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Anza-Borrego Desert

I went to Anza-Borrego Desert State Park this past Thursday to get some shots of the Spring bloom. I'd never been to Anza-Borrego before, so I didn't really know what to expect, but overall, I really enjoyed the trip. The flowers were plentiful and the weather was nice. Lots of Brittle Bush, Desert Dandelion and Lupine. The Ocotillo cacti were also in bloom, which was great.

Even though what drew me out to this park in the first place was the flowers, that wasn't where I ended up getting my best pictures. Truthfully, I was only marginally pleased with my flower landscape attempts. Things just weren't vibing for me, I guess.†

I did, however, spend some time in The Slot where I got some great pictures. I spent around 2 hours in this narrow slot canyon and didn't see a single person while I was out there! The lighting was dramatic in many spots and the experience was so much fun. I'd never been in a slot canyon before and I was just blown away by it.

For this one ^ I threw some sand into the air to bring out the shaft of light.

It's a good thing I'm in shape because some of the canyon barely fit me with my backpack on.†

Tight quarters in The Slot.

Later on, I went out to Village Site to get some flower landscapes. Again, the results are just mediocre, but I still had fun. I tried my luck at some star trail shots, but didn't do too well (I've never really mastered that). I did get one nighttime shot I was pleased with.

Some Sweet Abandoned Buildings

We had some cloud cover coming through Orange County a couple weeks back that have really made some nice sunsets. I went to my usual spot of Quail Hill one day and I considered hitting up the beach, but when I went out on the 21st, I was itching for some new material. I didn't care if it was nature, urban or a mix, I just wanted some new subject matter for a change.

Anyone from Orange County will know how hard this is. You can only shoot the same beaches so many times and battle the track housing for so long before it gets old. Orange County's nice, but it's no Washington state. If I wanted new material, I knew it wasn't going to be anything fantastic if it was within a 50-mile radius. So, I decided to explore.

They recently opened up this hot-air-like balloon that takes people above the future "Great Park" on the former El Toro Marine Base. I'd never been before, but I thought I'd try exploring around there. Well, I'm sure glad I did, because I found some amazing old buildings on this retired Marine Base.†

I drove along an empty road, waiting for some cop or barricade to stop me from going any further, but nothing did. So I kept driving until I got to a deserted building that looked like it used to be some sort of utility building (there were a ton of circuit breakers and pipes and warehouse rooms and stuff). Windows were broken, the asphalt was cracked and overrun by bushes, doors were left open - it looked just so awesome. All the textures and character of this place were screaming to be photographed.†

That afternoon I managed to get some pretty good landscapes of this dilapidated building at sunset. The entire time I was shooting, no one came to kick me out, no one was around, I was completely alone and having a great time. Here are the resultant pictures:

Then I went back a second day to scout around inside the building. This was a little more creepy but just as awesome. The big, cavernous rooms were dark and bare except for some serious spider webs around the doors and a few tumbleweeds. I snapped off a few self-portraits while I was there:

Unfortunately, though, the all-too-bored Irvine PD came and kicked me out on the third visit there. Good thing, too. Us pesky photographers are always getting into trouble, defacing property and putting otherwise unused property to good use.†

The moral to this story: Exploration is a fun and important technique to finding good shots, almost as important as remaining discreet when doing it.