Photographing Jumbo Rocks in Joshua Tree National Park – Look. See. Imagine. Create.

The "classic" shot

The “classic” shot

One of our favorite locations in Joshua Tree is the Jumbo Rocks campground and trail to Skull Rock.  This has one of the most picturesque rock walls in the park.  Here’s how to photograph it.

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Photographing Sunrise at Barker Dam in Joshua Tree National Park

Sunday of the first

Sunday, January 29

Mary and I last saw water in Barker Dam in 2009.  With the drought in CA these past eight years, this particular photo has been elusive.  However, once you see this reflection shot, it’s like crack for photographers.  You want to make this photo over and over again.  We recently went to Joshua Tree two weekends in a row to try to get the best photo we could.  Here’s what happened. Continue reading

24 Hours in Joshua Tree


We had a bald sky, but calm winds.

Because of all of the rain in Southern CA, the Barker Dam area of Joshua Tree has a lot of water for the first time in about eight years.  Mary and I made a trip out there just to get that one shot.  There’s a lot you can do in Josh in one day.  Here’s what we did. Continue reading

Peter’s Favorite Images from 2014

Mary and I took ten named trips last year.  Instead of ranking my favorite photos from last year, I am going to just present them chronologically from our trips.  Between Mary and I, we usually make about 10,000 images in the field a year.  We kept about 2,000 and I think about 200 are really fine photographs.  Here are my favorite 20 photos from 2014. Continue reading

How to Photograph Cactus

Close-up of a XXX

Close-up of a Prickly Pear

We fashion ourselves as photographers’ of the southwest.  As such, we often times have the opportunity to photograph cactus.  Cactus comes in all shapes, sizes, and even colors.  Here are some tips to get your best cactus shots. Continue reading

Look. See. Imagine. Create: The Power of Black and White

Jailhouse Rock, Cathedral Valley, Capitol Reef National Park, UT

Jailhouse Rock, Cathedral Valley, Capitol Reef National Park, UT

The very best time to make nature and landscape photos, even portraits, is the golden hours, i.e., one hour before and after sunrise and sunset.  I have written about the Golden hours here before.  The  issue is that sometimes you just can’t shoot sunrise and sunset for various reasons, especially when on vacation.  If you have to make photos in the middle of the day, black and white will almost always be a better option than color AND with digital cameras, shooting black and white is easier than ever  Here’s how: Continue reading

How to Photograph Trees

Napa Valley orchard on a rainy day

There is something primitive about our love for trees.  No matter where you are or the type of trees you may find, there is something appealing about them.  They provide shelter, food, materiale, and beauty.  It may seem easy, obvious, and terribly basic to photograph trees, but I think with a little planning and thoughtfulness, we can capture trees even better.  Here is how: Continue reading

A Weekend in Joshua Tree II

Morning in Joshua Tree near the Hidden Valley Campground

We recently went to Joshua Tree with our good friends Mark and Carolynn.  We only had time to shoot one afternoon and one morning.  We had bald skies again, but did the best we could with what we had.  We went to Josh about two years ago as novice photographers (see original blog post for more photos), so we were looking forward to seeing how we might have improved our eyes and our skills.  Here is our tight itinerary: Continue reading

A Weekend in Joshua Tree National Park

Joshua Tree Sunrise and Moonrise

Summer is coming to a close and its time to start planning your fall and winter trips.  One of the premier deserts in Southern California is in Joshua Tree National Park.  Josh is, actually, two large ecosystems – The Colorado Desert with stands of spike-like ocotillo plants and cholla cactus and the Mojave Desert which has extensive stands of Joshua Trees.

The prime time to visit Joshua Tree is October through April.  The late Spring and Summer are unbearably hot – in the low 100s many days.  However, in the cooler late fall and winter, it is really mild, sometimes even very cold, and very beautiful.  Besides better weather, photographing Josh in the winter also is advantageous for the lower sun and flatter light, as well as reasonable sunrise and sunset times. Continue reading

The Golden Ratio (Phi) and Photography

North Lake, Eastern Sierra Nevada, CA

The golden ratio is an irrational mathematical constant, approximately 1.618.  If you want to know more about all of its meaning and usage, use this link to Wikipedia.  For the sake of art and architecture and all around asesthetics, Phi (\Phi\,), stands for beauty and balance.  Here are two pictorial representations of Phi.

A graphical representation of Phi using the Fibonnacci spiral
The standard view of Phi

OK, enough with the math, what does this have to do with photography?  If you want to make the best, most pleasing, and emotionally appealing photograph, most of the time you must use a Phi composition to get the best possible effect.  You can go on-line and look at 1000s of photographs and the best ones, in most situations, use this compositional technique, commonly referred to as the “Rule of Thirds”.  This is simply a short-hand heuristic for Phi.  As with most rules, it can and should be broken; however, when I am in the field, I always shoot a Rule of Thirds photo before I play with other possible compositions.  It is, in my opinion, the best place to start. Continue reading