is caused by a combination of backlighting from the moon and the warm glow of distant city lights.

Evening Clouds over Arch Rock ~ Joshua Tree National Park, CA
Tech: Canon 5DMKll, 17 - 40mm @ 17mm, Tripod
Exposure: 30 sec. @ f/9, iso 800

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Over the holidays I had the pleasure of spending a few days camping in Joshua Tree National Park in the Mojave Desert of Southern California.  The park offers world class rock climbing and bouldering as well as a spectacular desert  landscape.   I ended up spending a good amount of time in the Hidden Valley area where I found a nice mix of large groves of trees and interesting rock formations.  I also spent time at Arch Rock, the Cholla Cactus Garden, and Jumbo Rocks. I found that the Joshua Trees (a tall growing variety of Yucca) were best photographed as silhouettes to better emphasize their unique shape.  I did, however, play around with some light painting techniques using a variety of light sources at night that yielded some interesting results.

Joshua Tree on a Starry Night ~ Joshua Tree National Park, CA
Tech: Canon 5DMKll with 17 - 40mm @ 23mm, tripod
Exposure: 25 sec., f/4, iso 3200
Note: I used a mini maglight to paint the tree and rock during the exposure.

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