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Mojave National Preserve Time Lapse

While I was exploring the Mojave National Preserve, I shot a couple bits of time lapse video. I was inspired to do so after I noticed how fast the clouds were moving. I knew that if I sped up the motion even more it would be interesting.

As I headed south I noticed the clouds were interacting with the mountains. Here is what that looked like:



Both videos were shot with my Canon 5D Mark II and sped up 15x faster.

Mojave National Preserve

Morning Star Mine Road

Morning Star Mine Road

Driving along I-15 on my way to Las Vegas I came across a sign that said to tune to 1610 AM on the radio to hear information about the Mojave National Preserve. Being quite bored along the 4 hour drive I decided to take a listen to see what info they were offering. After listening to the descriptions of various parts of the preserve, I decided to take a drive through on my way back. I decided to get off I-15 at Nipton Road and cut a diagonal path down to I-40 to continue my drive home.
I was impressed with the sheer desolation. It’s not the same as Death Valley National Park, as the vegetation is more dense but the wide open spaces are amazingly desolate. One thing the park did boast on the radio is the largest Joshua Tree forest in the world. I-15 cuts through part of this forest, and I soon met up with it again driving down Morning Star Mine Road.

Joshua Trees

Joshua Trees

Part of the largest Joshua Tree forest in the world

Part of the largest Joshua Tree forest in the world

I only drove through the eastern fringe of the forest, however. The majority of the forest lies in the Shadow Valley area to the west.

Very large Joshua Tree

Very large Joshua Tree

Continuing on through the preserve, I spotted these towering dunes in the distance.

Kelso Dunes from afar

Kelso Dunes from afar

More Kelso Dunes

More Kelso Dunes

These dunes tower up to 640 feet

These dunes tower up to 650 feet

These giant dunes are visible for miles and miles around. I figured I’d take a closer look if there was suitable road access. Fortunately the turnoff for the dunes trailhead is a very well maintained dirt / gravel road that any car can drive on. I decided to take a closer look. There were a half dozen or so other people there exploring these dunes. Fortunately motorized vehicles are prohibited here.

Hikers making their way to the top

Hikers making their way to the top

I’ve read that these dunes are quite varied in their composition. The largest ones shown here (which are the closest to the trailhead) appear to be mostly vegetation stabilized and do not drift. I found the sand in some places was quite solid. I could walk over them with all my gear and hiking boots and would only leave impressions in the top centimeter or so of loose sand. In other places it was just as soft as a sand dune on an ocean coast. I ventured about a mile towards the tallest dune before deciding to head back.

In the Kelso dune field

In the Kelso dune field

Looking towards the Providence Mountains

Looking towards the Providence Mountains

Hikers on the top with blowing sand

Hikers on the top with blowing sand

All together it was a very nice diversion. The preserve has many other features that I did not touch on, including a nice cave system, volcanoes and other interesting bits. I’ll definitely go back for a proper photographic expedition.

Snow-capped Sunrise

Snow-capped Sunrise

Snow-capped Sunrise

In Los Angeles we have two seasons. The season when it won’t rain and the season when it might rain occasionally. This week we have definitely entered the latter with the arrival of a winter storm which produced snow levels down to just 1500 feet and sent temperatures down into the upper 30’s for the greater LA area. For this climate, that is very cold. For where I grew up, that would seem a rather balmy temperature about now as that same storm system slams the midwest. The thing about LA though is that the rain is very cleansing to the air and to the streets.

I set my alarm to wake up early on Tuesday morning with the idea being that I would head to Baldwin Hills Scenic Overlook and take a glorious picture of downtown LA with morning glow lighting up the fresh snow covered peaks in the San Gabriel Mountains and crystal clear air. Not having done any research I did not end up with what I wanted. I think what I was envisioning in my head is more apt to come at sunset if at all. If you look closely you can see the snow behind downtown LA in the early light. The first time it rained after I moved here was the first time I caught a glimpse of Old Baldy, the 10,068 foot peak on the eastern border of LA County. This behemoth was completely invisible the first month I was here. The next day the LA times had a picture of downtown LA with beautiful snowcapped mountains behind, and I’ve always wanted to take a shot like that myself. Now I know where to take it.

Snow over the Hollywood Sign

Snow over the Hollywood Sign

The Hollywood Sign showed some nice snow-capped peaks behind it. The light on the San Gabriels behind is what I had envisioned behind the LA skyline. The picture will also be better framed from a little further east at Kenneth Han park.

A jogger in the cold

A jogger in the cold

A fellow photographer with his hasselblad

A fellow photographer with his hasselblad

Always nice to see people shooting film, even if I don’t do much of that anymore.

As clear as it gets

As clear as it gets

Devil’s Gate Dam

The face of Devil's Gate Dam

The face of Devil's Gate Dam

Devil’s Gate Dam is a site where I took some photos of the Station Fire back in August. Until then, I had no idea that this dam existed, despite numerous trips to play frisbee golf at the nearby Oak Grove disc golf course. This 100 ft + dam is meant for flood water control and is also a huge line of defense in case of large mudflows coming down from the burned area. The light was not cooperating with me but I managed to get a couple of interesting shots of the Dam and the eroded Arroyo Seco watercourse running through it.

Looking down. A taste of fall color!

Looking down. A taste of fall color!

Miniature canyon

Miniature canyon

Wider view of the minature canyon with some fall color!

Wider view of the minature canyon with some fall color!

One last bit of the Arroyo Seco watercourse

One last bit of the Arroyo Seco watercourse

Terrible Desolation

Earlier this week the Angeles Crest Highway reopened through the Angeles National Forest. This road has been closed since the Station Fire back in August which was the largest wildfire in the recorded history of Los Angeles County. This terrible fire consumed more than 160,000 acres and resulted in the death of two firefighters.
Having taken pictures of the Station Fire I thought I’d take a drive up to see what could be seen. The change in scenery was astonishing compared to the area I had enjoyed hiking in earlier in the year. It’s going to be a painfully long time before the area recovers and trails can be made safe again. I really regret not hiking many of these trails before this. In my photographic quest this morning, I did not venture off of any of the wide turnouts that are dotted along the highway. I was in no way interested hindering any of the recovery. Unfortunately there were other people that I saw along the road walking off of the turnouts and into the fragile scorched soil around.

My first glimpse of the desolation

My first glimpse of the desolation

This is quite a sight to behold considering that back in April the hillsides looked something like this:

Angeles National Forest as seen from Josephine Peak

Angeles National Forest as seen from Josephine Peak

Instead, there is the strange alien world that now exists there.

Torched trees along the highway

Torched trees along the highway

Only the Yucca remains, with a few fresh green sprouts nearby

Only the Yucca remains, with a few fresh green sprouts nearby

This miniature rockslide chute illustrates what lies ahead for this area, since the vegetation is gone and nothing is left to hold back the soil. I hope our rains our nice and gentle this year.

A small fragment of a big problem

A small fragment of a big problem

There is hope. Fire is of course a natural part of the cycle of life here. As you can see some of the bushes have already sprouted forth new growth as the roots still live.

Burned area and new sprouts

Burned area and new sprouts

New sprouts from burnt trunks

New sprouts from burnt trunks

An oddball red tree amongst the devastation

An oddball red tree amongst the devastation

Burnt branches frame Strawberry Peak

Burnt branches frame Strawberry Peak

Burned brush along the highway

Burned brush along the highway

Desolation along the highway

Desolation along the highway

The surreal, brown, dead landscape near Angeles Forest Highway

The surreal, brown, dead landscape near Angeles Forest Highway

Note the bits of green where foliage was spared the wrath of the fire

Note the bits of green where foliage was spared the wrath of the fire

I sincerely hope that those responsible for this fire are brought to justice. With up to an inch of rain in the near term weather forecast, the Angeles Crest Highway may close again just a few days after opening. The entire road seemed to have been repaved, with construction crews working all over on drainage projects and repairing other damage to the road, guardrails and signs. Thanks to the construction crew for working so hard to reopen this road.

I started the day at Devil’s Gate Dam, and will be posting pictures from that location as the next blog update.

December 12, 2009 - 9:02 pm

TGiblin - Very nice photos. I see that the “penny pines” plantation at Clear Creek was thoroughly decimated. I used to hike in the San Gabriels in the 1970’s. I always said that those plantation pine trees would never have a chance in a brush fire on that south facing, chapparrel covered flat, and that it was just a matter of time. A friend of mine helped plant those trees. Sad, but those pines never should have been planted at that spot in the first place. It’s brush country.

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