“This would be good country,” a tourist says to me, “if only you had some water.”
He’s from Cleveland, Ohio.
“If we had good water here,” I reply, “this country would not be what it is. It would be like Ohio, wet and humid and hydrological, all covered with cabbage farms and golf courses. Instead of this lovely barren desert we would have only another blooming garden state, like New Jersey. You see what I mean? ”
“If you had more water more people would live here.”
“Yes, sir. And where then would people go when they wanted to see something besides people?”
“I see what you mean. Still, I wouldn’t want to live here. So dry and desolate. Nice for pictures but my God I’m glad I don’t have to live here.”
“I’m glad too, sir. we’re in perfect agreement. You wouldn’t want to live here, I wouldn’t want to live in Cleveland. we’re both satisfied with the arrangement as it is. Why change it?”
We shake hands and the tourist from Ohio goes away pleased, as I am pleased, each of us thinking he has taught the other something new.
from Desert Solitaire – A Season the Wilderness by Edward Abbey
Last spring I was lucky enough to take a photography workshop with David Muench, a master photographer who I first learned about during my art school days. For those of you who may not be familiar with him, Muench is a nature photographer best known for his work portraying the American western landscape, and has been called the “Ansel Adams of color photography”.
For two days from sunrise to sunset, we explored Joshua Tree National Park right when the desert wildflowers were blooming. These are a few of the photos I captured during that time. I split up the images into two posts, and will share the second part later so this doesn’t become too long…
Living in the Palm Springs area for so many years means I’ve been lucky enough to wander around the park lots of times but being part of a group of like-minded people this time was even better. The workshop was put on by the wonderful staff at the Desert Institute and it was great to meet other photographers from all over California who appreciate the desert as much as I do.
Joshua Tree National Park can get pretty busy this time of year, and understandably so. If you do have a trouble finding a camp site during the spring, try the weekdays when you’ll find it much quieter. Or you can try heading out later in the season, like May, when these photos were taken. The days will be a bit hotter and you’ll need to take plenty of water always, but it will still be fresh and clean from the winter rains. Many of the snow birds will have packed up and left, and you’ll be able to explore the desert’s stillness and solitude in peace.
Do you have a favorite Joshua Tree camp site? Maybe in a sandy cove tucked away and off the beaten path? I’d love to hear about it!