Rainy Road Trip

Anza Borrego is a magnificent park in Southern California, shown here with a lovely rainbow over the palms and desert badlands.

Some people might think a day or more of rain on a trip to see plants and wild landscapes would be a bad thing.  To the contrary, a rainy road trip is one of the best possible ways to have an exciting time and capture beautiful photographs.  The rainbow over Anza Borrego is certainly not going to happen on a blue sky day.   Plants are evenly illuminated in the clouds, and often are luminescent.    It is also not 100 degrees in the desert so hiking is comfortable, if sometimes damp.

Plants like this agave just look more vibrant when viewed or photographed on a cloudy day.

We were hiking in the Kelso Dunes, and a massive wall of fog descended with incredible speed.  It obliterated the landscape, so you might think, bad news.   One Latvian at the dunes saw it that way and drove off to find sunny weather.   My friend Charles Mann and I thought otherwise.  We headed in the same direction it was traveling and managed to find the fog again in the desert.  Fog is unusual in the desert, so these are pictures that don’t come easily.

This fog bank descended in less than 5 minutes, obscuring everything.

Clouds and fog decorate the background in the Mojave.


We chased down the fog and watched it in a gorgeous section of the Mojave.

Plant photography is improved with a bit of weather.  Check out the cacti and yucca (Joshua Tree) in the fog.  Chasing it down let us view a really magical scene that is not often viewed in the Mojave.  There were some challenges.  I had to drive literally hundreds of miles to avoid various mudslides and flash floods.   One section I was stuck driving through a section of road that was raining rocks and boulders onto the highway.  Took some dodging, but no damage.

Landscape pictures are always made better with clouds and action.  Like Charles says, landscape photography is largely a picture of the sky and a bit of  other stuff in the foreground.  With storms come big waves.   Some of those were pretty impressive this trip.  And the Joshua Trees were lovely in the fog (Yucca brevifolia).  The fog bank creates a simple and clean background and enhances the view.  We just had to deal with rivers out of their banks and road closures, but the beauty of it all made it worth every minute.

This picnic/campground was flooded and one of many features not accessible in the storm.

This Joshua Tree is much more dramatic thanks to the fog that cleans up the background and isolates the plant.

Monterrey Bay is generally calm, but in this instance anything but.