Joshua Tree at Night

Location: Joshua Tree National Park - Joshua Tree, CA

During this time of year in Joshua Tree the temperatures can drop dramatically at night, the higher elevation (around 2700 ft) certainly adds to this effect. It can be 60 degrees during the day and 30 degrees once the sun goes down, make sure you pack a good jacket and layer-up if you plan to visit. 

For the photograph above 'Stand Tall', I used a new light tool I made especially for taller creations. For scale, the left skeleton is about 6 feet tall and the right one is about nine to ten feet tall. I used an old antenna, an LED and single wire to create an extendable light source I could draw with. Later I wrapped it in clear fishing line for a more diffused look:

Sunrise and sunsets create vibrant transitional colors in the sky, and at night the backdrop of space itself appears bright and unobstructed by city lights in the distance. 

The occasional passing car lights define narrow paths cut through the park, highlighting mounds of giant boulders.

setting up the shootout

Here I am setting up the next shot, I wanted a western shootout look with one character in the foreground and another far off in the background eating lead.

I was hoping to get a bit of that fading sunset color in the shot.

You can get a feel for about how much time went by taking a look at the length of the star trails. The 'Midnight Showdown' scene (below) took 370 seconds:

Later that night we headed to a really cool place called Cactus Moon Retreat, and I drew a cactus and moon in one of my favorite rooms in the property using my newly designed jumbo Night-Writer tips.

cactus moon

Here's a sneak peak at what some new modular (and larger) color-tips look like up close, I plan on making these available soon but need to fix a few minor things about the way they clasp together first.

Here's a short GoPro video I captured while trying to create the images in this post, hopefully it gives you a good idea of what making light-drawings is all about.

We'll finish this post with the 'Devil you Know', made with a red modular tip and a really bright white LED to create some flares over the eyes.

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Desert Nightlife

Location: Pioneertown, CA

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Here's a slow dance with an equally slow shutter, this image took 156 seconds to illustrate with my red and blue tipped Night-Writer

Astrobandit and I checked this place out last week in Yucca Valley called The Ruin Venue which is mostly used for large parties and weddings. I set up for a few images using it's interesting outdoor features like this geometric lighting arrangement which was powered by a small generator.

For this image, I began the exposure with the lights on, and then walked to the generator and unplugged the lights to illustrate my dancing skeletons. The weather was strange this night, it was relatively calm in this part of the desert, but we could see intense storm clouds forming in the distance. Lighting struck a handful of times, but it was far off in the distance, so we just enjoyed the show.

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Here's a view of the fireplace inside the actual ruins. I thought this would be a good spot for my Stegosaurus Light-Fossil - this particular image is a composite of two shots. The stegosaurus took 198 seconds to produce, then I did an additional shot for the sky so I could capture those stars that were visible for a brief moment between the stormy clouds.

If you'd like to try this sort of image (above) for yourself, you can check out my blog post on compositing High/Low ISO photos together RIGHT HERE.

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Another view of the interior from outside the structure with the lights on. I really enjoyed the inside/outside feel of this place, it blends in well with the environment and makes for unique photo opportunities like this one. 

To learn more about light-painting, check out my EDU page for a full how-to explanation.

Old Westerns

Location: Joshua Tree, CA

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This car looks as if it had been in the desert for about a century. Judging from the Model-T appearance of the car, it probably has.

The old ranch was originally bought in the 1930's for gold and silver mining by Bill Keys (left). He had a land dispute with his neighbor Worth Bagley (right) over control to an access road for gold and silver ore processing and shot him dead. The actual spot of the gunfight is marked by a tombstone further down the trail.

Here's a good view of the car, if you know the specific model of the car, let me know and I'll update this post!

old car

Next we're at wonderland wash, where there's an abandoned brick house that looks out to the desert from a large base of rocks.

For the image below, I used part of the wall on right side of the house to illustrate the dinosaur's head and then moved slowly down the neck and across a floor littered with bricks to the other side of the house, ending with the Brachiosaurus tail. One more addition to my Light Fossils collection.

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Shortly after illustrating the dinosaur above, a warm glow began to cast from the east. When the moon rose just above the hills, another unique lighting opportunity presented itself. Here is my view through the window of the old brick house:

moonrise

With the moon now highlighting the front of the house and leaving joshua tree shadows on the old ruins, I started another long exposure. For this image I drew in twenty nine eyes looking through the doorway and window.

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We end the night with a song by the fireplace. Thanks for viewing!

Here's a link to the hike if you'd like to check this place out for yourself!

Wild West

Location: Pioneertown, CA

Out in the desert sits a dusty old film set from the 1940's called Pioneer town near Joshua Tree, CA. Here is where Gene Autry, Roy Rogers, and some of the old west film stars made television shows and films.

It's a fun place to visit and there's a great honky tonk bar and BBQ down the street called Pappy and Harriet's

I used a blue and pink tipped Night-Writer for the skeleton and a gelled red high-power LED light for the outhouse interior.

Watch out for Joshua Trees around the town, I nailed my head on one of those branches while light-painting this minecart. Luckily, I was wearing a Bronson Beanie and it wasn't as bad as it would have been otherwise - those trees are prickly!

For more light-skeleton madness, check out the Gallery below:

On the Rocks

Location: Joshua Tree, CA / Settings: F7.1, ISO 50, 841 second exposure

Here we are in Joshua Tree, CA - land of strange trees, and large boulders.

Before taking this long exposure, I stood a boulder that was a little too round, it rocked to the side and I jumped off - with scenes from that James Franco / Danny Boyle film '72 Hours' flashing through my mind!

This was a solid opportunity to use all the new Color-Tips of the Night-Writer during the course of the long exposure. It helped to hold all the colors I wanted to use in my left hand and put them in my shirt pocket after using.

Check out the Gallery to view the entire collection of Light-Skeletons and for the option to purchase prints.

Arch Rock, or Dead Duck?

Location: Joshua Tree, CA / Settings: F4.5, ISO 1600, 106 seconds

This is one of those night-photographers spots - I feel sorry for the casual camper that unsuspectingly chooses the place right by the entrance to arch rock trail, as there's always late-night hikers making the sound of footsteps passing by in the middle of the night.

I didn't have much of a concept for light-art when I first got here, but after looking at the rock - It began to look like a dead-duck from the classic nintendo game duck hunt.. The more I looked at it, the clearer it became.

A little orange light there, an X for the eye, a little green, some blue, and finally a bit of yellow for the feet. Ah yes - a dead duck indeed!

That's what light-art is all about - making beautiful landscapes into dead ducks.