Joshua Tree National Park

Joshua Tree National Park

Strange Trees, Stranger Rock Formations and That Beautiful Desert Moon

A few years ago a visit to Joshua Tree National Park was a photographic bust for me. Part of it was timing. We were only there for 2 days, the weather was really hot, blah blah blah. In retrospect, mediocre vision on my part was the real reason my work wasn’t what it should be. As a result I avoided Joshua Tree in favor of the sexier Death Valley landscape for my desert travels and photography.

While Death Valley National Park is a tough desert to beat with its diverse scenery, Joshua Tree National Park has a charm all of its own. The name makes you think that those strange little Joshua Trees, which look like a cactus but act like a tree, are the main feature of the park. The name comes for the early Mormon settlers who thought that the tree looked like Joshua raising his arms to the heavens. Those Mormons may have been a bit dehydrated by the desert environment when they came up with that one. This park has a lot more than Joshua Trees. There are even stranger rock formations that look like they were made by a bizarre abstract sculptor.

Joshua Tree National Park contains two deserts, the Sonoran and Mojave which are very different from each other. We only spent our time in the Mojave which arguably is the more scenic. The Sonoran is quite severe by comparison and we will probably spend time in that part on our next trip out there.

Oh that Light!

Some well-placed clouds made for beautiful mornings and evenings. Add to that the thrill of being out in the desert at these peaceful times of day and the experience becomes much more than an opportunity to make photographs.

Dawn on the Boy Scout Trail by Richard Lewis

Dawn on the Boy Scout Trail by Richard Lewis 2015

Wonderland of Rocks at Dawn by Richard Lewis

Wonderland of Rocks at Dawn by Richard Lewis 2015

Sunset in the Wonderland of Rocks by Richard Lewis

Sunset in the Wonderland of Rocks by Richard Lewis 2015

Arch Rock by Richard Lewis

Arch Rock by Richard Lewis 2015

Mountain Light by Richard LewisMountain Light by Richard Lewis 2015

Oh those Rocks!

Sometimes the strange rock formations in Joshua Tree National Park look like abstract clay sculptures. Sometimes they look like some giant dumped  a rock collection randomly on the landscape.  Either way, hiking through them is like being on another planet. You expect to see aliens or even Luke Skywalker around every bend.

Wonderland of Rocks by Richard Lewis

Wonderland of Rocks 1 by Richard Lewis 2015

Joshua Tree Rock Formation 2 by Richard Lewis

Joshua Tree Rock Formation 2 by Richard Lewis 2015

Joshua Tree Rock Formation 1 by Richard Lewis

Joshua Tree Rock Formation 1 by Richard Lewis 2015

Early Light on a Rocky Land by Richard Lewis

Early Light on a Rocky Land by Richard Lewis 2015

Oh That Moon!

We were in Joshua Tree National Park when the full moon was illuminating the sky. What a way to make a great place even greater! The first photograph in this group was a real treat. Being able to watch a moon rise or set is really magical. We see many beautiful sunrises and sunsets in our lives, but the moon rising and setting is much more elusive.

Moonset in Joshua Tree by Richard Lewis

Moonset in Joshua Tree by Richard Lewis 2015

Moonset at Dawn by Richard Lewis

Moonset at Dawn by Richard Lewis 2015

Full Moon at Dawn by Richard Lewis

Full Moon at Dawn by Richard Lewis 2015

On this trip, my eyes finally opened to the magic of Joshua Tree National Park. The great morning and evening light really helped, along with a full moon hanging around. Also contributing was an open mind and a desire to embrace this unusual little piece of the world.

Enjoy

 

 

 

 

2017-05-19T10:35:50+00:00 January 14th, 2016|14 Comments

14 Comments

  1. Laura (PA Pict) January 14, 2016 at 1:11 pm - Reply

    Wow! Your images are all utterly fabulous, Richard! You’ve done such an amazing job of capturing each of the lighting situations and the colours they create. Spectacular. I’ve been to Joshua Tree twice and loved it both times. My kids loved jumping around on the rocks, pretending they were in Tatooine. They even had lightsabers with them. It’s definitely a place that sparks the imagination.

    • Rich Lewis January 14, 2016 at 3:12 pm - Reply

      Thanks Laura for your compliment. I really appreciate it. I could definitely see your children jumping around on the rocks. My wife and adult son were with me on this trip and we spent a lot of time doing the same thing.

  2. karengadient January 14, 2016 at 4:59 pm - Reply

    One of my favorite places. Fantastic photos!

    • Rich Lewis January 14, 2016 at 11:30 pm - Reply

      Thanks Karen. It’s becoming one of my favorites too.

  3. Rudi January 15, 2016 at 12:27 pm - Reply

    Fabulous journey through your images and words for me. Ethereal lighting and landscape. I guess South West Africa or Namibia as you know it has similar structures, mind you, the Karoo has a singular beauty that might compare.

    • Rich Lewis January 15, 2016 at 8:02 pm - Reply

      Thanks Rudi. I really appreciate your compliment and for following this blog. You are going to have to post some photos of Karoo. You have peaked my interest.

  4. stevenjwillard January 15, 2016 at 2:26 pm - Reply

    I fell in love with Joshua Tree in an all too brief a visit last summer. Hope to go back soon. Very nice images.

    • Rich Lewis January 15, 2016 at 8:03 pm - Reply

      Thanks Steven. I appreciate your comment. I hope you do get back there soon and have the time to take it all in.

  5. Ralph Berglund January 15, 2016 at 3:54 pm - Reply

    Great coverage, Rich. My favorite: the rock-face shadows from a side-sun in Wonderland of Rocks.

    • Rich Lewis January 15, 2016 at 8:05 pm - Reply

      Thanks Ralph. I’m not sure which one is my favorite in this batch. They all kind of have their own interesting stories surrounding them.

  6. Anonymous January 16, 2016 at 12:22 pm - Reply

    Wonderful images, Rich. Really enjoyed, Dawn, Rocky Land and Moonset which was spectacular! Makes me want to go back and explore the land near Twentynine Palms Highway! Looking forward to your next blog post. ~ Scott

    • Rich Lewis January 17, 2016 at 2:27 pm - Reply

      Thanks Scott. I appreciate your comments. There are interesting sites along that highway. The park isn’t the only thing that is photogenic around there. We spent a day visiting what could only be called Weird California, but that will be another blog post.

  7. denisebushphoto January 18, 2016 at 2:50 pm - Reply

    Wonderful images and post… No surprise because your work is always wonderful! What does surprise me is how you get around! We camped there many years ago and all I remember is that it was very windy and there was sand in my spaghetti! Thank you for showing me the beauty of this park. I’m off to google maps now to see how far away it is from Ridgway!

    • Rich Lewis January 19, 2016 at 2:30 am - Reply

      There is nothing worse than sand in one’s spaghetti. We had one day there with winds gusting to 60mph and more and I could imagine what camping in that kind of wind must have been like. I hope you are not too far from Joshua Tree as you would love photographing there. Spend some time in Death Valley on your way out there too.

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