Joshua Tree National Park Mar. 29-31 2013

I’m a little slow posting this but here are a bunch of photos from my trip to Joshua Tree National park in Southern California. It was a Sierra Club Camera Committee trip, 3 days long on Easter weekend.
First weekend of spring and I think it was a “Take a hike Sunday” or something like that.

I’ve been busy lately doing things to get ready to get into a photography business, so that is why I’ve been a little slow posting this. My day job has been keeping me busy too, which is working on a computer all day as a graphics artist at a small print shop, so not much time to post these photos. Sorry I’ll try to do better in the future.

First off I should add that there wasn’t much in the way of wildflowers. But I did get a few. Also I got 2 cacti blooming. I bought a new Canon 100mm f/2.8 macro lens and tried it out on several shots. You can compare the close up shots taken with my 18-55mm, the 100mm and some shot with the 55-250 telephoto zoom lens.

The 100mm macro prime lens is very nice and great for shallow depth of field. My bro9ther and I need it for close up shots of rings and other items at weddings. Or other close up photos. It is also a good portrait lens, although on my Canon 7D crop sensor it becomes a 160mm compared to a 35mm film camera.

I planned on taking some night shots, but with the early rising times for the hikes and long days hiking around the park I only did a few shots. A nice one in camp and a few of the stars just outside my camp. Light pollution was evident in the star shot but I got my first real star trails. More practice later this year, I’ll make a camping trip just for star trails and post those results for all to see.

I stayed at Blackrock campground which accepts reservations, most of the campgrounds are “first come first served”. There are also some group campsites available if you want to get a group of people together.

So anyway here is the first photo, my campsite at night. I like the colors on the Joshua trees behind my tent. I’ve seen this type of photo done many times before and like the effect. So I tried it myself.

tent lite up from the inside,

My tent at night lite up. Campground lights/colors playing on the Joshua trees. f/3.5, 25 seconds, ISO 1600, 18-55@18mm

Here is my star trails shot. Best of a about two dozen I took. Tried light painting but focus was off so it didn’t turn out as well as I had hoped for. Problem with night shots is you can’t see everything and the camera doesn’t focus on auto focus. Manual focus is hard to do in the dark too. Can’t just crank it all the way to infinity and leave it there. Most lenses focus just before that point for distance shots.

Star trails with hills

Short star trails, will try stacking shots next time. Note light pollution behind hills. f/7.1, 419 seconds, ISO 400, 10-22@10mm

On the first hike Friday afternoon we saw a beavertail cactus with a flower. A bunch of us shot the picture of it in various forms. Here is a close up by me with the 18-55mm lens. Which got some good reviews for use as a macro lens.

cactus with flower on it

I believe it is a Beaver tail cactus with flower. (Not much of a botanist) f/14, 1/50s, ISO 100, 18-55@53mm

Since I showing cactus here let me show you some more shots of cactus. (Just to get them out of the way, don’t get stuck by any of them.)

cactus with flowers on it

Another cactus with flowers, a lucky find. f/9, 1/160s, ISO 100, 18-55@36mm

tight shot of a barrel cactus

a barrel cactus. f/14, 1/50s, ISO 100, 18-55@55mm

barrel cactus

Barrel cactus. f/14, 1/50s, ISO 100, 18-55@43mm.

Notice the colors in the spines on these cactus. I got into the differences in the different cacti and shot the close ups of the several different kinds of cacti I found.

another cactus

cactus of some sort, f/14, 1/50s, ISO 100, 18-55@48mm

cactus close up

cactus, f/5.6, 1/125s, ISO 100, 18-55@47mm

Most of these were shot with the 18-55mm as I was hiking along. I didn’t change to the 100mm macro as much as I should have, but the zoom on the 18-55mm let me frame up the shots a little easier than just switching to the 100mm. I’m lazy I guess, and not use to having the 100mm prime lens with me.

Macro shot of cactus

Cactus macro close up. f/2.8, 1/1600s, ISO 160, 100mm

Yes I took a lot of photos of cacti.

macro shot of cactus flowers

cactus flowers with macro. f/2.8, 1/1600s, ISO 160, 100mm

Here is a different sort of cactus, I found interesting, tried to get the feel of the short tri tip form in this photo.


Cactus, f/5, 1/400s, ISO 160, 18-55@28mm

Of course there were different colors to the cactus too.


Cactus, f/5, 1/60s, ISO 160, 18-55@46mm

I think I raised the ISO just a tiny bit due to the early morning light. some of the cactus were still in shade, while others were in the sunlight.  But I didn’t want to raise the ISO too much as the sun was coming up fast.

cactus jumping cholla

I think this is the jumping cholla cactus. Looks very similar. f/2.8, 1/2500, ISO 100, 100mm


cactus, jumping cholla again. f/8, 1/400, ISO 100, 55-250@171mm

Again as you can see I did similar shots with different lenses. This shows you that you can make the shot using the lens you have. The 55-250mm is a kit lens and a bit soft (poor focus quality), so it’s not as sharp as the 100mm macro. Which is the reason I bought the 100mm macro and also since this trip I bought a 70-200mm Tamron lens. I will get rid of the 55-250mm most likely. Took some shots of some big horn sheep on a mountain top and the shots were very poor quality to say the least, shot with the Canon EF-S 55-250mm. Not happy with the results.

Yucca flowering

Joshua tree flowering, f/8, 1/500s, ISO 100, 55-250@90mm

However there were plenty of Joshua tree blooming, took plenty of photos but nothing really different to show. Love the blue sky, it came out nice in a variety of shots over the weekend. Here are some morning shots with clouds to make it interesting.

Sunrise in Joshua Tree N.P.

Clouds during sunrise. f/3.5, 1/640s, ISO 250, 18-55@18mm

Sunrise in Joshua Tree N.P.

Sunrise in Joshua Tree National Park, f/4.5, 1/320s, ISO 160, 18-55@36mm

I even got a shot of the moon setting.

moon setting behind rocks in early morning

Moon setting behind rocks. f/4.5, 1/640s, ISO160, 18-55@35mm

Later in the day we were by Live Oak picnic area and the clouds moved in again to make some interesting skies against the rocks and plants.

rocks and clouds landscape

Rocks and clouds, f/9, 1/60s ISO 100, 18-55@18mm

rocks and clouds

Live Oak picnic area, f/9, 1/160s, ISO 100, 18-55@24mm

I also took photos from inside some different rock overhangs and holes. I learned of this idea for photos from one of my group leaders, he was always on the lookout for holes in rocks to shoot though.

Split Rock overhang.

Split Rock overhang. f/8, 1/100s, ISO 100, 18-55@18mm

And from a smaller hole.

Shot from a hole in a rock, landscape of Joshua Tree N.P.

Hole shot. f/3.5, 1/800s, ISO 160, 18-55@18mm

We also went to the 49 Palms Oasis, a couple of miles to hike in to a small spot of water in the desert. Kind of neat spot.

Palms trees at 49 Palms Oasis

49 Palms Oasis. f/5.6, 1/320s, ISO 100, 18-55@25mm

Here is a bit of a group shot, I shot it as we stopped at the summit of the trail to 49 Palms Oasis. No, I didn’t line everyone up, I just shot them standing around. If you go to the photo page for the Sierra Club Camera Committee (Los Angeles area) there is a great group shot of everyone. One of the people shot everyone then stitched them all together to make one BIG photo. We were standing in a circle as the photo kind of shows. This was just a quick shot without much thought, everyone was just standing around for a break in the hike.

Group of people at summit of trail to 49 Palms Oasis

Summit of trail to 49 Palms Oasis. f/14, 1/50s ISO 100, 18-55@18mm

Another thing I saw on the hikes were old cars and trucks.

Old truck in desert of Joshua Tree N.P.

Old truck near Wall Street Stamp Mill. f/4.5, 1/1000s, ISO 100, 18-55@34mm

Another truck at the Wall Street Stamp Mill.

Old truck at Wall Street Stamp Mill

Old truck at the Wall Street Stamp Mill. F/9 1/30s, ISO 100, 18-55@33mm

A close up of the wheel and fender, note the colors the metal has rusted too.

Close up of a wheel and fender of an old truck in the desert

Wheel and fender of old truck. f/9, 1/10s, ISO 100, 18-55@20mm

A shot of the Wall Street Stamp Mill.

Workings of the Wall Street Stamp Mill

Wall Street Stamp Mill in Joshua Tree N.P. f/9, 1/320s, ISO 100, 18-55@39mm

Here is a silly take on a rock formation I found, I call it “Eat a peach rock” because it looks like the big rock is biting the smaller rock and the big rock looks like it has a face on it.

rock with a face, looking like it is biting another rock

Eat a peach rock. f/8, 1/125s, ISO 100, 18-55@34mm

Another place we went was Arch Rock, here is two angles on it.

Arch Rock at Joshua Tree

Common angle of Arch Rock, (kind of at least) f/3.5, 1/1250s, ISO 100, 10-22@12mm

I was shooting with a wide angle lens so I got away with the wide f-stop. There were a lot of people walking all over the arch so I shot quick and forgot to tighten up my f-stop.

Here is the back side of Arch Rock.

Backside of Arch Rock

Backside of Arch Rock Joshua Tree National Park. f/3.5, 1/640s, ISO 100, 18-55@18mm

Here are some more shots I took that I like and want to share.

Trail at Split Rock

Split Rock trail. f/9, 1/30s, ISO 100, 18-55@23mm

This next shot we went to get a sunset photo but the sky didn’t give us much of a sight. So I put  two graduated Neutral density filters (4 AND 8) in front of my lens and this is the result. Kind of out of this world.

sunset taken though filters

Out of the world sunset. f/13, 1/13s, ISO 100, 18-55@25mm

Here is a dead tree branch I framed up for a nice composition.

Shot of dead wood branch

Dead wood still life. f/2.8, 1/2000s, ISO 100, 100mm

Some wildflowers

Spring wildflowers

Spring wildflowers in the desert. f/5.6, 1/25s, ISO 160, 18-55@55mm

Some more wildflowers.


Best wildflowers of the weekend. f/2.8, 1/600s, ISO 160, 100mm

Close up with macro to show off the shallow depth of view.

wildflower in spring

Macro shot of wildflower. f/2.8, 1/600s, ISO 160, 100mm

A close up of the strands on a plant, I think it was a young Joshua tree. Just looked different.

white curly things on leaves

White curls strands on leaves. f/5.6, 1/100s, ISO 100, 18-55@55mm

For the closing photographs, I have two photos of sayings carved on boulders in the desert at a place known as Samuelson Rocks. There are five rocks carved in all, so you will have to go there to see the rest. It is a three mile hike to the pile of rocks. The sayings seem to be appropriate to today’s financial problems and government troubles even though the saying were carved in rock in 1927.

saying carved in the face of a rock

Samuelson Rock, saying carved in 1927. f/11, 1/50s, ISO 100, 18-55@43mm

and this.

Saying carved in a rock in 1927

Samuelson Rock, No. 2 Saying carved in 1927. f/11, 1/250s, ISO 100, 18-55@43mm

Well, I hope you enjoyed my trip to Joshua Tree National Park in Southern California and can make plans to visit there someday yourself. There are more sites to see and plenty of campgrounds to stay at. There are a couple of towns on the north edge of the park where you can stay in motels if you want to. Just remember to bring plenty of water and sunscreen because it is the desert and even a mile hike is a long walk in the warm sunshine of spring or fall, worse in summer. It really is beautiful out there, lots of colors to see and interesting plants and rock formation. Lots of rocks to climb on for the rock climbers, saw a lot of them too at various stops along the way. Hopefully you will see more wildflowers than I saw and get to photograph them as well as the various sights. I hope you have some clouds in your skies to make things interesting too. The deep blue sky is nice but mid-day it bleaches out and is boring in the photographs.

Hope you learned something from my post, leave me a comment if you want to. I would like to hear from people on what they think of all this.

Thanks for enjoying my post.


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