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Video From Death Valley Trip

If you're a regular here at my blog, you may remember this post from back in November detailing my trip to The Racetrack in Death Valley National Park. Well during that trip, my friend documented our journey using a GoPro HD Camera and compiled the footage into an awesome short film. Check it out!

[vimeo width="550" height="309"]http://vimeo.com/39350321[/vimeo]

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.

Sierras in January: Part 2

As I mentioned in my last post "Sierras in January: Part 1", this "Part 2" post will be all about the snow scenes from around Mammoth Lakes and Lee Vining.

Snow scene near Lee Vining, CA

The storm came in strong on our second day there, dumping tons of fresh powder all over the landscape just north of Bishop. The driving conditions made me a little nervous at first, since I have virtually no experience driving in the snow. That, and my only previous experience driving in the snow entailed 2 bad spin-outs on a narrow mountain road. But this time around, I had 4-wheel drive and ABS brakes to help me out. In the end, it was much less treacherous than I imagined.

Snow scene near Lee Vining, CA

Snow scene near Lee Vining, CA

What really gave my patience and nerves a run for their money was the wind. I've been in some crazy strong winds before, but never with air temperature in the 20's. Woo, was it cold! My visit to Convict Lake in late afternoon was especially brutal. I think the wind chill must have been down in the low teens (you guys out in Minnesota must be laughing at me right now).

Strong winds, in my opinion, are some of the toughest and most frustrating conditions to shoot in. You can't keep the tripod stable, you're trying to hold on to 3 or 4 different things at once, your clothes feel like mesh...but what made it even more difficult were the splashes of water coming off the lake and settling on my filters, then freezing near instantly.

Boy, did it try my patience.

Convict Lake in Winter

Shooting in the snow was a little difficult in general because the snowfall never fully stopped, but there was a break in storm in the afternoon when I happened to be near some old, run-down structures on the side of Highway 395. For those of you familiar with the area, you've probably seen these two little houses between Mammoth Lakes and Lee Vining. They weren't the grand, sweeping vista I wanted, but they were good photo subjects nonetheless.

Run-Down Houses Near Lee-Vining, CA off Highway 395

Run-Down Houses Near Lee-Vining, CA off Highway 395

Run-Down Houses Near Lee-Vining, CA off Highway 395

But my favorite snow photos from the trip were from alongside the 395 right near the junction to Mammoth Lakes. The strong winds were kicking up snow off the mountain peaks, creating gorgeous layers and dramatic light.

Snow and wind near Mammoth Lakes, CA

Snow and wind near Mammoth Lakes, CA

Snow and wind near Mammoth Lakes, CA

And here are a couple videos I shot on my iPhone of the road conditions:

[vimeo width="550" height="309"]http://vimeo.com/36318005[/vimeo]

[vimeo width="550" height="309"]http://vimeo.com/36318730[/vimeo]

Overall, the trip was great, but as I mentioned in the previous post, I didn't feel like I was quite on the top of my game. Oh, well. It happens. There's always next winter...