Canyon Sin Nombre (13 photos)

My friend Hans took Shuwen and me on a desert hike – Shuwen had been to Anza Borrego before, for me it was the first time to hike there. We drove east from San Diego on Interstate 8 and left the freeway in Ocotillo. From there, we proceeded to the southern part of Anza Borrego Desert State Park on Highway S2.

We first hiked in the Dos Cabezas area, which lies west of Highway S2. Hans was looking for a peak named “Piedras Grandes” (“big rocks”) that he wanted to add to his list of hiked peaks in San Diego County.

To the west, storm clouds covered the mountains, but in the desert it was mostly dry. It was an astonishing sight for me to stand in the relatively warm and nice desert while looking west revealed the snow covered peaks of San Diego County’s mountains between the clouds every now and then.

The Piedras Grandes area was interesting, with some huge granite boulders not unlike those in Joshua Tree National Park, and Valley of the Moon, where Hans had taken us earlier in the year. I have to admit though that otherwise, the desert didn’t really speak to me, photographically. It’s not what a German guy expects when he hears the word “desert” – there are no sand dunes! :-) Instead, Anza Borrego is full of rocks and hills and strange vegetation that is adapted to this harsh environment. The terrain is just so vastly different from anything that I’m used to – I didn’t know what to make of it.

Since the Piedras Grandes hike was relatively short, we proceeded to Canyon Sin Nombre, which lies just a little bit further north. Yes, a canyon named “Canyon with no name” indeed! Shuwen and I had actually stopped at the entrance before when we did a day-trip into the back country and desert (Badlands Sunset). This time, we hiked into the canyon, but I really didn’t quite see the appeal of it as a whole either. What’s fascinating though was the seemingly endless clash of different types of rocks. It felt like total geologic chaos to me. I focused on some details and more intimate landscape photos, and that seemed to work better:

We hiked further down into the canyon, looking for a side-trail that would lead to a slot canyon. On the way there, I got even closer to those details and rock structures that attracted my eyes, and made a number of abstract photos. When developing them, the square format worked nicely, so I stuck with it:

We didn’t find the entrance to the slot canyon and it was getting late, so we began our way back – not without making more photos as the sunset sky illuminated the canyon walls with a fascinating red/orange/violet glow. I chose a cooler color balance to emphasize this effect. For the last two photos here, I just couldn’t stick to the square format:

The photos are all developed with a camera profile that is supposed to mimic the look of Fuji Velvia landscape film, with higher saturation and contrast. It seemed to be a good choice considering the relatively muted nature of colors in the desert.

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