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Another Trip to the Dunes

I took a little trip to the Kelso Sand Dunes in the Mojave National Preserve just over a week ago to get some shots. I was lucky enough to have the company of a few good friends that are right on the same level as me as far as their willingness to exert themselves and be out late. Road trips with a few friends are infinitely better than lone-ranger trips.

It had rained earlier in the morning at the dunes, so the sand was damp - a first experience for me. It changes the look and consistency of the dunes which was both good and bad. It created some interesting patterns in the sand, but it didn't have that classic dune look that dry sand yields. Nevertheless, the scenery was amazing and the whole experience was memorable as usual.†

A very interesting sky full of billowing cumulous clouds traversed slowly overhead, casting chilly shadows over the landscape. The shadows created so much depth on the dunes and on the adjacent Granite Mountains. I got a few shots of the midday scenery, but the bulk of my attention was on getting in the right spot for sunset.

We eventually set off to climb to the peak of the dunes in preparation for sunset shots. It had been pretty windy all day, but I didn't fully grasp the power of it until we started nearing the top.†

Sand was streaming off the crests of the dunes like waves of gold. Ascending the wall of sand in the shadow side of the dune, the sand blowing off the crest glowed with the sunlight. It was a truly beautiful†phenomena†that I had never seen before. Needless to say, I had to get a ton of pictures of it in an effort to document its beauty.†

As I sat on the crest of the dune getting showered with sand (and my camera†experiencing†the same) photographing the "sand waves," I started to realize what I was really watching. I was witnessing the transformation of these dunes by the very element that created them in the first place. Sand was being moved all over the place by the ton, completely at the mercy of the wind. These dunes were changing and growing, like a living organism, right before my very eyes. It was amazing.

When sunset rolled around, I was sure to be in a good spot to snap off a few shots before darkness fell over the landscape. The light shifted from daylight to a gorgeous warm glow and then a deep purple before fading off into blackness.

On the trek down to the car in total darkness, we stopped to get some star shots. Here's a little self-portrait in front of the Milky Way.

Also, I rented a Canon TS-E 24mm f/3.5L Tilt/Shift lens for this trip. I used it to both minimize depth of field on some shots for special effect and to maximize depth of field in others. I am officially in love with this lens.†

Overall the trip was absolutely amazing, the landscape was breathtaking and the solitude atop the dunes was magical.

Enjoy the pics.

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.

And then the fog rolled in…

We had some major fog on New Year's Eve and on the night of New Year's Day. When it came rolling in on the 31st, I was a little bummed my night was pre-scheduled for partying, but it all worked out because I was able to get some shots the next night.

I basically just drove around Irvine looking for some good subjects. I experimented a little with off-camera flash, but the available light pictures came out much better. I put just a little treatment on most of these pictures - pretty much just vignettes and a little desaturation or saturation.†

†I love what fog does to the light. It creates so much depth.

This is actually a park in Irvine. That little building is a bathroom (I know...it takes away a little bit from the mysticism of it all).

And I had to do a little dramatic self-portrait action. This road runs behind Northwood High, through the hills. There is hardly any development back there yet, mostly avocado groves and wildlands. Shooting there was awesome! I kept hearing coyotes howling from deep in the fog! It was amazing, but a little creepy with the fog and all.†