Flying is Easier Than Hiking

The path at right is a fairly treacherous, dusty way up to the top of this hill; it’s the one I took last year to capture images like this one. Flying to the top with my drone is, by comparison, a bit less strenuous.

Flying Is Easier Than Hiking

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Hill Structure

My trips to this hill last year were constrained by the limitations of gravity; bringing my drone with me this year opened up whole new vistas and geometries. The artificial nature of this water retention area is far more apparent when view from the air.

Hill Structure

Where the Houses Stop/Palm Trees and Sprawl

Like a child’s legos, spilled out onto the floor until they reach the wall of the room, the sprawl of Coachella Valley reaches from one mountain range to the other.

Palm Trees and Sprawl

Of course, when that sprawl does reach the edge, modern California’s land conservation kicks in and a hard barrier appears between homes and desert.

Where the Houses Stop

Trio vs. Trio

I found myself returning to one of my earliest Decaseconds posts (almost exactly 11 years ago) as I updated my Top 32 album on Flickr—the digital portfolio where I display my best (or simply favorite) photographs. Finding “Waves and Rocks Dwarf Man” in that set, I saw both the excellent light and composition that my old Nikon had captured in 2011, as well as all of the places where my choices in processing the original image now left my unsatisfied. Rather than simply reprocessing that original image, I went back to the folder of camera raws from that day and selected an image I took just moments later to tackle. (Always keep save those raw files!) I not only like this composition better than the older one, but I also feel that I have brought something new out here, rather than simply reprocessing something old.

Trio vs. Trio

Bird Pilgrim to the Tetrahedron

My final photographic adventure of 2022 felt fittingly fell at dusk and felt like an achievement: flying my drone at the Salton Sea’s Bombay Beach, capturing the unique sculptures and setting.

Seeing that little wading bird approaching this tetrahedral sculpture seems a bit metaphorical for humans approaching our own futures: Coming up to something big and interesting and completely beyond our ability to properly predict/explain. Here’s to 2023!

Bird Pilgrim to the Tetrahedron

Exploring La Quinta Cove

A hike through La Quinta Cove, like many hikes, is a mix of experiencing natural and human-adjusted forms. That’s normally more subtle on the east coast, but this desert hike shows the clear shapes of water retention and control structures carved into the landscape.

Stepping into the Shadow

Erosion can be a major issue in areas with sparse vegetation; the areas supported by the roots of this small tree stand apart from the eroded absence-of-soil nearby.

Avoiding Erosion

The alien (to me) landscapes and strange life forms make the hike feel like exploring a strange new world.

A Different Kind of Christmas Plant

Night Arrives Above Empire Polo Club

I guess I’m still discovering new tricks up the DJI Mini 3 Pro’s sleeve. I’ve never managed to create a panorama (much less one looking up) from drone images before, but this massive shot of the sunset over the San Jacinto Mountains has changed all of that. The pink clouds arc above and the Empire Polo Club (home of the Coachella Music and Arts Festival) spreads across the foreground.

Night Arrives Above Empire Polo Club

(You’ll definitely want to click through for full resolution on this one.)

Tiny Figures and Big Rocks

Can you spot the tiny figures at the top of the hill? I’m confident that tiny figures produce a sense of grand scale in images—particular desert shots, like this one, where the inhuman nature of the place can make understanding the sizes of objects difficult. Nonetheless, I find myself wondering how small the figures in an image can be before the viewer loses the ability to recognize them as human.

Tiny Figures and Big Rocks

Water Escape: Coachella Valley

Coachella Valley is a desert that was once home to a lake, so careful management of water—both where it should go, and where it shouldn’t—leads to some fascinating human-engineered structures. I like this image for the sense of depth, but also for the way that the unmodified hills rise above the human-produced forms in the fore- and mid-ground.

Water Escape: Coachella Valley