Thursday, December 13, 2018

Climbing the Kelso Dunes

As I mentioned in my last post, I believe it was helpful to go to the top of the Kelso dunes in my mind before actually physically going there.  I think if I hadn't done that, I probably would have given up before reaching the top.  The main reason I say this is because of the wind, which was absolutely BRUTAL.  It's hard to believe, because you can't really see that in these images.  The photos look peaceful but when I was up on the crest of the dunes, I literally had to lean hard into the wind to keep from blowing over.  

Since I had already been to the top in my mind I knew that I didn't want to miss those views in person.  So, I persisted.  As I pushed on every nook and cranny of my clothing and camera gear that could hold sand did just that.  By the time I was back down off the dunes I had sand everywhere.  It was in my pants pockets, jacket pockets, in my hair, in my ears.  My shoes were packed tight with sand.  I lost count of how many times I had to lean into the wind and close my eyes while I waited for a long sustained gust to pass.  Luckily my camera gear did not sustain any damage.  After a thorough cleaning all was well.  The views and the resulting images were worth it.  I had an awesome experience, certainly one that I will never forget!

Watch this video to see just how windy it was!

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Evening at Kelso Dunes

"Your body can't go where your mind hasn't already been."

A little nugget of wisdom I picked up at a training I was at last week. And it can be true on so many levels.  You can't really tell from the perspective of this photo, but that's a 600 foot tall sand dune on the horizon.  I arrived at this location too late in the day to try and hike to the top of the dune in time for sunset, but I was intent on getting there in the morning.  I went there in my mind first.  Imagining myself struggling up the side of the steep, sandy slope and the reward of the amazing views that I was sure awaited me at the summit.  I believe going there in my mind first was crucial to my success in making it to the top the next morning (more on that later).  

This is the Kelso dune field in Mojave National Preserve, California.  I first heard about these dunes about a year and a half ago or so and ever since then I've wanted to visit them.  They sure didn't disappoint.  The dunes are massive and as you approach them from the nearby highway they look like a gigantic wall of sand.  It was an amazing place to spend some time.  Like so many places I visited on this trip, I can't wait to go back!

Zen Moments

When I was in the southwest recently I experienced many supremely peaceful moments.  They occurred at all times of the day, but mostly they were at night as I gazed up at the stars.  I totally lost myself (in a good way) on that trip.  All thoughts of the past and future faded away and I was finding myself really being "in the moment" throughout each day.  It was a great feeling and one that I find difficult to hang onto when I'm in the normal daily routine of life back home.  I think it's a healthy exercise to try and put ourselves in that mindset as often as we can.  I know I feel better when I'm able to get there.  

Sometimes I like to do comparison shots of the same subject, which is what I've done here with this Joshua Tree which I photographed in Joshua Tree National Park.  The first image is a 25 second exposure and the second image is a 32 minute exposure.  It's always interesting to see what happens when you record the light at varying exposure lengths.  

Sunday, December 9, 2018

Joshua Tree Nights

Continuing on with my goal of spending as much time as possible appreciating and photographing the night skies of the southwest, I spent an amazing night under the stars in Joshua Tree National Park.  I feel like I could bask in the glow of these stars forever...

Jeep and Joshua Trees

I had so much fun exploring off-pavement routes in the southwest!  I can't wait to go back and do it again.  Here are a few more shots taken along some back roads in Joshua Tree National Park. 

Saturday, December 8, 2018

Sunrise in the Cholla Garden

Easily my favorite place in Joshua Tree National Park.  I love the Cholla Garden!  Mornings spent here are some of the most peaceful that I've ever experienced. 

Friday, December 7, 2018

Hidden Valley Sunset

Joshua Tree National Park - The last glint of sunlight shines through a Joshua tree before disappearing behind the mountains in the distance.  This park is so beautiful, and what a great way to end the day before beginning a fantastic night of stargazing!

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

The Battle for Anza Borrego

This is the final image that I'd like to share with you from my time in the Anza Borrego desert of southern California. My last night there was gloriously clear and the number of stars that were visible was mind blowing.  The clarity of the night sky in the desert is something that has to be seen in person to be believed.  I loved the backdrop the lights from the town of Borrego Springs made for this image.  Now on to the next phase of the trip: Joshua Tree!

Monday, December 3, 2018

Marching On

A glorious night sky resonates above this sculpture of a marching mammoth in the Anza Borrego desert of southern California. 

Hanging out with the Scorpion and the Grasshopper

The town of Borrego Springs sure has a lot of cool metal sculptures but two of my favorites have to be the Scorpion and the Grasshopper.  It just seems like such a uniquely "desert" thing, to have these sculptures scattered around.  It somehow seems normal, in a way that you wouldn't expect if you found them in any other environment.  Like you would totally expect to see stuff like this out in the middle of the desert but not in the middle of a forest.  At any rate, I think they're super cool and I love photographing them.  Especially at night.  

Sunday, December 2, 2018

Sky Spirits

I have a few more night images to share from Borrego Springs.  This guy kinda creeped me out but he sure made for an interesting photograph with the night sky.

Imperial Sunset

During my time at the Imperial Dunes I witnessed one of the most incredible sunsets I'd ever seen in my life.  The color started as a soft orange glow on the horizon and a little while later the entire sky had exploded with red and pink hues.  The color was unbelievably intense and lasted a very long time.  One of the highlights of my trip for sure!

Sahara in the Southwest

When I view these images the first thing that pops into my mind is the Sahara desert.  The Algodones dune field is so massive it's easy to imagine yourself in the Sahara and not in southern California.  In my previous post I mentioned how Highway 78 is the main dividing line between the wilderness area of the dunes and the area where off-road riders are allowed.  In this first photo you can see a commercial truck passing through the dunes on Highway 78.  The dune field shown behind the truck is the southern edge of the wilderness area.  

The following photos show some riders enjoying the off-road area of the dunes south of the highway.  Admittedly, it was very cool to finally see these dunes in person and I would have loved the opportunity to ride on the dunes myself.  I grew up dreaming of riding an ATV across the dunes as they were often featured in off-road magazines that I was really into at the time.  The next time I visit this area I will have to rent an ATV and fulfill that dream :-)  

Saturday, December 1, 2018

Imperial Dunes (Glamis)

The first sand dunes that I would visit on my southwest trip, the Algodones Dunes contains Imperial Sand Dunes Recreation Area (also known as Glamis), an extremely popular area for off road enthusiasts.  The dune field is a mighty impressive sight and stretches for roughly 40 miles from north to south with an average width of 5 miles.  Highway 78 passes through the dune field and the area south of the highway is where the majority of the off road use takes place while the majority of the dune field north of the highway is designated wilderness.  I was blown away by how much area the dune field covers.  As you approach the dunes on Highway 78 you literally can see them spanning the entire horizon.  

Morning Light at Font's Point

My last moments overlooking the Borrego Badlands from Font's Point were incredible.  A warm, soft glow washed over the landscape as the sun approached the horizon.  I actually prefer (most of the time) the quality of the light before the sun comes up as opposed to after it comes up.  The light is often too harsh after the sun has risen.  But, before it breaks the horizon, the beauty and mood often defies description. 

Friday, November 30, 2018

Night Sky over the Borrego Badlands

What a glorious night it was, sitting on the edge of this amazing view with the stars flooding the sky overhead!  Being in this place at this time, I felt a peace like I hadn't felt in a long time.  

Sunset over the Borrego Badlands

After two nights in Borrego Springs I was all set to leave the area in the morning but as I was driving away from town I just happened to notice the little sign for Font's Point.  I had been so focused on photographing the sculptures at night that I had forgotten about Font's Point.  On my previous trip here I had read about it but did not have a vehicle capable of driving down the wash to the point.  This time, since I had my Jeep Wrangler, getting there wouldn't be an issue.  

So, I turned down the wash and 4 miles later was standing at the incredible views you see here.  Remember, this was mid-morning so the light was rather harsh.  Once I saw the view I immediately decided to spend a third night in Borrego Springs.  I spent the rest of the day exploring other things in the area (the Salton Sea and Slab City, Imperial Dunes National Recreation Area, etc.), returning to Font's Point for sunset.  Even though there weren't any clouds on this evening, the Belt of Venus glow was quite impressive!

Thursday, November 29, 2018

The Guardian

A young warrior keeps watch over the city while the residents sleep.....

Night Roamer

A dinosaur wanders the desert at night in Borrego Springs, California.....

Red Dragon and the Milky Way

Borrego Springs is such a fascinating place.  I am endlessly intrigued by the metal sculptures dotting the landscape.  The serpent (or dragon as I always call it) is definitely one of the more interesting pieces of art.  I couldn't resist doing a slight bit of light painting on this one, using the soft red light of my headlamp.  

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Taming the Dragon

One of the first images I made upon my arrival in Borrego Springs, California on November 4, 2018 after 3 days of driving.  Also one of the main reasons I made this trip to the desert.  I timed it so that I would arrive as new moon was approaching, that way I would have nice dark skies filled with lots of stars.  

Borrego Springs is a small town in the desert just a couple of hours east of San Diego.  The area is known for the intriguing sculptures by artist Ricardo Breceda.  Over 130 of them dot the landscape around town and capture the imagination.  

I visited the area in April 2017 but did not have the opportunity to photograph the sculptures after dark.  As I explored them in the daytime all I could think was how cool it would be to photograph them under the night sky.  So, a year and a half later, I made my wish come true and went back to Borrego Springs.  For 3 nights I photographed the sculptures under the glorious night sky of the desert southwest :-)  

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Valley of Fire, Nevada

As I was traveling through Nevada it wasn't part of my plans to swing through Valley of Fire State Park but when I saw the sign along the freeway, I couldn't resist.  I had seen many photos online from this park and I had the time so I decided to take a drive through. It sure was beautiful.  The rock formations and colors were amazing.  Definitely a place to come back to and spend more time in the future.