Morning In Joshua Tree

In the end, our precisely timed plan didn’t matter because I blew it by not filling the Subaru Forester’s gasoline tank the evening before and insisting on stopping at the local 7-11 store for coffee.

The object of the plan was to be at a particular spot in Joshua Tree National Park at 5:15 am. That spot was one where we always have taken a brief break when riding our motorcycles through the park, an area popular with rock climbers. We pulled into the parking lot beside the rock climbing area at 5:40.The stops at the store and filling station cost us twenty minutes, so Tim Devantier and I were late picking up Mike Harmon in Redlands, California at around 4:30 am.

After quickly unpacking our cameras and tripods, it became obvious that it didn’t matter much that we were a bit late. It would be twenty more minutes before the sun peeked over the horizon, but the partially cloudy sky forecast by various weather services wasn’t going to appear.

The sky was a dead clear blue dome, cleaned of cloud cover by the 25 mph winds of the previous day. Oh well. There wouldn’t be a lot of color from clouds splitting the early light, but at least we’d get the horizontal golden light to shoot in for a while after sunrise. It wouldn’t be a wasted trip.

We set up the tripods and cameras, then Tim hunted for the self-timer setting for his new Canon 60D for a couple minutes. He’d received the camera as a gift from his wife, but hadn’t had much time with it, though he was looking forward to seeing how it performed in the field.

We were facing a couple of large boulder formations in the east when a coyote suddenly called from the boulders to our left front. A few seconds later, another coyote answered the first from behind us. It was a call to breakfast and they were right. We spotted dozens of rabbits who didn’t seem a bit spooked by us.

We shot from the tripods until the light grew strong, then each wandered around the area for another hour, hunting photographs. The biggest problem I had was the abundance of things to shoot in the horizontal light. There were almost too many photo opportunities. Almost.

We eventually all made our ways back to the Subaru, opened the rear cargo door, then ate the breakfasts we’d packed into the cooler and drank coffee hot from thermoses. The rock climbers were slowly gathering in the parking lot at the base of the biggest rock formation. It appeared for a few minutes that the climbers might soon present us with more photo opportunities, but after we finished breakfast twenty minutes later, they were still socializing, so we packed up and drove to other places in the park, including Skull Rock.

By midday we had traversed a long southern loop through the park from the town of Joshua Tree, then made our way back north to exit in Twentynine Palms. It had been a good morning to be out in the world shooting, even without the more dramatic color that partial cloud cover would have created at sunrise.