California has experienced a strange winter and early spring season thus far this year. Typically the annual desert wildflowers would be winding down in their activity over the next few weeks; this year, however, some of the desert areas are just getting started! I spent the previous weekend touring various parts of Death Valley with my parents, which means fresh grilled steaks and wine in the backcountry. Their car was so heavily loaded with goodies it barely made it down the rough Lippincot Road from the Racetrack! Along with scouting a few spots for future potential (and eating well) I did manage a few photographs. In my previous few trips I hadn’t seen many lizards out, but with the (finally) rising temperatures they came out of hiding and were scurrying out of my way every few paces. One was kind enough to pose briefly for me while I crept up to just inches away on my belly – if you happen to know the species I’d love to have an ID!

Update: The species is the Zebra-tailed Lizard, thanks Stephen C. Adolph from Harvey Mudd College for the ID!

“Desert Dweller” ~ Death Valley National Park, CA
The Tech: Canon 5D2, 16-35mm mkII, handheld
Exposure: iso 200, f/14, 1/320th

While most of the flowers were still a week or two away from blooming, a few of them were well under way in the appropriately named Golden Valley. I found this little patch growing among the sensually twisted dead sages and was immediately struck by various contrasts of color and life / death. As a token of support for Guy Tal’s “inspired by / honest revolution” I’d like to note this image as inspired by Marc Adamus. Often it’s hard for me to say a given image is clearly inspire by a single artist – usually it’s an amalgamation of inspiration from a variety of sources, and of course my own personal experiences – but this is one of those rare cases where credit is clearly due.

“Spring Transformation” ~ Death Valley National Park, CA
The Tech: Canon 5D2, 24-105mm, tripod, thermarest as shade
Exposure: iso 200, f/16, 1/4th

One my previous three visits to Death Valley I’d been wanting to get up to Dante’s View to make some abstract photos of the valley floor, particularly because of the unique conditions offered by the state of Manly Lake (which is usually bone dry). Unfortunately the road had been closed up until not so long ago due to snow and ice – but finally I was able to get up there, and what a view it was!

“Dante’s Ocean” ~ Death Valley National Park, CA
The Tech: Canon 5D2, 100-400mm, handheld
Exposure: iso 200, f/11, 1/500th

In looking at my past blog posts, I realize that it may seem that I’ve completely transformed into a true desert rat. Perhaps that is so. It’s nice and warm out there, you can usually count on the sun being out at some point, and you can camp just about anywhere you like (provided you’re far enough away from everyone else). So, to convince you that I appreciate more than just sand and rocks I thought I’d share some greenery with you rather than saving it for a more relevant story. I explored some local foothills on my way home from the desert thanks to a tip from Dave and David and found myself in incredible rolling hills of green and blue. Yes my friends, spring is definitely well under way… in Southern California that is! Sorry to all you northerners, I’ve been there too, but when it finally turns green up there in May just remember that by then it’ll be brown again here (actually, we call it ‘gold’ here), and will remain that way until January of next year.

“Spring Fever” ~ Santa Monica / Santa Susana Mountains, CA
The Tech: Canon 5D2, 16-35mm mkII, tripod, hand for flare control
Exposure 1: iso 100, f/20, 1/4th
Exposure 1: iso 100, f/20, 1/8th
Notes: 2 exposures blended for exp. control, 3 insignificantly small power poles cloned out, and a lot of work in selective color balance and shadow/highlight control.
Click for a larger version!

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4 Comments to “Spring Fever”

  1. Candace says:

    Beautiful. I am going to retweet your site. My first guess at species would be western whiptail, but I am not a biologist.

  2. Great to see the spring is finally around, huh? It was a somewhat weird winter experience here in middle Europe. Lots of snow but I can’t remember a sunrise or sunset with good light, or even decent light that is.

    Anyhow Floris, with the recent rains I was expecting to see some wildflowers from the SoCal deserts! 😉 From what I’ve heard, Anza Borrego is bursting right about now. So I am guessing more shots are on their way! I love the lupine meadow aka “Spring Fever” by the way. The morning light and mist go so well with the iridescent blue of the lupines. Beautiful shot. But so is “Spring Transformation” which actually awakens more senses and stirs emotions.

    I am sorry but as far as little desert critters go, I fear I can’t be of any help. Are you sure though you shot it at f14? It looks more like f4 or 5.6 with the shallow depth of field. Sorry to be meticulous here! lol

    May the good light be with you! 😉


  3. Thanks folks!

    David – the lizard was just two inches or so from the front of the camera – when you get that close the depth of field takes a nose dive!

    Candace – I appreciate the guess at the species, best I got so far 🙂

  4. That explains a lot. I was just wondering but now that you said the lizard was just a few inches away and considering the minimum focusing distance of .9ft for the 16-35 you must have used some extension tubes as well to get such a clean focus at such short distances and quite a bit of bokeh! 😀