I need good new places to go around San Diego for wildlife / nature photos.
December 8, 2003 8:05 PM   Subscribe

I need a new photo destination. [more inside]

I've been to all the popular spots within 6-8 hours of San Diego many times. I hope people here will have some new ideas. I was just in Zion, and am thinking about heading to the Grand Canyon as soon as it snows (fingers crossed). The Racetrack Playa in Death Valley (2nd trip) is also on the short list. But I need something new.

I don't really like urban photography or arty compositions. it may be boring, but I get a lot of satisfaction from postcard style outdoor and wildlife pictures.

I don't mind traveling hundreds of miles and I know there has to be a bunch of cool sites I've not made it to yet. San Francisco is too far. Balboa Park is too close. So, MeFi photogs - Wha'dya got?
posted by y6y6y6 to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (17 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
i've spent time in the eastern oregon desert and liked it. Alvord playa, you want to look for. And Whorehouse meadow in the Steems mountains.
posted by Hackworth at 8:12 PM on December 8, 2003

If you are really interested, contact Terry Warpinski at the University of Oregon and see if she is still doing her annual photo excursion class out there this summer. A week camping in the desert with a professor well versed in the location and access to a b&w darkroom at the Malheur ranger station.
posted by Hackworth at 8:16 PM on December 8, 2003

Been to Anza Borrego? There's a pretty nice little Inn there I'd recommend. Joshua Tree is also great.
posted by madamjujujive at 8:21 PM on December 8, 2003

Some of my favorite places in that area:

Joshua Tree: hard to go wrong here, there are lots of great boulders to shoot, and in the late afternoon golden hours you'll get some great contrast. There's also a short (1-2 mile) hike to a dam hidden somewhere in there that was surreal when it was full (and boring when it was empty)

Death Valley - I did a trip there in December a couple times and the weather was perfect. Zabruski (I'm not spelling it right) Point was beautiful, as was the playa below. Hiking from the valley floor up to Zabruski Point was a nice fun 3-4 mile jaunt with some incredilbly colorful sandstone rock.

In between Death Valley and Joshua Tree is a place called Kelso Dunes that featured huge dunes you couldn't possibly climb, though camping there in a windstorm was possibly the dumbest idea of my college days. Watching the sun rise on those dunes was an amazing experience I don't have any photos of unfortunately.

Grand Canyon is good, but hard to shoot due to the size and general atmospheric fuzziness. Either in snow or before/after storms would give you some visual interest. If you're into hiking, taking a week to backpack down and back out is amazing and worth every painful minute of hiking. Also if you're into hiking, check out Havasupai a couple hours away from the South Rim. You can actually take a helicopter down and turn it into a long day trip if you're pressed for time.

Right on the Utah/Arizona border, up the river from the Grand Canyon is the grandaddy of all slot canyon systems. You've probably seen photos of the slot canyons a million times, but one day's hike into the Paria Canyon and you'll find yourself in between walls of stone hundreds of feet high and in canyons so narrow you can touch both sides with your hands at the same time. Paria is dangerous and a bunch of german tourists died there a few years ago. If it rains, you will be dead, but a clear week in the spring is the best time possible to go. I have reams of photos from a hike there 7 years ago that I took with disposable cameras, but I was on a one-way 35 mile hike that lasted a week. I've love to go back there in good gear and just hang out at the upper end, where the tight canyons were.

Anza Borrego has a great hike that's a couple miles long and then you end up in a palm oasis. I'm pretty sure there's a hidden palm canyon in Joshua Tree as well, it's a long hike but a nice find.

If you want some snow, taking the tram up to San Jacinto peak above Palm Springs is a fun way to go from mild temps to freezing temps in just a few minutes.
posted by mathowie at 8:33 PM on December 8, 2003

I'd give anything to be at Arches National Park right about now.
posted by PrinceValium at 8:48 PM on December 8, 2003

isn't Mexico right next to you? there must be some places there, no? or Baja? (I'm woefully ignorant of western geography)
posted by amberglow at 8:50 PM on December 8, 2003

It's Zabrieski Point (also a film by Antonioni) and it is, indeed, very beautiful (and hot as hell).

If you've gone as far as Zion, it's well worth the effort to carry on the extra 78 miles and go see Bryce Canyon — exceptionally beautiful at sunrise and sunset. Much further away, but easily my favourite site in the area, is Monument Valley. Watch some John Ford Westerns and you'll soon want to go to this place too.
posted by filmgoerjuan at 8:54 PM on December 8, 2003

I meant Zabriskie Point!

*curses Google for showing him all those other people who don't know how to spell it either*
posted by filmgoerjuan at 8:57 PM on December 8, 2003

In addition to the Palm Oasis Matt referred to, there's also some badlands in Anza Borrego, and if you are lucky, you might catch some bighorn sheep - I think that most of the population of the species is in that park, tho they are hard to spot.

This site has info on the Palm Oasis and other vistas and sites in Anza Borrego broken into two and four hour hikes. Another good site on the area and this guy has some info on rock art, caves and other lesser known areas of A.B. (geocities site tho!).
posted by madamjujujive at 9:03 PM on December 8, 2003

from Albuquerque, NM, take the turquoise trail, stop in Santa Fe just long enough to ponder the miracle staircase, then camp out at Bandelier. Then head north, through the other Las Vegas to Taos. This is a great trip any time of year, the scenery is always amazing, but Taos is very pricey during ski season.
posted by whatnot at 9:22 PM on December 8, 2003

I second Joshua Tree, some of the best pictures I've ever taken were taken there, and it looks great under a really wide variety of environmental conditions. Death Valley is also really photogenic (especially if you're lucky enough to be there when it's windy, so you get dust particles in the air). The Grand Canyon is fabulous, and a relatively short drive from there is Meteor Crater, which is pretty neat. The Painted Desert (and Petrified Forest) is a must-see, the colours are just incredible, my pictures from there look like they were taken on another planet.
posted by biscotti at 10:39 PM on December 8, 2003

If you've got the cash, why not Cape Town?
posted by PenDevil at 1:00 AM on December 9, 2003

Fantastic. Seriously.

I've been holding off on Joshua Tree because I was worried there wasn't much to take pictures of. It helps to hear from real people that that isn't the case. I think I'll add that to the list for the next couple months. Thanks muchly.

And thanks for the other ideas as well. I now have many new areas to explore.

I'll echo the advice about Bryce, Arches, and Monument Valley (self links). If you have several days, the coolest road trip I can imagine is a loop from SoCal to the Grand Canyon, to Monument Valley, to Arches, to Bryce, to Zion, to Vegas, to Death Valley and then back home.
posted by y6y6y6 at 5:38 AM on December 9, 2003

there's also some badlands in Anza Borrego

Font's Point at sunset. Just a couple miles east of Borrego Springs and then a bit south on a dirt road (which can get sandy -- 4WD recommended). And I know Matt's not a local, but there's probably a hundred hikes out there that lead to palm oases. I don't quite remember if Cougar Canyon has palms, but it's got sycamores and a pretty reliable stream running through it; but it's also really rough to get to (4WD pretty much mandatory).

And pretty much anywhere around Jacumba or the Valley of the Moon on the way into Borrego on the I-8 is great.
posted by LionIndex at 7:51 AM on December 9, 2003

y6y6y6 - at Joshua Tree, especially go to Hidden Valley and the Cholla Garden (the Cholla Garden is near an area where you have Mojave Desert on one side of a big hill, and Colorado Desert on the other, and you can stand on the hill and see two very different places very close together, and if you're lucky, you can also experience two very different weather conditions on either side, as I did). It was cold and grey when I was there, I was worried about the light quality, but I shouldn't have been - many of my pictures are very surreal-looking, like movie sets. Also, there's a lot you can do with the Joshua Trees themselves, since they're creepy Dr. Seuss trees, and there are LOTS of them, it's a bit unnerving. The drive from Joshua Tree to Death Valley is also interesting in parts, especially if you run into a dust storm, which makes everything glow.
posted by biscotti at 10:57 AM on December 9, 2003

Think about visiting the same ol' spots at night.
posted by rschroed at 1:12 PM on December 9, 2003

Lots of great spots here. Is White Sands too far? (Photo courtesy of my wife.)
posted by Dick Paris at 5:03 PM on December 9, 2003

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