Last February I passed through Joshua Tree NP (couldn’t stop because the campgrounds were full) and decided I’d have to visit it again. Last month I was able to do that and really enjoyed it. I found a great site with a huge rock on the back side of it in the small Belle campground.Turned out that rock is popular with climbers so I got to watch a few folks scaling it.
Though the days were cloudless there was enough of a breeze so it was never uncomfortably hot. The town of 29 Palms (with some shopping) and the visitor center were not too far away. Late in the day I went out and got a few images then I went out at night and got more.
The moon was waxing so between that and the ambient light from large cities west of the park the Milky Way wasn’t very visible but I made do. The moonlight on some of the rocks with the north end of the Milky Way made for some interesting images.
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Goblin Valley SP is a unique place and since it was on the way to my next destination I decided to head there, hoping to snag a campsite for the night. I got there mid morning and was able to get a very nice site. That afternoon I drove around checking the park out.
The night was very clear and it was a lot of fun to go down into the Goblins’ Playground and do some photography. I didn’t wander around too much because I didn’t want to get lost! The waxing moon gave enough light so the goblins were visible but not so much that it prevented the Milky Way from being visible. That made for a very special opportunity for me.
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When I left the Tetons I headed south to Moab, figuring it had to be warmer there. When I got to Moab late on Thursday afternoon, all the BLM campgrounds were full so I decided to go to the bare bones place just off 191 where I’ve seen lots of rigs with ATVs/ORVs parked. Turns out the land owner has realized he has a good spot there so it is now set up as a basic campground. Pros, large sites, level, small gravel, neat and clean, $15/night. Cons, if you need any amenities don’t bother. No water, shade or dump, 1 portapotty. Since the Casita is self contained, I use solar and it wasn’t an extremely hot time of the year the site worked fine for me. It is also very close to the entrance to Arches and to Moab so instead of traveling several miles in windy roads it was very convenient, worth it to me. The site is backed by grand high red cliffs and a nice spot for the sunset and early morning images.
I’ve been to Arches and posted images from those visits so this time I decided to concentrate on other places. Also, the park is open only Friday and Saturdays nights now because of road work and both nights were cloudy. Anyhow, I drove out 128 along the Colorado River one morning and made several stops. Not only was I enjoying the day time drive I was scouting for night images, too. I’d been through Castle Valley once several years ago and wanted to check it out, too.
Back near the campground I was able to find a good spot for some Milky Way images, too.
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From Yellowstone I headed back to the Tetons for several days, hoping to find some moose. Second night I was there it was very clear so I headed up to Ox Bow Bend to see if I could capture the Milky Way over the water. All the while I was there I heard Elk bugling.
The moose were around. First morning at Gros Ventre as I was putting on my shoes my youngest (and most watchful) dog started barking at something outside one of the side windows. I got up to look and was face to face with a moose cow that was under the awning looking at me. Yikes!! No chance to get a photo, either! I made certain she was gone before opening the door with the dogs. Sure enough she and a mother cow were a ways behind the trailer so I hurried the dogs in the opposite direction and hoped they wouldn’t notice the moose. They didn’t so all wen well. Once they were back in the trailer and fed I grabbed my camera and headed for the river since the moose were likely to head that way. Sure enough, but with the 2 cows and a bull somewhere around it was also a bit spooky in the willows. Fortunately there weren’t any close encounters and I did capture this young bull crossing the river.
At one point I turned and captured a mule deer who came down to the river.
That was it for the moose until a few days later I was headed out and came across some folks watching a cow, calf and bull at a creek. Managed to get a few images of them.
A couple of days later there were 3 cows and a bull in the campground so I spent several hours watching them. I find it so interesting to watch them interact. When I got there they were all laid down, but eventually they got up and then it got interesting. They all keep an eye on each other, if one cow got near the bull another cam trotting over, but that second one had run away when approached by him. With them all moving about we had to keep our eyes on all of them so we weren’t in their way and didn’t upset them. To be honest watching moose takes a lot of patience, they seem to spend a lot more time laying down than moving around. But for me it’s worth it.
The weather turned very cold, with my down jacket and wind pants being the norm when I went outside. It was also liable to spit snow at any time. After one such day I went over to the well known barn on Mormon Row, the snowy Tetons made a nice backdrop for it.
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On my way to Yellowstone I stopped in the Tetons for only 4 nights. Got another great site at Gros Ventre CG. There is a lot of smoke around, sometimes you could be at the south end of the Tetons and couldn’t even see the north end of the range. Last year the fires were raging in both Yellowstone and GTNP, this year they are not in the parks but still affecting them.
The second night I was there it was wonderfully clear so I went out to see what I could photograph. First stop was one of the old Mormon barns. There were a couple of guys there already and they were using some LED flashlights to light the barn. Not the best light since it tends to be a very cold white but I warmed it up a bit in the processing.
The night was so clear I wanted to take advantage of it so I headed down to Schwabacher’s Landing unsure if the setting would work or not. Yes! Just the spot to capture the Milky Way over the calm waters.
As I drove south from UT into AZ I wondered when I would start to see the Saguaro cactus. for some reason I thought they would be rather rare when I did get into their area. How silly of me! Sometime north of Phoenix I started to see them, lots of them and I was thrilled. I was headed to a small town SW of Phoenix where a good friend & her husband had moved to from NJ. What a change for them and their dogs. Their hacienda sits on the side of a small mountain and above it stand a handsome Saguaro.
They live close to the Sonoran Desert Nat. Monument so we made a couple of trips there, the first time I got some lovely sunset images and on the way back to the house we spotted a rattlesnake in the road. First time I’ve seen one out west and it quickly went into the brush.
We went back another night with her husband, it isn’t wise to venture out into the country there without backup. It was a perfect night for the Milky Way. I didn’t do any light painting, the light on the cactus is caused by light from the Phoenix area being reflected off the smog or haze. Next time I visit we hope to get a bit further away from the ambient light.
Another day they took me to the top of South Mountain where we could look down on Phoenix, Mesa, Scottsdale and other places. There isn’t much open space between the places at all, rather like the megalopolis from Newark to Boston.
One night Jo Ann and a good friend of hers took me to The Road Runner for a totally different sort of atmosphere. It’s a bar with a bull riding arena out back and Saturday nights there is bull riding. The food was excellent and reasonably priced, after that we moved to the stands and got our seats. There were 8 riders and only one stayed on for the required 8 seconds. I took my small point & shoot camera and with the low lighting it wasn’t very good for any action shots.
Seeing the desert and various cactus whetted my appetite to return and do more exploring in the Southwest.
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Yellowstone geyser area has many interesting features which attract thousands of visitors. Fortunately there are some that are off the beaten path and less crowded. The colors in the hot springs are beautiful.
Great Fountain Geyser goes off every 9 to 16 hours, making it a hard one to see. I didn’t catch it during the day but one night it was supposed to go off at between 8 pm and 1 am so I arrived plenty early. Needless to say it took its time and erupted at about 9:30 pm, in total darkness. A factor hard to figure into it was the amount of steam produced by the hot water and cold air. That made it very hard to photograph any water being sent up. The eruption lasts a pretty long time and by the end of it there were some stars visible so I capture a bit of steam lit by a light I had and the Big Dipper.
One of my favorite geysers is White Dome Geyser since it goes of frequently (every 20-30 minutes) and is usually pretty free of spectators. The first evening I was at Madison campground I went over and got a nice sunset image of it.
Then I went back that night to see if I could get the Milky Way above it. I did, though there were clouds and smoke so the images weren’t as clear as in the past. The difference this year was the forest fires in the park, they reflected on the clouds and made the images very unique.
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