Highlights of 2009 Pt.2

"Hidden Valley Explosion" - yucca at dawn in JTNP

Well the snow never quite came hard enough to keep a day of work at bay, but I still had time to go through some of the year’s RAW files and finish processing a photo to accent this installment of the “Highlights” series. We’re jumping from a break in work that allows photographing around town to one that almost always involves traveling of some kind. While photography is never more than a secondary aspect of my spring break trips, I worked hard this past spring to squeeze some really exciting excursions in. On three different mornings, I rose long before dawn and drove for hours from my base at the family farm in the Mojave Desert of southern California. Each morning had some similarities (mostly in how hard it was to get out of bed on those chilly windy mornings), but they were also unique from a photographic perspective.

My first trip in the Alabama Hills was to a location I had never visited, and it proved challenging just to know where to turn, where to stop, which direction to walk, or even what my subject should be. Spring growth and flowers turned out to be the surprise highlight in a place well known for its rock formations and mountain backdrop. My second drive was the only one that took me to a spot that I had visited in the past, Joshua Tree National Park. I’m quite fond of what the park has to offer and the way it contrasts so dramatically with my Alaskan home. My previous visits both happened during the second half of the day, so I was almost as lost for direction as I had been the morning prior. Fortunately, that left me open to respond to ideas and subjects as the light presented itself, which is my preferred way of photographing. The best part about my final trip was having some company at last. I had picked up my parents on the way back from JTNP, and my dad agreed to accompany me on a drive up to Death Valley, a place we would both be experiencing for the first time. The Mesquite Dunes, more than any other place I’ve traveled, emphasized to me the importance of keeping an open mind while photographing and responding quickly to the light. The patterns accentuated in the sand seemed to change by the second, but at the end of a fleeting dawn, I was really pleased with my results.

In my mind, nothing compares to the place I call home, but without some escapes from Juneau, I’m pretty sure I would go totally nuts. The change of pace also contributes to a fresh perspective for photography, and I return to the temperate northern coast with a new appreciation after having time to contrast it with other regions. I’m already looking forward to the possibilities of the next spring break trip I have planned. Flights are booked, and I can’t wait.

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