4 am. Saturday morning. Is that my alarm already? I crawled out of bed and quietly got ready to leave. Out the door at 4:30.
Part of the fun of photography is leaping out of bed in the middle of the night to get a sunrise shot. In this case I had a little over an hour drive to get up to Joshua Tree National Park to a favourite spot for sunrise so I had to start early.
I arrived just before 6:00, about an hour before sunrise. I grabbed my camera gear, tripod and headlamp and set off from the car in the dark to find a location which would be at the right angle to the rising sun. I spent the next half hour scouting out a good sight and firing off some test shots. The horizon was starting to show some beautiful color. Unfortunately the sky was completely clear. I had been hoping for a few clouds for the sun to reflect off of.
Now it was time to settle in and wait. Fortunately I had come with warm clothing as the temperature was just above freezing. I watched as the sky grew lighter and fired off a series of shots just as the sun rose above the horizon. Sunrise was somewhat less spectacular than I was hoping for but as the saying goes, “you pays your dime and takes your chance”. One day I will hit the perfect sunrise at this location. But not today.
With the sun starting to melt the frost off of the plants and ground, I set off for Barker Dam. With the recent rains I was sure that there would be water in the pond at the dam. After about a mile hike I was rewarded with the sight of water. It still had a thin layer of frost on it which proved a challenge for the birds hopping along the surface trying to get a drink.
I fired off a few shots of the birds with my 100-400 mm lens then changed lenses to get some reflection shots. I worked the pond from several different vantage points. Closer to the dam there was no surface ice at all.
As I hiked back out from the dam I stopped at one point to take a few more photos. As I was packing up my gear again a Western Scrub Jay landed on the ground just a few feet from me. Maybe he had an interest in cameras! By the time I had grabbed my camera it had hopped up on a Yucca no more than 6 feet from me. I managed to fire off a few shots before it flew away. I literally had a few seconds to change a number of settings on my camera before firing off my shots. This was certainly an instance where constant practice paid off as I made the camera adjustments without really having to think about it.
As I was driving out of the park I decided to make a little detour up Keys View Road. Part way up the road, as the elevation increased, I hit snow. Naturally I had to stop to get a few photos of the desert plants surrounded by snow.
By noon I was on my way back out of the park after a delightful morning.