Category

Joshua Tree

Milky Way and Moon at Night, Shooting Star, Comet Panstarrs, Panorama, Joshua Tree National Park

Astrophotography and Night Scapes, Joshua Tree, Panoramas

Joshua Tree National Park, Milky Way and Moon, Shooting Star, Comet Panstarrs, Impending Dawn.

This panorama of Joshua Tree National Park was made at astronomical twilight during International Dark Sky Week recently (last week). Some slight blue color from the impending dawn appears behind and to the left of the moon. Comet Panstarrs appears tiny just above the horizon in the left half of the image. The moon is a 20% crescent and still nearly overwhelms the night sky with its brightness. A shooting star appears to the right of the moon. The orange glow on the horizon is light pollution from the distant cities of Joshua Tree (left) and Palm Desert (right). This image will print 30″ x 80″ with no uprezing. If you like this, please check out more Astrophotography Landscape photos, an area of photography I have been working on hard for the last few years. Cheers and thanks for looking!

Joshua Tree National Park, Milky Way and Moon, Shooting Star, Comet Panstarrs, Impending Dawn

Joshua Tree National Park, Milky Way and Moon, Shooting Star, Comet Panstarrs, Impending Dawn.
Image ID: 28408
Location: Joshua Tree National Park, California, USA

Milky Way Rising Over Joshua Trees

Astrophotography and Night Scapes, California, Joshua Tree

Joshua Tree National Park is the closest National Park to my home, so I visit it several times each year. It is a desert park, arid and sometimes quite hot, and given its proximity to Los Angeles it can be crowded on weekends which makes exploring Joshua Tree National Park at night an appealing option. Summer and fall evenings are usually quiet, still and warm, making night photography in shorts and sandals a piece of cake. I have taken thousands of photographs (many of them quite bad) of the bizarre and charming Joshua Tree (Yucca brevifolia) forests that span the park. This image is one of my favorites, showing the trees reaching toward the Milky Way galaxy far above. If you like this image, please see my website devoted to my full collection of Landscape Astrophotography images. Thanks for looking, and cheers!

The Milky Way Galaxy shines in the night sky with a Joshua Tree silhouetted in the foreground, Joshua Tree National Park, California

The Milky Way Galaxy shines in the night sky with a Joshua Tree silhouetted in the foreground.
Image ID: 27805
Location: Joshua Tree National Park, California, USA

Juniper, Rock and Star Trails, Joshua Tree National Park

Astrophotography and Night Scapes, Joshua Tree

I made a brief trip up to Joshua Tree National Park recently with Garry McCarthy to do some night photography. In Southern California it is difficult to find night skies that are clear enough for productive night photography and heading east to the desert with its dry air and relative lack of light pollution is usually the answer. We arrived about midnight. We had previously decided upon this composition of a standing rock and small juniper, so the challenge was not where to go in the dark park but rather to figure out how to compose the two elements in such a way that the passage of the stars across the night sky would be revealed in the image. I elected to combine several elements: the foreground tree and rock painted with a small light, trails created by stars transiting the sky above, a faint static star field illustrating some of the countless stars over us, and a bit of lightening blue in the sky hinting at the coming dawn. If you liked this, please take a look at more photographs of Joshua Tree National Park as well as my growing collection of nightscapes and astrophotography landscape photographs. Thanks for looking!

Juniper and star trails, Joshua Tree National Park, California

Juniper and star trails.
Image ID: 27720
Location: Joshua Tree National Park, California, USA

Nature’s Best Windland Smith Rice: Giants Marbles at Dusk, Joshua Tree National Park, California

Joshua Tree

Giant’s Marbles, Joshua Tree National Park, California.

This is the second of three images I had that were Highly Commended in this year’s Windland Smith Rice photography competition.*

I made this photograph in Joshua Tree National Park just as the sun was setting, at a series of granite boulders that is quite popular (being near one of the campgrounds). The sun had already left the first of the Giant’s Marbles in shadow in front of me, but the warm light was still kissing to the topmost Marble perched atop the rocks. These nearly spherical marbles are natural anchors for any landscape photo of this boulder group, and indeed one sees various compositions of these rocks in many landscape photographers’ portfolios. This is my rendition. Thanks for looking!

Boulders and sunset in Joshua Tree National Park.  The warm sunlight gently lights unusual boulder formations at Jumbo Rocks in Joshua Tree National Park, California

Boulders and sunset in Joshua Tree National Park. The warm sunlight gently lights unusual boulder formations at Jumbo Rocks in Joshua Tree National Park, California.
Image ID: 26720
Location: Joshua Tree National Park, California, USA

* I was fortunate to have three of my photographs receive Highly Honored recognition in this years Windland Smith Rice photography competition sponsored by Nature’s Best Photography. The first was a photo of photographer Garry McCarthy working in the Virgin River Narrows in Zion National Park. . 21,000 images were entered in the competition, 500 made it to the final round of judging and 131 were winners or highly honored and appeared in the most recent issue of Nature’s Best Photography magazine. I am crossing my fingers that one of mine will also be featured as part of the competition’s six-month exhibition next year at the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History in Washington D.C.

Heavenly Arch on EarthShots

Astrophotography and Night Scapes, Icons, Joshua Tree

I made a spur-of-the-moment trip with Garry McCarthy to do some night-time photography. We were pretty sleep-deprived by the time we were done, jacked up on coffee and then having to drive several hours home as the sun was just rising, but I managed to make four or five images with which I am happy. This one, a self-portrait with the Milky Way rising above a natural stone arch upon which I am standing, was selected as the EarthShots photo of the day today. Garry realized the possibility of an arch-over-arch and really was the one who conceived the overall composition. I added myself to the image to add some scale to the image as well as tension between the star field and the ground. We took a variety of similar frames including many in which the arch is lit but, upon editing the images back home, this is the one that stood out as my sentimental favorite.

The Milky Way galaxy arches over Arch Rock on a clear evening in Joshua Tree National Park

The Milky Way galaxy arches over Arch Rock on a clear evening in Joshua Tree National Park.
Image ID: 26792
Location: Joshua Tree National Park, California, USA

You can see the EarthShots.org version too. The image above is similar in some ways to another arch self portrait I made a few years ago.

Natural History Photography with Infrared Light

California, Infrared, Joshua Tree, Sierra Nevada

I have recently taken to shooting infrared photos while I am out on photo excursions. The motivation for me is that, if I can easily and inexpensively produce a different type of photo from what I normally shoot, all the while not affecting my ability to shoot traditional color photos, then why not give it a try. The upside is that I might produce a few more quality, interesting images. The downside is that if the effort may be an abject failure, but if it does not cost me much in time or money then the risk is acceptable.

For instance, while I was tooling around the Bishop Creek watershed photographing fall colors, I took along my Panasonic Lumix LX3 that has been converted to shoot true infrared. What this means is that I can whip this tiny but high quality camera out of my pocket and blast off some infrared shots spontaneously. Infrared photography using external infrared-pass filters on a conventional digital camera typically requires long exposure times and a tripod, making for cumbersome shooting. However, if the camera is modified internally to allow only infrared light to reach the sensor, then long exposure times are no longer required, and one can shoot infrared photos handheld. This really makes having an infrared camera along sensible and productive. Several companies exist to perform these modifications, and they are reasonably inexpensive. Plus, you can always have them convert the camera back to visible light again (for a fee) if you don’t like the results. Probably the most popular cameras for infrared conversation right now are the Canon G9/G10 (and soon to be G11) line, but I prefer the wider angle of the Lumix LX3 so I bought a second one and had it infrared-converted. This particular image comes from the Table Mountain area, when the late afternoon sun was dropping behind the cliffs, leaving much of the hillside in shadow but the aspens in side light.

Aspen trees in fall, eastern Sierra fall colors, autumn, Populus tremuloides, Bishop Creek Canyon, Sierra Nevada Mountains

Aspen trees in fall, eastern Sierra fall colors, autumn.
Image ID: 23320
Species: Aspen, Populus tremuloides
Location: Bishop Creek Canyon, Sierra Nevada Mountains

Here is another example I was quite happy with, a single Joshua Tree framed against a deep black, cloud-free, mid-morning sky. In this case, having an infrared camera along allowed me to shoot longer than I would normally have done. The light in Joshua Tree is really only good for about 30-60 minutes after sunrise, beyond that it is too harsh to shoot good images. However, the harsher and stronger the light becomes, the greater the amount of infrared light that is reflected by certain subjects such as plants. For this reason, infrared photography is usually at its best — in midday — when visible light photography is often at its worst. The two compliment one another well.

Joshua tree, sunrise, infrared, Yucca brevifolia, Joshua Tree National Park, California

Joshua tree, sunrise, infrared.
Image ID: 22888
Species: Joshua tree, Yucca brevifolia
Location: Joshua Tree National Park, California, USA

I’m pretty happy with my little infrared-converted LX3 and its ability to shoot quick and reasonably high-quality infrared images. (Not to mention that we love our regular LX3 for snapshots and family photos.) However, I should mention there are some limitations to shooting infrared this way. The optics of todays digital cameras are designed for visible light, in particular, the wavelengths of light in the visible spectrum and how they pass through lens glass-air and glass-glass interfaces. Infrared light passes through the lens and into the sensor in a somewhat different way than visible spectrum light. I have found that this manifests in images that are softer than one would expect with visible light, and are sometimes prone to a vague “hot-spot” in the center of the image. The hot-spot seems to be in the blue color channel only, in my experience with the LX3, and only presents when the lens is at its widest angle (24mm-equivalent). By zooming in even a little bit, the hot-spot issue is alleviated. From the information I have read on some of the internet infrared photography websites, I think other cameras may exhibit both of these issues (soft focus, hot spots) as well but I am not sure as I have only used the LX3 in infrared. I believe the hot spot is a property of the camera sensor and the angle at which the light reaches the sensor, while the soft focus (most notably corner softness) is a characteristic of the optics and their transmission of light (infrared) in wavelengths quite different from those for which the lens was designed (visible). Usually I pull out either the red or green color channel to produce a black-and-white image, so the hot spot in the blue channel is not a great problem, but in those images in which I think I want the blue channel I just zoom in a little and all seems to be well. Also, the hotspot is not present in all images, it seems to have something to do with the direction of the sun and how intensely the subjects in the center of the image are reflecting infrared. Image softness is a property of infrared photography in general, and seems to me to be ameliorated somewhat by the strong contrast that infrared images typically have. In other words, the strong black-white contrast of an infrared image seems to more than make up for the soft detail, when the image is viewed as a whole.

Like this? Here are more infrared photos.

Keywords: infrared, joshua tree, yucca brevifolia, aspen, populus tremuloides.

Infrared Joshua Tree National Park

Infrared, Joshua Tree, National Parks, Photography

I shot these this morning during a quick trip to Joshua Tree National Park. I was totally uninspired for “regular” photography this morning, and the light was not that great anyway due to high winds and dust from the night before. But the little pocket infrared camera made some interesting “alternative” images. Here are two that I kept:

Joshua tree, sunrise, infrared, Yucca brevifolia, Joshua Tree National Park, California

Joshua tree, sunrise, infrared.
Image ID: 22888
Species: Joshua tree, Yucca brevifolia
Location: Joshua Tree National Park, California, USA

Unidentified yucca or agave, sunrise, infrared, Yucca brevifolia, Joshua Tree National Park, California

Unidentified yucca or agave, sunrise, infrared.
Image ID: 22889
Species: Joshua tree, Yucca brevifolia
Location: Joshua Tree National Park, California, USA

Star Field and Joshua Trees

Astrophotography and Night Scapes, California, Joshua Tree, National Parks

I got a new camera that is rumored to have very good low light performance. So I took it out last night to test it on the Milky Way Galaxy. While the skies were not as clear as I would have liked, I did get a sense for how it will work for night photos. It should be pretty good on evenings with clear skies and good seeing.

The Milky Way Galaxy shines in the night sky with a Joshua Tree silhouetted in the foreground.  The lights of Palm Springs glow on the horizon, Yucca brevifolia, Joshua Tree National Park, California

The Milky Way Galaxy shines in the night sky with a Joshua Tree silhouetted in the foreground. The lights of Palm Springs glow on the horizon.
Image ID: 22202
Species: Joshua tree, Yucca brevifolia
Location: Joshua Tree National Park, California, USA

Joshua Tree National Park Sunrise

California, Joshua Tree, National Parks

On Thanksgiving morning I made a quick sunrise run into Joshua Tree National Park. Fortunately the Starbucks near my mom’s in La Quinta opens at 5am so I was fully caffeinated for the drive. I got into my favorite part of the park about 45 minutes before sunrise, parked and walked for a while away from the road. It was very still. The only sounds I heard were a few birds and a distant rock fall. I took this photo just as the sun peeked above the distant hills.

Sunrise in Joshua Tree National Park, Yucca brevifolia

Sunrise in Joshua Tree National Park.
Image ID: 22100
Species: Joshua tree, Yucca brevifolia
Location: Joshua Tree National Park, California, USA

See more Joshua Tree National Park photos.