A Lake in the Desert

Saturday we went for a little road trip into the desert – it was more driving and less hiking and exploration since my knee is still on the mend after the misstep in the cave a little more than a week ago. The desert was quite busy on the Saturday of the long Thanksgiving weekend – I’ve never seen it like this before.

We stopped at famous Fonts Point for the view into the awesome Borrego Badlands, then went for the short hike into the Calcite Mine slot canyon, and then to Westmorland, and the Salton Sea. The Salton Sea is an “accidental lake” in the desert, originally created by floods and breaking dams of the Colorado River in 1905. You can read more about it on Wikipedia.

photo at Red Hill Marina, Salton Sea, California, United States.
Eight Birds — Red Hill Marina, Salton Sea, California, United States. November 2013.

It is one of the weirdest, ugliest, smelliest, and most beautiful places at the same time. It’s a place so strange that it of course attracts many photographers (and I ran into a guy that came all the way down from the Bay Area). I have been wanting to visit the famous three dead trees near Red Hill Marina for a while after seeing one quite iconic photo of them. Unfortunately, the water level seems to be dropping more and more, and while the photo that I remember had the dead trees surrounded by shallow water, there was no water anymore – it would have been quite awesome because we had clouds in the sky and a colorful sunset, the reflection in the shallow and still water would have been nice for sure.

But the water was at least 500 yards further away (which isn’t much in terms of the water level since the whole area is flat and the water generally very shallow) – and that’s where I made the above photo. It was one of these situations were I felt that no matter what, I’d be in the wrong place: at this particular spot, there are not enough foreground elements to use in a photo (at least not for what I had envisioned), and further back at the dead trees, the background was composed of one of the geothermal power plants right in the direction where the most beautiful part of the sunset sky was…

Tech: this is a “focus stacked” manual blend of two individual images, one focused on the birds, the other on the box (or whatever it is). I’m still baffled that at 300mm focal length, there was no way to get both the birds and the box in focus at the same time, not even at f/16 (using f/22 is a no-go area on the D800, the images get way too soft due to diffraction).

And a note to myself: next time, apply plenty of insect repellant. The mosquitoes there were from hell! I have bites on my arms that are still itching, even after two days… :-P

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