Three Days in Joshua Tree

Jumbo Rocks, Joshua Tree National Park

Jumbo Rocks, Joshua Tree National Park, in golden afternoon light

Named for the distinctive Joshua Trees, Yucca brevifolia, that grow in the northern part of the park, Joshua Tree National Park covers the transition between the Colorado Desert to the south and the Mojave Desert to the north. The northern half is best known, with its forests of Joshua Trees and unusual rock formations.

Joshua Tree sign

Road sign for Joshua Tree National Park, with many stickers kindly donated by previous visitors

This a photographer’s paradise, not just for the landscapes and spectacular sunsets, but also for the wildlife.  Late afternoon and early in the morning are the best times to be there: not only is the light best at these times, but wildlife is more easily seen once the tourists have stopped using the roads.  Driving slowly after dark is a good way of finding nocturnal animals, including snakes, geckos, rodents and so on.  In three days in late May, sandwiched between visits to the Anza-Borrego Desert and the Sierra Nevada we concentrated mainly on the reptiles and saw a good selection, including Speckled Rattlesnakes, Gopher snakes, Glossy snakes, many spiny lizards and several Desert iguanas.  As usual, I wish we had had more time.

I have picked out a small selection of images to give a taste of what this Park has to offer.

Joshua Tree, Yucca brevifolia

Joshua Tree, Yucca brevifolia

 

A Great Basin Gopher Snake found crossing a park road

A Great Basin Gopher Snake found crossing a park road

 

Southwestern Speckled Rattlesnake, Crotalus mitchelli pyrrhus, camouflaged against decomposed granite, Joshua Tree Natinal Park, California

Southwestern Speckled Rattlesnake, Crotalus mitchelli pyrrhus, well camouflaged against decomposed granite, Joshua Tree Natinal Park, California

 

Another nocturnal resident, a Desert Banded Gecko, Coleonyx variegatus

Another nocturnal resident, a Desert Banded Gecko, Coleonyx variegatus

 

A pair of Desert Iguanas, Dipsosaurus dorsalis, test each other's strength in a bout of pre-mating combat

A pair of Desert Iguanas, Dipsosaurus dorsalis, test each other’s strength in a bout of pre-mating combat

 

Joshua Tree, Yucca brevifolia, at sunset

Joshua Tree, Yucca brevifolia, at sunset

Photographic notes.  Most of the images were taken with a wide-angle (17 – 40mm) lens, a 180mm macro lens, or a telephoto zoom (70 – 200).  The reptile shots were taken in habitat early in the morning using natural light with a small amount of fill flash on some of them, mostly with a Gitzo GT3541 tripod with ball and socket head, as were the sunset shots, and the Jumbo Rock panorama.   The Desert Iguana shot was cropped from full-frame to a panoramic (3:1) aspect ratio whereas the Jumbo Rocks shot was stitched using three images in photoshop.

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