The Land Where Two Deserts Meet... Part 2

I had one more day in Joshua Tree National Park and I wanted to make the most of it. The strong winds were continuing to be a problem for me. As it turns out strong winds and being inside a tent means no sleep for me. Should have brought earplugs, lesson learned. The other problem it caused was where I wanted to photograph sunrise. Barker Dam is the only real source of standing water inside the park that I am aware of. That was where I wanted to be setup as the sun rose. But with these strong winds, the nice reflection on the water that I wanted was not an option. So I moved on and tried to improvise. I decided to focus my attention on the parks namesakes, the Joshua Trees. These strange trees are unlike any other kind of tree I’ve seen and were amazing to see in person. I took a detour on my way back and slowly wandered around playing with different compositions between the trees and the sun.

Sunrise was starting to finish up by the time I got back to my car. But the light outside was still great so I decided to drive the short distance to Hidden Valley, an area close by that I managed to scope out the day before (it’s always good to checkout a spot beforehand if you have the time). Being in Hidden Valley helped me a lot in pacing myself and utilizing what was left of this beautiful morning light. Afterwards, I spent most of the day driving around and doing short hikes. I was having so much fun exploring and hiking that I fell behind on my plans a bit. My plan was to go stop by my campsite and take down the tent before I left for my sunset location. I intended to spend the last night sleeping in the car because I was leaving the park immediately after I was photographing the sunrise. I got to my campsite, took the tent down (in the strong winds still) and packed everything up, then I headed out towards my sunset location, the Cholla Cactus Gardens. The cactus gardens are part of the Colorado dessert and the name pretty much sums it up. You’re essentially in a cactus field, and these guys stick to anything and everything, including me. Luckily I had my multi-tool because a few bulbs that got stuck on my shoes and I had to carefully pull them off. The cactus gardens were another first for me, I don’t really have much experience photographing cactuses but this was a place well worth going to see. This should definitely be on your list of things to see if you find yourself in Joshua Tree. 

Joshua Star Trail 1.jpeg

It was once again dark by the time I got back to my campsite. Pulling in looked up and skies were clear and the wind had finally settled down so that opened up the option to photograph the stars. I had two places I wanted to shoot, one was right by my campsite for a star trails photo and the other was a milky way shot by Arch Rock (You can probably guess what this rock was like). I managed to get the first one but I slept right through my alarm for the second. Turns out a Malibu is pretty comfortable car to sleep in! Luckily I managed to wake up before sunrise and took off towards the park exit, stopping at places of interest along the way and photographing my last desert sunrise.

But that wasn’t the end of my trip! Oh no, I had a second reason for visiting Southern California. Down there was a ‘Superbloom’ where fields of flowers were in full bloom. I had seen some beautiful photos and my flight back home was a late one so I had planned on checking out two different areas. The first one was in Diamond Valley Lake, a beautiful park centered around a mountain lake. I got there early, beating the crowds and I took a nice, slow hike around the area looking at the amazing amount of flowers. I was happy to discover that there were in fact fields and hillsides full of wildflowers. However, what I also realized early on was that creating a good composition wasn’t going to be easy. It took me a while but I started to get a feel for what I was looking for. I considered it a good warm up for my next location. But then I ran into a problem.

Apparently while I’d been traversing through the desert, an April snowstorm was hitting my home in Minnesota. So I after I finished up my morning hike I got an email telling me that my flight had been cancelled and couldn’t be rescheduled for another three days. Luckily, I managed to find an earlier flight back into Minnesota that day. The downside was that it was a lot earlier which meant I had to not only cutout my last destination but I also needed to rush back to the airport to catch the flight on time. Somehow I made it back and managed to get back home. 

Overall, despite the hectic ending and sleepless nights I still had a blast! Joshua Tree National Park is an amazing place and I’m glad I started the travel season there, plus who doesn’t love seeing a bunch of wildflowers? As a photographer, the Southern California landscape held a lot of new challenges which makes me even more excited that I went. Taking on new and foreign landscapes is one of the many reasons why I love doing what I do. Now it’s time for the next trip!