Lori Carey Photography

Monday, August 1, 2016

Milky Way and Dusty Skies at Joshua Tree National Park

Milky Way in Joshua Tree National Park

I took four people out to Joshua Tree National Park to teach them how to shoot the Milky Way Saturday night. I was originally thinking to do a "Girls Night Out Under the Stars" with some adventurous Jeep friends and I posted an invite on my Facebook page, but the timing didn't work out for most people and I had guys asking to come, so we ended up doing a couples thing and I actually managed to convince my husband to join me in the desert in the middle of summer. The spouses had company while the shooters were busy, and I think it worked out really well. When we were finished shooting, we grabbed a few hours of sleep right there under the stars before heading home.

The galactic core of the galaxy is directly facing the earth this time of year, so if you want the best Milky Way photos this is the time of year. Saturday night/Sunday morning the moon was just a tiny thumbnail, it didn't rise until 2:57am and was only 12.1% illuminated; perfect for shooting the Milky Way. But as all outdoor photographers know, sometimes conditions don't work in your favor. As we were heading out to the park, when we crested the mountains and dropped into Riverside, the sky turned a dull gray and visibility was practically non-existent. We could barely make out the mountains. At first I thought it might be due to one of the wildfires raging in California, but as we continued toward Joshua Tree it only got worse and it didn't smell like smoke. I couldn't figure out what was going on - it didn't seem to be smog (and I've never seen smog that heavy way out in the desert, and although it was low to the ground it didn't seem to be fog either. I couldn't figure out what was going on because I had never seen anything like it.

It wasn't until I got home the next day that I learned from The Press-Enterprise it was due to a storm in Arizona -

"Across portions of the Inland area Saturday, the sky was filled with a smoky, grayish haze and many residents were scratching their heads and wondering why.So what caused the sky to look this way? National Weather Service meteorologist Dan Gregoria said you can blame a powerful storm in Arizona. He said the storm — which moved in over Arizona Friday night — not only produced rain and lightning there, it also kicked up lots of dust. That dust was then carried by down draft winds and pushed west as the storm moved west. It made its way across Yuma, into the Coachella Valley, through the Banning Pass and the rest of the Inland area. The storm eventually traveled into Baja California and dissipated. It didn't deposit any rainfall in Southern California on its way out -- just the dust, National Weather Service officials said.

Gregoria said it's a rare occurrence to have such dusty skies."

The view from Keys View during a dust storm event. Joshua Tree National Park

Just how bad was it? Here's the view from Keys View - above is how it looked on Saturday and below is from a previous trip on clear day. Normally you could see the San Andreas Fault, Palm Springs and the Coachella Valley, Mt. San Jacinto and Mt. San Gorgonio, and on really clear days you can see all the way past the Salton Sea into Mexico.

Keys View, Joshua Tree National Park

I knew that there was a monsoon blowing into Arizona, but it wasn't supposed to reach this area until Monday. Who knew that a storm in the next state could have such a drastic affect on us? We were hoping the wind would blow it out by sunset, and although much of it had dissipated by evening there was still a lot of low-level haze and the Milky Way, although visible, couldn't be seen in all of its glory. Disappointing for sure after we had all driven several hours, but we're all outdoors people who would still enjoy a beautiful evening under the stars even if it was a bust for the photographers. Knowing that the camera sees more light than our eyes do, I decided we would give it a try anyway, and as I had hoped my camera picked it up much better than I thought it would. We had a lot of fun shooting for several hours, playing around with some light painting, and enjoying the desert.

I did use much heavier processing than I normally would on the photo above in order to bring out the galactic center. That's always a judgement call and up to your own personal style. I usually prefer a more natural look, and I remember when everyone was shocked a few years ago when several photography heavy-weights were disqualified from the Astronomy Photographer of the Year contest due to excessive processing of the Milky Way. When post-processing an image I always keep in mind the intended audience and usage of the image when deciding how far to go. I love creating art but I also pride myself on doing spot-on documentary work. You can really see how hazy it was from all of the dust in the air. The ambient light from Palm Springs doesn't bother me much as it helps emphasize the silhouette of the rock formation. I've only processed one Milky Way shot so far; I shot material for several DrivingLine articles while I was in J Tree and as soon as I get those articles put together I'll come back to my Milky Way photos.

I have several people asking me to do another "mini workshop" so I'm going to try to do another one this month. Hopefully we'll have better weather conditions!

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Exhibition: A Sense of Place

I'm incredibly excited that my photo is one of 35 that have been selected by juror Jane Fulton Alt for exhibition at The PhotoPlace Gallery's "A Sense of Place". I've been spending so much time lately photographing Jeeps to pay the bills while my heart is really in fine art and struggling with finding balance, and since I like to photograph strange things I find in the desert it can be hard to find a good fit for my images, so this is a great mental boost for me on many levels. I'm doubly excited because of the qualifications of the juror -

Jane Fulton Alt’s photographs explore universal issues of humanity and the non–material. She is the three-time winner of Photolucida’s Critical Mass for her Katrina and Burn portfolios, recipient of the 2007 Illinois Arts Council Fellowship Award, and multiple Ragdale Foundation Fellowships. She has authored two books; Look and Leave: Photographs and Stories of New Orleans’s Lower Ninth Ward,and The Burn. Her Crude Awakening portfolio was published worldwide.
She received the Photo District News 2011 Curators Choice Award and the 2012 Humble Arts 31 Women in Art Photography award. Alt’s work is in the permanent collections of the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston, Smithsonian National Museum of American History, New Orleans Museum of Art, De Paul University Art Museum, Southwest Museum of Photography, Beinecke Library at Yale University, Centro Fotografico Alvarez Bravo in Oaxaca, Mexico, Center for Photography at Woodstock, Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center, and the collection of William Hunt.

The Call for Entries:
Photographs that convey a “sense of place” blend the physical characteristics of a scene, landscape or object with the mysterious essence that emerges from gradually and perhaps unconsciously inhabiting a place over time. The photograph ceases to become an objective document. Instead, it takes on a particular feeling that is invested with something that is often intangible, revealing a deeper understanding of what lies beneath the surface.

A special thanks to photographer Marc Briggs for his personal guided tour of Carrizo Plain, mostly in the rain! Marc shoots there often and he helped me feel the Sense of Place in a way that I wouldn't have discovered so quickly on my own. I hope to be able to join him out there again one day, and I can't wait to take my husband out there one day and show him around. Carrizo Plain is a large grassland where the antelope (and tule elk) still roam and it boasts some amazing landscape...mountains, forests, wildlife, petroglyphs, the San Andreas Fault and the brilliant Soda Lake (a dry lake, but not the same Soda Dry Lake of the Mojave Preserve). It's a wildlife and nature photographer's paradise, but Marc also showed me many of the old homesteads and ranches from when this was a thriving farm community.

...the funny thing is, I've been so busy with Jeeps that I haven't even finished processing all of the photos from this trip or made the gallery public on my website yet. You can view eight other images from the Carrizo Plain by clicking on the photo above, it just isn't listed in the menu. We had such weather extremes that I have one set that is dark and moody, and another that is bright and bold and colorful. I haven't decided yet whether to combine them in one gallery. I always prefer dark and moody

And don't get me wrong, it's not that I don't enjoy photographing Jeeps, off road events, and trail adventures. I love every minute of it and I'm incredibly fortunate to get paid to do it. But it does get hard sometimes when I want to remain in a location and wait for the light to change for the "perfect" photo, or take the time to set up some lights to make the exact image I want, but I have to keep moving because I have a schedule to keep. For the most part, it's "taking" photos not making them. They are both satisfying for different reasons; it's just a completely different mindset.

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Western wabi-sabi

Abandoned quonset hut in the Mojave Desert, wabi-sabi

Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There's a crack in everything
That's how the light gets in.
~ LeonardCohen, "Anthem"

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Mean Mojave Green

Mojave Green rattlesnake (Crotalus scutulatus)

This rattlesnake decided to get in a standoff with my Jeep the other day while we were prowling around the outskirts of the El Paso Mountain Wilderness in Kern County. The Northern Mojave Rattlesnake is more commonly known as the Mojave Green because it often is a silver-green color that allows it to blend into the creosote scrubland it inhabits. It is considered to be the most deadly of all pit vipers because its venom contains a neurotoxin in addition to a hemotoxin. The venom of a Mojave Green is estimated to be as much as 16 times more potent than that of the Western Diamondback. Immediate treatment is required if you are bitten, so you don't want to mess around with this snake.

They are also more aggressive than Western Diamondback rattlesnakes (crotalus atrox). While other snakes will usually slither away if you give them a chance (stomping on the ground can help), the Mojave Green tends to prefer to stand its ground. This one refused to budge from the center of the trail for more than 15 minutes despite our remaining a good distance away once we spotted it. The upside is that I had more than enough time to grab a telephoto lens so I could photograph it from a safe distance. We didn't want to take a chance trying to drive over it, so we carefully chose a path around it where we would cause minimal damage to the plants.

The Mojave Green looks similar to the Western Diamondback. If it doesn't have the characteristic green color, the Mojave Green has a light stripe that extends from behind its eye to behind its jaw while on the Western Diamondback the stripe goes from behind the eye to intersect with the jaw, and the Mojave Green has 2 large scales between the supraoculars while the Western Diamondback has multiple scales, and near the tail where the diamonds fade the Mojave Green has narrow black rings that are often offset while the Western Diamondback has broad black and white rings that are fairly equal in width.

My husband had never heard a rattlesnake in the wild before. "That's not how I expected it to sound," he said. It's a buzzing sound, not unlike a large swarm of cicadas. It doesn't sound at all like a "rattle" if that's what you are expecting. You can listen to a Mojave Green rattle here on the California Herps website.

The snakes are out and about on warmer days this time of year, so be careful out there! Wear boots, watch where you're walking, and be especially careful when scrambling on rocks.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

54th Annual Tierra del Sol Desert Safari

The Cheeto, Randy's Off Road
The Cheeto, Randy's Off Road

I guess it's fair to say that I took an extended hiatus from blogging, although it wasn't intentional. Writing for DrivingLine has made it a bit harder to find time to write for myself, but I think the biggest mental hurdle I need to overcome is that I don't want to post photos on my blog or upload them to my website before they are published on DrivingLine. There is nothing in my contract preventing me from doing so, but it just didn't seem like the right thing to do. I would never share event photos to my social media sites either, for the same reason. By the time the photos and article are published on DrivingLine, I've already turned my attention to the next thing on my plate and and honestly just haven't been making time to go back and even upload the photos to my own site. The reality is, that doesn't help me or my business. DrivingLine has a niche audience, so I know that I've been limiting my audience when I only rely on them to get eyes on my work. And I realized that I haven't even been blogging about all of the other client work and places I've been published, which frankly is pretty stupid of me. And to top it all off, I've put very little focus on any photography outside of the off road world. I need to find a way to make all this work better for me, which probably means making up a strict schedule of days to review my work from the previous month, a schedule of social media days, a schedule for blogging...Or something like that, I'll get it figured out. So if you don't read DrivingLine, don't give up on me yet please!!

Texas Pride at the 2016 Tierra del Sol Desert Safari
Texas Pride

I covered Tierra del Sol's Desert Safari at the beginning of the month. It was held at a new location on the Salton Sea and there wasn't an official trail run this year, so I concentrated on all of the fun at the new obstacle courses. My article on DrivingLine explains why they had to find a new venue and why the new trails weren't open in time for the event. There was a storm coming in, and the beautiful cloudy sky was a nice change from the typical solid blue sky we usually get here in Southern California. Overcast skies give a nice softbox effect with even light, none of the dreaded harsh light and bad shadows that I usually have to deal with when shooting natural light in the middle of the day in the desert. And you have to love those moody skies for some drama! The late afternoon light was so gorgeous that I really wished I could sneak away to do some personal photography. I only stayed one day this year; I had the flu and was miserable, so I went out shooting for DrivingLine in the morning and afternoon when the light was best, and I worked at the 4 Wheel To Heal booth the rest of the day.

Red Jeep on obstacle course, 2016 Tierra del Sol Desert Safari

White truck on obstacle course, 2016 Tierra del Sol Desert Safari

Without a trail run I didn't shoot nearly as many photos as I normally would at this event. Since I was sick, I shot what I needed for the article and went home. Here is a slideshow with some of the images:

Or you can view larger images in the gallery on my website. In the gallery just click on any of the images to enter the lightbox where you can view them larger.

I didn't even stick around for the fireworks show this year, which I was looking forward to seeing in the new location. My photo of their fireworks show in 2014 was used on the Tierra del Sol website to promote this year's event. Prior to the event it had a countdown clock overlayed on it, and it looked really great on mobile devices.

Tierra del Sol Desert Safari fireworks countdown clock