I was on the trail heading to Barker Dam, maybe a 1/2 mile from the road. Cattlemen built the dam in the early 20th century to collect water for their herds. Looking around Joshua Tree now it’s hard to come to grips with the idea of the place as grazing land. It’s never been exactly verdant, but a dry spell in the ‘30s combined with over-grazing and invasive species to kill off the pasturage. The cattle are so long gone even their bones are dust.
There’d been a strong, steady wind howling all day; it had just about tossed me over the side of Key’s View an hour earlier. I got a break from it as I descended into a defile between two shrub-topped rock formations where I decided to stop, catch my breath, and finally really take in my surroundings. And then….silence. No freeways. No babbling kids (not since I’d left the parking lot at any rate). Just the sound of the wind, muted now, and the twin tones of my pulse and my tinnitus. Barely even much in the way of bird calls, though there were plenty of corvids on hand.
I’d been in the park for 5 or 6 hours at that point and had spent an inordinate amount of that time rushing around looking for photos to take. It is a flaw of mine, this tendency to get so wrapped up in finding photos that I forget to just stop for a bit and just BE in my surroundings. It’s based in joy, but tends to pull me away from the sort of mindfulness that makes for good photos.
Still, I had also come to Joshua Tree with photography in mind and my gear of choice was a Nokia Lumia 1020. I brought along my SLR and an UltraPodII mini-tripod as well, but I was primarily there to put the 1020 through its paces. I shot with the Nokia Camera app, which has become one of my favorite camera-replacement apps on any platform. Being able to manually adjust exposure, ISO, and shutter speed allowed me to compensate for the insanely bright sunlight in the desert. Everything was eventually edited in Fhotoroom, which I’ve come to think of as the Windows Phone answer to Snapseed.
The park’s 800,000 acres are about 2 1/2 hours from me and there are return trips to be made. And a tent to be bought, now that I’m thinking of it. Future trips will be made with sunrise and sunset in mind. I’d also love to photograph the park’s Bighorn Sheep and a coyote or two. And maybe a rattlesnake. From a distance. Tonight there is the sound of air traffic dropping into LAX. There is some deeply unimpressive playoff hockey on the TV and there is red wine in a glass to the left of me. There is a cranky old hound in the next room. His occasional noises have me wondering what the coyotes sound like in Joshua Tree.