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Harsh Desert Light

Harsh Desert Light
Photo Information
Copyright: James Parker (Jamesp) Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Note Writer [C: 1369 W: 9 N: 6334] (18906)
Genre: Plants
Medium: Color
Date Taken: 2007-11-14
Categories: Desert, Mountain
Camera: Canon EOS 1Ds MkII, Canon 24-70 mm f 2,8 L-USM
Exposure: f/8, 1/320 seconds
More Photo Info: [view]
Photo Version: Original Version
Theme(s): TN Favourites [view contributor(s)]
Date Submitted: 2007-11-22 7:53
Viewed: 4508
Favorites: 1 [view]
Points: 60
[Note Guidelines] Photographer's Note
I took this shot after driving south-west from Las Vegas (after leaving the freeway and driving through the desert (about 120 miles) we passsed about five cars - I pass more than that on the 2.5 miles to the nearest town to me! Anyway, I arrived about midday and the light was very flat, so I turned the camera more-or-less into the sun to obtain some contrast. I tried cropping out the foreground, but thought I lost the 'harsh desert'.

JOSHUA TREE (Yucca brevifolia) is a monocotyledonous tree native to southwestern North America, in the states of California, Arizona, Utah and Nevada. Confined mostly to the Mojave Desert between 400-1,800 m (2,000-6,000 feet), they thrive in the open grasslands of Queen Valley and Lost Horse Valley in Joshua Tree National Park.

Joshua trees can grow from seed or from an underground rhizome of another Joshua tree. They are slow growers; new seedlings may reach a height of 10-20 cm in their first few years, then only grow about 10 cm per year thereafter. The trunk of a Joshua tree is made of thousands of small fibers and lacks annual growth rings, making it difficult to determine the tree's age. This tree is not very sturdy because of its shallow root area and top-heavy branch system, but if it survives the rigors of the desert it can live to two hundred years of age. The tallest trees reach about 15 m tall.

The leaves are dark green, linear, bayonet-shaped, 15-35 cm long and 7-15 mm broad at the base, tapering to a sharp point; they are borne in a dense spiral arrangement at the apex of the stems. The leaf margins are white and serrate.

The flowers are produced in spring from February to late April, in panicles 30-55 cm tall and 30-38 cm broad, the individual flowers erect, 4-7 cm tall, with six creamy white to green tepals. The tepals are lanceolate and are fused to the middle. The fused pistils are 3 cm tall and the stigma cavity is surrounded by lobes. The fruit that is produced is green-brown, elliptical, and contains many flat seeds. Joshua trees usually do not branch until after they bloom (though branching may also occur if the growing tip is destroyed by the yucca-boring weevil), and they don't bloom every year. Like most desert plants, their blooming is dependent on rainfall at the proper time. They also need a winter freeze before they will bloom.


Geologists believe the face of the modern landscape was born more than 100 million years ago. Molten liquid, heated by the continuous movement of Earth’s crust, oozed upward and cooled while still below the surface. These plutonic intrusions are a granitic rock called monzogranite.

The monzogranite developed a system of rectangular joints. One set, oriented roughly horizontally, resulted from the removal—by erosion—of the miles of overlying rock, called gniess (pronounced “nice”). Another set of joints is oriented vertically, roughly paralleling the contact of the monzogranite with its surrounding rocks. The third set is also vertical but cuts the second set at high angles. The resulting system of joints tended to develop rectangular blocks. Good examples of the joint system may be seen at Jumbo Rocks, Wonderland of Rocks, and Split Rock.

As ground water percolated down through the monzogranite’s joint fractures, it began to transform some hard mineral grains along its path into soft clay, while it loosened and freed grains resistant to solution. Rectangular stones slowly weathered to spheres of hard rock surrounded by soft clay containing loose mineral grains. Imagine holding an ice cube under the faucet. The cube rounds away at the corners first, because that is the part most exposed to the force of the water. A similar thing happened here but over millions of years, on a grand scale, and during a much wetter climate.

After the arrival of the arid climate of recent times, flash floods began washing away the protective ground surface. As they were exposed, the huge eroded boulders settled one on top of another, creating those impressive rock piles we see today.

Visitors also wonder about the “broken terrace walls” laced throughout the boulders. These are naturally occurring formations called dikes. Younger than the surrounding monzogranite, dikes were formed when molten rock was pushed into existing joint fractures. Light-colored aplite, pegmatite, and andesite dikes formed as a mixture of quartz and potassium minerals cooled in these tight spaces. Suggesting the work of a stonemason, they broke into uniform blocks when they were exposed to the surface

Argus, eqshannon, mariki, uleko, vanderschelden, lovenature, ridvan, horia, ramthakur, rousettus, Adanac, earthtraveler, jcoowanitwong, angybone, SelenE, Kathleen, Heaven has marked this note useful
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Critiques [Translate]

Excelente click!!

  • Great 
  • Argus Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 5038 W: 260 N: 15594] (50626)
  • [2007-11-22 8:02]

Hello James,
A great take!
Love the lighting, composition of the cactus and its shadow with the bare rocks against a Californian blue sky.
Wonderful shot!
Well done and thanks for sharing this one.

  • Great 
  • Norte Silver Star Critiquer/Silver Note Writer [C: 32 W: 0 N: 45] (184)
  • [2007-11-22 8:12]

Simple but fine composition, with a diagonal from the top of the tree to the bottom of the shadow.
I like the colors and the good contrast.
I think I agree with you that the FG not should be cropped.

I like this shot James. You captured the "feel" of the desert... rocks, sands, light and joshua. I agree about leaving the foreground. The only problem is that your lens and exposure was so good it picked up all the footprints. I suppose one could try to smooth them out prior to photo but who would think of that and actually take the time to do it. Well I can think of some folks that might do that!

Evelynn : )

Do you ever unpack your suitcase????????????????????? : )

I wonder how esoteric it would be if I said the words..."Where the streets have no name"....get it? It was my favorite songs in video format...from the album by the same name as this picture.....anyhoo...patterns definitely dominate your picture. I can think of a hundred different ways a picture such as this could be used either commercially or otherwise.

Hello James,

Beautiful composition. Good light and natural colours.

  • Great 
  • uleko Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 3396 W: 172 N: 3310] (10940)
  • [2007-11-22 8:30]

Hello JAmes,
Ah, what a fabulous scene! I love the rocks and that beautiful tree with its shadow. Beautiful light and wonderful colours and a great composition.
Many thanks and regards, Ulla

Hello James,
Well composed image.
I like the foreground shadow.

Hi James,
superb composition in this landscape.it symbolises the desert spirit so well.the shadow of the JOSHUA TREE add magic to the pic.

  • Great 
  • PaulH Gold Star Critiquer/Silver Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 1137 W: 26 N: 3879] (13882)
  • [2007-11-22 8:59]

well seen James, and you handled the light expertly. Love the smooth slopes of the rock and i agree with the cropping, good decision! i also like the way the tree sits in the V of the rocks behind, well placed!

Hello James,
I trully loved this shot a lot!
best pov with total sharpness, vivid colour and details
the shadow of the tree is a big bonus for the eyes!
very well done, James!
all the best

Hi James
The Joshua Tree is definitely unique looking. Your note explaining how the Tree grows is informative, including the history about the rocks in the area. Harsh Desert Light is a good name for this image as the desert is harsh. I like the composition as it's ballanced and has many textures, colours and lighting.
TFS Janice

  • Great 
  • ridvan Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Note Writer [C: 498 W: 0 N: 1136] (5205)
  • [2007-11-22 11:09]

selam james;
Nice composition.Good POV and sharp image whit nice details.Colors are beautiful.Excellent shot of this plants well done.
TFS ridvan

beautiful habitat, TFS Ori

  • Great 
  • jesst Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Note Writer [C: 368 W: 0 N: 172] (2441)
  • [2007-11-22 11:43]

Great composition. Wonderful detatil and sharp. Amazing color and light. Bravo!

  • Great 
  • horia Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 2158 W: 224 N: 4749] (16656)
  • [2007-11-22 12:51]

Hi James

I remember such a sight :) I too took some photos on my way to Vegas this year :)
I think you did well that you didn't crop the FG here. Because of that high sun, you got a great shadow that almost looks liek a terrific reflection of the tree here and i think that makes you composition :)
This Joshua tree is indeed a great subject for your shot! It also is a magnificent album ;)
Despite the harsh light, i must congratulate you for the exposure here. It's quite difficult in such cases to still mentain some good details in the dark parts of the tree, but you did!

Bravo and TFS

Those rocks look like the work of an avant garde sculptor, James. You have chosen the angle of exposure very thoughtfully and got just the right bit of details in this highly artistic creation with your camera.
As usual, your detailed note in a pleasure to go through.

Hi james,
you must be in USA nowadays. I belive you will post many great shots as like before. This is different, but nice shot with great details and composition. good notes always. Thanks. best wishes

  • Great 
  • Adanac Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Note Writer [C: 1273 W: 1 N: 6188] (21378)
  • [2007-11-22 17:01]

Hello James,
Very nice composition with a great shadow as well, nice to see the big rocks with the tree growing in thier shelter, thanks for sharing.

Hello James,
Wonderful rock formation. Well composed with Joshua tree and its shadow. Nice shot against the sun. TFS,

Hi James, looks like you had a fine time of travel with much variety for photos. Really nice job with composition and lighting here to show the wonder of Joshua Tree.
Fine dessertrock forms, colors and focus.

  • Great 
  • Mana Gold Star Critiquer/Silver Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 1772 W: 36 N: 5597] (18598)
  • [2007-11-23 1:58]

Hi James,
Fantastic shot and a great perspective presented here. The harsh lighting of the desert is well depicted as well as the rugged terrain. Exquisite light and shadow play. Very neat and sharp image with lovely colours. I like your POV to portray this charming scene and very nicely composed. Kudos.

  • Great 
  • gannu Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Note Writer [C: 988 W: 4 N: 3277] (14761)
  • [2007-11-23 5:26]

James, I missed some of your lovely picture of the past. Great shot and excellent note. Ganesh

Perfect! The composition is great...the shadow really adds that extra 'zing' here.
I can't help but think of U2. ;)

  • Great 
  • arfer Gold Star Critiquer [C: 2731 W: 0 N: 0] (0)
  • [2007-11-23 19:49]

Hello James

I like the way you managed the lighting,it has a wonderful quality to it.
The shadows accentuate the shot.
A beautiful composition.



Hello James,
An interesting composition!
The play of light is eye-catching, and I'm impressed by the textures reproduced in sand and rocks...
A well balanced presentation, attractive diagonal!
Pablo -

  • Great 
  • SelenE Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 2249 W: 65 N: 4205] (13972)
  • [2007-11-25 23:53]

Hello James,
Composition, details, exposure control and colors look very nice. TFS
Have a nice week,

Hi James.
Love this, what a superb image you have made using the elements of desert and sun. Composition is great especially the shadow in the foreground, I'm glad you left the foreground in to give the shadow of the tree impact against the desert. Did you think of running a bit of bush/brush over the footprints in the front when composing the shot :-) but thats being really picky.
Awesome shot with superb sharpness, exposure, colour and detail. Beautifully done.

beautiful and very original.
superb plants and rocks
Composition is outstanding.
Little nits (which are actually not disturbing):
- the shoes prints in the sand
- the shadow is truncated both left and right.
I love tis post.

Hi James!

Wow, I like the "absurd" aspect of your picture very much. The title suits the expression of the picture and the desert atmosphere very well. Those fingers pointing to the sky and to the spectator seem to cry for help.

Great composition, great atmosphere.

Kind regards


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