Saturday, January 3, 2015

High Desert Scenes - Joshua Tree National Park

First light paints the scene and sets the mood at Joshua Tree National Park

I visited Joshua Tree National Park for a couple days after Christmas 2014.  What a place!  First off, the park's namesake provide great subject matter for photography and the high desert has a mood and feeling all it's own.  I found the best times to shoot were early in the morning or around sunset.  The park is a popular place with LA only being a couple hours to the west.  By Saturday afternoon it was quite busy in the central area.  I found a nice unpaved road on the western side called La Contenta Road which led me lower and upper Covington Flat as well as only a few people and taller Joshua Trees.  I was able to hike to the edge of the high desert and look out to the Coachella Valley and Palm Springs to the southeast as well as the San Andreas Fault.  Pretty fun stuff for a country boy from South Dakota.  Here are my favorite photos from the time at the park.  Click on an image for a larger file to view and thanks for checking in!

Sunrise in the center of the park.

I saw my first ever Scrub Jay on a hike around Barker Dam.

The Joshua Trees were huge in the Covington Flat area.

Sunset on the edge of lower Covington Flat.

The southeast part of the park is a different desert ecologically and feature such plants as the Cholla Cactus but no Joshua Trees.

A multiple image panorama of pre-dawn colors above the Cholla Cactus "garden" area of Joshua Tree.

Scenes from Death Valley

The Mesquite Flats Sand Dunes in the afternoon light.
In late December of 2014, I was fortunate enough to be able to spend a day and a half discovering Death Valley National Park.  Turns out, I could have used a week and a a half and not seen it all as the park is huge (around 3.4 million acres of wilderness). Not knowing what to expect weather wise, I was happy with a high of 77 degrees on the valley floor in the afternoon and upper 30s in the higher elevations at daybreak.  Here are a selection of my favorite photos from the trip.  Click on an image for a larger file to view and thanks for stopping by!

Near Furnace Creek Inn, two road runners were hunting butterflies.

One road runner (who must be used to human activity) allowed me to get rather close for this portrait.

A lone Joshua Tree on the eastern edge of the park. I found it interesting to see the evidence of the last rain still scarring the ground.

Another shot of the Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes.

Hikers on the sand dunes just before sunset.

Pre-dawn colors on the road up to Dante's View in the south central part of the park.

Soft morning light in the high desert.

A multiple image panoramic of Dante's View at first light.  The white in Death Valley is not snow but salt flats.  It is the lowest place in North America and hottest place in the world. What little water makes it to the valley floor has nowhere to go but into the air as evaporation... leaving behind salt.

Telescope Peak is over 11,000 feet in elevation and was sporting snow.

Shadowplay on the flanks of Telescope Peak as morning drew on.

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Best of December 2014

Swedona Church (rural Brandon, SD) at sunset - December 5th
Here are 12 favorites from December.  For the most part it was a cloudy and dreary month in South Dakota.  I was fortunate enough to be able to visit family in Southern California over the holidays and in doing so, took some time to explore Death Valley National Park as well as Joshua Tree National Park.  I learned the desert at sunrise and sunset are just as magical as anywhere on the great plains.  Look for more posts with images from the high desert soon!  As always, click on a photo for a larger file to view and thanks for stopping by!

Ceder Waxwing feeding at Lake Vermillion Recreation Area

Ceder Waxwing posing at Lake Vermillion Recreation Area

Zion Lutheran at sunset in rural Roberts County

An abandoned homestead with frosted trees on a dreary December day just west of Enemy Swim Lake 

The standing remains of Concordia Pioneer Lutheran in rural Roberts County

Sand Dunes and hikers at Death Valley National Park near to sunset

I was lucky to find a semi-friendly road runner which allowed me to get a this close-up.

The first light of day on Telescope Peak above Death Valley

Sunrise at Joshua Tree National Park

Pre-dawn clouds above the Cholla Cactus region of Joshua Tree

On my last day in Los Angeles we visited a botanical garden that was full of hummingbird activity

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Best of November 2014

The waxing moon taken with early November bare tree branches as frames.
It's been a cold November punctuated by a couple of snow storms and below normal temperatures.  I was able to spend one of those snowy days out in the southern black hills with a host of South Dakota's winter wildlife, which was a lot of fun.  This time of year is always good for spectacular sunsets and interesting weather photos, too.  Click on an image for a larger file to view and thanks for checking in!

An early November sunset over Mud Lake near Hurley, SD

A Northern Cardinal I found in Terrace Park of Sioux Falls

Trinity church on the southwest corner of Kimball, SD

Winter white-tail buck in Custer State Park

A bison bull in the midst of a heavy snowfall

Pronghorn on a snowy day in Custer State Park

A nice 5X5 buck in hot pursuit of a shy doe in Custer State Park

White-breasted Nuthatch in Custer State Park

Winter sunset from the Sylvan Lodge area of Custer State Park

Frost and fog at a country church east of Lennox, SD late in the month

Post sunset color behind West Prairie Lutheran a few miles southeast of Lennox, SD

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Best of October 2014

The standing remains of Holy Family Church in rural Mellette County
Here are my favorites from October 2014.  I had two notable encounters with snakes this month.  The first was a very colorful garter snake in a country church cemetery (photo below).  The second was a close call with a rattler which nearly gave me a heart attack on the steps of the church in the photo above.  I did not get a photo of the rattler as it turned out to be just as scared of me as I was of him... which is probably a good thing!  As always click on a photo for a larger image to view and thanks for stopping by!

Garter snake in a rural Charles Mix County church yard

Bugling elk at Wind Cave National Park

Fishing on the Missouri near Running Water, SD

The Old Courthouse Museum clock tower on an autumn evening in Sioux Falls

The Queen Bee Mill and a portion of the Falls of the Big Sioux at Falls Park in Sioux Falls

The Falls of the Big Sioux

Autumn color in South Sioux Falls

St. Joseph's Cathedral framed by fall colors

Found at Prairie Trails Park in south Sioux Falls

Fall foliage at Rotary Park along the Big Sioux River in central Sioux Falls

A little over an hour's worth of star trails and a few passing headlights provided the light for this image of Zoar Lutheran church in rural Day County, SD