Category

Desert

Photographs of Southern California’s Spring Wildflowers — the 2017 Super Bloom

Carlsbad, Desert, Joshua Tree, San Diego, Wildflowers

During March and early April of this year I was chasing the wildflower bloom around the southernmost parts of California. The wildflower bloom was indeed spectacular and went on for weeks with vast displays of color. Was it a “super bloom”? I’m not sure. Somewhere during March the interwebs began using “super bloom” and the term stuck. I’ve seen wildflower blooms equally spectacular in the past, especially in the desert, so perhaps those past events were all “super blooms” as well. One huge difference this year is that social media and news outlets picked up on it and created crowds the like I have never seen before. I did much of my photographing midweek in order for me to find solitude in the flower fields — weekends were out of the question due to the sheer number of people. My outings took me to Anza Borrego Desert State Park (many times), Joshua Tree National Park, Carrizo Plain National Monument, Elsinore, Hemet, Santa Rosa Plateau, Mount Palomar, La Jolla, and my backyard of La Costa and Carlsbad. Below are 42 of my favorite spring wildflower images from the Super Bloom of 2017. They are presented in the order in which they were made, starting around March 6 and ending mid April. Cheers, and thanks for looking!

California Poppies, Elsinore

California Poppies, Elsinore
Image ID: 33115
Location: Elsinore, California, USA

California Poppies, Rancho La Costa, Carlsbad

California Poppies, Rancho La Costa, Carlsbad
Image ID: 33120
Location: Rancho La Costa, Carlsbad, California, USA

Desert Lily in bloom, Anza Borrego Desert State Park, Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, Borrego Springs, California

Desert Lily in bloom, Anza Borrego Desert State Park
Image ID: 33124
Location: Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, Borrego Springs, California, USA

Dune Evening Primrose bloom in Anza Borrego Desert State Park, Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, Borrego Springs, California

Dune Evening Primrose bloom in Anza Borrego Desert State Park
Image ID: 33126
Location: Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, Borrego Springs, California, USA

California Poppies, Rancho La Costa, Carlsbad

California Poppies, Rancho La Costa, Carlsbad
Image ID: 33131
Location: Rancho La Costa, Carlsbad, California, USA

California Poppies, Diamond Valley Lake, Hemet

California Poppies, Diamond Valley Lake, Hemet
Image ID: 33134
Location: Hemet, California, USA

Wildflowers carpets the hills at Diamond Valley Lake, Hemet

Wildflowers carpets the hills at Diamond Valley Lake, Hemet
Image ID: 33139
Location: Hemet, California, USA

Wildflowers Bloom in Spring, Joshua Tree National Park

Wildflowers Bloom in Spring, Joshua Tree National Park
Image ID: 33142
Location: Joshua Tree National Park, California, USA

Wildflowers Bloom in Spring, Joshua Tree National Park

Wildflowers Bloom in Spring, Joshua Tree National Park
Image ID: 33144
Location: Joshua Tree National Park, California, USA

Wildflowers Bloom in Spring, Joshua Tree National Park

Wildflowers Bloom in Spring, Joshua Tree National Park
Image ID: 33146
Location: Joshua Tree National Park, California, USA

Chocolate lily growing among grasses on oak-covered hillsides. The chocolate lily is a herbaceous perennial monocot that is increasingly difficult to find in the wild due to habitat loss. The flower is a striking brown color akin to the color of chocolate, Santa Rosa Plateau Ecological Reserve, Murrieta, California

Chocolate lily growing among grasses on oak-covered hillsides. The chocolate lily is a herbaceous perennial monocot that is increasingly difficult to find in the wild due to habitat loss. The flower is a striking brown color akin to the color of chocolate.
Image ID: 33151
Location: Santa Rosa Plateau Ecological Reserve, Murrieta, California, USA

Wildflowers bloom in Anza Borrego Desert State Park, Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, Borrego Springs, California

Wildflowers bloom in Anza Borrego Desert State Park
Image ID: 33154
Location: Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, Borrego Springs, California, USA

California Poppies, Rancho La Costa, Carlsbad

California Poppies, Rancho La Costa, Carlsbad
Image ID: 33161
Location: Rancho La Costa, Carlsbad, California, USA

Panorama of California Poppies, Rancho La Costa, Carlsbad

Panorama of California Poppies, Rancho La Costa, Carlsbad
Image ID: 33164
Location: Rancho La Costa, Carlsbad, California, USA

Dune Evening Primrose bloom in Anza Borrego Desert State Park, Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, Borrego Springs, California

Dune Evening Primrose bloom in Anza Borrego Desert State Park
Image ID: 33168
Location: Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, Borrego Springs, California, USA

Wildflowers bloom in Anza Borrego Desert State Park, Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, Borrego Springs, California

Wildflowers bloom in Anza Borrego Desert State Park
Image ID: 33173
Location: Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, Borrego Springs, California, USA

Wildflowers bloom in Anza Borrego Desert State Park, Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, Borrego Springs, California

Wildflowers bloom in Anza Borrego Desert State Park
Image ID: 33179
Location: Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, Borrego Springs, California, USA

Dune Evening Primrose bloom in Anza Borrego Desert State Park, Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, Borrego Springs, California

Dune Evening Primrose bloom in Anza Borrego Desert State Park
Image ID: 33184
Location: Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, Borrego Springs, California, USA

Dune Evening Primrose bloom in Anza Borrego Desert State Park, Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, Borrego Springs, California

Dune Evening Primrose bloom in Anza Borrego Desert State Park
Image ID: 33186
Location: Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, Borrego Springs, California, USA

Wildflowers bloom in Anza Borrego Desert State Park, Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, Borrego Springs, California

Wildflowers bloom in Anza Borrego Desert State Park
Image ID: 33188
Location: Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, Borrego Springs, California, USA

Brittlebush bloom in Anza Borrego Desert State Park, Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, Borrego Springs, California

Brittlebush bloom in Anza Borrego Desert State Park
Image ID: 33192
Location: Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, Borrego Springs, California, USA

Brittlebush bloom in Anza Borrego Desert State Park, Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, Borrego Springs, California

Brittlebush bloom in Anza Borrego Desert State Park
Image ID: 33193
Location: Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, Borrego Springs, California, USA

Brittlebush bloom in Anza Borrego Desert State Park, Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, Borrego Springs, California

Brittlebush bloom in Anza Borrego Desert State Park
Image ID: 33198
Location: Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, Borrego Springs, California, USA

Brittlebush bloom in Anza Borrego Desert State Park, Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, Borrego Springs, California

Brittlebush bloom in Anza Borrego Desert State Park
Image ID: 33200
Location: Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, Borrego Springs, California, USA

Purple owls clover, Rancho La Costa, Carlsbad

Purple owls clover, Rancho La Costa, Carlsbad
Image ID: 33208
Location: Rancho La Costa, Carlsbad, California, USA

Wildflowers, Rancho La Costa, Carlsbad

Wildflowers, Rancho La Costa, Carlsbad
Image ID: 33213
Location: Rancho La Costa, Carlsbad, California, USA

Dune Evening Primrose bloom in Anza Borrego Desert State Park, Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, Borrego Springs, California

Dune Evening Primrose bloom in Anza Borrego Desert State Park
Image ID: 33220
Location: Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, Borrego Springs, California, USA

Wildflowers bloom across Carrizo Plains National Monument, Carrizo Plain National Monument, California

Wildflowers bloom across Carrizo Plains National Monument
Image ID: 33227
Location: Carrizo Plain National Monument, California, USA

A Panorama of Wildflowers blooms across Carrizo Plains National Monument, Carrizo Plain National Monument, California

A Panorama of Wildflowers blooms across Carrizo Plains National Monument
Image ID: 33229
Location: Carrizo Plain National Monument, California, USA

Mustard and other Wildflowers bloom across Carrizo Plains National Monument, Carrizo Plain National Monument, California

Mustard and other Wildflowers bloom across Carrizo Plains National Monument
Image ID: 33231
Location: Carrizo Plain National Monument, California, USA

Wildflowers bloom across Carrizo Plains National Monument, Carrizo Plain National Monument, California

Wildflowers bloom across Carrizo Plains National Monument
Image ID: 33234
Location: Carrizo Plain National Monument, California, USA

Wildflowers bloom across Carrizo Plains National Monument, Carrizo Plain National Monument, California

Wildflowers bloom across Carrizo Plains National Monument
Image ID: 33237
Location: Carrizo Plain National Monument, California, USA

Wildflowers bloom across Carrizo Plains National Monument, Carrizo Plain National Monument, California

Wildflowers bloom across Carrizo Plains National Monument
Image ID: 33238
Location: Carrizo Plain National Monument, California, USA

Wildflowers bloom across Carrizo Plains National Monument, Carrizo Plain National Monument, California

Wildflowers bloom across Carrizo Plains National Monument
Image ID: 33240
Location: Carrizo Plain National Monument, California, USA

Wildflowers bloom across Carrizo Plains National Monument, Carrizo Plain National Monument, California

Wildflowers bloom across Carrizo Plains National Monument
Image ID: 33242
Location: Carrizo Plain National Monument, California, USA

Wildflowers bloom across Carrizo Plains National Monument, Carrizo Plain National Monument, California

Wildflowers bloom across Carrizo Plains National Monument
Image ID: 33243
Location: Carrizo Plain National Monument, California, USA

Wildflowers bloom across Carrizo Plains National Monument, Carrizo Plain National Monument, California

Wildflowers bloom across Carrizo Plains National Monument
Image ID: 33244
Location: Carrizo Plain National Monument, California, USA

Wildflowers bloom across Carrizo Plains National Monument, Carrizo Plain National Monument, California

Wildflowers bloom across Carrizo Plains National Monument
Image ID: 33246
Location: Carrizo Plain National Monument, California, USA

Wildflowers bloom across Carrizo Plains National Monument, Carrizo Plain National Monument, California

Wildflowers bloom across Carrizo Plains National Monument
Image ID: 33249
Location: Carrizo Plain National Monument, California, USA

Wildflowers bloom across Carrizo Plains National Monument, Carrizo Plain National Monument, California

Wildflowers bloom across Carrizo Plains National Monument
Image ID: 33252
Location: Carrizo Plain National Monument, California, USA

Wildflowers bloom across Carrizo Plains National Monument, Carrizo Plain National Monument, California

Wildflowers bloom across Carrizo Plains National Monument
Image ID: 33257
Location: Carrizo Plain National Monument, California, USA

Wildflowers along the La Jolla Cove cliffs, sunrise

Wildflowers along the La Jolla Cove cliffs, sunrise
Image ID: 33264
Location: La Jolla, California, USA

Perseid Meteor Shower over Joshua Tree National Park, August 2015

Astrophotography and Night Scapes, California, Desert, Joshua Tree

Each August the Perseid meteor shower takes place. This year it peaked during a new moon, which offered prime conditions for seeing many meteors. I photographed the Perseid meteor shower in Joshua Tree National Park using two compositions/locations: with Arch Rock as one feature and with a single joshua tree as an alternative composition. [See the former posted a few days ago: Perseid Meteor Shower over Arch Rock, Joshua Tree National Park.] Note that a completely different set of meteors are depicted in each of these two images. In each case, I rotated the images about Polaris (the “north star”) so that they aligned correctly with respect to the constellation Perseus, the northern arm of the Milky Way and the rest of the night sky. Cheers, and thanks for looking!

(See two other Perseid meteor images: Perseid Meteor Shower over Arch Rock and well as Perseid Meteor Shower and Milky Way over Half Dome.)

The Perseid meteor shower happens each year because the Earth is plowing through the trail of dust left behind by comet Swift-Tuttle. The Perseid meteors are named for the constellation Perseus in the northern sky, from which the meteors appear to radiate. When sand- and pea-sized debris left behind by Swift-Tuttle collide with our atmosphere at about 37 miles per second, the gases in our upper atmosphere are superheated and glow, often with colors. In the above image as well as in “Perseid Meteor Shower over Arch Rock”, I found that most of the meteor tracks I recorded have a pronounced green color at the beginning of their trail, ending in white or yellow.

Perseid Meteor Shower over Arch Rock, Joshua Tree National Park, 2015

Astrophotography and Night Scapes, California, Desert, Joshua Tree

The Perseid meteor shower occurs each August, peaking on the evenings of August 12 and 13. It happens because the Earth is plowing through the trail of dust left behind by comet Swift-Tuttle. The Perseid meteors are named for the constellation Perseus in the northern sky, from which the meteors appear to radiate. When sand- and pea-sized debris left behind by Swift-Tuttle collide with our atmosphere at about 37 miles per second, the gases in our upper atmosphere are superheated and glow, often with colors. That’s what I wanted to photograph, over what has become one of my go-to places to make astrophotographs, Arch Rock in Joshua Tree National Park. I photographed from about 10pm until 3am, seeing hundreds of meteors all over the night sky and capturing about 25 on my camera.

(See two other Perseid meteor images: Perseid Meteor Shower over Joshua Tree National Park and well as Perseid Meteor Shower and Milky Way over Half Dome.)

I was last photographing in JTNP with my buddy Garry in April, when we elected to photograph the total lunar eclipse over Arch Rock. We were alone then, it was great and easy to make good photographs. When I was at Arch Rock a few nights ago for the Perseid meteors, Arch Rock was crammed with people. Honestly I have never seen it so crowded, it was like Mesa Arch at dawn. A lot different than when we first photographed Arch Rock under the milky way 5-6 years ago and astrophotography was not as popular as it is now. A few nights ago, while the Perseids were flying overhead, many of the folks at the arch did not speak English. This made it impossible for everyone to be in sync, working together to keep the light pollution to a minimum and light the arch while balancing the star light. No problem, I just waited until everyone was done, and managed to sneak in a few exposures of the arch and milky way above it when noone was flashing a mag light, or red “night” lights or cylume sticks around. I think everyone photographing eventually got a good image of the arch and the milky way, but it took a while. As for recording the meteors — that’s the easy part: I just let my camera take photos of the north-eastern sky for hours (14mm, f/2.8, ISO 6400, 10 seconds) with a cable release locked down, and I kicked back in the bed of my truck and watched the show. (Note: the images are rotated in post to properly account for the rotation of the stars as the night goes by, so that they appear in their proper orientation relative to the milky way and Perseus in the final photo.)

What is depicted here is Arch Rock, with the northern arm of the Milky Way visible rising above to the left. The Andromeda galaxy is seen just above and to the left of the top of the arch, like a large star. The constellation Perseus, from which the meteors typically appear to emanate, is behind the arch and just rising above the horizon. What I found interesting is that virtually all of the meteors that I recorded have green coloration at the beginning of their tail, ending in white or light yellow. I don’t recall seeing that when I photographed the Perseid meteor shower over Half Dome in Yosemite a few years ago. OK, whatever. Cheers, and thanks for looking!

Lunar Eclipse April 4 2015 from Joshua Tree National Park

Astrophotography and Night Scapes, Desert, Joshua Tree

I went up to Joshua Tree National Park to watch the lunar eclipse of April 4, 2015. Photographically, I was not sure what I was going to do. I’ve made a series of lunar eclipse sequence images (lunar eclipse October 8, 2014 and April 14, 2014 version 2 version 3). While these images are visually appealing and challenging to make well, I really wanted to do something different for this eclipse, push the creative comfort zone so to speak. Fellow photographer Garry McCarthy and I mulled over some ideas on the drive up to Joshua Tree but after arriving I was still at a loss. I deliberately left my 500mm lens at home so I would not fall into the trap of trying to photograph closeups and sequences that way. In fact, I brought my fish eye lens to force myself to look for something different. We headed to the arch, a spot we often go to for night photography and the place at which Garry (with some help from me) originally planned and executed the “Milky Way Arch over Arch” photo, which we have subsequently re-photographed in many variations over the years. A little pondering, a pause for a Santana’s chicken burrito, some crawling around on the rocks looking for angles, and then thankfully I had finally had an idea for a different kind of sequence and a different angle on the arch. At least something to try.

Lunar Eclipse Sequence, the path of the moon through the sky as it progresses from being fully visible (top) to fully eclipsed (middle) to almost fully visible again (bottom), viewed through Arch Rock, April 4 2015, Joshua Tree National Park, California

Lunar Eclipse Sequence, the path of the moon through the sky as it progresses from being fully visible (top) to fully eclipsed (middle) to almost fully visible again (bottom), viewed through Arch Rock, April 4 2015
Image ID: 30713
Location: Joshua Tree National Park, California, USA

I wanted a composition that told the story of the entire eclipse from start to end in one photograph, and in which the Joshua Tree NP setting was clearly evident. I recalled the exposure settings I had used during the last eclipse and realized that the variation of the moon’s light is too great to capture with just one exposure setting, but that could work to my advange in depicting the entire smooth path of the moon through the sky. I took a wild-ass-guess at the best aperture, shutter and ISO to use, set up my camera on a small tripod wedged into some rocks, turned on the intervalometer and let it go all night. The result is the following composite image, depicting the moon from about 1am until 6:30am, including the lunar eclipse from when it began at 3:15am until it set behind the rocks in the distance. The frame is “Arch Rock”, but in an unfamiliar angle. 890 individual images were taken to make this image. The stars and eclipsed moon are shown at about 5am, when the eclipse was at its “peak”, the moon being in its “blood red” phase and lit only by indirect, refracted light passing through the Earth’s atmosphere. The color of the moon is indeed red in the full res version but its hard to make out on the web. The path of the moon is flared toward the top due to high altitude clouds which were passing by, but as the eclipse began the skies cleared and the moon’s path through the sky becomes smoother.

We also realized that during the eclipse, the milky way would become visible, something that is typically impossible to see during a full moon. In fact, the strength of the moonlight would gradually fade in such a way that we could wait for it to exactly match the milky way and starlight above, allowing us to photograph the arch lit by a perfect amount of moonlight, right at astronomical twilight when blue just begins to appear in the sky, without resorting to using any artificial light at all. The result was this image: Milky Way over Arch Rock during Lunar Eclipse of April 4, 2015. (Note: I think this is the highest quality panorama of this scene I’ve ever photographed, and I’ve practiced it many many times. It will print 4.5′ by 7′ with no interpolation.)

Milky Way during Full Lunar Eclipse over Arch Rock, Joshua Tree National Park, April 4 2015.  The arch and surrounding landscape are illuminated by the faint light of the fully-eclipsed blood red moon.  Light from the sun has passed obliquely through the Earth's thin atmosphere, taking on a red color, and is then reflected off the moon and reaches the Earth again to light the arch.  The intensity of this light is so faint that the Milky Way can be seen clearly at the same time

Milky Way during Full Lunar Eclipse over Arch Rock, Joshua Tree National Park, April 4 2015. The arch and surrounding landscape are illuminated by the faint light of the fully-eclipsed blood red moon. Light from the sun has passed obliquely through the Earth’s thin atmosphere, taking on a red color, and is then reflected off the moon and reaches the Earth again to light the arch. The intensity of this light is so faint that the Milky Way can be seen clearly at the same time.
Image ID: 30717
Location: Joshua Tree National Park, California, USA

We were also treated to a 22° lunar halo an hour or so before the eclipse occurred. Often mistakenly called “lunar corona”, the lunar halo forms when moonlight refracts through hexagonal high altitude ice crystals. As no light is refracted at angles smaller than 22° the sky is darker inside the halo. It formed a complete circle for about 45 minutes. We were freezing our asses off and, while this was a superb distraction, once it was gone we still had to wait and freeze until the eclipse began. Why is it still so cold in the high desert in April?

Full moon with 22-degree lunar halo, Joshua Tree National Park.  The lunar halo (not to be cofused with lunar corona) forms when moonlight refracts through high altitude ice crystals. As no light is refracted at angles smaller than 22-degrees the sky is darker inside the halo

Full moon with 22-degree lunar halo, Joshua Tree National Park. The lunar halo (not to be cofused with lunar corona) forms when moonlight refracts through high altitude ice crystals. As no light is refracted at angles smaller than 22-degrees the sky is darker inside the halo.
Image ID: 30711
Location: Joshua Tree National Park, California, USA

Cheers and thanks for looking!

Moonflowers – Desert Wildflowers at Night

California, Desert

“Moonflowers” – with a nod to my favorite rock band, and the best guitarist of all time. Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, and the small community of Borrego Springs contained within, have had a reasonably nice wildflower bloom this year. That’s great news, since it has been awhile since the last nice bloom there that was not adversely affected by the black mustard plant. Alaskan photographer Ron Niebrugge kindly kept us up to date on the bloom from his winter location in Borrego Springs, and I managed to get out and try my hand at wildflower photography five times over the course of a week.

Dune Evening Primrose and Full Moon, Anza Borrego, Oenothera deltoides, Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, Borrego Springs, California

Dune Evening Primrose and Full Moon, Anza Borrego
Image ID: 30497
Species: Dune Primrose, Dune Evening Primrose, Oenothera deltoides
Location: Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, Borrego Springs, California, USA

Anza-Borrego is only 75 miles from my home in Carlsbad, and the entire mountains along the way are beautiful right now, including the oaks on Mount Palomar and the rolling hills around Lake Henshaw, so the drive itself was fun each time. My first visit was actually a detour on the way to Death Valley, so I really just went to scout and find the densest, healthiest patch of flowers I could find, free from the hordes of caterpillars and footprints that had overtaken DiGiorgio Road a short time before. I did have some great evening storm clouds over the flowers, and managed a few photos. I found the best area well to the north of Henderson Canyon Road. From just before before a big rain, to a few days after the rain and then into a dry hot spell, I was able to watch this one patch of flowers flourish with moisture, rise out of the sand and bloom, only to be overtaken by moth caterpillars and dry conditions and soon reduced to virtually nothing in 9 days. Having not had a chance to really photograph my favorite wildflower — the dune evening primrose (Oenothera deltoides) — in some years, I tried photographing it in as many ways as I could think of, knowing it will probably be some years again before I see such nice displays. I shot these commando, working quickly and in one instance shooting handheld, while the moon rose (top photo) and fell (bottom photo). Cheers, and thanks for looking!

Dune evening primrose (white) and sand verbena (purple) mix in beautiful wildflower bouquets during the spring bloom in Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, Oenothera deltoides, Abronia villosa, Borrego Springs, California

Dune evening primrose (white) and sand verbena (purple) mix in beautiful wildflower bouquets during the spring bloom in Anza-Borrego Desert State Park
Image ID: 30502
Species: Dune Evening Primrose, Sand Verbena, Oenothera deltoides, Abronia villosa
Location: Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, Borrego Springs, California, USA

Lunar Eclipse Sequence, Juniper and Standing Rock, Joshua Tree, 2014

Astrophotography and Night Scapes, Desert, Joshua Tree

For the eclipse of April 14/15, 2014, I wanted to depict the course of the eclipse across the sky with some recognizable landscape features in the foreground to anchor the composition. As the day of the eclipse went by, I watched the weather reports and decided Joshua Tree National Park would be a good place to shoot, since it was forecast to have clear skies. I have been shooting various spots in JTNP at night in an effort to produce a collection of nice landscape astrophotography images. I knew two locations in particular had orientations that would work well for the eclipse, which was going to occur almost due south. In 2011, Garry McCarthy and I shot original compositions at Arch Rock and the Juniper and Standing Rock incorporating the milky way, at the time something relatively new. Similar images have since become common, and the arch will now often have a crowd of photographers at night around the new moon. But because the next time a full lunar eclipse will occur centered due south is decades away, I knew this eclipse offered an opportunity to produce an astrophotography image at each of these well-known spots that was not likely to be appear in any other photographer’s portfolio anytime soon.

This is the third of the three images I made that night (#1 and #2), with the lunar eclipse depicted from the point in time when the moon entered the shadow of the Earth to when it emerged again, above the small juniper tree and curious standing rock not far from one of the campgrounds in Joshua Tree National Park.

Lunar Eclipse and blood red moon sequence, over Juniper and Standing Rock, composite image, Joshua Tree National Park, April 14/15 2014

Lunar Eclipse and blood red moon sequence, over Juniper and Standing Rock, composite image, Joshua Tree National Park, April 14/15 2014.
Image ID: 29204

If you are curious, the other two images I photographed during the eclipse are Lunar Eclipse Sequence over Arch Rock, Joshua Tree National Park, April 2014 and Lunar Eclipse Blood Red Moon Sequence over Joshua Tree National Park. The second link explains the planning involved and how I executed the eclipse sequence — I used largely the same camera technique at all three locations but the artificial lighting was different in each, exploiting both hand held light and remote triggered flash depending on what was needed. (The arch rock composition differs from the other two in that not only is it a composite but it is a very wide panorama as well.)

This image is centered due south, which was the point during the eclipse when the moon would be both fully eclipsed and highest in the sky. I lit the juniper and rock with a small handheld light from the right. This image is a composite and the moon is a larger than it appeared to the eye. The moon was exposed separately from the stars in order to control for the fact it was much brighter than the stars and to better present the detail and color of the moon itself. The stars themselves were photographed earlier in the evening, when the full moon was just rising, so that it could illuminate the surrounding landscape not reached by my flashlight. My camera remained fixed on a tripod throughout to ensure the images were aligned perfectly and the moon tracked through the sky in the proper way.

Cheers, and thanks for looking!

Lunar Eclipse Sequence over Arch Rock, Joshua Tree National Park, April 2014

Astrophotography and Night Scapes, Desert, Joshua Tree, Panoramas

The lunar eclipse of April 14 and 15, 2014 was a wonderful event to see. I went up to Joshua Tree National Park to photograph it for two reasons. First, the weather forecast in the high desert was for clear skies and, for the most part, the skies were indeed cloudless and very dark throughout the night. Second, I was fairly sure I could find several locations around the park to setup my cameras (leaving them unattended) and let them record the entire lunar eclipse, from the moment the moon entered the penumbra and began to be shadowed by the Earth until it was full lit again, including the dramatic blood red coloration when the moon is fully eclipsed. The moon was going to be due south of my position at the peak of the eclipse — I knew this thanks to The Photographer’s Ephemeris — so I selected a few locations that offered a nice composition facing due south and shot away. This image depicts the eclipse occuring in stages to the south of the White Tank campground area, with Joshua Tree’s interesting Arch Rock on the east side of the composition. (It follows the first full eclipse sequence I presented a week ago.)

Lunar Eclipse and blood red moon sequence over Arch Rock, planet Mars above the moon, composite image, Joshua Tree National Park, April 14/15 2014

Lunar Eclipse and blood red moon sequence over Arch Rock, planet Mars above the moon, composite image, Joshua Tree National Park, April 14/15 2014.
Image ID: 29201

Note: this image is both a panorama and a composite. The panorama spans over 180 degrees left to right, and is centered roughly SSE. I lit the arch with a remote-triggered tripod mounted flash to the right, hidden behind a rock. The panorama, depicting stars after astronomical twilight but before the full eclipse peaked, is composed of 8 frames. Planet Mars is the brightest “star” above the arc of moon stages and the blue star Spica can be seen just below and to the right of the eight moon image from the left. This image is a composite and the moon is a little larger than it appeared to the eye. The moon was exposed separately from the stars in order to control for the fact it was much brighter than the stars and to better present the detail and color of the moon itself.

Cheers, and thanks for looking!

Lunar Eclipse Blood Red Moon Sequence over Joshua Tree National Park

Astrophotography and Night Scapes, Desert, Joshua Tree

This is the first of my photographic efforts shooting the lunar eclipse the evening of April 14/15 2014. I spent the entire night out under the stars in Joshua Tree National Park, where I often shoot when looking for clear skies and stars at night. I photographed several compositions and locations within the park that evening, leaving my cameras out photographing unattended, but this is the one that caught my eye first. The rocks in the background are lit early in the evening by the rising moon when there is still some daylight blue left in the sky above, while the Joshua Tree itself is lit by my flashlight. There are some faint, short star trails in the blue sky but they are difficult to discern on this web version. The individual phases of the eclipse were photographed from 10:45pm through 2:45am, and are positioned in the proper locations and orientations in the sky but have been enlarged to illustrate how the illumination on the moon changes during the course of an eclipse and as it passes through the sky. I was fortunate that the sky remained clear enough throughout the entire eclipse that I could shoot quality images of all phases until the eclipse was done.

Lunar Eclipse and blood red moon sequence, stars, astronomical twilight, composite image, Joshua Tree National Park, April 14/15 2014

Lunar Eclipse and blood red moon sequence, stars, astronomical twilight, composite image, Joshua Tree National Park, April 14/15 2014.
Image ID: 29202
Location: Joshua Tree National Park, California, USA

This image is available immediately as a print or for licensing, along with two other lunar eclipse sequence photographs from the April 14-15, 2014 full eclipse. Please contact me for more information. Cheers and thanks for looking!

A few photographic notes and how I planned to take this image:

I realized beforehand that this lunar eclipse would be characterized by a symmetry that made illustrating its path through the sky a natural. The “peak” of the eclipse, when the moon is furthest within the umbra (shadow) of the Earth, occurred almost due south of my location which meant it would also occur at the highest point along the path the moon took through the sky.

The beginning and ending of the eclipse took place 67 degrees apart horizontally. To include the entire sequence in one image but without being wasteful of space at the left and right of the composition, I choose to use a focal length close to 20mm giving me a lateral field of view of 82 degrees. The inclination of the moon at the point of peak eclipse was 45 degrees above the horizon, which also worked well for a 20mm lens since it offers a vertical field of view of 62 degrees, enough to include some foreground below the horizon and space above the path of the moon. (I used the Photographer’s Ephemeris to figure the angles out as well as the due-south direction of the peak eclipse point.)

In order to have the composition pre-set correctly hours before the eclipse began, I used a compass to make sure it was aimed directly south (thanks REI for showing me how to correct for magnetic declination in southern California, otherwise I would have been off by about 10 degrees!). Once I choose my spot in what I call “Queen’s Valley” in JTNP, an area dense with healthy, tall, picturesque Joshua Trees and interesting rocks, I then did a kind of human protractor thing with my arms to make convince myself the moon’s path would go above the tree but below the top of my field of view. I locked the camera down on the tripod, waited for dusk and had a beer. I second guessed myself until the moon finally reached the left edge of the frame in what looked like a perfect position. The geometry worked out about right! (I could have done this image entirely without worrying about the angles, assembling things pell-mell later in Photoshop, but I really wanted to get as much of it correct in the camera as possible.)

I used an intervalometer to cause the camera to take photos every few minutes. I did a little light painting as the night went on, but the base frame I liked the most occurred about 70 minutes after sunset, with the moon out of frame to the left. The moon illuminated the background rocks nicely and complimented the light painting I did on the tree.

Palm Canyon Brittlebush

Desert, Wildflowers

This brittlebush photo, at dawn in Palm Canyon in Anza Borrego Desert State Park, was one of only a handful of desert wildflower photos I made last year. It is raining again, the second bout of rain the coast of Southern California has received this week. This is on the heels of much rain earlier in the winter. The pattern of precipitation that we have received this winter — lots of rain in early and mid-winter, followed by a few more lighter storms in Jan/Feb/Mar — oftens sets up a great desert wildflower bloom. It is no guarantee of course, just favorable conditions and increased odds. Importantly, unlike the front that came through earlier in the week, yesterday and last night’s system had enough push to get over the mountains and reach the desert. It could provide that last bit of moisture that the sprouting seeds and young plants need to reach maturity and spread out, which should really help the bloom this year. I’ve got my fingers crossed and am hoping to squeeze out a day or two to take a look for flowers soon and make a visit to my favorite desert wildflower spots.

Brittlebush at sunrise, dawn, springtime bloom, Palm Canyon, Anza Borrego Desert State Park, Encelia farinosa, Anza-Borrego Desert State Park

Brittlebush at sunrise, dawn, springtime bloom, Palm Canyon, Anza Borrego Desert State Park.
Image ID: 24301
Species: Brittlebush, Encelia farinosa
Location: Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, Anza Borrego, California, USA

Cholla cactus, sunrise, dawn, Palm Canyon, Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, Opuntia, Anza Borrego, California

Cholla cactus, sunrise, dawn, Palm Canyon, Anza-Borrego Desert State Park.
Image ID: 24305
Species: Cholla cactus, Opuntia
Location: Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, Anza Borrego, California, USA

Henderson Canyon Road Dune Evening Primrose

Desert, Wildflowers

Its raining now. If the deserts to the east of us get some of this moisture, it should bode very well for the wildflower season. We received a lot of rain in November and December. When this occurs, typically all that is needed is another moderate rain or two in January or February to really make the desert wildflower bloom flourish. I’ve got my fingers crossed.

This is a cluster of dune evening primrose, my favorite desert wildflower. This was made along Henderson Canyon Road in Anza-Borrego Desert State Park. It is quite possible that we will never see such displays on Henderson Canyon Road again, due to the recent spreading of invasive Saharan mustard that is unfortunately now carpeting much of the state park. Henderson Canyon Road used to be one of the “go to” places to see spectacular wildflower displays in Anza Borrego. I suspect those days are over.

Dune primrose blooms in spring following winter rains.  Dune primrose is a common ephemeral wildflower on the Colorado Desert, growing on dunes.  Its blooms open in the evening and last through midmorning.  Anza Borrego Desert State Park, Oenothera deltoides, Anza-Borrego Desert State Park

Dune primrose blooms in spring following winter rains. Dune primrose is a common ephemeral wildflower on the Colorado Desert, growing on dunes. Its blooms open in the evening and last through midmorning. Anza Borrego Desert State Park.
Image ID: 20467
Species: Dune Primrose, Dune Evening Primrose, Oenothera deltoides
Location: Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, Anza Borrego, California, USA