Tag

Desert

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

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

Mesa Arch Sunrise and Night under the Milky Way, Canyonlands National Park, Utah

Canyonlands, Utah

Icon alert: this post is about Mesa Arch, a major icon which many now scorn and avoid as a subject of landscape photography, and which is known to have the crowd these days.

I’ve photographed a few icons over the past 30 years, although many of them are underwater and so the landscape buyers probably don’t even think of them as icons, or even think of them at all. Mesa Arch is one of the landscape icons. It’s hard to break new “visionary ground” at a place like Mesa Arch, of which hundreds or thousands of photographs are made each day, almost all of them within a short of period of +/- 20 minutes of sunrise. I first visited Mesa Arch in the 90s, and first made a meaningful photograph of Mesa Arch in 2007. Standing on the arch with arms spread, enjoying the cold winter sunrise in solitude while hovering over a yawning canyon, I made an image that ended up taking a first in a national competition and has since been licensed a number of times, paying for the trip several times over. It has a serious flaw in it that I somehow overlooked at the time I shot it — no, its not the model in the shot — but nobody has really mentioned it when they have looked at the high res. I’m glad I was using the Canon 1DsII for all my photography at the time, since the resolution of that mainly studio and fashion camera has held up well over the years, and the sharpness of the Canon fisheye with which I took the shot will cut fingers if one is not careful.

Mesa Arch, Utah.  An exuberant hiker greets the dawning sun from atop Mesa Arch. Yup, that's me, Island in the Sky, Canyonlands National Park

Mesa Arch, Utah. An exuberant hiker greets the dawning sun from atop Mesa Arch. Yup, that’s me.
Image ID: 18036
Location: Island in the Sky, Canyonlands National Park, Utah, USA

When I decided to return to Arches and Canyonlands a few years ago, I wanted to make a different image of Mesa Arch, one that I had thought about for a while: the Milky Way arcing over Mesa Arch. So I did it. Getting the lighting the way I wanted it was a challenge, and stitching the resulting very-wide image without distortion affecting it took some time, but in the end I was very happy with the result. I used a mix of equipment brands in order to produce the highest quality image I could: a Canon 5D Mark III which was new at the time and exhibited great image quality at high ISO settings, combined with the Nikon 14-24 lens, then and still the best all-purpose wide landscape and astrophotography lens available. I believe this image was the first of its kind at Mesa Arch at the time it was made, and the composition has since been repeated a number of times, especially in the last year with its burgeoning interest in astrophotography and the popularity of the online image duplication factories 500px and Flickr.

Panorama of the Milky Way over Mesa Arch, Canyonlands National Park, Utah

Panorama of the Milky Way over Mesa Arch.
Image ID: 27824
Location: Mesa Arch, Canyonlands National Park, Utah, USA

The Milky Way arching over Mesa Arch at night, Canyonlands National Park, Utah

The Milky Way arching over Mesa Arch at night.
Image ID: 27827
Location: Mesa Arch, Canyonlands National Park, Utah, USA

During those years I had never seen another person at Mesa Arch. Not at night, not at sunrise, not during the middle of the day. I had heard rumors about the crowd from other photographers, and as pros changed from providing images to providing travel services and workshops in the early 2000’s, I heard the comments more and more: the testy workshop groups and solo photogs with crossed-up tripod legs all hoping to get one for the bucket list, the rock climbing hipsters wanting to walk the span of the arch just when the light was good, and the busloads of foreigners making a 10 day whirlwind tour of the entire southwest while allotting just 30 minutes to see Mesa Arch at the moment of sunrise before running off to Arches for the rest of the morning. I knew someday I would encounter the crowd and kind of wondered about how it would be. My expectation was that the crowd would be a bummer but given these are our public lands — shared lands to which we are all equally entitled — and that we all are tourists (including photogs) at a place like this, I figured it was just something to be endured and hopefully would be fun.

Last month a buddy and I spend 5 days in the Moab area running around with our cameras, shooting some night images, making a few hikes, and seeing the icons. It was great! We did make a few new night images to be proud of, and photographed a couple icons along with everyone else … including Mesa Arch, the classic morning shot which I had never really made before. I do get requests for a sunrise image of Mesa Arch. I’m not sure why I get such requests, since there are many photographers who have this in their stock files and can provide a beautiful print. But I wanted to make sure I could fulfill such requests, so I photographed the arch with two cameras (Nikon 14-24 and Nikon fisheye) in order to provide a couple alternatives.

Mesa Arch Sunrise, Canyonlands National Park, Utah

Mesa Arch Sunrise, Canyonlands National Park, Utah
Image ID: 29304
Location: Mesa Arch, Canyonlands National Park, Utah, USA

Garry McCarthy and I arrived at the arch first that morning, but my record of having solitude at Mesa Arch was soon broken: about 30 other people eventually arrived to enjoy the spectacular view. So now I’ve experienced the crowd the Mesa Arch, and it was not a bad thing. Everyone wanted to see the same magic light illuminate the underside of the arch, glimpse Washer Woman Arch in the distance, and feel the dizzying vertiginous pull of the cliffs just a few feet in front of us. I heard a number of accents and languages all expressing excitement when the sunlight hit the rocks, and joy when they realized their camera had captured the scene nicely. It was a great morning.

The Eyes of Utah – Natural Arches and the Milky Way

Arches, Astrophotography and Night Scapes, Utah

The Eyes of Utah? I think these two images look like “eyes”, at least to my eyes they do. The first one sort of looks like an evil serpent’s eye, while the second resembles a whale’s eye. (If you have never seen a whale up close, you’ll just have to trust me on that one.) Both of these arches are in Utah and are depicted here framing the Milky Way galaxy (“our” galaxy). My buddy Garry and I spent a long weekend photographing the night sky around Moab, Utah recently and these were two of my favorite images from the effort. We had to time our photography for when the Milky Way would be in the best position, since it rotates through the sky during the course of the night and can be anywhere from SE early in the evening to SW toward dawn. In each case I lit the surrounding arch with a bit of light to give some relief to the rocks. If you like these, check out my updated gallery of Arches National Park images, or my collection of Landscape Astrophotography. Cheers and thanks for looking!

Milky Way and Stars through Wilson Arch. Wilson Arch rises high above route 191 in eastern Utah, with a span of 91 feet and a height of 46 feet, Moab

Milky Way and Stars through Wilson Arch. Wilson Arch rises high above route 191 in eastern Utah, with a span of 91 feet and a height of 46 feet.
Image ID: 29275
Location: Wilson Arch, Moab, Utah, USA

Milky Way through North Window, Arches National Park

Milky Way through North Window, Arches National Park
Image ID: 29277
Location: North Window, Arches National Park, Utah, USA

Photo of Devil’s Golf Course, Death Valley National Park

California, Death Valley, Desert, National Parks

The Devil’s Golf Course is a curious assemblage of crystalline salt shapes spread over a large swath of the Death Valley salt pan. This saltpan, which is the lowest point in Death Valley National Park, and indeed the western hemisphere, holds a small amount of subsurface moisture. This water is extremely salty and briny, a result of the accumulation of minerals that were left behind when the 30-foot-deep Holocene-era lake disappeared (the accumulation continues with each year’s winter rains). Capillary action draws the subsurface moisture upward. As the water evaporates, it leaves behind salt crystals that form myriad fantastic shapes. The growth is quite slow, perhaps as little as one inch every 35 years. Wind friction and seasonal flooding of the area during winter storms erodes or reshapes the salt crystal forms, and the process continues.

Devils Golf Course, California.  Evaporated salt has formed into gnarled, complex crystalline shapes in on the salt pan of Death Valley National Park, one of the largest salt pans in the world.  The shapes are constantly evolving as occasional floods submerge the salt concretions before receding and depositing more salt

Devils Golf Course, California. Evaporated salt has formed into gnarled, complex crystalline shapes in on the salt pan of Death Valley National Park, one of the largest salt pans in the world. The shapes are constantly evolving as occasional floods submerge the salt concretions before receding and depositing more salt.
Image ID: 15582
Location: Devils Golf Course, Death Valley National Park, California, USA

Devils Golf Course, California.  Evaporated salt has formed into gnarled, complex crystalline shapes in on the salt pan of Death Valley National Park, one of the largest salt pans in the world.  The shapes are constantly evolving as occasional floods submerge the salt concretions before receding and depositing more salt

Devils Golf Course, California. Evaporated salt has formed into gnarled, complex crystalline shapes in on the salt pan of Death Valley National Park, one of the largest salt pans in the world. The shapes are constantly evolving as occasional floods submerge the salt concretions before receding and depositing more salt.
Image ID: 15596
Location: Devils Golf Course, Death Valley National Park, California, USA

Devils Golf Course, California.  Evaporated salt has formed into gnarled, complex crystalline shapes in on the salt pan of Death Valley National Park, one of the largest salt pans in the world.  The shapes are constantly evolving as occasional floods submerge the salt concretions before receding and depositing more salt

Devils Golf Course, California. Evaporated salt has formed into gnarled, complex crystalline shapes in on the salt pan of Death Valley National Park, one of the largest salt pans in the world. The shapes are constantly evolving as occasional floods submerge the salt concretions before receding and depositing more salt.
Image ID: 15613
Location: Devils Golf Course, Death Valley National Park, California, USA

Photo of Zabriskie Point, Death Valley National Park

California, Death Valley, Desert, National Parks

Zabriskie Point in Death Valley offers a great view from the Funeral Mountains, across curious gullies of sedimentary rock and packed mud that comprise the badlands below Zabriskie Point, to the floor of salt-pan floor of Death Valley and the Panamint Range in the distance. It is especially striking at sunrise, so much so that photographers have made it a must-take photo during their first visit to Death Valley. Manly Beacon rises in the midst of the panorama, its striped contours testament to the tilted layers of sediment of which it is formed.

Rainbow and clearing storm clouds, sunrise light on Manly Beacon, Zabriskie Point, Death Valley National Park, California

Rainbow and clearing storm clouds, sunrise light on Manly Beacon, Zabriskie Point, Death Valley National Park, California.
Image ID: 27660
Location: Zabriskie Point, Death Valley National Park, California, USA

Full moon over Zabriskie Point landscape, Death Valley National Park, California

Full moon over Zabriskie Point landscape
Image ID: 28676
Location: Zabriskie Point, Death Valley National Park, California, USA

Venus sets over Manley Beacon and the Panamint Mountains, viewed from Zabriskie Point, landscape lit by a full moon, evening, stars, Death Valley National Park, California

Venus sets over Manley Beacon and the Panamint Mountains, viewed from Zabriskie Point, landscape lit by a full moon, evening, stars
Image ID: 28677
Location: Zabriskie Point, Death Valley National Park, California, USA

Zabriskie Point, sunrise.  Manly Beacon rises in the center of an eroded, curiously banded area of sedimentary rock, with the Panamint Mountains visible in the distance, Death Valley National Park, California

Zabriskie Point, sunrise. Manly Beacon rises in the center of an eroded, curiously banded area of sedimentary rock, with the Panamint Mountains visible in the distance.
Image ID: 15585
Location: Zabriskie Point, Death Valley National Park, California, USA

Zabriskie Point photos

Sand Dunes, Death Valley National Park

California, Death Valley, Desert, National Parks

Death Valley National Park‘s most accessible sand dunes are just a few miles down the road from Stovepipe Wells, in the center of Death Valley. 14 acres of sand dunes, rising several hundred feet high in places, lie about a quarter mile from the road. While there is no official trail from the roadside parking area to the dunes, you cannot miss them. Just set out on foot from your car in the direction of the dunes that look most interesting and walk for a while. Gradually the brush and vegetation gives way to pure sand and you are there. It is easy to find your own space out here, away from others, among the valleys that lie between the dunes. Sunrise and sunset are the times to walk among the dunes, it gets too hot during midday. Night finds noctural animals roaming the dunes, such as the kangaroo rat and sidewinder. The morning visitor will see cool animal tracks on the dunes, tracks that gradually disappear as the sands shift in the days breezes. If I took my kids to these dunes I would bring a boogie board or big cardboard boxes to let them slides down the steep sides of the biggest dunes.

Tiny hikers atop Sand Dunes in Death Valley National Park, California.  Near Stovepipe Wells lies a region of sand dunes, some of them hundreds of feet tall

Tiny hikers atop Sand Dunes in Death Valley National Park, California. Near Stovepipe Wells lies a region of sand dunes, some of them hundreds of feet tall.
Image ID: 15577
Location: Stovepipe Wells, Death Valley National Park, California, USA

Mesquite Dunes sunrise, dawn, clouds and morning sky, sand dunes, Stovepipe Wells, Death Valley National Park, California

Mesquite Dunes sunrise, dawn, clouds and morning sky, sand dunes.
Image ID: 28689
Location: Stovepipe Wells, Death Valley National Park, California, USA

Eureka Dunes.  The Eureka Valley Sand Dunes are California's tallest sand dunes, and one of the tallest in the United States.  Rising 680' above the floor of the Eureka Valley, the Eureka sand dunes are home to several endangered species, as well as "singing sand" that makes strange sounds when it shifts.  Located in the remote northern portion of Death Valley National Park, the Eureka Dunes see very few visitors

Eureka Dunes. The Eureka Valley Sand Dunes are California’s tallest sand dunes, and one of the tallest in the United States. Rising 680′ above the floor of the Eureka Valley, the Eureka sand dunes are home to several endangered species, as well as “singing sand” that makes strange sounds when it shifts. Located in the remote northern portion of Death Valley National Park, the Eureka Dunes see very few visitors.
Image ID: 25250
Location: Eureka Dunes, Death Valley National Park, California, USA

Sand Dunes, California.  Near Stovepipe Wells lies a region of sand dunes, some of them hundreds of feet tall, Death Valley National Park

Sand Dunes, California. Near Stovepipe Wells lies a region of sand dunes, some of them hundreds of feet tall.
Image ID: 15576
Location: Stovepipe Wells, Death Valley National Park, California, USA

Ripples in sand dunes at sunset, California.  Winds reshape the dunes each day.  Early morning walks among the dunes can yield a look at sidewinder and kangaroo rats tracks the nocturnal desert animals leave behind, Stovepipe Wells, Death Valley National Park

Ripples in sand dunes at sunset, California. Winds reshape the dunes each day. Early morning walks among the dunes can yield a look at sidewinder and kangaroo rats tracks the nocturnal desert animals leave behind.
Image ID: 15607
Location: Stovepipe Wells, Death Valley National Park, California, USA

Photo of Badwater, Death Valley National Park

California, Death Valley, Desert, National Parks

Badwater is the lowest point in Death Valley National Park, at 282 feet below sea level. Indeed, it is the lowest point in the entire western hemisphere. The Badwater Basin is the catch point for 9000 square miles of drainage, however, there is typically little water here except following winter rains, since the water evaporates quickly. When it does, it leaves behind a saline, crusty, flat white playa made up of almost pure table salt and stretching for miles — a bizarre place. Evaporation is most extreme in Death Valley: a 1.9 inch annual rainfall is exceeded by evaporation potential of 150 inches per year, enough to scorch a 12 foot deep lake to dust in just 12 months. The water that does manage to persist here is the motivation for the place’s name, for it is a salty, warm, nasty swill which you are advised not to drink. A small, specialized species of fish, the Death Valley pupfish, somehow manages to eke out an existence in these waters. Rising above the parking area are some of the oldest rocks in Death Valley, 1.7 billion (with a b) year old Precambrian volcanic and sedimentary rock layers that have metamorphosed into gneiss. Perched 282 feet up the cliff face is a sign marking sea level. If you visit, be sure to walk out onto the playa, not just a hundred yards or so but far enough that the other visitors and their cars become specks. Admire the sheer white horizon stretching in all directions, the Panamint Mountain and Black Mountain ranges the form the walls of the valley, and the blue sky. Hear the silence as your feet crackle and crunch the salt upon which you walk. Feel the air wick the sweat off your skin. Feel your throat become dry. Squint. Nice. Now back to the car and air conditioning.

Badwater, California.  Badwater, at 282 feet below sea level, is the lowest point in North America.  9000 square miles of watershed drain into the Badwater basin, to dry and form huge white salt flats, Death Valley National Park

Badwater, California. Badwater, at 282 feet below sea level, is the lowest point in North America. 9000 square miles of watershed drain into the Badwater basin, to dry and form huge white salt flats.
Image ID: 15579
Location: Badwater, Death Valley National Park, California, USA

Badwater, California.  Badwater, at 282 feet below sea level, is the lowest point in North America.  9000 square miles of watershed drain into the Badwater basin, to dry and form huge white salt flats, Death Valley National Park

Badwater, California. Badwater, at 282 feet below sea level, is the lowest point in North America. 9000 square miles of watershed drain into the Badwater basin, to dry and form huge white salt flats.
Image ID: 15580
Location: Badwater, Death Valley National Park, California, USA

Badwater, California.  Badwater, at 282 feet below sea level, is the lowest point in North America.  9000 square miles of watershed drain into the Badwater basin, to dry and form huge white salt flats, Death Valley National Park

Badwater, California. Badwater, at 282 feet below sea level, is the lowest point in North America. 9000 square miles of watershed drain into the Badwater basin, to dry and form huge white salt flats.
Image ID: 15595
Location: Badwater, Death Valley National Park, California, USA

Self portrait on salt pan, Death Valley National Park, California

Self portrait on salt pan.
Image ID: 15621
Location: Death Valley National Park, California, USA

Photo of Desert Bighorn Sheep

California, Desert, Wildlife

The Desert Bighorn Sheep (Ovis canadensis nelsoni) found in southwestern California, is a subspecies of the North American desert bighorn sheep that occupies the rocky and arid Mojave and Senoran deserts of the American southwest and northern Mexico.

Desert bighorn sheep, male ram.  The desert bighorn sheep occupies dry, rocky mountain ranges in the Mojave and Sonoran desert regions of California, Nevada and Mexico.  The desert bighorn sheep is highly endangered in the United States, having a population of only about 4000 individuals, and is under survival pressure due to habitat loss, disease, over-hunting, competition with livestock, and human encroachment, Ovis canadensis nelsoni

Desert bighorn sheep, male ram. The desert bighorn sheep occupies dry, rocky mountain ranges in the Mojave and Sonoran desert regions of California, Nevada and Mexico. The desert bighorn sheep is highly endangered in the United States, having a population of only about 4000 individuals, and is under survival pressure due to habitat loss, disease, over-hunting, competition with livestock, and human encroachment.
Image ID: 14651
Species: Desert bighorn sheep, Ovis canadensis nelsoni

Desert bighorn sheep, male ram.  The desert bighorn sheep occupies dry, rocky mountain ranges in the Mojave and Sonoran desert regions of California, Nevada and Mexico.  The desert bighorn sheep is highly endangered in the United States, having a population of only about 4000 individuals, and is under survival pressure due to habitat loss, disease, over-hunting, competition with livestock, and human encroachment, Ovis canadensis nelsoni

Desert bighorn sheep, male ram. The desert bighorn sheep occupies dry, rocky mountain ranges in the Mojave and Sonoran desert regions of California, Nevada and Mexico. The desert bighorn sheep is highly endangered in the United States, having a population of only about 4000 individuals, and is under survival pressure due to habitat loss, disease, over-hunting, competition with livestock, and human encroachment.
Image ID: 14653
Species: Desert bighorn sheep, Ovis canadensis nelsoni

The desert bighorn sheep prefers steep, rocky mountainsides that afford them a view with which to view approaching predators, for their eyesight is excellent. They are hardy animals that can survive without water during the winter, provided there is green vegetation to be found. Male desert bighorn sheep (rams) have huge spiraling horns, used to batter other rams during courtship and mating contests over access to females (ewes).

More desert bighorn sheep photos