Trips: Joshua Tree National Park

June 14, 2013  •  Leave a Comment

I just returned from a quick overnight trip to Joshua Tree National Park. The forecast had been for mostly clear skies with daytime temperatures hovering around 104 degrees.  I got there and was greeted by mostly cloudy skies that lingered throughout my trip. The sky conditions limited my night photography efforts but on the positive side daytime temperatures were  a much more bearable 95 degrees and the clouds provided the perfect conditions for a glorious sunset.

Headed into Joshua tree just past the 29 palms park entrance. I don't know why but I have been accumulating lots of photos of roads this year. 


Joshua Tree bloom.

Joshua Tree Sunset An explosive sunset in Queen Valley.


At this point I was becoming very concerned that the sky wouldn't clear. Clouds may produce beautiful sunsets but they are are not so good for when the goal is to photograph starry skies! Unfortunately The sky remained cloudy all night long. I did have a few windows when the clouds dispersed and I could get some night sky photos. I had about a 20 minute window where the milky way was visible.

Ease on Down the Road Joshua Trees along Queen Valley Road. This is probably my favorite photo from the trip. 

A really interesting Joshua Tree against a backdrop of clouds. Two things I find amazing about Joshua tree National park is the amount of light pollution and the staggering number of planes flying overhead. In virtually every direction light pollution is visible. Its even more apparent on a night like this when the clouds reflect the ambient light and appear orange in photos. Its probably the worst light pollution I have encountered in a wilderness area and had me pining for the dark skies of the White Mountains. The amount of air traffic in this region is also astonishing. There were times that I had up to 6 aircraft trails captured in a single 30 second exposure. I guess that is to be expected Considering the major metropolitan areas nearby along with a marine corps base just outside of Joshua Tree.

The cloud cover actually got worse later into the evening at which point I returned to my camp site. after a few hours sleep I woke at 2:00am and to check to see is the sky had cleared. It was still cloudy but a patch had opened up to the south east and the milky way was clearly visible. I hopped out of my tent and took a few test photos before heading back to queen valley to photograph more Joshua trees.

By the time I had made the 5 minute drive back to Queen valley the clouds had shifted to once again obscure the milky way. These photos really illustrate the degree of light pollution, especially towards the south.

The milky way peaks out behind a veil of clouds.

Dawn in Joshua Tree. This turned out to be a short but fun trip. I wasn't able to get the night sky photos I hoped for but I did come back with a few photos I liked. Sometimes it is nice to have clouds in night sky photos as they can add an interesting dynamic. Regardless it is always fun to spend a night in such a beautiful desert location.

 


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