I’ve just returned from Joshua Tree National Park where I spent a week photographing with two of my photo buddies. We rented a house just outside the park boundary and spent five mornings and five nights exploring the beauty of the park which was transformed by March’s welcome rainfall. And although we saw and photographed a wide variety of scenes from the incredible blooms of desert wildflowers to the expressive shapes of the Joshua Trees and rock formations, what is most memorable are the two evenings at Joshua Tree when we photographed the night sky. The higher altitude and the isolation from urban light pollution provided us a magical, crystal-clear view of the stars and the moon during those evenings.
Our first venture was a trip to Hidden Valley around 5AM to await the rising of the waning crescent moon. The moon startled us when it suddenly arose to our east about 30 minutes before sunrise. This was the first moonrise I had witnessed in the desert. I cannot describe the feeling except to say I felt very small as I fumbled with my camera, trying to make the correct exposure as the moon lifted above the horizon.
The next evening we arose even earlier, leaving the warmth of our house at 4 AM to look for the Milky Way. We expected it to be visible in the southern sky. This kind of photography was trickier because long exposures were required and working as a group, we had to be careful not to spill light from our flashlights or camera sensors into each other’s scenes. I was able to get a couple of credible exposures, one each of the Milky Way and then the Big Dipper in the northern sky. Click on any of the photographs on this page to see more detailed larger versions.
Several mornings later, while walking near Lost Horse Wall, a popular rock-climbing destination, my eye was drawn to several delicate seed-heads glowing brightly like stars on the darkened desert floor. I couldn’t help but thinking how much the tiny world reminds me of the vastness of the cosmos. Stars above, stars below!