Thursday, November 16, 2017

No Fishing!

We had some very pretty skies during a recent visit to our local park. As you may have guessed, we're home (not visiting the desert) for these shots. I happened to notice the skies before heading over to the park so I grabbed my DSLR with wide angle lens on the way out the door, and glad I did!

Here's my granddaughter riding her bike over the "no fishing" bridge, with my wife in the background. This man made cement "lake" is only a couple feet deep. The park stocks it with fish (catch and release only), and they don't want people fishing off the bridge.

A perfect spot to sit and watch the moon rise!

 Reflected sunset.

 My personal favorite from the evening.

I took this pretty shot of the moon nestled in the clouds after we got home from the park and I could grab my telephoto lens. Hope your week was a good one!

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Thursday, November 9, 2017

Desert Storm

Well, not the Desert Storm. I was looking through my photo files and thinking about what to post this week when I came across some shots I took a little over a month ago. They are some of my all-time favorite sky shots, and they darn near slipped through the cracks because I thought I already posted them! Anyway, we were out in the desert during one of those very rare rainstorms. The sky around our house was a dull gray and totally uninspiring. I decided to drive into Joshua Tree National Park, thinking the skies would likely be the same dull gray, and with the rain, I probably wouldn't even get out of the car. Boy, was I wrong!

As I headed into the Park through the 29 Palms entrance, the sky did look dull and gray to the west. To the south, things looked more interesting, and I could see some patches of blue. So I headed south on Pinto Basin Rd., exited at Stirrup Tank Rd., parked, and could hardly believe my luck!
Big, swooping clouds; beautiful late afternoon light; pink mist where rain was falling on the horizon; and even some patches of blue. It doesn't get much better than this!

Does it make for superior sky shots if you hike to the top of a big rock formation and get closer to the clouds?? I'm not sure, but we could go ask that guy. Do you see him? I was hearing thunder booms and remember thinking that standing on top of that rock formation might not be such a great idea!

 Easier to see him in this photo and the next.

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Thursday, November 2, 2017

Halloween Moon!

A perfect night for trick-or-treating! Mild temperatures, a nearly full-moon, and lots of ghosts and goblins out searching for candy. I had fun taking my 5 year old granddaughter (and for a while, my daughter and grandson in a stroller) around the neighborhood. My granddaughter is at such a fun age... really excited, but at the same time, just a little scared to walk up to some of the houses with scary decorations.
My granddaughter (left), daughter, and grandson (stroller) off to find our first house for a trick-or-treat visit.

Very first house of the evening. My granddaughter looks a little concerned... "what am I supposed to say again, Grandpa??" Oh yes, trick-or-treat!!

A pretty Halloween moon was visible most of the night. I shot all these photos with a fisheye lens. No tripod, no flash. Set the ISO high (3200) and clicked away! DSLR cameras are so amazing!!

 Hmmm... do I dare go up those stairs???

Yikes!! If I can just get by this zombie while I hold tight to grandpa's hand!!!

Halloween moon!

Joshua Tree moon.

Are you a fan of old 1950's sci fi? My granddaughter likes to watch this one with me, especially when we are out at the desert. The movie is called Them!, and it's about radioactive fallout from testing atomic bombs in the desert causing some kind of genetic mutation resulting in giant ants. The movie kicks off with a little girl (close in age to my granddaughter) found wandering among the joshua trees in a state of shock after her family is attacked by giant ants. It looks like it was filmed locally, perhaps in the Joshua Tree area. We watched it earlier this week to get in the mood for Halloween, and I couldn't resist taking this photo of the TV screen using my iPhone. Fun stuff! If you celebrate Halloween, I hope you had a good one!!

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Thursday, October 26, 2017

Twin Tanks

Twin Tanks is an area in Joshua Tree National Park I've been wanting to explore for some time. It has special significance to me. A handful of years ago, my wife and I bought a little homestead cabin on 5 acres that we fixed up and listed on Airbnb. The property has two large water tanks (back in the days before city water, you either had to have a well or have water hauled in and put in tanks). I liked the history and vintage look of the old water tanks so we built a platform, put the tanks up on top, and named our little slice of heaven "Twin Tanks". Here's what they look like.
"Twin Tanks"
To this day I'm not sure if the name popped into my head because I had seen the sign in JTNP for Twin Tanks. Just a lucky coincidence I guess!
Turn right at the moon!!
Let me start by saying that my friend Pat Tillett just posted on Twin Tanks, so please check it out by clicking here. The two of us have a hike planned to visit this area again in a couple weeks, so more to follow!

I finally hiked the area for the first time about a month ago. Early in my hike I sprained my ankle (click here for the gory details from my last post). Below you can see my hiking track (blue line). You might notice I don't hike in a straight line. That's because I'm always getting side-tracked looking for the next great photo! I'm guessing all of us photographers hike in weird, jagged patterns like this.

I won't be making the 35 mile hike today!

Above is the sign you see next to the parking lot. So why do they call it Twin Tanks? Glad you asked! You might recall a "tank" out here in Joshua Tree is a term used for an area that catches water. There are natural tanks, made by boulder dams or large depressions in boulders, and there are man made tanks. Twin Tanks has two man made tanks. To my knowledge, they are not named. I'll refer to them as "Cupule Tank" and "Barker Tank" (not to be confused with Barker Dam). Hopefully the reason will become clear and make sense as we go on!

There is no trail to the Twin Tanks area. It's recommended to take a compass reading and head 245 degrees from the parking area. There are also supposed to be some large quartz rocks on top of a hill that are very near the Tanks and give you a visual reference to hike towards. As it turned out, I couldn't make out the quartz rocks until I got fairly close to them. Thank goodness for GPS and waypoint markers!
Do you see the quartz rocks? We're actually very close to them at this spot, just up the hill. But good luck seeing these rocks at the start of the hike. I wasn't able to use them as a visual reference until later.
There they are!!

These large white quartz boulders are very freaky looking and one of the highlights of the hike. They absolutely look like they don't belong here. They totally stand out in contrast to all the other rock formations in the area. My theory is they were placed here by aliens and they have magical powers. There are likely more scientifically objective explanations out there, but I'm sticking with aliens!
Look closely at the photo above for the quartz boulders on top of the hill. Over the eons, it looks like a few of the boulders have tumbled down the hillside. It would take a lot to move these guys, as they are big! 

Ta Daaa!! Made it to the top of "quartz mountain", with some beautiful views and a closer look at the alien rock formation (sprained ankle and all). I know the Twin Tanks must be close by.

Next to the big quartz boulders is this area covered by small, eroded quartz. Perhaps there were quartz boulders here at one time but over many years eroded away? Or perhaps there were quartz boulders here that rolled down the hillside after a large earthquake thousands of years ago? Or perhaps the aliens... no, let's not go there.

Somewhere near the quartz boulders I found this cool rock formation. It looks very much like it could have been used by Native Americans as a shelter. Let's take a closer look.

This spot has definitely been used as a shelter and has soot on the rocks from past fires. By the looks of it, there have been many fires over the years. But how to tell if they are recent or date back to Native American times? Or it could easily have been both, used by Native Americans first and later by ranchers and modern day hikers. Way beyond my area of expertise, but fascinating anyway.

One last shot of the shelter. I didn't notice it at the time, but after viewing this photo on my computer, I can see what looks like an old fire ring covered up by a bush. Wish I would have noticed it during the hike so I could have taken a closer look!

As I hiked around a corner... finally, Twin Tank #1 (AKA, Cupule Tank).
Of the two tanks, Cupule Tank is the more impressive. You can see the stone dam pretty well in this shot. Even more impressive is the natural tank area below the dam and also those little dots on the rock surface on the right.

Here's a better shot of the little "dots" etched into the rock. They are called "cupules", and are perhaps the oldest form of petroglyphs. Pretty cool, right? For a more complete discussion of cupules by someone who actually knows what they are talking about, check out Patrick Tillett: Twin Tanks Post 1.

A closer shot of "Cupule Tank" dam.

I noticed an iron strap attached to the rock wall on one side with a piece of wood on the other. According to Pat Tillett's blog, there used to be several of these attached to a wooden "deck". The deck is long gone but the iron straps can still be seen. I can imagine a deck being very handy as a way to access the water in the natural tank below the dam. But that's just a guess as to how it might have been used.

Tank #2 (Barker Tank) is not far from Cupule Tank, may be a 1/4 mile at most. It's smaller and unimpressive for the most part.
It was likely more impressive back in the day, but has filled up with sand over the years. 

One cool thing about this tank is the signature: C. O. Barker, of Barker Dam fame. Barker was an early cattleman who used this area as open range (prior to it becoming JTNP) back when rainfall was more plentiful. With the small amount of rain we get these days, it's hard to imagine livestock surviving the harsh summers of JTNP.

Not a great photo because I had to shoot into the sun, but the water has carved out some really interesting small "tank" areas downstream from "Barker Tank". Like the area behind Cupule Tank dam, it looks like these deep rocky indentations would hold quite a bit of water. Even in late summer, I could see areas where animals have been digging in areas of moist sand.

This is turning into an overly-long post, so let me close out with a couple of pretty sky shots. There will be more to follow on this fascinating area!
 Can you spot the quartz rocks? Very visible from this spot.

Addendum: The tragic story of the two young hikers that had been missing in JTNP for almost 3 months that I mentioned last week? A really strange twist to the story. The news last week reported the hikers had been found, locked in an embrace, in a remote area. Then a few days later the twist nobody expected: Both hikers died of gunshot wounds. The news reports speculate that it might have been an act of compassion. The young man killed the young lady, then himself. Likely they were out of water, out of food, hopelessly lost, suffering, and they knew the end was near. Perhaps an act of compassion, but it also makes me wonder why someone would go on a hike with a loaded weapon? Here's a link to a more recent article: Joshua Tree Hike Couple.
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