Thursday, May 19, 2022

Blood Red Lunar Eclipse

 A couple nights ago, my son texted and asked if I was going to photograph the lunar eclipe. My response was: "What??" And then, "Oh, thanks, I didn't know about it!" 

So I Googled it: Super Flower Blood Moon lunar eclipse. Geeze, who comes up with these crazy names?? I haven't done any moon photography for a while, and I thought it might be a fun challenge. As a warm-up, I decided to practice on the moon on the evening before the eclipse (Saturday, 5/14/22).

Piece of cake! I used a tripod, although probably didn't need it, as the moon was very bright. I used my trusty 100-400mm telephoto zoom lens with a 2x extender, which gives me a maximum focal length of 800mm. Pretty good! The only downside is when I use the extender, I lose autofocus and have to focus manually. The best way to focus manually is to put the camera in "live view" mode (so you can see what you're shooting on your camera's screen) and then magnify the image. As you might have guessed, it requires a lot of button pushing, which gets confusing quickly. Anyway, I was happy with this photo. Focus was nice and sharp. It was taken at 7:50PM, shooting out of the upstairs window of my granddaughter's bedroom.

The next day (Sunday, 5/15/22: Eclipse day) the optimal eclipse viewing time was supposed to be between 8:30-9:30PM. Moonrise wasn't until 7:30PM, and I was worried the moon might be too low on the horizon at 8:30PM (my neighbor's roofline might be blocking my view). I set up my tripod and camera about 7:30PM and crossed my fingers.

I got lucky! By about 8:15PM, the moon was just visible above my neighbors roofline. My first few shots were junk. The partial eclipse just didn't photograph well, with a section of the moon being extremely bright and the rest being in deep shadow. The photo above (8:29PM) has just a hint of non-eclipsed moon in the upper right. It was thrilling to watch, and so interesting how the white areas of the moon slowly become red-orange (or blood-colored), and the dark areas became blue.




By about 9PM, the moon was fully eclipsed and almost invisible to the naked eye, and it became impossible to focus the camera. I also needed to increase my exposure time, which is not a good thing. You might have noticed the last two photos are looking a little blurry, and it's because the eclipsed moon was too dark for accurate focus. But I learned an important lesson about taking photos early in the eclipse cycle, before the moon becomes to dark to focus on. Oh, and by about 9:15PM, I heard a voice: "Grampa, will you please stop taking pictures, I have school tomorrow and need to go to bed!!" OK Lilly, night night!
Linking with Skywatch Friday.
Thanks for stopping by!!

Thursday, May 12, 2022

Vampire Arch

 Last post, I left off hiking somewhere south of Ojo Oro arch, enjoying the weird rock formations and taking photos as the mood struck. My ultimate goal was to loop back north and photograph Ojo Oro at sunset.

Yet another interesting arch. This one is long and low, and I've never seen it before, so fun to happen upon it.
I call this desert milkweed. Not entirely sure that's accurate, but it's the best I got. Interestingly, I only see it out in this area of Joshua Tree National Park, never in the other areas that I hike. It grows really tall and spindly in this land of almost no rain.
Que "Jaws" theme music! You can see the sun has moved a little lower on the horizon. I have a decision to make. I have an arch I spotted off to the north, but not sure I have time to go check it out and still get to Ojo Oro by sunset. What the heck, let's go take a look!

I wonder if many years ago this was an arch, and it collapsed on itself?

Sky cross
I knew this would happen. On the way to the arch I want to check out, I run across all kinds of interesting arches and rock formations that I simply have to photograph. It's a nice problem to have. I even manage to find time to check out a really interesting pictograph in the area.
Color enhanced using dStretch.
Ah, finally, there it is. It can be seen for quite a distance because it's large and up high on the boulders. I wonder if there is a way to climb up to it without killing myself?
After much huffing and puffing and cursing, I manage to climb up to the arch. Look at those two little pointy things at the top of the arch opening. They remind me of fangs, and the name "Vampire Arch" jumps into my head. It's quite large. I can easily walk underneath it to the other side.
One of my favorites: Looking through Vampire Arch!

The views from Vampire Arch are beautiful, but as you may have noticed, the shadows are getting long. Yikes, I'm going to have to really skedaddle if I'm going to make it back to Ojo Oro by sunset. Is skedaddle still a word? You know what I mean!
Please join me next post to see if I make it in time, and thanks for joining me for this part of the adventure!!
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Thursday, May 5, 2022

Rocks, Arches, and an Old Truck

 My goal for this adventure was to hike to one of my favorite arches in Joshua Tree National Park and photograph it as the sun was setting. It turned out to be an awesome hike, and I took close to 100 photos, so I'll split the hike into two or three posts. Let's see how far we can get today!
This old truck wasn't too far out of my way, so I decided to drop by and say "hi". It's a couple miles from the highway, and how it came to be partially buried in this remote wash must be an interesting story indeed!

The rocks and boulders in this area are eroded into fantastic shapes!

A very long, low arch.
Here's the arch I had come to photograph. Can you spot it? Middle of the photo, upper third.

What a beautiful arch! It's been called Confusion Arch and Ojo Oro Arch (golden eye in spanish). The Ojo Oro name seems to have stuck, and that's how the handful of people I know of who have seen this arch refer to it. I'll continue my hike, with the goal of coming back and taking more pictures of this beautiful arch around sunset (future post).
Back side of Ojo Oro Arch.

Someone is watching me!!
Nooks & crannies!
This is such a wonderful place to wander, camera in hand, and enjoy these weirdly eroded rock formations. 
Thanks for joining me, and we will continue on from here on my next post!
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Thursday, April 28, 2022

Pinto Basin Skies

 Pinto Basin in Joshua Tree National Park doesn't get much respect. It's at the lowest elevation within the Park, and is part of the "Colorado Desert" (as compared to the more glamorous Mojave Desert, which is at a higher elevation). There are no Joshua Trees in the Pinto Basin. It's the hottest and dryest area within the park, and you need to avoid the area on a hot day, or anything even close to a hot day. Chances are it will be hotter in the Pinto Basin than wherever it is you're coming from by a significant amount.

Until recently, I hadn't spent much time in the Pinto Basin. Now that I've hiked it a handful of times, I've grown to love it! I
t's beautiful in its openness, big skies, and solitude.

Have you ever seen the old sci fi movie "The Day the Earth Stood Still?" The original, not the remake. Seeing this made me think of that movie... as if a beam of light might shoot out of that slot in the boulder at any second and the whole world would immediately stop. Or perhaps it already had stopped, and I just didn't know it. Solo hikes in the Pinto Basin will really let your mind wander to strange and interesting places!

This guy seemed to be out enjoying the late afternoon skies as much as I was!
Big sky

Golden hour in Smoke Tree Wash
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Thursday, April 21, 2022

Conejo Well

 So you've never heard of Conejo Well in Joshua Tree National Park? You're not alone. It's kind of an obscure and remote location, with not much remaining to hint at what it once was. But at one time, there was a prospector by the name of Lee Lyons who built himself a sweet little cabin and lived here. There was an active spring, a well, and pipes that brought water to or near the cabin. There was even a "road" of sorts. A beautiful little desert paradise!

This part of the road looks quite passable, but as you follow it straight ahead, things get sketchy. 

The "road" continues, but see what I mean about sketchy? Can you imagine trying to drive this road to and from your house for food and supplies way back in the 20's or 30's? This area is remote even today. Imagine what it must have been like back then!

The best write-up I've seen on Conejo Well is by the DZRT GRLS and can be found here. If you're interested in taking a deeper dive to learn about this area, I highly recommend it!

Just before we head up into the canyon, we come across this clearing site with lots of old stuff. Really interesting old stuff! At first I wondered if this might be the Lee Lyon's cabin site, but I don't think it is.

I can imagine these rocks being in the shape of a fire ring 90 or 100 years ago. But it's hard to explain the large amount of cans, glass, and other debris in the area. Perhaps this was where Lee dumped his trash? The old rusty cans are everywhere, even down in the adjacent wash. Someone spent a lot of time here!

Biscuits, anyone??

Soldered hole and cap cans were in use in the early 1900's, which is consistent with when Lee Lyons would have been living here, doing a little prospecting, and enjoying his desert cabin.

Condensed milk must have been a favorite with prospectors, because the cans are commonly found. This can appears to have been opened with a hole punch of some sort.
Perhaps a coffee can??
You could easily explore here for hours and hours looking through all the old rusty stuff. Really interesting, but we need to move on.

After following the old "road" that parallels the wash, we come upon this clearing. I'm almost certain this is the site of Lee Lyon's cabin. There's debris in the area, and someone put in a lot of work to clear this spot.

More evidence, and you're going to have to trust me on this one. Straight ahead, in that mess of thorny brush, is a large hole. Parts of it even appear to be lined with stone, but it appears to be more rectagular than round. Because of the brush and deep shadows, I couldn't photograph it (that's the trust me part). I'm thinking this is likely Conejo Well. Either a traditional well, or perhaps more of a holding tank for water piped here from the wash. This is very close (just behind) the cleared area that I suspect was the cabin site.

Right next to the well site is this pile of stones with a couple of iron bars stuck in the ground. Your guess is as good as mine!

More evidence that the cleared area is the former cabin site: Rusty nails everywhere! Which raises an excellent question that I know you are asking: Where is all the wood from the old cabin? Perhaps a cabin fire destroyed it all, but I see no evidence of charred wood, so I doubt it. I'm guessing someone came and carried it off. Bill Keys was a well known scavenger, and his family ranch is filled to the brim with building material, car parts, and anything else he could scavenge. Wood was extremely hard to come by given how remote this area was. If Lee decided his prospecting wasn't paying off and moved on, I'm guessing someone came and helped themselves to the wood used to build his cabin.
Old pipe going up the wash near the cabin site. How far up the wash it goes is hard to say. Parts of the pipe are broken and gone, and parts are under sand and rock, so it's difficult or impossible to follow. During our visit, we could find no standing water. Sections of the wash are heavily overgrown with plants, so it's possible there could be a spring here and we just didn't see it.

It appears that a critter had been digging in the soft sand in the wash, and yes, that's a little pocket of water. Looks like the groundwater here is very close to the surface.

Parts of the wash are completely overgrown and impassable. We got about as far as that big juniper bush, rested for a bit, and decided it was time to start the long hike back to the car. It would have been interesting to explore further up the wash, but we just didn't have time.
We spot what looks like a pipe or pole sticking out of the ground up on top of the ridge overlooking the wash. If you look closely, there are actually two poles (one short and one long). That would be a long, difficult climb to get up there, so we will have to save that for another day, but we can't help wondering what it is.
About a mile from the car, we spot this beautiful rosy boa. This is only the second one I've seen in the park, and I think they are pretty rare. We try not to disturb him, take a quick photo, and move on.
As we were finishing up the hike, clouds moved in and the sky became very dramatic. I ended up with a lot of pretty sky shots that I will share with you on a future post.
Thanks for joining me on another adventure to a seldom seen location in JTNP!!
Linking with Skywatch Friday.