Thursday, October 28, 2021

White Tank Campground

 Well, I finally did it. I had been thinking about buying a newer camera body. My old Canon 5D II is really beat up from years of use out in the desert. It's been my trusty partner for a long time, and a wonderful camera, but it hit the market in 2005. That's really old in camera years. I bought a used Canon 5D IV, which reached the market in 2016, so 11 years newer. I really wondered if I would notice any difference in the quality of my photos. Lots of people say it's the "glass", not the body, that really matters.

I was driving down Pinto Basin Road in Joshua Tree National Park, anxious to try out my new (to me) camera, and was surprised to see that the campground was closed. This is one of the busier campgrounds in the park, but it was a hot summer evening in July, and the demand for camping goes way down in the hottest months. I drove about 1/2 mile further up the road to a turn-out and parked the Jeep.
The photo above was actually one of my last photos of the evening, but I'm showing it first to show you that the campground was closed, and also because it pushes the limits of the camera. The photo was take on Saturday, July 24, at 9:40PM. That's not a typo... 9:40PM! It was nearly dark, and I was without a tripod. I bumped up the ISO to 1250, f4.5, 1/50th of a second. It's a very usable photo, with almost no noise and decent focus. I couldn't have done this with my old camera. There would have been more noise for sure!

Wandering around the rocks at the White Tank Campground, I came across the White Tank Dam. It's one of two dams built in the area (the second is called Grand Tank) by the old ranchers that used to keep livestock here. I'd never seen it before, and it's interesting that there is a hole broken out in the bottom of the dam. I'm guessing the Park Service doesn't want it to become a swimming hole after a rain!
Luck was really with on this night. With the campground closed, I was the only person exploring the area. I had the White Tank rocks all to myself! Not only that, but I had a nice moonrise. For the above photo, I had to take two shots... one focused on the rocks, and the second focused on the moon, and then blended them in Photoshop.
Hiking along a wash, I came around a corner and came face to face with this cute little guy (girl?). They normally scamper away quickly, but not this one. He just watched me and didn't move. Might have been my imagination, but he seemed to be saying "It's just too dang hot, and I don't have the energy to run away!"
This boulder looks precarious. Would you walk under it??
Pretty golden light on the boulder. But what really caught my eye was the lack of spines on this small Joshua tree. Something had chewed most of them off. I rarely see that, and an animal has to be pretty desperate to eat Joshua tree spines. It's been one of our driest years on record, and the animals are hurting.
Does anyone else see a goose or duck with its head down?? This is called Arch Rock, and it's the most photographed arch in the park. It's always crowded, which is why I never come here. But today, having the place to myself, I could concentrate on framing and perspective. From this angle, it looks like a goose. If I had my way, I would rename it Goose Arch!

Arch Rock is a beautiful arch. Unless you're really tall, you can stand underneath the arch without bending over.

The wizard of White Tank!
Looks like it's going to be an epic sunset, but you will need to wait for my next post to see the rest of the photos from this outing!
My very last photo of the evening. Driving out of the park, down Utah Trail towards 29 Palms, the sky was this incredible shade of red. I had to pull over and take the shot (remember... no tripod). Camera settings: f 5.6, 1/10 sec, ISO 2500. Amazingly sharp for 1/10 sec., and impressive lack of noise for ISO 2500. Yup, I'm liking this new camera body!
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Linking with Skywatch Friday.
Oh, and Happy Halloween if you celebrate it!!

Thursday, October 21, 2021

Joshua Tree Frames and Sunbursts

 I was out hiking Boy Scout Trail in Joshua Tree recently on one of those perfectly beautiful blue sky days. The sun was low on the horizon and I found myself looking for opportunities to add to my sunburst photo collection.
F22, 1/60 sec, ISO 125
You might recall that sunbursts are best created when the sun is partially obscured by a solid object (like the rocky surface in the photo above) and the aperture is stopped down (f22 in the photo above). It's fun and easy to do, and makes for a more interesting shot.
You can also get a pretty good sunburst by simply shading out part of the sun using the branch of a tree... in this case, a Joshua tree.
Interesting rock formation
It feels like I'm being watched! A short guy with a bushy mustache?

The two photos above are typical views along the Boy Scout Trail.
I also wanted to get some practice using Joshua tree branches as a natural photo frame, and to add interest and texture. In the photo above, the Joshua tree branch certainly adds texture. Getting in close and personal with these branches can be hazardous to your health if you're not careful!
Here's one of my favorites where the Joshua trees make a nice frame.

It seemed as if no Joshua tree was safe from me trying to coerce an interesting photo perspective. But a couple of them had their revenge, giving me good pokes with their spiny fingers!
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Stay healthy & stay safe!!
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Thursday, October 14, 2021

Indigenous Peoples Day

 Indigenous Peoples Day was on October 11 (which was the day I started working on this post), and it reminds me that the Original People were here long before us. By all accounts, they were much more in tune with nature... its cycles, its inner workings, and its overall health. Many Most of my hikes in Joshua Tree National Park have a goal of seeing a cultural site. Trying to locate and photograph most of the major cultural sites in the Park has become somewhat of a passion of mine. With that in mind, let's go see if we can find a couple of smaller sites that a friend told me about. He was a little vague on location, and wasn't really sure if there was any rock art (it had been a long time since he had hiked the area), but he seemed to recall something at the sites.
It was a cool, breezy day, with pretty clouds overhead. Even if I don't find any rock art, it's a beautiful day for a hike. As is my usual practice, some of these photos are nowhere near the sites we will be visiting, and I will do my best to keep locations ambiguous.

I love those clouds!

This looks promising! It's pretty close to the location my friend said he thought there might be some rock art. Can you see it? Definitely some etched petroglyphs, but I also see some reddish color, which means there may be some faded pictographs as well. On closer inspection...
Straight out of the camera
Color enhanced using dStretch. With dStretch, the faint red color takes on more specific shapes, and there is no doubt that there are both pictographs and petroglyphs at this site. The site is within a nicely recessed alcove. It's a very comfortable place to get out of the sun and wind, and to sit and ponder those who were here before us.
Looking out from the alcove. This place has a nice, relaxing, and friendly feel to it. I would like to stay longer, but it's time to move on.
Site #2 will take some time to find, so I need to get a move on. I can't get over how pretty the sky is on this particular day. When all is said and done, I will have taken well over 200 photos on this hike. 


Site #2 should be around here somewhere. Lots of boulders, so there are many possible locations. But when I see this shallow alcove, my heart starts beating faster.

On first inspection... disappointment. I see nothing at all. But I remind myself to be patient, relax, and let my eyes adjust.
Wait a second. What about here? It's very faded and faint, but it might be something. 
Sure enough, with the help of dStretch, definitely a pictograph. This one reminds me of a banjo!
Perhaps something faint here? You can just barely make it out.

Yes!! The circle with the line through it is a common design, as is the "wagon wheel" motif. One can only ponder their meaning.
This indent in the rock looks like there might be some faint red pigment inside.
Yes, perhaps another wagon wheel design? What an interesting site!! Sites like this always make me wonder how many others have I walked right by and missed? And will these pictographs be totally faded and invisible in another 50 years?

This could have been a seasonal habitation site, but besides the pictographs, I see no obvious signs of grinding stones or mortars. 

This one is a head scratcher. It's doesn't seem likely that nature eroded this perfectly round hole in the rock. Yet it's only about 2-3" in diameter and seems too small to be a mortar. Yet mortar would be my guess, perhaps for grinding small seeds, such as chia seeds. 
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Thanks for stopping by!!
If you happen across these or other sites, please treat them with respect, and leave them exactly as you find them.