Downtown Knoxville in Fall Colors
Downtown Knoxville in Fall Colors

If you’ve been following along the last few weeks, you’ll know that I experienced a lot of rain when I went out west this year.  As I’ve mentioned, my hope was that I could do a lot of night photography, but the weather dictated other plans.  It wasn’t for lack of trying on my part though – I went out to take pictures every chance I got. 

On one such occasion, my friend Mark, who I’d gone to California to meet so that we could photograph together in Joshua Tree, and I had gotten rained out from a night shoot.  We were on the long walk back to the cars through the desert when we spotted eyes in the darkness looking back at us.  My experience has been that this is quite rare, as there just aren’t that many animals that live in the desert, however there are mountain lions that roam through, so I stopped in my tracks as soon as I saw these eyes.  Once we started taking stock, we realized there weren’t just one set of eyes looking at us, but perhaps as many as five pair of eyes!  The eyes were accompanied by barking type noises and other noises we were unfamiliar with, but definitely not cat like, so we crept closer.  What we found were little desert foxes!  After doing some research later, we determined that these are “kit foxes” – and somewhat confusingly, young foxes are called fox kits, so does that mean these are kit fox kits?  LOL I have no idea, they’re adorable though!  Anyway, this sighting turned the tide of the night.  Our tattered souls from being rained out of our night shoot were suddenly revitalized by the chance sighting.

The next evening, Mark and I were walking out into the desert again to give our night shoot another try.  I’d brought my 300mm lens with me on the off chance we’d see the foxes again.  Where we go though, there are no trails and we’re just walking toward GPS coordinates of saved locations, so you never take the same route twice.  Given that, we both felt it was highly unlikely we’d ever see them again.  We’ll, we were maybe 100 yards into our hike and Mark realized he’d forgotten something.  I decided to stay with the gear where we were while he went back to his car.  In the quiet of the desert while I was by myself, I heard a familiar noise. The small calling noise of the kit foxes!  I immediately started scanning the desert around me, and low and behold, there they were!  I grabbed my big lens and motioned to Mark, who by this point was almost back to me, and we snuck to within range of our cameras.  This time, we not only had light, but good light!  We snapped away until we were satisfied we’d gotten some nice shots, and then went on our way back out into the desert.

Below is another wildlife image that I nabbed while I was out in the desert, this one from the Lost Dutchman State Park.  The bird in the picture is called a Gamble’s Quail, and I’ve only personally seen them there in Arizona.  When you’re in the desert, there aren’t as many sounds as there are in the Smokies.  In the Smokies its almost just a lot of ambient noise (leaves blowing in the wind, birds chirping, bugs flying past, etc), so you don’t notice things unless they’re particularly loud.  In the desert though, when the silence is interrupted, you take notice, as I mentioned above.  These little birds were mostly chasing each other around on the ground, but this particular one perched for me on a branch (about eye level), allowing me to get a nice photo of it.  I included a link below that of the sounds the birds make, just to give you a taste of the desert here.  About 20 seconds in are the sounds I was most commonly hearing.

Well, despite all the rain, my trip out west wasn’t a total bust, in terms of night sky photography.  Next week we’ll transition to the night for some of my favorite imagery this year.  See you then!

–Dan Thompson

Title Address Description
Joshua Tree
Joshua Tree National Park, California, USA

Alternate Perspective

ˈȯl-tər-nət pər-ˈspek-tiv
  1. A substitute or different visible scene.
  2. Another view or angle.

Pin It on Pinterest