Morning in the California Desert
I love the “tortured landscape” of Joshua Tree National Park. Under the right light it can range from dramatic to alien with just a touch of the surreal. On this particular morning the soft diffused morning light was pretty consistent, so it was not necessary to work quickly to catch that quickly vanishing moment of perfect light. I took advantage of these conditions to spend more time composing the photographs.
The luxury of time
With lighting conditions like they were on particular this morning, it can extend the “Golden Hour” of the sunrise into what I like to call the “Bolden Hour” with a mix of gold and blue daylight. After spotting this interesting rock formation, I decided it would look good backlit by the colors of the distant mountains and sky. The composition attempts to balance that large rock formation, which is a heavy element on the right, with the rock outcropping that I was standing on in the lower left. The colors of the background help balance the panoramic image out. Also, it was a particularly beautiful landscape.
Hiking further into the desert led me to this vista just as the sun was peeking through the clouds and falling delicately on the rocks. The composition here was made by positioning the camera close to the edge of the rock formation in the foreground and using its diagonal edge to match up with the other elements to create a sort of “S” Curve that leads to the patch of red in the sky just along the horizon.
Sometimes you stumble on a scene that not only begs to be photographed, but it is also a natural composition. In this case, the foreground with the small gully and lines etched into the rocks provided a perfect set of leading lines to a particularly nice Joshua Tree rock formation. Because the light was diffused by the clouds and showed no signs of changing, I had the time to play with the composition by shooting the scene vertically, horizontally and from different camera angles. What worked the best was this horizontal image with the camera close to the ground. This both highlighted the foreground and partially eliminated the less interesting middle ground.
The light just didn’t quit
The sun played hide and seek with the clouds all day. On a hike later on in the day, I photographed some remote locations deep in Joshua Tree National Park’s back country under some particularly nice soft light.
If you want the popular attractions at Joshua Tree to yourself, wake up early. If you get out before the tourists and the rock climbers are awake, you will have those places to yourself along with the bonus of seeing them under the beautiful desert morning light.
Technical Note: Triangles are a strong compositional element. Using them in your photographs will create much more visually interesting images. Can you find the triangles in these images?