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New Landscape Photography & Video: Storm in Joshua Tree National Park

Joshua Tree National Park Fine Art PhotographyJoshua Tree in Fog
Image made on Ilford Delta 100 Film
with a Mamiya RZ67 and 110mm f/2.8

It's been kind of an unusual couple weeks weather-wise for Orange County. Temperatures have been soaring and we've had lots of scattered cloud cover. It's resulted  in some seriously gorgeous skies - the sunsets especially.

Unfortunately, though, the beaches are crowded and, frankly, I'm a little burned out on photographing beach sunsets. So although I've been enjoying the beautiful skies, I haven't really been photographing them. But Monday of last week I decided to get myself out to Joshua Tree National Park to photograph these dramatic weather conditions.

The forecast called for scattered thunder storms in the desert - which is really what made me decide to drive out there - but the thunder never materialized. That's okay though because the breaking storm made for some of the most beautiful light and skies I've ever seen in Joshua Tree National Park.

The drive to Joshua Tree from Orange County is about 2 1/2 hours, which feels about 3 hours longer than I remember. And especially with the heavy downpour and flooded streets through the desert, I was beginning to doubt my decision about an hour in to the drive.

But boy am I glad I took this trip!

On the way in to the park, I found a stretch of road where a heavy fog enveloped the Joshua Trees and rock formations, creating some truly stunning scenery for me to capture on my Ilford Delta 100 black and white film. I chose black and white for this entire outing for a couple reasons (with the exception of a single roll of color film I'm pretty sure I botched). First, I've simply been more attracted to black and white landscape photography lately. Maybe I'm burned out on color, maybe I just don't find it "artsy" enough anymore. But whatever the reason, B&W seems to be keeping my creative juices flowing in a way color film isn't. And aside from that, I mean come on...Joshua Trees in fog and breaking storms over the desert? It's just begging for black and white!

I spent the first half of the day photographing these unique yuccas in the fog with my Mamiya RZ67 medium format camera. I chose this format because with the 110mm f/2.8 lens, I was able to get a real shallow depth of field by shooting wide open. This helped to draw attention to my subjects as if I was shooting a portrait of each Joshua Tree. I made 10 frames of these "portraits" with plans to create a triptych from the best 3.

I used a dark yellow #15 filter on these shots to help introduce some contrast in this flat lighting and I over-developed the film intentionally to help raise up the highlights a bit (N+1 processing for you Zone System users).

After lunch, I spent the day in the higher elevations of the park scouting out a good location for sunset and creating some B&W 6x17 photographs highlighting the stunning sky.

I'm normally pretty humble and modest about my photos and I always feel weird heaping praise on my own work, but I am truly thrilled with the photos I made on this trip. For a long time now I haven't felt that my pictures are actually representative of me or of the vibe I want to create. But these pictures are a better representation of me than I think anything else I've put out before.

I must be moving in the right direction.

Please, oh, please click any image for a larger view

Breaking Storm over Joshua Tree National Park

Joshua Tree National Park Fine Art Landscape Photography

Joshua Tree in Fog in Joshua Tree National Park, CA

Joshua Tree in Fog in Joshua Tree National Park, CA

Joshua Tree in Fog in Joshua Tree National Park, CA

Joshua Tree National Park Fine Art Photography

And check out the on-location video:

View on YouTube for full HD version

Keys View in Joshua Tree National Park

It was my birthday this past Monday (the big two-five) and to celebrate, I took a day off from work and went out to Joshua Tree National Park to off-road, enjoy the change of scenery and get some photos.

The weather was rough with lots of cloud cover, some rain, some hail and strong winds. So, the light wasn't exactly phenomenal, which made getting decent photos pretty much impossible. Gray skies over the desert just don't make for great shots. But I still managed to check out Keys View, which is a high point in the Little San Bernardino Mountains that overlooks the desert cities below.

The view was gorgeous, the temperature was just above freezing and the wind was biting. Here's what I got:

Keys View in Joshua Tree National Park, CA

Keys View in Joshua Tree National Park, CA

Due to the heavy cloud cover, the sunset was basically non-existent, so I didn't get any sunset photos. But the real fun came on the drive home along the 10 Freeway.

As I drove along the 10, the heavy rains turned in to snow right around Banning, CA. For those unfamiliar with the area, Banning is a desert city at only about 2400 feet above sea level. Snow is not a common occurrence here, to say the least.

I love me some snow...and I really love me some snow when it's coming down in areas with palm trees and cactus. So, I pulled off the freeway to get some video and photos of the unusual weather. Unfortunately, it was completely dark by this point and Banning isn't exactly...how do you say this...uh, scenic. I did the best I could with what I had, but the photos from Banning won't be anything I hang on my walls. Still, though, it was fun getting some pictures of palm tress covered in snow.

Snow on Palm Trees in Banning, CA

Snow on Palm Trees in Banning, CA

And here's a quick video of the snowfall taken from my iPhone.

[vimeo width="550" height="309"]http://vimeo.com/37772834[/vimeo]

All in all, the trip and the freak weather made for a fun, memorable b-day.

Published in Travel + Leisure Magazine

I'm happy to report that one of my images from Joshua Tree National Park can be found in the October 2011 issue of Travel + Leisure Magazine!

This is my first time published in this magazine and I'm happy to be seen in such a big-name publication. My image is on page 98. It's small, but it's mighty!

Published in Travel + Leisure Magazine

Here is the image they chose to represent Joshua Tree National Park in the article:

Published in Travel + Leisure Magazine