When you think of Joshua Tree National Park… what do you think about?  Most likely the Joshua Trees themselves (also known as Yucca palms) or maybe even just “the desert”.  The last couple of times I visited the park, I thought about the same thing.  Those quirky-looking, and sometimes hard to photograph, trees… and the hot desert.  This time when I visited though, I wanted to focus on something else.  The rocks, and the night sky.

In addition to the trees, Joshua Tree is home to some pretty fantastic boulder fields.  I’ve been inspired by some awesome black and white images I’ve seen from there, so I wanted to give that another go, this time just featuring (or mainly featuring) the stacks of rocks.  The eastern part of the park is also blessed with some fairly dark skies, and while it seems you have to drive further and further east to find them, the starry skies can still be found in all their glory.  For the longest time I was hung up on doing star trail shots… and now it’s  Milky Way shots.  I just can’t get enough of the night sky!

I wanted to start the series off with my favorite of the night sky images that I captured.  I captured this sky out in the far east part of the park; about an hour east of Twenty Nine Palms.  From there I was able to get away from the light pollution of the Coachella Valley and out from under the light cloud cover that plagued me on this particular weekend.  This part of the park has no services, save an emergency phone on the side of the road every few miles… and it’s as stark as stark gets.  The silence of the desert always stuns me.  I noticed this last year when I was in Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument.  I was reminded again how bad my ears ring… something I don’t generally notice from day to day.

More next week!

–Dan Thompson

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Joshua Tree

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