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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.

Chino Hills State Park

I went on a little hike yesterday through Chino Hills State Park. It was my first time visiting and I have to say, it's a really great park. Despite the abundant power lines and air traffic overhead, you feel pretty detached from the surrounding cities. I love rolling green hills - classic California landscape - and Chino Hills SP has plenty of them!

I think it was a little bit early for peak bloom this Spring, but there were a lot of flowers out. I saw poppies from a distance, purple lupines and tons of these little white guys (see pictures) for which I don't know the name. Also saw lots of coyote and mountain lion tracks in the mud.

Could have used a few more clouds to spice up the skies and sunset a bit, but oh well. I'll be back before too long. I was out maybe a total of 4-5 hours and I am ridiculously sore today. I need to go hiking with a full backpack of camera gear more often!