Tuesday, April 17, 2018

PHOTOGRAPHY OF THE BIZARRE JOSHUA TREE


While visiting my son in Palmdale, California, he encouraged me to go into the open desert just behind their housing development and check out the Joshua trees that dominate the landscape. I went out there not expecting much since it was about 1pm (usually not a good time of day for natural light photography), but the sun was low in the sky on that early March day creating nice directional light. Once I saw this field of bizarre trees I immediately went back to my car and got out my camera.  What attracted me was how dramatically different each tree was—they don’t grow symmetrically with the orderly pattern of most trees—they’re chaotic and freaky looking! I like that.

Well, I guess that’s the case since these things aren’t really trees—they’re plants. Actually they’re giant Yuccas in the Agave family. They grow uniquely in the desert southwest of the US and mostly in California’s Mojave high desert. Here’s one of the taller ones….
f11.0 @ 1/200 sec., ISO 400; Lens @ 35mm
The Joshua trees typically grow to about 20 feet taking 60 years to mature and can live more than 500 years.

Here’s a detail image…
f16.0 @ 1/500 sec., ISO 400; Lens 15mm

Taken at about 1pm I shot through one of the spiky tufts to get the sun star and nice sky as a background. That dark drooping tendril is the core of the Joshua tree’s flower—at this point all the trees had dropped their flowers.

Here’s a stand of the trees…

f13.0 @ 1/400 sec., ISO 400; Lens 15mm
With their flowers gone leaving that proboscis behind these things look insect like. Using my 15mm fisheye, moving in close, and converting to Black & White I enhanced their bizarre look.

How’s this for Bizarre?…..

f16.0 @ 1/400 sec., ISO 400; Lens @ 70mm
Some were apparently dying and their state of decay was compositionally interesting. This limb looked like an ancient fossilized animal. 

This is part of the field I explored…
Car for scale
Using my car for scale gives you an idea of their size. These trees were so much fun to photograph that I came back out after 7pm for sunset lighting.

Had a nice sunset!….

f11.0 @ 1/125 sec., ISO 800; Lens @ 45mm
The Joshua tree has been around for a long time, but their habitat is pretty small and if it gets much hotter and drier in the Mojave they will not survive as a species. The largest Joshua tree on record was 80 feet tall and was estimated to be about 1000 years old.  The Mojave Desert wouldn’t look the same without these spiky icons inhabiting its landscape.

’Til next week…

Author:  Jerry W. Venz, PPA Master Photographer, Craftsman
Training site: http://www.LightAtTheEdge.com
Client site: http://www.TheStorytellersUsa.com

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