Semester Break, Part 1: Desert Daze

My friend, Dave Barrett from Denver, came out to visit and was here the past week.  Dave was CFO for my film company that made “Moosie,” the little family flick.  Actually I met him back in the 1980s when he was “talent” on an industrial video I was shooting for AT&T.  I’ve not seen him for several years so it was fun to catch up.  He is a historian specializing in the WWII period and currently writing a book based on his screenplay about the closing acts in the war.  I got to read and help “proof” a sample chapter and it was fascinating.

His visit timing was excellent for another reason: I am in the planning stages for a Veterans based project in cooperation with Candace Lopez, the head of Graphic Design at school.  Due to his interests in the veteran’s world he was able to aim me in a very productive direction.  More on that as it coalesces into a tangible event.

While he was here we of course had to take a couple of short day trips into the desert which he had never seen.  Since it was early and not yet blazing hot the timing was good.  We went first to the Borrego Springs area where I showed him a small section of the Anza Borrego part of the Sonoran Desert.  We visited some of the marvelous sculptures of prehistoric creatures commissioned by Dennis Avery (of Avery labels).

You may recall the sea serpent from a painting with light session a year ago.   This time it was afternoon but I did a shot of the scorpion.  The flat light was BORING for such a dramatic piece so I took a few liberties with reality (but then so did the sculptor) to create this version.

Welded metal sculpture of a desert scorpion near Borrego Springs, CA commissioned by Dennis Avery as part of collection on display in Galleta Meadows

Welded metal sculpture of a desert scorpion near Borrego Springs, CA commissioned by Dennis Avery as part of collection on display in Galleta Meadows

As the sun got lower towards the coastal range of mountains the ripple patterns in the sand really started to stand out so I pulled over for this quick shot that is far more quiet in nature than the scorpion.  This was shot with the Rhinocam™ using a Hasselblad-Zeiss 180mm to create an image file that is 240 megabytes.

Broken plant stalks poking up through the drifing sand in the Anza Borrego Desert State Park, California.  Shot with Canon 5D MkII mounted on Rhinocam (6 frames) with Hasselblad/Zeiss 180mm f4

Broken plant stalks poking up through the drifing sand in the Anza Borrego Desert State Park, California. Shot with Canon 5D MkII mounted on Rhinocam (6 frames) with Hasselblad/Zeiss 180mm f4.  Click to enlarge.

Now that I have learned how to properly use it, the Rhinocam rig takes 6 slightly overlapping frames to form a square as if the camera sensor was roughly 2.25 x 2.25 (or true medium format) in size.  When this shot is enlarged you can see the individual sand grains in it.  That Zeiss 180mm for a Hasselblad is an incredibly sharp lens and combined with the resolution from multiple frames the resulting image is highly detailed!  I can hardly wait to see what it will look like when shot with the new 5Ds-r.

On Monday my shooting partner Cynthia joined us and we went to Joshua Tree National Park.  I had taken the light tripod and discovered to my irritation something I had earlier suspected was true:  the Nodal Ninja™ rig for doing a mosaic was too heavy for the ball head and was an incredible pain as it insisted on slipping during a shot sequence.   The panorama should have had more of the foreground in it but the head was slipping during the lower row of shooting and had to be cropped.

Panorama of rock forms and Joshua trees in Joshua TRee National Park,  Mosaic from Canon 5D MkII, Hasselblad Zeisas 100mm f2.8 on Nodal Ninja pan Head.  Click to enlarge.

Panorama of rock forms and Joshua trees in Joshua TRee National Park, Mosaic from Canon 5D MkII, Hasselblad Zeisas 100mm f2.8 on Nodal Ninja pan Head. Click to enlarge to full screen.

This next shot is a single image taken with Canon’s 85mm f1.8 lens, a lens I think is vastly under-rated.

Late afternoon light on Joshua Trees and rock piles in Joshua TRee National Park

Late afternoon light on Joshua Trees and rock piles in Joshua TRee National Park

After taking some of the normal scenic shots, Cynthia, who has been producing some really great environmental portraits lately, wanted to practice her portrait shooting using this fascinating background and Dave was a willing subject.   I was content to just watch…

Right…   for about 10 seconds I was content to just watch!

She posed him in some of the rocks.  It looked good so when Dave mentioned the abrasive nature of the rocks I grabbed the 70-200mm Canon f4, a tack-sharp lens, to capture the sense of texture of the rocks against him and his clothes.

Portrait of Dave Barrertt.  Taken in Joshua Tree NP

Portrait of Dave Barrertt. Taken in Joshua Tree NP

We had been joking about having him pose in – and I mean IN – a cholla bush so when we saw some of the stickly little devils beautifully backlit, and since she was “practicing” she decided to really do it.  Well, not actually, she was willing to compromise and put him in front of the cholla which did seem to seem like a better deal to him.  Perhaps I can get a copy of her shots to show here… (hint, hint, Cynthia).  Anyway, I figured I needed more practice with the Petzval  85mm lens so grabbed it and with Dave in front of some back-lit Cholla did this was shot with the f2.2 Waterhouse Stop.  I think the smile was because he did not have to sit on the plant…

Portrait of Dave Barrett in Joshua Tree NP.  Taken with Canon 5D MkII and 85mm Petzval Lens

Portrait of Dave Barrett in Joshua Tree NP. Taken with Canon 5D MkII and 85mm Petzval Lens

But all good times come to an end and Dave had to head home.  Wednesday I will go with Lee Peterson to do some more shooting so will make that a new entry.

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About ndking

Commercial Photographer and Professor of Photography at San Diego City College
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2 Responses to Semester Break, Part 1: Desert Daze

  1. lograstudio says:

    That’s an amazing pic. The first one! Great shot.

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