Since moving to Kauai last year, I have been trying to allocate my time by doing only things that I like doing while spending time with people I enjoy being around. Seems pretty simple, right? So, when your oldest photo buddy starts pumping you for information about photographing wildflowers in Anza Borrego Desert State Park after a very wet winter, why not jump on a plane back to the mainland and join him? That is exactly what I did 2 weeks ago. I had been aware that California had a very wet winter and started reading about the predicted super bloom. Apparently, so did every one else, because even though we were only there for 3 days in the middle of the week, Borrego Springs was totally crazy packed with visitors. Fortunately, most other photographers aspire for the “best” light around noon time, which meant that the parking before sunrise was not a problem for us. I photographed this beautiful display of wildflowers near the visitor center on the one morning there were clouds in the sky.
My latest article “Desert Song” is featured in the March 2011 issue of Popular Photography! The article gives suggestions for photographing California desert locations including Anza Borrego Desert State Park, Death Valley National Park, the Alabama Hills Recreation Area, the Antelope Valley Poppy Preserve, and San Elijo State Beach, all of which are best photographed this time of year. The article is 6 pages long and showcases 6 of my images, including the double page opener of wildflowers in bloom from Anza Borrego. I created this image almost exactly 2 years ago. This was first trip using a digital camera to photograph landscapes rather than with my beloved Pentax 67II medium format film camera. I used my Canon 5DmkII body, Canon 17-40mm f4 lens, and Singh-Ray LB Warming Polarizer. It required minimal processing using Aperture 2. I also clearly remember signing up for Twitter during that trip at the urging of my client-friend, Mark Teskey. Wow! That seems like a lifetime ago back in the social media dark ages.
Since I won’t be visiting the desert this spring, I won’t be able to offer my own wildflower reports, however, you can read about the latest conditions by visiting the Desert USA Wildlflower Report.
This is my favorite image from my recent 10 day trip to California. I spent the first half of my trip in Anza Borrego Desert State Park. The wildflowers were not blooming as I had hoped, but I still put in a few days effort scouting, hiking, & patiently waiting for something interesting to happen at sunrise. On my third day, I awoke to my ideal lighting conditions. In the pre-dawn light I could see stars over the desert to the east and the faint glow of the approaching sunrise. To the west, clouds hovered patiently over the mountains eagerly anticipating the first golden rays of sunlight. I drove up to the park visitor center, grabbed my gear, and headed straight towards the base of the hills. I spent about 20 minutes searching for the perfect foreground for the wide-angle shot that I envisioned that included the mountain & cloud background. Once I found this group of 4 barrel cactus, I had my total composition. All I had to do was wait a few more minutes for the clouds to light up, which gave me enough time to refine my tripod placement, test my depth of field, and perfectly place my Singh-RayLB Warming Polarizer & 2-stop Hard Graduated Neutral Density Filter.
I visited the Pumpkin Patch during my recent visit to Anza Borrego Desert State Park in California. I was unsuccessful finding it during my first attempt last year, but this time I got directions from Ron Niebrugge. I was underwhelmed to say the least. These crazy boulders are surrounded by a fence to keep the off-road drivers out. There is only one angle that eliminates all of the motor vehicle tracks & most of the fence. (In the interest of full-disclosure, I took the small liberty of cloning the last bit of fence out of the horizon.) As the sunset turned into purple twilight, the boulders began to glow orange like pumpkins.
Last night we finally got to shoot some beautiful flowers without wind. We saw a posting on the SoCal wildflower report a few days ago that mentioned walking about 2 miles north of the road to find sand verbana and dune evening primrose flowers. After we scouted this location 2 days ago during a windy sunset, we went back to shoot it last night and got some beautiful light. I am very pleased with the shoot, but I think that we are going back there tonight.
Mark and I did some exploring yesterday and finally found what I consider to be the 2 best flower displays in the area. In the afternoon, we hiked part way up Palm Canyon and found tons of brittlebush on display, so that is where we went back to this morning to shoot the sunrise. I also played around a bit with the video function on my new camera as well as my 6×12 panoramic camera. I don’t think that I did either of them justice. We are going to go hiking again this afternoon and are really looking forward to sunset tonight when we are going to photograph our secret stash of flowers that we located yesterday afternoon.