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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.

Sedona


Well I finally got through editing my pictures from Sedona, AZ! I took a little trip there a couple weeks back and it was really awesome! The trip was just 4 days including travel time, so I only had 3 sunsets to work with, but it turned out great anyway. I'm pretty pleased with the results (especially considering the strong winds I had to contend with). Below are the results along with some notes and experiences in getting the shots.




The sunset of the first day was the only day we had clouds - thanks to the strong winds I would guess. I had just arrived in Sedona a few hours before sunset so I wasn't able to get to any prime spots, but I did manage to snap a few shots from outside my hotel and at the Coconino National Forest Visitor Center. I used my 70-200mm to crop out the surrounding buildings and trees so I could focus on the red rock at sunset.






The next day my brother and I drove north a little bit into Oak Creek Canyon to see what kind of fall color was available. There was definitely a lot more color than south of Sedona, or near my home in Southern California for that matter, but it was no East Coast display. I really enjoyed the backlighting of the sun on the yellow and green leaves and tried to take advantage of that. Oak Creek proved to be a great subject. I hadn't photographed any creeks in awhile - been mostly beaches for awhile - so it was real nice to do that again. My Singh-Ray warming circular polarizer was on my lens most of the time.



I went to a scenic spot near my hotel for sunset later that day. Yeah, it was touristy, but it served up some great shots of Courthouse Butte at sunset. This little sunset sesh destroyed my neck for some reason. I was in excruciating pain for the rest of the night. Still worth it, though.






My brother, my dad and I went to the Palatki ruins the next day to check out the old dwellings and petroglyphs. I was pleasantly surprised by this place. I was a little put off at first because the ruins and petroglyphs were heavily protected by ropes and rangers, so I didn't have all the freedom I would have liked. I guess that's the price we all have to pay for jackasses that decide to add their own "petroglyphs" and think it's fun to destroy historical landmarks. But after hearing all the enlightening data the rangers had on these ruins and petroglyphs, I was really glad they were there. Some of the information they offered regarding the petroglyphs was intensely interesting. It really made me appreciate what I was looking at.


The petroglyphs pictured above are estimated to be over 10,000 years old!



After Palatki, we headed over to Red Rock Crossing to photograph Cathedral Rock over Oak Creek. Yeah, this is easily the most photographed scene in all of Sedona, but I still had to check it out. This place was a lot of fun. I took off my boots, rolled up my jeans and spent most of the time photographing knee-deep in Oak Creek. The water was freezing and I really had to fight to keep my balance on the slippery bottom, but it made for a little more unique shots. My Gitzo tripod held up like a champ in these conditions, too. I would have really liked to have had my photo vest and I wished I had worn convertible pants, but live and learn.

On a side note: We rented a Nissan Xterra for the trip and I am officially back in love with that car. I wanted one for awhile and changed my mind to a Subaru for the better mileage, but I don't care anymore. That Xterra was way too sweet. I can't wait until I can afford one...