It was fitting Joshua Tree National Park would be the last stop on my trip. To make it even more epic, my good buddy Andy met me out in our old stomping grounds for one of the most beautiful nights of the summer.
The drive from Sacramento was notable for a couple things:
It was the first rain I’ve hit on the road since the east coast, but so desperately needed in Cali right now I couldn’t really complain. And the smoke from the Rough Fire near Kings Canyon National Park lowered the ceiling of an already cloudy sky nearly to ground level.
Things started clearing up once I headed east from Bakersfield along SR 58.
Over the years I’ve taken SR 14 through Lancaster and Palmdale, and SR 395 through Adelanto, but without a stop in the Inland Empire this trip I’d be going all the way over to Barstow and taking SR 247 south through Lucerne Valley and Landers. It was a gorgeous drive.
No smoke, but lots of blowing sand.
Took a good 8 hours to get there, one of the longer drives on my trip, but man, so worth it.
Andy was already there with a camp spot picked out for the night. The weather was perfect, mid-80s with a little breeze to keep it cool. There was a chance of rain noted in forecasts earlier in the week, but at last check in Sac it was going to be perfectly clear.
Turns out the rain did end up coming through the next day…totally NOT on the forecast. But it made for a picturesque morning and a pleasant drive through the park. Once I got to I-10 it was clear and sunny the rest of the way to Phoenix.
For the past year Andy and I have tried to make plans to meet out here. The last opportunity was in May when I did a California road trip with another buddy. But I caught a cold towards the end and the weather turned nasty anyway so we postponed…again.
Really happy we finally made it happen. And really happy to see Andy doing so well. He could only stay a night, so we have plans for a longer trip sometime in the next year.
As for the portrait up top, it’s completely in camera. I color-corrected it by using a gelled headlamp to help the glow of the fire light up Andy and the Joshua tree. The exposure was pretty long- a couple minutes actually- and that created lengthy star trails if you zoom into it in a larger version. Usually they’re undesirable for shots like this, and I was a little disappointed upon my first view of that frame. (Notice the sky is sharper on the two frames of the Joshua tree directly above because of slightly shorter exposure times.) But after thinking about it, I like the motion conveyed by the slightly soft sky. And the unexpected bonus of the plane flying across the frame adds to that. Still, not technically perfect by any means. There’s a little more lens distortion than I would’ve liked, even after correcting it a bit in post, but it’s still one of the more epic portraits I made on this trip.
Hurdling through space on a tiny blue ball trying to make experiences like these last forever. Why deny ourselves by thinking it’s impossible?
Wrap-up on the trip coming soon…