After Photoshop World wrapped up in Washington D.C., Ben and I flew back to the bus, which was parked in Las Vegas. The bus has spent a LOT of time parked in Vegas during the past year and I was really itching to move on. (We absolutely love our friends there, but we wanted to set out exploring again) After a day of bus maintenance in the city, we headed toward Joshua Tree National Park. I had only been there once before, and I don’t even think it counts because we were only passing through and I was in the park for a total of two hours. I was excited to get out and explore some more.
We parked the bus in an RV park just outside the town of Joshua Tree, (Finally! A view that didn’t include the Stratosphere hotel and the beam of the Luxor!) which was about 15 minutes away from the park entrance. In the morning, we met up with our friend and fellow photographer Sean Mahoney, and had breakfast in town at a place called the Crossroads Cafe. If you’re ever in Joshua Tree, I highly recommend this place. The menu items were all unique, delicious and VERY vegetarian-friendly. The place also has a really fun vibe to it.
Before heading into the park, we stopped at a funky folk-art site called the Noah Purifoy Outdoor Museum. The artist had constructed these sculptures out of found items that ranged everywhere from metal scraps to household appliances. Very unique place. We were there in the middle of the day, so it was a good place for some HDR photography.
Once inside Joshua Tree National Park, we did two hikes, starting with the Barker Dam trail. While the water level was too low for making any interesting images at the actual dam, we shot a lot of the landscape during the course of the trail. The trees are so unique and we had fun shooting the general scenery. I shot a lot with my fisheye lens because I just loved the way it exaggerated the goofy expressions of the trees. To me, Joshua Trees are like something out of a Dr. Seuss book!
The second trail we did was called Hidden Valley. It was similar in landscape to the last trail, and I shot more of the same stuff. Ben also spent a lot of time here shooting example images for his future seminars. At the end of this hike, the sun had us pretty zapped and we headed back to town to get a bite to eat. When the sun started to set, we headed back into the park and that’s when the good stuff started. Both Ben and Sean are huge enthusiasts of night photography, and I’ve been getting into it a lot as well. Lightpainting is such a fun way to shoot, and I love that it’s really easy to create a look that’s unique and a style that’s totally yours. My one struggle with night photography is the cold. If you know me at all, you know that cold is not my friend. BUT… I do
struggle soldier through it when the shooting is good enough. This night didn’t get TOO cold so I got pretty lucky.
For the night shooting, Sean scouted an awesome place for us at an area called Jumbo Rocks. We set up while there was still some light in the sky and took some ambient shots. When it got dark enough, we started to experiment with different lights. We started out with regular flashlights, which is how I got the image below. Then, Ben and Sean decided to get a little fancy. They took a bunch of different-colored keychain LED lights and swung them around on the end of a cord to get all kinds of effects. The winning image was Ben’s orb shot that combined lightpainting with a regular flashlight as well as the giant ball made out of the colored LED lights. He’s going to include this technique in his new e-book on lightpainting, which we’re putting the finishing touches on right now.
By the time we were finished our night shooting session, we were all pretty ready to crash. We had planned on returning to the park the next day, but the wind had picked up to such high levels that would have made shooting (or even walking) extremely unpleasant. Ben and I instead spent the day working and then went back to the Crossroads Cafe for dinner. From Joshua Tree, we moved on to Palm Springs for the annual Photo Festival. More to come!