Full Moon Sets at Sunrise

If you visit someplace scenic like a National Park for the Full Moon, you can look forward to a Moonset with gentle morning light on untouched Nature. That’s what we found on the morning of May 20 in Joshua Tree National Park. The Full Moon (95% full) looks brightest when the sky is still a bit dark, and a little bit of light on the landscape allows you to see the amazing landscape in the foreground. You will only have a few minutes to balance the darkness and the light for optimum effect.

The rising sun has lit the distant mountains and clouds but not the Joshua Tree in the foreground, which appears almost in silhouette. The low light reveals some detail in the highly textured tree, but makes it a strong visual element in the composition where the moon is the “star.” May 2019

Ballet in the Desert

Whenever the shapes of Nature remind me of ballet, I have to stop and take a picture. This Joshua Tree seems to be arcing a curved arm overhead in a graceful reach to frame the desert.

A single leaning Joshua Tree frames the desert scene on a sunny day in May, 2019.

When you are visiting from the East Coast, you don’t normally think of rattlesnakes and jumping cacti (the cholla or teddy bear cactus), but I was watching my step too.

Was your week wet or dry?

We have had a wet and stormy week in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and other parts of the United States have endured worse — floods or even tornadoes. This late spring/early summer weather can be violent.

So, my mind is traveling back to last week in the dry high-altitude desert. We had cacti all around us in Joshua Tree National Park in Southern California. The Joshua trees themselves are as numerous as they are unique. This one, uniquely shaped, seemed to point toward the setting moon in the west.

Old Joshua Tree points toward the moon as it sets behind the mountains in Joshua Tree National Park, soon after sunrise in late May 2019. We were thankful for a clear day to enjoy some hiking.

Discovering the High Desert

As a part-time Floridian, I’m in love with the coastline, the ocean, tropical plants and birds. I wasn’t sure if I was going to enjoy an adventure into the California desert, but I did!

My daughter booked an Airbnb in Yucca Valley for a couple days’ visit to Joshua Tree National Park, and we got to hike and explore the “high desert,” something new to me. I found the Joshua Trees to be really funky, and the sandstone boulders fascinating too.

We could see the snowy peaks of the San Bernadino Mountains in the distance, while taking in the textures of the high desert terrain at our feet. Just a short time after sunrise, the sunshine was brilliant.

We were lucky that the temperatures were moderate for our May 20-21 visit, and that we stayed close to the national park, in order to get there for sunrise. Stay tuned to this blog for more photographs from this special national park, Joshua Tree.

Born White, Turning Blue

The Little Blue Heron is born as a stark white bird, and it gradually develops those vibrant slate blue feathers as it matures. If you were not aware of that color change, you might wonder about the identity of this unique bird when you see it in the Everglades.

This juvenile Little Blue Heron shows some blue feathers coming in around the neck. The bill is taking on its blue hue as well. The white branches underline its ghostly visage in the swamp. Shark Valley, Everglades National Park, 2019.

Standing on one leg, the heron rests the other while silently watching the water for fish. “Little” is a relative term, as it can grow to 29″ and have a wingspan of 41 inches. It is only “little” when compared to the tall “Great Blue Heron,” that can stand 4.5 feet high.

Is Blue Your Color?

The Great Blue Heron stands out in the marsh with its blue feathers, long and sharp beak and distinct yellow eyes. I love to bike in the Everglades to get a close look at these elegant birds.

Examine the delicate neck feathers of this Great Blue Heron. The yellow eye and beak stand out with their complimentary color. Shark Valley, Everglades National Park, 2019.

This Great Blue Heron (below) shows his breeding plumage. The male bird wears the eye catching “dress” to attract a mate.

In profile, this Great Blue Heron shows his crown feather and delicate neck plumage. Shark Valley, Everglades National Park, 2019.

Great Blue Heron in Flight

Ten days ago, I was biking in the Everglades National Park, working hard to get some photographs of the Great Egrets and Great Blue Heron in flight. I write to you today from my desk in Pennsylvania, because my efforts paid off and I have more images to share!

Great Blue Heron is up and away, spreading those enormous blue wings and stretching out its long body. Shark Valley, Everglades National Park.

For you photographers out there, I had to use ISO 2500 in order to freeze motion with a shutter speed of 1/1000 and keep the aperture wide enough to achieve enough depth of field that the heron would not fly out of my focus zone too quickly. My camera is the Nikon D800, with the Nikon 70-200 mm lens, handheld. When birds take flight, it is a challenge to keep them sharp in the final image.

The success of this image reminds me of why I prefer still photography to video: with a print, one can freeze this moment to enjoy forever. All of these camera settings worked to create an image you can enjoy as a 10″ x 10″ print, available on my website.