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Imagine taking a handful of coarse sand, then taking that sand to create small, separate piles on an open landscape.  Now, imagine those individual grains of sand are actually the size of cars, buses and homes! The landscape looks like a mixture between Mars and some foreign part of Earth.  This is Joshua Tree National Park, 794,000 acres of desert located in southeastern California.

Joshua Tree National Park consists of two deserts, the Mojave Desert (high elevation areas) and the Colorado Desert (lower elevation areas). It's a park that offers a shifting landscape that changes every few miles, while offering some of the most bizarre and other worldly rock formations and vegetation. There is a park entrance fee of $15 (which is good for seven days) so be prepared to pay when you enter the park OR when you exit. The park's web site has more information on fees and passes here.

Its a park that offers a landscape that shifts and changes every few miles, while offering some of the most bizarre and other worldly rock formations and vegetation.
Its a park that offers a landscape that shifts and changes every few miles, while offering some of the most bizarre and other worldly rock formations and vegetation.
Skull rock, a popular destination in the park is located along the main east-west park road. Its clearly visible from the road with posted signs and more than likely tourists packed along the side of the street. Photo tip: Waiting until about 1 1/2 hours before sunset offers a very soft, warm light hitting the rock.
Skull rock, a popular destination in the park is located along the main east-west park road. Its clearly visible from the road with posted signs and more than likely tourists packed along the side of the street. Photo tip: Waiting until about 1 1/2 hours before sunset offers a very soft, warm light hitting the rock.

Camping:

If you want to stay a night (or more), Joshua Tree National Park offers nine different camping areas, which cost $10-$15 per night and are on a first-come, first-served basis. (Note: make sure you get there early, especially on weekends). White Tank Campground ($10 per night) only has 15 sites and is the smallest of all the campgrounds.  For more information on camping in Joshua Tree, visit the National Park web site.

Entrance to White Tank Campground
Entrance to White Tank Campground
White Tank Campground, located on the east side of the park offers 15 camp sites on a first come, first serve basis, so make sure to get there early! Cost for a night is $15 (with a 14 day maximum stay). The campground offers fire rings, grilling pits and picnic tables, but doesn't have running water. White tank is in the middle of the desert so plan water consumption accordingly.
White Tank Campground, located on the east side of the park offers 15 camp sites on a first come, first serve basis, so make sure to get there early! Cost for a night is $15 (with a 14 day maximum stay). The campground offers fire rings, grilling pits and picnic tables, but doesn't have running water. White tank is in the middle of the desert so plan water consumption accordingly.

Photography:

Arch Rock, is a very easy 0.5 mile hike from White Tank Campground. If you are not sleeping at the campground, you can still park your car at White Tank and hike to the arch. The trail is well marked and starts next to camp site #9. It is an easy trail to hike for just about everyone of all ages. PHOTO TIP: Visit Arch Rock, at sunrise and sunset. The rocks, which have a faint orange and red hue to them glow with the rising and setting sun!
Arch Rock, is a very easy 0.5 mile hike from White Tank Campground. If you are not sleeping at the campground, you can still park your car at White Tank and hike to the arch. The trail is well marked and starts next to camp site #9. It is an easy trail to hike for just about everyone of all ages. PHOTO TIP: Visit Arch Rock, at sunrise and sunset. The rocks, which have a faint orange and red hue to them glow with the rising and setting sun!
If you decide to spend the night at White Tank, star gazing is a must! Make sure you bring a headlamp because the park gets very dark at night. PHOTO TIP: If you want to get photos of stars make sure you bring a tripod. Having a DSLR camera with manual functions will allow you to capture the evening landscape. Placing rocks or other objects in the frame helps to create more dynamic photographs. For this photo: Shutter speed 25'', F/4.0, ISO 1600.
If you decide to spend the night at White Tank, star gazing is a must! Make sure you bring a headlamp because the park gets very dark at night. PHOTO TIP: If you want to get photos of stars make sure you bring a tripod. Having a DSLR camera with manual functions will allow you to capture the evening landscape. Placing rocks or other objects in the frame helps to create more dynamic photographs. For this photo: Shutter speed 25'', F/4.0, ISO 1600.
Photo Details: Camera: Canon 5d Mark III Lens: Canon 8-15mm fish eye (shot at 14mm) Exposure: 10 minutes F/8.0 ISO 1000
Photo Details: Camera: Canon 5d Mark III Lens: Canon 8-15mm fish eye (shot at 14mm) Exposure: 10 minutes F/8.0 ISO 1000
This Joshua Tree was captured using a combination of an off camera flash and my Black Diamond headlamp for light painting. Using my Phottix wireless radio transceivers, I placed my Canon 580 EXII flash behind the Joshua Tree at 1/4 power. I then used my headlamp to light paint the front of the tree and the surrounding ground around the tree. Camera: Canon 5d Mark III Lens: Canon 16-35mm f/2.8 at 24mm Camera settings: Shutter: 25'' F/5.6 ISO 1000
This Joshua Tree was captured using a combination of an off camera flash and my Black Diamond headlamp for light painting. Using my Phottix wireless radio transceivers, I placed my Canon 580 EXII flash behind the Joshua Tree at 1/4 power. I then used my headlamp to light paint the front of the tree and the surrounding ground around the tree. Camera: Canon 5d Mark III Lens: Canon 16-35mm f/2.8 at 24mm Camera settings: Shutter: 25'' F/5.6 ISO 1000

How We Did It

Tips:

  • Bring a camera! The landscape is out of this world and you will regret it if you don't have a camera to capture it all with.
  • Stop at the ranger/ information station at the park's entrances. There, they will give you a map and answer any questions you may have. Getting a map is essential and will help you navigate all that the park has to offer.
  • Bring a ton of water. Joshua Tree is located in not one, but two deserts. It gets very, very hot, especially in the summer. So hot, in fact, that sometimes they have to close certain campgrounds.
  • There is no electricity, running water, or cell phone service, so make sure you plan accordingly. White Tank Campground, which is one of the farthest campgrounds in the park, is about 45 minutes to 1 hour from a park entrance. Having a basic medical kit along with food and water provisions is a must.
  • Finally, have fun and explore! (Just watch out for all of the cacti, they are painful to pull out of your skin if you get hit!)

Getting Joshua Tree National Park map is essential and will help you navigate all the park has to offer.

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