Joshua Tree National Park in California is a great place for hiking, rock climbing, camping, exploration, and a real treasure for photography. I travelled to Joshua Tree last weekend to get some more practice on my night photography skills before I leave for my big escape to Norway soon. The weather was absolutely beautiful, with a clear blue sky accented with white puffy clouds. Arriving around 5:00 in the afternoon, the sun was still too bright for simple photography so I was able to use what I have learned about adjusting aperture, shutter speed, exposure compensation, filters, and more to get some good shots in the harsh light. Once the sun started going down I made necessary adjustments to my camera settings to capture shots in the different lighting.
Throughout the park are the fascinating Joshua Trees. These uniquely twisted figures look as if they may come to life at any moment and walk across the rolling hillside. The Cholla Cactus Garden is full of beautiful Cholla Cactus that look like harmless fuzzy teddy bears but actually can be quite painful if a piece blows off and strikes you with its sharp prickly needles. While walking on one of the numerous trails running throughout the park I spotted quail, horned toads, and a variety of other lizards and desert birds.
Once the sun went down I set up my tripod and camera a short distance off the road so as not to have the passing car lights interfere with my photos. I made the necessary adjustments to my camera for star photography and spent the next few hours sitting in the darkness of the desert practicing with different settings. I also found that “light painting” the trees in the foreground for approximately 4-5 seconds at the beginning of the exposure made each picture more interesting. The following settings were the best I found for my camera that provided good shots.
- Manual Mode and Manual Focus – 18mm lens
- ISO = 6400
- EV = 0.0
- Aperture = f/3.5
- Shutter = 13.0s
- White Balance – Daylight
- Vibration Reduction – OFF
Photography is a continuous learning process and requires much practice. My level of photography is evolving with each practice session and travel experience I have. And most importantly I always remind myself, “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder”. What I may think is a terrible or a great photo will always be judged by others differently.