If you ask the park rangers at Anza-Borrego Desert State Park where to head for sunset they will invariably tell you that Font's Point is a must if you have the right vehicle to get there. It is a rough four mile drive down a sandy wash that is horribly rutted most of the way and has very deep sand along the rest. It's doable in a 2WD passenger car if you have some experience driving in deep sand and don't mind beating up your suspension. The bone-shaking ride that has you wondering if your vehicle is losing parts takes you to an overlook that has a spectacular view of the Borrego Badlands. The Badlands are a wasteland that has been eroded into unusual shapes by wind and water and they really are quite beautiful. But in all the times I've been there, and there have been many times over the years, sunset has always been a bust. The badlands are wonderful and I love doing detail shots, the colors are amazing and for a short a period when the sun is low there are fantastic shadows, but true to form the desert sky has always been cloudless and sunset a disappointment. The one sunrise I caught at the Badlands from nearby Vista del Malpais gave similar boring results.
Until my September visit. We were heading there to shoot the Milky Way and didn't really intend to make it for sunset. We had stopped by "the" Black Oak and then Clark Dry Lake on our way out and only wanted to get to Font's Point before it was completely dark for the hike out to the point. As soon as we got there and saw the unbelievable sky we grabbed our gear and went running. We were finally rewarded with an amazing sunset and we were shooting as fast as we could because the sun was already down and the light wouldn't last long.
It was hard to take it all in and decide which way to point the camera, every direction was more beautiful than the last and had a completely different look. I have really come to love shooting in the desert during the summer and I am so glad that I made the decision to brave it out this year. The rewards have been uncountable.
Since the sun was already down and the foreground was fairly dark, I decided to use a graduated neutral density filter AND bracket for HDR. I think that overall it gave it more a natural look, which is what I am after, so I intend to try that method again. Nothing against those who appreciate the hyper-realistic super saturated HDR look, it's very popular but it's just not my style. I'll leave it to those who appreciate it more than I do.
It was hot, hot, hot. Miserably hot with a hot wind that I called the Winds of Hell. I was drenched with sweat. The light didn't last long and all too soon it was too dark to shoot and all we could do was wait for the Milky Way to make its appearance.
I sat there for a few minutes just enjoying the peace. The change from day to night still takes my breath away every time. If you ever go shooting with me you'll probably catch me just sitting still doing nothing as if meditating. It's partly because I want to take it all in and let the location speak to me, but it's mainly because I don't ever want to get so caught up in what I am doing that I fail to appreciate it and be thankful.