Favorite Travel Quotes

"Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts."
-- Mark Twain
Innocents Abroad

"Stop worrying about the potholes in the road and celebrate the journey." -- Fitzhugh Mullan

"A good traveler has no fixed plans and is not intent on arriving." -- Lao Tzu

Is This REALLY The Desert?


Sand Verbena (Abronia maritima), growing in the sandy flats of Anza Borrego.

©Bert Gildart:  Another title I considered for this posting was “Rainy Day Details — From Anza Borrego Desert State Park”. The point, of course, is that all the rain of these past few months is creating a profusion of wildflowers not seen every year.

And now the rains of the past few days have added their artistic touch. Still, the desert is alive, and more alive, I believe, than I have seen it in a long time. Even Clark Dry Lake held rain this spring and those of you who follow this blog will recall the resulting water produced a hatch of fairy shrimp — making me wonder again: Is this really the desert?

But it is the desert and the rain has complemented the carpets of flowers by softening the light and by adding interesting patterns of moisture. In some cases, the moisture acts like a magnifying glass, accentuating details. Look, for instance, at the droplets that have come to lodge in the intersection of the lupine leaves.

What a spectacle we’re being treated to!

Flowers, then, are the headlines in this park and are appearing in many places and in many forms. Drive along the Henderson Canyon Road from Pegleg toward the DiGorgio Road and within half a mile you’ll see vast fields of sand verbena. Mixed into these fields are various other flowers to include the beautiful primrose with its delicate white flowers. As well, there is creosote, desert lily, chicory, desert dandelion, phacelia, brittle brush, and the brown-eyed evening primrose, among others.


One of the most abundant little flowers is the lupine, which has been blooming for the past few weeks. To see it here at Pegleg Campground, all we’ve had to do was step out of our trailer and walk a few feet. Unlike other species, it does not appear to be as site specific as does the sand verbena and the various species of cacti.

Cacti, incidentally, are also blooming, and one excellent place to see them is along the Cactus Loop Walk, adjacent to Tamarisk Campground, reached by driving over Yaqui Pass. The trail head is near the entrance to the campground.


PrimrosePegLeg-3-3HPSand Verbena


Dune Evening Primrose; lupine, sand verbena

Over the weeks I’ve used a variety of techniques to photograph these plants, ranging from strobe lights to natural light. Strobe lights are the only choice when winds are blowing, as they arrest the motion. Strobes, however, were not necessary the other day, which was a calm one, enabling me to shoot at shutter speeds of ¼ a second or even less. For comparison, I’m including an image of the fish-hook cactus, which was taken with two strobes.

Fish-hook Cactus

Fish-hook cactus (Mamilaria diocica) as seen along Cactus Loop Trail, Anaza Borrego

This is a small cacti and the image is almost 1/1, meaning its actual size is about equal to the image that appears in the camera’s view finder.


Other than the image of the fish hook cacti I used natural light, an acceptable choice as pervading clouds reduced harsh shadows, though I sometimes used a small reflector to add detail in dark areas. As always when photographing such tiny subjects, I used a tripod, essential when the elements must be arranged exactly to create a pleasing composition. A tripod is also essential when using a macro lens as any movement at all is accentuated. Movement results from the slow shutter speeds you must use to stop down your aperture for increase depth of field, so that you can record all those desert details in the multitude of flowers now rearing their heads.

In fact, this year there are so many of them, and they are so abundant that once again I have to wonder: Is this REALLY the desert?




*Star Photography in Organ Pipe


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