Category

California

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

Paradise in February: San Diego

San Diego

President’s Weekend was nice here. The rest of the country is freezing, yup that’s pretty bad. Southern California is in the midst of a bad drought and our Sierra Nevada is missing its usual snowpack which is going to hurt in the coming months, but at least the warm winter makes for clear skies and very nice temps. Here are a couple photos from President’s Day’s weekend, all depicting a few of my favorite scenes and all including the Pacific Ocean which was flat calm and glassy much of the time. Cheers and thanks for looking.

Broken Hill and view to La Jolla, panoramic photograph, from Torrey Pines State Reserve, sunrise, San Diego, California

Broken Hill and view to La Jolla, panoramic photograph, from Torrey Pines State Reserve, sunrise
Image ID: 30469
Location: Torrey Pines State Reserve, San Diego, California, USA

Gray whale raising fluke before diving, on southern migration to calving lagoons in Baja, Eschrichtius robustus, San Diego, California

Gray whale raising fluke before diving, on southern migration to calving lagoons in Baja.
Image ID: 30463
Species: Gray whale, Eschrichtius robustus
Location: San Diego, California, USA

Gray whale raising fluke before diving, on southern migration to calving lagoons in Baja, Eschrichtius robustus, San Diego, California

Gray whale raising fluke before diving, on southern migration to calving lagoons in Baja.
Image ID: 30464
Species: Gray whale, Eschrichtius robustus
Location: San Diego, California, USA

California Brown Pelican head throw, stretching its throat to keep it flexible and healthy. Note the winter mating plumage, olive and red throat, yellow head, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus, La Jolla

California Brown Pelican head throw, stretching its throat to keep it flexible and healthy. Note the winter mating plumage, olive and red throat, yellow head.
Image ID: 30449
Species: Brown Pelican, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus
Location: La Jolla, California, USA

Surf and spray during Santa Ana offshore winds, San Diego, California

Surf and spray during Santa Ana offshore winds
Image ID: 30461
Location: San Diego, California, USA

The Original Wind Surfers: Pelicans, Waves and Surf

Birds, Pelicans, San Diego

Wikipedia describes the origins of wind surfing in the 1940s and 1950s. It couldn’t be more wrong. For as long as they have existed, sea birds and their ancestors have plied the oceans, riding the updrafts of surf, waves and sea swells to gain efficiency and a free ride. My favorite practitioner of this skill is the pelican, although the wandering albatross is a close second. I have been watching pelicans cruise the coastline of my southern California home with a graceful effortlessness my whole life. This winter I made it a goal to shoot some images of brown pelicans surfing and skimming waves. Here are a few of my favorites, photographed in Carlsbad, Encinitas, Del Mar and La Jolla. Cheers, and thanks for looking!

California Pelican flying on a wave, riding the updraft from the wave, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus

California Pelican flying on a wave, riding the updraft from the wave.
Image ID: 30257
Species: Brown Pelican, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus

Brown pelican flying over waves and the surf, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus, La Jolla, California

Brown pelican flying over waves and the surf.
Image ID: 30199
Species: Brown Pelican, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus
Location: La Jolla, California, USA

California Pelican flying on a wave, riding the updraft from the wave, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus

California Pelican flying on a wave, riding the updraft from the wave.
Image ID: 30262
Species: Brown Pelican, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus

California Pelican flying on a wave, riding the updraft from the wave, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus

California Pelican flying on a wave, riding the updraft from the wave.
Image ID: 30275
Species: Brown Pelican, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus

Brown pelican flying over waves and the surf, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus, La Jolla, California

Brown pelican flying over waves and the surf.
Image ID: 30193
Species: Brown Pelican, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus
Location: La Jolla, California, USA

California Brown Pelican flying over a breaking wave, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus, La Jolla

California Brown Pelican flying over a breaking wave
Image ID: 30353
Species: Brown Pelican, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus
Location: La Jolla, California, USA

California Pelican flying on a wave, riding the updraft from the wave, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus

California Pelican flying on a wave, riding the updraft from the wave.
Image ID: 30277
Species: Brown Pelican, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus

Brown pelican flying over waves and the surf, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus, La Jolla, California

Brown pelican flying over waves and the surf.
Image ID: 30194
Species: Brown Pelican, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus
Location: La Jolla, California, USA

California Pelican flying on a wave, riding the updraft from the wave, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus

California Pelican flying on a wave, riding the updraft from the wave.
Image ID: 30278
Species: Brown Pelican, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus

California Brown Pelican flying over a breaking wave, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus, La Jolla

California Brown Pelican flying over a breaking wave
Image ID: 30364
Species: Brown Pelican, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus
Location: La Jolla, California, USA

California Brown Pelican flying over a breaking wave, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus, La Jolla

California Brown Pelican flying over a breaking wave
Image ID: 30374
Species: Brown Pelican, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus
Location: La Jolla, California, USA

California Pelican flying on a wave, riding the updraft from the wave, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus

California Pelican flying on a wave, riding the updraft from the wave.
Image ID: 30273
Species: Brown Pelican, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus

California Pelican flying on a wave, riding the updraft from the wave, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus

California Pelican flying on a wave, riding the updraft from the wave.
Image ID: 30314
Species: Brown Pelican, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus

California Brown Pelican flying over a breaking wave, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus, La Jolla

California Brown Pelican flying over a breaking wave
Image ID: 30352
Species: Brown Pelican, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus
Location: La Jolla, California, USA

California Pelican flying on a wave, riding the updraft from the wave, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus

California Pelican flying on a wave, riding the updraft from the wave.
Image ID: 30264
Species: Brown Pelican, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus

I photograph brown California brown pelicans (Pelecanus occidentalis). If you like these, please see more California brown pelican photos or a little PDF e-guide about photographing California brown pelicans in La Jolla.

La Jolla Birds

Birds, La Jolla

La Jolla birds as of this morning. I had until 8:45 before catching the end of Sarah’s practice so I went down the coast highway. There were some waves in Encinitas but nothing special. Spectacular clearing mist at Torrey Pines at sunrise. In La Jolla the light changed much and often, wisps of fog passing just to the east in front of the sun. There was no workshop or crowd at the bird spot this morning which meant lots of birds and whisper quiet. Pelicans are at peak plumage, the cormorants have quite a ways to go. All in all a great morning. All photos are handheld with Canon 200-400. Cheers and thanks for looking!

Brown pelican portrait, displaying winter plumage with distinctive yellow head feathers and red gular throat pouch, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus, La Jolla, California

Brown pelican portrait, displaying winter plumage with distinctive yellow head feathers and red gular throat pouch
Image ID: 30409
Species: Brown Pelican, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus
Location: La Jolla, California, USA

California Brown Pelican head throw, stretching its throat to keep it flexible and healthy. Note the winter mating plumage, olive and red throat, yellow head, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus, La Jolla

California Brown Pelican head throw, stretching its throat to keep it flexible and healthy. Note the winter mating plumage, olive and red throat, yellow head.
Image ID: 30413
Species: Brown Pelican, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus
Location: La Jolla, California, USA

Brandt's cormorant, La Jolla, California

Brandt’s cormorant
Image ID: 30418
Location: La Jolla, California, USA

Brandt's cormorant, La Jolla, California

Brandt’s cormorant
Image ID: 30419
Location: La Jolla, California, USA

Brown pelican portrait, displaying winter plumage with distinctive yellow head feathers and red gular throat pouch, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus, La Jolla, California

Brown pelican portrait, displaying winter plumage with distinctive yellow head feathers and red gular throat pouch
Image ID: 30420
Species: Brown Pelican, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus
Location: La Jolla, California, USA

Stars, A Galaxy and … Wind Turbines?

Astrophotography and Night Scapes, California, San Diego

On a lark one evening in 2014, my buddy Garry McCarthy and I headed out to the desert to do some night photography with only one caveat: try someplace new (in other words, not Joshua Tree again). We headed east and somewhat south with sort of a plan but really it was mostly the blind leading the blind. Eventually we got on spot, broke out the lights and flashed them around while clicking away with the cameras and what followed was one of the most industrial, industrious and unconventional photography sessions I’ve had. Thanks to Garry’s mad lighting skillz acquired on many landscape astrophotography trips, we came away with some creative and fun images. How big are these wind turbines? About 250′ tall at the rotor’s axle, and another 185′ for the blade, for a total reach of 435′ above ground. Pretty damn big! Cheers, and thanks for looking!

Ocotillo Wind Energy Turbines, at night with stars and the Milky Way in the sky above, the moving turbine blades illuminated by a small flashlight

Ocotillo Wind Energy Turbines, at night with stars and the Milky Way in the sky above, the moving turbine blades illuminated by a small flashlight.
Image ID: 30239
Location: Ocotillo, California, USA

Ocotillo Express Wind Energy Projects, moving turbines lit by the rising sun,

Ocotillo Express Wind Energy Projects, moving turbines lit by the rising sun,
Image ID: 30248
Location: Ocotillo, California, USA

Stars rise above the Ocotillo Wind Turbine power generation facility, with a flashlight illuminating the turning turbine blades

Stars rise above the Ocotillo Wind Turbine power generation facility, with a flashlight illuminating the turning turbine blades
Image ID: 30227
Location: Ocotillo, California, USA

Ocotillo Express Wind Energy Projects, moving turbines lit by the rising sun,

Ocotillo Express Wind Energy Projects, moving turbines lit by the rising sun,
Image ID: 30246
Location: Ocotillo, California, USA

Ocotillo Express Wind Energy Projects, moving turbines lit by the rising sun,

Ocotillo Express Wind Energy Projects, moving turbines lit by the rising sun,
Image ID: 30242
Location: Ocotillo, California, USA

Stars rise above the Ocotillo Wind Turbine power generation facility, with a flashlight illuminating the turning turbine blades

Stars rise above the Ocotillo Wind Turbine power generation facility, with a flashlight illuminating the turning turbine blades
Image ID: 30224
Location: Ocotillo, California, USA

Lunar Eclipse Photo Sequence, October 8 2014

Astrophotography and Night Scapes, California, San Diego

Lunar Eclipse Sequence Over Broken Hill, Torrey Pines State Reserve. While the moon lies in the full shadow of the earth (umbra) it receives only faint, red-tinged light refracted through the Earth's atmosphere. As the moon passes into the penumbra it receives increasing amounts of direct sunlight, eventually leaving the shadow of the Earth altogether. October 8, 2014, San Diego, California

Lunar Eclipse Sequence Over Broken Hill, Torrey Pines State Reserve. While the moon lies in the full shadow of the earth (umbra) it receives only faint, red-tinged light refracted through the Earth’s atmosphere. As the moon passes into the penumbra it receives increasing amounts of direct sunlight, eventually leaving the shadow of the Earth altogether. October 8, 2014.
Image ID: 29412
Location: Torrey Pines State Reserve, San Diego, California, USA

I have made a few photographic sequences of lunar eclipses, including several of the total lunar eclipse of April 15 2014 (version 2, version 3). I wanted to do something similar for the October 8 2014 lunar eclipse, but did not have the freedom to go photograph out in the desert where the air was likely to be clear. On the evening of the eclipse conditions were iffy, and down on the beach the air was heavy and wet so the pier was out — it was on the verge of turning to fog. Up on the mesas above and inland from the beach the air was much clearer and drier but still the shooting looked iffy, I was not sure the eclipse would even be visible. As it turned out I was able to get the images for which I was hoping, although things were not as clear as I probably would have found in the desert.

My planning for the eclipse was something like this: the penumbral phase of eclipse was to begin at 2:15am at 227 degrees on the compass and inclination of 53 degrees. Full eclipse would begin at 3:25 (245 degrees, 41 degree inclination) and end at 4:24am (256 degrees, 30 degree inclination). The penumbral phase would end at 5:34 (266 degrees, 16 degree inclination). This meant the “rectangle” that the path of the eclipse would take through the sky was roughly 40 degrees horizontally (left to right on the compass) and spanned a vertical inclination of about 37 degrees. I figured a lens with about 24mm of focal length, or a little more, held in portrait orientation — which covers approximately 73 degrees vertically and 53 degrees horizontally would work well, since it would allow for some foreground and would cover the entire left-right travel of the moon with room to spare on all sides. Mind you this may sound like some sort of complicated math but in truth a few minutes with The Photographer’s Ephemeris and a few notes on the back of a VISA envelope were all that was required to set up the plan for that night. The “center” of the eclipse would be at a compass angle of about 250 degrees, so I setup my camera in that direction, configured it to shoot periodic bracketed images all night long using an intervalometer, and crossed my fingers the sky would remain clear for the two and a quarter hours that the eclipse would happening.

I also shot individual images of the eclipsing moon with 560mm of focal length — the Canon 200-400 f/4 lens with built-in 1.4x teleconverter turned out to be perfect for this, and I periodically used live focus to ensure the moon was as sharp as possible. That lens, coupled with good focus and a good sensor, can really resolve a lot. I composited these sharp and detailed moon images onto the best single image of the “background” in the location and orientation in which the moon travelled across the sky. They appear about twice as large as the moon actually appeared in the original wide-angle photographs. I was a little surprised to find the path was slightly convex (relative to the ground) as in my previous south-facing sequences the path was strongly concave, but then realized after looking at the star trails of the images from that night that indeed this was the proper path of the stars and moon. I was facing only about 20 degree south of west and Polaris was about 110 degrees to the right. All heavenly objects have an apparent rotation about that one star, leading to the path of the moon you see here. The following image is a huge (12000 x 12000) mosaic of the sequence, with some impressive detail in the moon including some visible lunar mountains when the sun was just skimming the edge of the moon in some of the frames. The frames I found the most interesting, and challenging to expose, are those were there is still direct sunlight case upon the moon while at the same time some of the “blood red moon” coloration is beginning to appear in the shadowed area of the moon. The moon is yellower at the end of the sequence than it is at the beginning — at the beginning it is high in the sky and the optical path passed through relatively little atmosphere, but toward the end of the sequence the moon was nearly setting and the optical path passed through much more atmosphere, affecting the “color temperature” of the moon and rendering it with a yellowish hue. (Hue: does anyone actually use that word in conversation?)

Lunar eclipse sequence. While the moon lies in the full shadow of the earth (umbra) it receives only faint, red-tinged light refracted through the Earth's atmosphere. As the moon passes into the penumbra it receives increasing amounts of direct sunlight, eventually leaving the shadow of the Earth altogether. October 8, 2014

Lunar eclipse sequence. While the moon lies in the full shadow of the earth (umbra) it receives only faint, red-tinged light refracted through the Earth’s atmosphere. As the moon passes into the penumbra it receives increasing amounts of direct sunlight, eventually leaving the shadow of the Earth altogether. October 8, 2014.
Image ID: 29411

Cheers, and thanks for looking!

Surfer’s View of Scripps Pier Perfect Sunset, Solar Alignment, La Jolla

San Diego

Twice each year, the sun sets perfectly centered in the long thin window of the Scripps Research Pier pilings. Photographing this event is frankly rather formulaic and straightforward, to the point that people pack the narrow space on the shore between the pier pilings well before the sunset to ensure they have a “spot” when the sun lines up. It’s not a secret photo op nor is it spontaneous, but it is a striking and fleeting sight to see. I met a couple photographer buddies for one of the lineup evenings in 2013 and managed to photograph it reasonably well: Scripps Pier Sunset Perfect Solar Alignment, La Jolla, San Diego, California. This year I gave the matter some thought and realized I just couldn’t bring myself to do the same photo over again, especially with the crowd that forms. How to do it differently and with at least a modicum of spontaneity and physical challenge?

Scripps Pier solstice, surfer's view from among the waves, sunset aligned perfectly with the pier. Research pier at Scripps Institution of Oceanography SIO, sunset, La Jolla, California

Scripps Pier solstice, surfer’s view from among the waves, sunset aligned perfectly with the pier. Research pier at Scripps Institution of Oceanography SIO, sunset.
Image ID: 30150
Location: Scripps Institution of Oceanography, La Jolla, California, USA

After pondering it for a while I realized leaving the shore was really the only option. I spent three afternoons recently photographing the pier using one of my water cam setups — a custom-made surf housing for my Canon 5D Mark III — along with a few pieces of simple but secret equipment to make it all possible. Shooting it from the surfline is pretty tough, the pier does not move of course but the water moves and thus so do I. The sun is only centered below the far end of the pier for a short while, perhaps 30 seconds or less, and getting the camera reasonably high up off the water while positioning the pilings where I wanted them and keeping them vertical was tougher than I thought I would be. The nice part was that even though the solar alignment that makes these sunsets special only really occurred one of the three evenings (and was probably not properly aligned had I been shooting from the shore), it was still great to get wet and enjoy the surf and I landed some new views of the pier I have known since 1981 (ok, including the older pier and this new one). This photograph was the image from that effort with which I am happiest; it seems to capture dark shadows that settle under the pier rapidly as the sun disappears, the thin pastel colors in the clouds, and rapidly moving wavelets of water reverberating through the pilings. Cheers, and thanks for looking!

Ancient Bristlecone Pine Trees and the Night Sky Milky Way

White Mountains

If you like this, please see my Gallery of Ancient Bristlecone Pine Tree Photos or my Gallery of Milky Way Photos.

These ancient bristlecones are two of the more iconic in the world. They stand on an eastern slope in the White Mountains in a clearing with few other trees nearby. I am fairly certain the foreground tree — which has been photographed by thousands of photographers — is dead. It has a beautiful, gnarled, twisted shape and is quite imposing. The living bristlecone (Pinus longaeva) in the background is my favorite in this area, and one of the most beautiful of the old but living bristlecones anywhere along the White Mountains crest. It was the subject of the first milky way photograph (after many attempts) with which I was really happy, made alongside buddy Garry McCarthy in 2012. The evening I made this particular photographs brought a fast changing mix of light, with clearing storm clouds that alternately moved through the scene and then opened up to reveal stars. I timed my visit specifically for this one night since I knew the lunar phase would balance moonlight with starlight and lend a little bit of detail to the surrounding landscape, something that is more difficult to achieve on the new moon. I’ll post a few more from that night in the coming days. Cheers and thanks for looking!

Stars and the Milky Way over ancient bristlecone pine trees, in the White Mountains at an elevation of 10,000' above sea level. These are some of the oldest trees in the world, some exceeding 4000 years in age, Pinus longaeva, Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest, White Mountains, Inyo National Forest

Stars and the Milky Way over ancient bristlecone pine trees, in the White Mountains at an elevation of 10,000′ above sea level. These are some of the oldest trees in the world, some exceeding 4000 years in age.
Image ID: 29407
Species: Bristlecone Pine, Pinus longaeva
Location: Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest, White Mountains, Inyo National Forest, California, USA

Ancient Bristlecone pine trees (Pinus longaeva) live in a relatively restricted area of eastern California, Nevada and Utah, typically at altitudes above 9500′. The ancient bristlecone pine tree is considered to be the world’s oldest species of tree (and indeed the world’s oldest sexually reproducing, nonclonal lifeform). A number of individual bristlecone pine trees are known to exceed 4000 years of age; the “Methuselah tree” in the Schulman grove was estimated to be 4838 years old in 2006. These extraordinarily hardy, gnarled and lonely trees are best seen in the White Mountains of the Inyo National Forest in California. These photos were taken in the Patriarch Grove and the Schulman Grove, two exemplary groves that can be accessed by car. A few new images below and in my gallery of bristlecone pine tree photos were taken on a clear spring night with the Milky Way spread across the sky — it was a moving and serene experience being around such old trees with the heavens spread so dramatically above.

Ancient bristlecone pine trees live at extremely high altitudes. In some regions, the lower treeline for bristlecone pines exceeds the upper treeline for all other species. Bristlecone forests often occur in areas where there is a strong carbonate content (limestone, dolomite and/or marble). In these barren, remote mountain areas, exposure to constant wind, excessive sun and bitter cold has molded the trees into remarkably gnarled, twisted shapes that have captured the interest of photographers and artists for years.

The trees do not grow tall — 60′ is about the tallest — but tend to be girthy with a wide base and roots that splay outward in all directions. Ancient bristlecone pine trees grow very slowly, and pine needles are infrequently dropped with some living for 30 years. Pinus longaeva has evolved a few strategies that yield such a long lifespan. Their wood is extraordinarily dense, and full of resin, making it nearly impossible for invasive bacteria and insects (what few there are in that inhospitable climate) to bore into and damage the wood. Bristlecone pines also tolerate a gradual dieback of their bark, in such a way that old specimens may have only a small amount of living bark. While the tree may appear dead or nearly so, this is actually an advantage as it lessens the bulk of living material the root system and crown must support. In some old trees, a thin strip of bark a foot or less in size is enough to support a healthy specimen.

Ancient bristlecone wood is so resistant to decay, and occurs in such an arid and cold environment, that fallen pieces dating back 8000+ years have been found in some groves. These pieces have been used in the calibration of the radiocarbon time-dating method, a technique which is employed in a broad range of scientific disciplines.

Please see my gallery of ancient bristlecone pine tree photos. Thanks for looking!