Posted by: Brad Nixon | February 17, 2017

Planned and Unplanned Good Luck: Standard Shots in the Desert

There are some photographs one simply must shoot. Everyone shoots them.

Today’s brief post features two photos I made on this week’s trip to the Coachella Valley and Joshua Tree National Park.

First: unadulterated luck. Everyone who travels through the windy Banning Pass between Los Angeles and Palm Springs tries for some dramatic rendering of the scene along Interstate 10. The valley floor is strewn with hundreds of large wind turbines. They’re an impressive sight. Probably a million tourists take a photo of them every year.

We were returning to Desert Hot Springs heading north from Palm Springs. I was driving. There, out my window, was The Shot. I grabbed the camera, aimed it (more or less) and got this:

San Gorgonio Brad Nixon 6289 (640x368)

Turbines and Mount San Gorgonio, the tallest peak in Southern California (11,503 feet). Sometimes luck is all you need.

The second shot, luck with some preparation, came late in that day. The sun was nearly on the crests of the hills, giving the rocky landscape dotted with Joshua Trees that golden glow: sweet light, as it’s known. We were there at that time by design, to be able to photograph in that light. Standard practice, of course, is to shoot objects with the sun behind one, but the jagged, primordial Joshua Trees, with their slightly sinuous trunks, offer an opportunity to shoot them the other way, silhouetted against the sun.

Joshua Tree NP Brad Nixon 6305 (640x480)

Timing (and looking) is everything.

More photos and descriptions of remarkable Joshua Tree National Park are to come. For the first in the series, click on “Valentine Greeting,” below.

Wind turbines photograph and other selected images from Under Western Skies are available on Click on the photo or CLICK HERE to view the Underawesternsky image portfolio.

© Brad Nixon 2017


  1. What makes that Banning Pass photo so artistically appealing is not only the white turbines echoing the color of the white snow capped peaks, but also the implied triangular shapes of the turbines mimicking and pointing up at the triangular shapes of the mountains. Nice work!


    • See … I’m sure you’re absolutely correct at a compositional/structural level, but it IS, truly, luck. Thanks.


      • But to shoot the pic, you first have to see the pic. Many may look but they don’t see.


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