Introduction to Infrared Photography

1982 to 2022, various locations.

Links go to original posts.  These are likely to be IR or Mono posts with little detail but there may be detailed information in a preceding normal-colour post.  (Some images have no corresponding posts, so no link).

Click on any image to see it larger (If you are on a PC at least).

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I’ve just finished posting on Istanbul/ Constantinople and next I will post on the Acropolis in Athens.  First, this post.

I have upgraded my IR camera and am selling the old one so one purpose of this post is to provide information to a buyer who may not well understand IR photography.  The IR explanation may be of general interest to photographers and others may just be interested in the images (there’s lots of text but also lots of images further down).

In ancient days of yore, decades ago, we had both colour and black & white infrared film.  Colour infrared film seems all but unavailable now whereas there are a few avenues for B&W IR film.

Normal photographic colour film has layers of red, green and blue.  Infrared light comes in below the red frequencies and ultraviolet is above blue, though ultraviolet is not relevant here.  Infrared colour film had layers of infrared, red and green, and missed out the blue.  Since infrared light is not visible, arbitrary colours were associated to the layers, so it was also called false-colour film.  You could also change the colour combinations by putting colour filters on the end of the lens.  This didn’t just add a colour caste but changed all the colours (since the infrared is invisible) and stacking filters changed all the colors in strange and mysterious ways.

Black and white infrared film was simply much more sensitive to infrared light.  It was also very sensitive to visible light and had to be loaded and unloaded from the camera in total darkness.   It was often grainy and could have an ethereal effect.

I never shot black & white infrared so I can’t show you any images of that but I did shoot colour IR.  I must have quite a few processed colour IR rolls in my film drawers but I’ve scanned hardy any of them but I can show you one example.

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Aboriginal Performance, Canberra, 1982.

This is a curious example.  I was shooting an Aboriginal performance when I ran out of regular fim so I continued with infrared.  Then, after I sent it to the lab to be processed, it came back with Sabattier Effect.  They must have left the inspection port open in the processing machine so that created a partial reversal of the shadows – resulting in a negative audience.  I had tried this myself several times but never got it to work as well as that.

Of course we now live in a digital age and we can take infrared images with digital cameras.  This is not entirely equivalent to colour IR film – you would actually need to combine digital regular and IR images for that, but it offers lots of scope for artistic effects and experiments and can also work particularly well for monochromes.

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St Kilda, 2013.

The cheapest way to take a digital IR image is to attach an R72 (or similar) filter to your cameras lens.  (This works for most cameras but some have too strong an infrared-blocking filter.)  This is how I took the above image and the next two.

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Jarlshof, Shetland, 2013.

The problem with using an R72 filter is that it is almost opaque so you need to use a tripod (or extremely high ISO) and if you’re using a DSLR, you will need to have the filter off to focus and compose.  A converted camera you can use hand held, just like a normal camera.

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Manvar Desert Camp, Rajastan, India, 2014.

This image is to some extent reminiscent of IR b&w film which could have heavy grain but it does not include the characteristic ethereal blurring of highlights.  I could have tried to replicate that with the Orton Effect in Photoshop but I have no interest in copying appearances from another era without a good reason.

Much more convenient than an R72 filter is an IR camera but it is more expensive as you have to send a camera off to get converted.   Mirrorless cameras are more suitable than DSLRs (unless you just plan to use live view) because focusing has a separate sensor to taking the image and they may get out of synch.

Most people use a custom camera white balance, usually taken off foliage.  Otherwise your captured image will start off different shades of a single colour.  There can also be different kinds of conversions.  A 720nm conversion gives you an image suitable for black and white with very little processing (perhaps even none, out of the camera).  A conversion with a lower number such as 560nm or 590nm has more colour in the image and is suitable for either colour or B&W IR but requires processing.

Not all lenses are suitable for infrared photography.  Many perform flawlessly but many have “hot spots”, a circle of diffusion and flare in the centre of the image.   Some lenses are also OK at wider apertures but have hot spots when stopped down.  There are a few guides to this online such as this one from Kolari or this one from Life Pixel, but you can also easily test your lenses yourself (with either an IR camera or R72 filter).

Processing is an important part of creating infrared images, though most people seem to take a relatively minimalist approach.  So while I have generally taken a complex approach to processing using Lightroom and Photoshop, I decided to see what I might get with relatively quick processing just in Lightroom.

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This is what you see in your camera without a custom profile or as the RAW file in Lightroom without any processing.

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This is the change from applying a custom Lightroom profile made using the Adobe DNG Profile Editor, as described here, then making a few minor changes to Temperature and Tint.  This is useful because Lightroom and Camera RAW by default give you a constricted colour range to play with for infrared images.  It is not necessary for Capture One.  This is similar to what you see in your camera with a custom profile there.  (Actually I did not do this in processing this image but clicked the White Balance Selector on foliage instead.  For this image, it provided a similar result.)

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Beijing Garden, Canberra, 2022.

I created this just using Lightroom. 

Apart from the custom white balance, I adjusted some hues in HSL, I played with some settings in Calibration, I optimised individual colour channels in curves, and I made some adjustments to shadows with colour grading.  I’m not suggesting a recipe; I made some adjustments I thought appropriate at the time and I might do completely different things with a different image or at a different time.

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This is the result of a quick B&W conversion in Lightroom.  I usually do my conversions in CaptureOne and Photoshop is also powerful, though may be more complex.

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Beijing Garden, Canberra, 2022.

This is another one from the same place on the next day.  We’ll get to Photoshop soon and one of the things you do in Photoshop with infrared images is swapping channels.  There’s a way to get a profile in Lightroom that does this so I was able to incorporate a red/blue channel swap in this image.  Such a profile is complex to set up, though you can read of this process or purchase swap profiles here.

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Ducks and Ducklings, Mt Ainslie, 2021.

This is an image from out the back of where I live, during a COVID lockdown.  Processed entirely in Lightroom except for neutralising the colour of the water at the bottom in Photoshop, because even with recent Lightroom improvements, masking in Photoshop is much better (Capture One was also possible).

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Carillon in early Spring, Canberra, 2021.

I recently tried processing infrared images in Capture One (which I have been also using for three years now).  It has very powerful capabilities for adjusting colours and masking, and has layers.  It’s better than Lightroom in many ways though channel swapping is not offered and Photoshop is more powerful for this purpose but can be much more complex.  (However, channel swapping is possible.  You can select, say, a blue 120 degree third, make the maximum -30 degrees hue shift four times, do the same for red (except +30) and save as a preset.)

The above image and the next two are processed in Capture One.

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Bushland on Mount Ainslie, 2021.

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Kangaroo on Mount Ainslie, 2021.

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Kangaroos on Mount Ainslie, 2014.

This was one of the first images I took with my old IR camera.  All the following images are from that camera and also half the preceding ones.  The image you end up with is more important than the camera you take it with.

All images from the one above down were primarily processed in Photoshop.

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Grand Canyon by Helicopter (IR), 2014.

Infrared is good for aerial images because it cuts through the haze, even before any processing.

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Zion Canyon (Mono) (image is actually near Zion Canyon), 2014.

Infrared can also be good for monochrome.  This was processed in Nik Silver Efex Pro but in the last couple of years I have gone to using Capture One.

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Louisiana Bayou Monochromes, 2014.

IR can facilitate deep blacks and high drama in mono.

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Louisiana Bayou Monochromes, 2014.

Photographing people can be interesting in infrared.  Easier perhaps in mono; colour image can require delicate tweaking.

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Maha’ulepu Heritage Trail, 2015.

All of these later images were mainly processed in Photoshop, but what you can do there depends on what you start with.  It’s advantageous to process the images first in Lightroom (or ACR) and you can do this in a number of different ways which each led to a different set of possibilities in Photoshop.

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Waimea Canyon and Na Pali Coast from Above (IR), 2015.

Though some people always process their images the same way, for me there is no set way of doing this, in Photoshop, or in Lightroom or Capture One.  It seems as though each time I process an image I think of a new way to do it..

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Taxi! Taxi!, 2015.

So I’m not providing any recipes because I don’t believe in them and don’t use them.  The key is to look at the essence of each image and creatively explore its potential.

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Kipahulu/ Haleakala National Park, 2015.

In Photoshop, the first thing to do is often channel swapping, usually red and blue channels.  But there are lots of things you can do with channel swapping and you can also combine different effects with layers and masks.

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Kipahulu/ Haleakala National Park, 2015.

Then I may use a Hue/ Saturation layer to adjust or change individual colours.

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Oonartra Creek IR, 2015.

I may use a Black and White adjustment layer in luminosity mode to intensify individual colours.

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Dream Lemurs, 2015.

I may make some tweaks with a Selective colour layer.

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Ocean Harbour Dreaming, 2015.

I may also make a range of adjustments using luminosity masks (for which I use TK Actions though there are other alternatives that may be less complex).

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Ocean Harbour Dreaming, 2015.

Of course, you don’t need to use the most complex method possible.  Simple methods are fine if they work for you (and complex methods may not).  I do think it’s important though to always be experimenting and learning….

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Cazneau Tree, Brachina Gorge and Edowie ruins (IR), 2016.

There is potential technical complexity in processing infrared images but it will not work if it becomes just a technical exercise.  It’s the image that you create that is important, not the process you used to create it.  Whether you spend a lot of time doing complex things is ultimately irrelevant, the objective is simply to create Great Art.

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Flinders Ranges Monos 3 IR, 2016.

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Cazneau Tree, Brachina Gorge and Edowie ruins (IR), 2016.

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Parachilna Ruins (IR), 2016.

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Return to Adelaide (IR), 2016.

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Yaxha and Topoxté (IR), 2016.

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Tikal Monochromes, 2016.

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Salton Sea (IR), 2016.

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Salton Sea Monochromes, 2016.

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Sculpture Garden, NGA, 2016.

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KL to KK (Kuala Lumpur to Kota Kinabalu), 2019.

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Mount Tamborine, 2021.

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Ashoka (he’s actually a red Burmese), 2021.

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I have deliberately refrained from giving detailed methodology and screen shots partly because the article would get too long but more because I think it’s counter-productive.  There is no correct way of doing this and your own individual approach is for you to discover.

I will however, supply a couple of links for further reading.  You can find more with web searches:

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Joshua Tree National Park Monochromes

5 October 2016, Joshua Tree National Park, California, USA.

Links go to colour posts (for more information and context). If an image does not have a link, the preceding one applies.

Click on any image to see it larger.

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Black and White, Desert, Infrared, Joshua Tree National Park, Landscape, Monochrome, Nature, Photography, Salton Sea, Travel, Wildlife

Agriculture in the desert to the north of the Salton Sea.

Cottonwood Spring and Teddybear Chollas.

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Black and White, Desert, Infrared, Joshua Tree National Park, Landscape, Monochrome, Nature, Photography, Salton Sea, Travel, Wildlife .

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Cottonwood Spring.

Joshua Tree National Park (IR).

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Mountains and desert.

Cottonwood Spring and Teddybear Chollas.

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Ocotillo and desert landscape.

Joshua Tree National Park (IR).

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Desert landscape.

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Teddy-bear Cholla.

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Chollas.

Cottonwood Spring and Teddybear Chollas..

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Desert landscape, possibly with Triffids.

Joshua Tree National Park (IR).

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Jumbo Rocks.

Jumbo Rocks and Hidden Valley.

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Joshua Tree.

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Hidden Valley.

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Coyote.

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Rock climber.

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Joshua Tree National Park (IR).

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This was the last post of my expedition to Cuba & the Caribbean (Mexico, Guatemala, Cuba, Dominican Republic, St Martin, Antigua, Jamaica, California).  This has included over 2,500 images and more than 52,000 words.  I have updated the index of all posts on this expedition which you can find here.

Next I will make a couple of local posts and then I will start on the final posts for my trip to Uzbekistan, Istanbul, Athens, Santorini, Crete, Andalusia, Washington and Oregon.  That is the last trip for which I have not made final posts.  I may not make any overseas trips until 2022 so those posts should keep me occupied for a while.

 

Salton Sea Monochromes

1 to 5 October 2016, Salton Sea, California, USA.

Links go to colour posts (for more information and context). If an image does not have a link, the preceding one applies.

Click on any image to see it larger.

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This car may be going cheap, though also not going at all.

Salton Sea (IR).

 

Art, Black and White, Ecology, Infrared, Landscape, Monochrome, Nature, Photography, Salton Sea, Sculpture, Slab City, Travel, Wildlife .

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North shore palms.

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Dead fish by an endangered sea.

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Bombay Beach.

Salton Sea

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Slab City.

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Slab City.

Salton Sea (IR).

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Salton Sea.

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Mud Volcano.

Birds and Mud Volcanoes.

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Hummingbird.

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L.A. and Salton Sea Monochromes

1 to 5 October 2016, Los Angeles and Salton Sea, USA.

Links go to colour posts (for more information and context). If an image does not have a link, the preceding one applies.

Click on any image to see it larger.

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Art, Black and White, Infrared, Landscape, Los Angeles, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Monochrome, Nature, Photography, Salton Sea, Sculpture, Travel, Wilderness

Colombian Mammoth (Mammathus Columbi)

La Brea Tar Pits.

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Chest of drawers from the 18th century Japan.

Netsuke Gallery, LACMA.

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Netsuke.

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Buddha Shakyamuni, Sukothai, Thailand, 14th-15th century.

Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA).

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Eagle-headed demon (Assyria).

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Borrego Palm Canyon.

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Desert cacti, perhaps clavellina cholla.

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Gomphothere.

Encounters with Megafauna.

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A locust or grasshopper and a scorpion.

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Ground sloths.

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Chinese dragon.

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Humans in vehicle.

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Salton Sea.

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Dead fish on the salt.

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Art, Black and White, Infrared, Landscape, Los Angeles, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Monochrome, Nature, Photography, Salton Sea, Sculpture, Travel, Wilderness

The end, but of what?

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Art, Black and White, Infrared, Landscape, Los Angeles, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Monochrome, Nature, Photography, Salton Sea, Sculpture, Travel, Wilderness

Near Salton City.

Salton Sea (IR).

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Art, Black and White, Infrared, Landscape, Los Angeles, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Monochrome, Nature, Photography, Salton Sea, Sculpture, Travel, Wilderness

Probably at Desert Shores.

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Art, Black and White, Infrared, Landscape, Los Angeles, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Monochrome, Nature, Photography, Salton Sea, Sculpture, Travel, Wilderness

Trees in the desert.

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Joshua Tree National Park (IR)

California USA, 3 October 2016

(Click on any image for a larger view).

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Cholla, Cottonwood Spring, Desert, Hidden Valley, Infrared, Joshua Tree National Park, Jumbo Rocks, Landscape, Nature, Photography, Travel, Wilderness

We are in Cottonwood Spring in Joshua Tree National Park.

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Cholla, Cottonwood Spring, Desert, Hidden Valley, Infrared, Joshua Tree National Park, Jumbo Rocks, Landscape, Nature, Photography, Travel, Wilderness

We see the autumnal yellow of the leaves and sometimes white leaves protesting against environmental indignities.

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Cholla, Cottonwood Spring, Desert, Hidden Valley, Infrared, Joshua Tree National Park, Jumbo Rocks, Landscape, Nature, Photography, Travel, Wilderness

Deep in the grove is a fiery furnace of localised volcanic activity.

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Cholla, Cottonwood Spring, Desert, Hidden Valley, Infrared, Joshua Tree National Park, Jumbo Rocks, Landscape, Nature, Photography, Travel, Wilderness

You can tell the person at bottom left comes from Colorado because he is turning yellow in sympathy with the leaves of the trees.  This is due to long-term deciduous exposure.

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Cholla, Cottonwood Spring, Desert, Hidden Valley, Infrared, Joshua Tree National Park, Jumbo Rocks, Landscape, Nature, Photography, Travel, Wilderness

The leaves become more orange as the day warms up.

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Cholla, Cottonwood Spring, Desert, Hidden Valley, Infrared, Joshua Tree National Park, Jumbo Rocks, Landscape, Nature, Photography, Travel, Wilderness

… then more yellow due to a sudden cool breeze.

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Cholla, Cottonwood Spring, Desert, Hidden Valley, Infrared, Joshua Tree National Park, Jumbo Rocks, Landscape, Nature, Photography, Travel, Wilderness

We’re now in the desert with the ocotillos..

Cholla, Cottonwood Spring, Desert, Hidden Valley, Infrared, Joshua Tree National Park, Jumbo Rocks, Landscape, Nature, Photography, Travel, Wilderness

The ancient spirit of a sky snake hangs in the sky.

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Cholla, Cottonwood Spring, Desert, Hidden Valley, Infrared, Joshua Tree National Park, Jumbo Rocks, Landscape, Nature, Photography, Travel, Wilderness

The local authorities have helpfully planted a sign showing which way is up.  This is puzzling for some.

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Cholla, Cottonwood Spring, Desert, Hidden Valley, Infrared, Joshua Tree National Park, Jumbo Rocks, Landscape, Nature, Photography, Travel, Wilderness

You might have noticed it’s a desert and quite dry.

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Cholla, Cottonwood Spring, Desert, Hidden Valley, Infrared, Joshua Tree National Park, Jumbo Rocks, Landscape, Nature, Photography, Travel, Wilderness

One day many years ago, triffids rained down.

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Cholla, Cottonwood Spring, Desert, Hidden Valley, Infrared, Joshua Tree National Park, Jumbo Rocks, Landscape, Nature, Photography, Travel, Wilderness

But it was a desert and no good for them so they turned into teddybear chollas.

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Cholla, Cottonwood Spring, Desert, Hidden Valley, Infrared, Joshua Tree National Park, Jumbo Rocks, Landscape, Nature, Photography, Travel, Wilderness

Because it’s so arid they usually don’t move much at all, except sometimes a little in the wind.

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Cholla, Cottonwood Spring, Desert, Hidden Valley, Infrared, Joshua Tree National Park, Jumbo Rocks, Landscape, Nature, Photography, Travel, Wilderness

You might be tempted to cuddle up in bed with a nice teddybear cholla but beware, it might turn into a triffid.

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Cholla, Cottonwood Spring, Desert, Hidden Valley, Infrared, Joshua Tree National Park, Jumbo Rocks, Landscape, Nature, Photography, Travel, Wilderness

We are now approaching Jumbo Rocks.

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Cholla, Cottonwood Spring, Desert, Hidden Valley, Infrared, Joshua Tree National Park, Jumbo Rocks, Landscape, Nature, Photography, Travel, Wilderness

It’s much safer to cuddle up with a rock.

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Cholla, Cottonwood Spring, Desert, Hidden Valley, Infrared, Joshua Tree National Park, Jumbo Rocks, Landscape, Nature, Photography, Travel, Wilderness

And here we have a Joshua Tree in full autumn colours.

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Cholla, Cottonwood Spring, Desert, Hidden Valley, Infrared, Joshua Tree National Park, Jumbo Rocks, Landscape, Nature, Photography, Travel, Wilderness

in the foreground we have a Joshua Tree with an identity crisis, trying to be a palm.

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Cholla, Cottonwood Spring, Desert, Hidden Valley, Infrared, Joshua Tree National Park, Jumbo Rocks, Landscape, Nature, Photography, Travel, Wilderness

The rocks are actually ancient fossilised Mojave Indian spirits.

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Cholla, Cottonwood Spring, Desert, Hidden Valley, Infrared, Joshua Tree National Park, Jumbo Rocks, Landscape, Nature, Photography, Travel, Wilderness

We are now in Hidden Valley and this may be the headquarters of the Mojave spirits.  They provide psychiatric assistance to Joshua Trees with identity crises

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Cholla, Cottonwood Spring, Desert, Hidden Valley, Infrared, Joshua Tree National Park, Jumbo Rocks, Landscape, Nature, Photography, Travel, Wilderness

The plants here are all Joshua Trees.  Some of them are very confused.

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Cholla, Cottonwood Spring, Desert, Hidden Valley, Infrared, Joshua Tree National Park, Jumbo Rocks, Landscape, Nature, Photography, Travel, Wilderness

The spirit snakes are also very active in the sky in this area.

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OK, these are all infrared images.  So what does that mean?  Well, human eyes have a range of visible colours that can be expressed as combinations of red, green and blue.  Below that is infrared and above that is ultraviolet.  Many animals see outside our spectral range.  One of my cameras has a modified sensor that records infrared, red and green but not blue.  (You can also do this with most normal digital cameras but it requires using an R72 filter and a tripod).

The image out of the camera is basically orange but this hides the potential for other colours.  I then use software to hit the image with a virtual firehose to assign and modify colours.  My last infrared post I processed using complex processes in Photoshop and I processed each image quite differently.  Since the images in this post are more homogeneous, I decided to apply similar processing to them all.  I used a more simple process just in Lightroom, though using channel-swap profiles I had created in Photoshop.

Jumbo Rocks and Hidden Valley

California USA, 3 October 2016

(Click on any image for a larger view).

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We continue further through Joshua Tree National Park.

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Desert, Hidden Valley, Joshua Tree National Park, Jumbo Rocks, Landscape, Nature, Photography, Travel, Wilderness, Wildlife

The first half of images in this post are from Jumbo Rocks.

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Desert, Hidden Valley, Joshua Tree National Park, Jumbo Rocks, Landscape, Nature, Photography, Travel, Wilderness, Wildlife

There is a campground nearby.

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Desert, Hidden Valley, Joshua Tree National Park, Jumbo Rocks, Landscape, Nature, Photography, Travel, Wilderness, Wildlife

The rocks are granite, originally created many eons ago by volcanic eruptions and subsequently smoothed by water during immersion in an inland sea.

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Desert, Hidden Valley, Joshua Tree National Park, Jumbo Rocks, Landscape, Nature, Photography, Travel, Wilderness, Wildlife

Not so much more to say so I’ll mainly let the images speak for themselves….

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Desert, Hidden Valley, Joshua Tree National Park, Jumbo Rocks, Landscape, Nature, Photography, Travel, Wilderness, Wildlife .

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Desert, Hidden Valley, Joshua Tree National Park, Jumbo Rocks, Landscape, Nature, Photography, Travel, Wilderness, Wildlife .

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Desert, Hidden Valley, Joshua Tree National Park, Jumbo Rocks, Landscape, Nature, Photography, Travel, Wilderness, Wildlife .

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Desert, Hidden Valley, Joshua Tree National Park, Jumbo Rocks, Landscape, Nature, Photography, Travel, Wilderness, Wildlife

If you look closely, you might see a sign on the right.  It is a Keep Out sign.  This is after all a fragile desert environment.  During the Government shutdown in 2019 and the early impact of COVID in 2020 when the rangers were absent but the park was still open, there were many instances of vandalism.  These included illegal off-roading, creating new roads, cutting down the rare Joshua trees and excessive littering.  The park was subsequently closed and hopefully better control will be maintained in future.

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Desert, Hidden Valley, Joshua Tree National Park, Jumbo Rocks, Landscape, Nature, Photography, Travel, Wilderness, Wildlife .

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Desert, Hidden Valley, Joshua Tree National Park, Jumbo Rocks, Landscape, Nature, Photography, Travel, Wilderness, Wildlife .

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Desert, Hidden Valley, Joshua Tree National Park, Jumbo Rocks, Landscape, Nature, Photography, Travel, Wilderness, Wildlife .

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Desert, Hidden Valley, Joshua Tree National Park, Jumbo Rocks, Landscape, Nature, Photography, Travel, Wilderness, Wildlife

We have now moved on further and this is Hidden Valley, featuring here a magnificent specimen of a Joshua Tree.

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Desert, Hidden Valley, Joshua Tree National Park, Jumbo Rocks, Landscape, Nature, Photography, Travel, Wilderness, Wildlife

If you look closely on the right side of the rock (perhaps you need to click on the image for a larger size) you will see there is a person climbing it and another below him.

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Desert, Hidden Valley, Joshua Tree National Park, Jumbo Rocks, Landscape, Nature, Photography, Travel, Wilderness, Wildlife .

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Desert, Hidden Valley, Joshua Tree National Park, Jumbo Rocks, Landscape, Nature, Photography, Travel, Wilderness, Wildlife .

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Desert, Hidden Valley, Joshua Tree National Park, Jumbo Rocks, Landscape, Nature, Photography, Travel, Wilderness, Wildlife .

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Desert, Hidden Valley, Joshua Tree National Park, Jumbo Rocks, Landscape, Nature, Photography, Travel, Wilderness, Wildlife

A somewhat mangy coyote near the car park.

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Desert, Hidden Valley, Joshua Tree National Park, Jumbo Rocks, Landscape, Nature, Photography, Travel, Wilderness, Wildlife

And back through the park and on a main road again.

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For some reason, the images from this day (this post, the last one and the next one) have all been lost and recovered.  Perhaps it is from when I had two disks in my PC and one in my Drobo backup fail in a week and found there was a hole in my backups.  Though that would affect presumably more than one day.  In any case, the images were all lost until I later realised it was possible to recover full-sized jpegs from Lightroom previews (using a Jeffrey Friedl plug-in).

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Cottonwood Spring and Teddybear Chollas

California USA, 3 October 2016

(Click on any image for a larger view).

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Today we left Salton City and the Salton Sea, and headed north and slightly west to the Joshua Tree National Park.

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Cholla, Cottonwood Spring, Desert, Irrigation, Joshua Tree National Park, Landscape, Nature, Photography, Salton Sea, Travel

We are still on the way there here.  The Salton Sea is in the background to the south and this is a farming area where they are irrigating the desert, using water ultimately from the Colorado River.

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Cholla, Cottonwood Spring, Desert, Irrigation, Joshua Tree National Park, Landscape, Nature, Photography, Salton Sea, Travel

Definitely desert, but also the lines of irrigation sprays.

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Cholla, Cottonwood Spring, Desert, Irrigation, Joshua Tree National Park, Landscape, Nature, Photography, Salton Sea, Travel .

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Cholla, Cottonwood Spring, Desert, Irrigation, Joshua Tree National Park, Landscape, Nature, Photography, Salton Sea, Travel

This is nearby, the opposite side of the road facing north, not quite in Joshua Tree National Park as yet.

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Cholla, Cottonwood Spring, Desert, Irrigation, Joshua Tree National Park, Landscape, Nature, Photography, Salton Sea, Travel

Now in Joshua Tree National Park, this is Cottonwood Springs, a strategic watering place for travellers in the nineteenth century.

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Cholla, Cottonwood Spring, Desert, Irrigation, Joshua Tree National Park, Landscape, Nature, Photography, Salton Sea, Travel .

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Cholla, Cottonwood Spring, Desert, Irrigation, Joshua Tree National Park, Landscape, Nature, Photography, Salton Sea, Travel

I think this is probably the Great Basin Fence lizard.

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Cholla, Cottonwood Spring, Desert, Irrigation, Joshua Tree National Park, Landscape, Nature, Photography, Salton Sea, Travel

You can see how large the California Palms are by the walker at bottom left.  You may need to click to a larger image to see that properly.

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Cholla, Cottonwood Spring, Desert, Irrigation, Joshua Tree National Park, Landscape, Nature, Photography, Salton Sea, Travel

Desert views inside Joshua Tree National Park.

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Cholla, Cottonwood Spring, Desert, Irrigation, Joshua Tree National Park, Landscape, Nature, Photography, Salton Sea, Travel .

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Cholla, Cottonwood Spring, Desert, Irrigation, Joshua Tree National Park, Landscape, Nature, Photography, Salton Sea, Travel

An Ocotillo.

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Cholla, Cottonwood Spring, Desert, Irrigation, Joshua Tree National Park, Landscape, Nature, Photography, Salton Sea, Travel

We stopped at a place near the road where many Teddy-bear Chollas (Cylindropuntia bigelovii) were growing.

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Cholla, Cottonwood Spring, Desert, Irrigation, Joshua Tree National Park, Landscape, Nature, Photography, Salton Sea, Travel .

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Cholla, Cottonwood Spring, Desert, Irrigation, Joshua Tree National Park, Landscape, Nature, Photography, Salton Sea, Travel

Teddy-bear Chollas.  Nice cuddy plants to curl up in bed with.

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Cholla, Cottonwood Spring, Desert, Irrigation, Joshua Tree National Park, Landscape, Nature, Photography, Salton Sea, Travel .

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Cholla, Cottonwood Spring, Desert, Irrigation, Joshua Tree National Park, Landscape, Nature, Photography, Salton Sea, Travel .

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Cholla, Cottonwood Spring, Desert, Irrigation, Joshua Tree National Park, Landscape, Nature, Photography, Salton Sea, Travel .

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Cholla, Cottonwood Spring, Desert, Irrigation, Joshua Tree National Park, Landscape, Nature, Photography, Salton Sea, Travel

(More from Joshua Tree National Park in the next post).

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Birds and Mud Volcanoes

California USA, 2 October 2016

With Jeni Bate of Skyscapes for the Soul . ..

(Click on any image for a larger view).

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Birds, Desert, Landscape, Nature, Photography, Salton Sea, Travel, Wildlife

We headed off for the southern end of the Salton Sea.  On the way we encountered some chickens on the road.

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Birds, Desert, Landscape, Nature, Photography, Salton Sea, Travel, Wildlife

Large black chickens with red heads.

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Birds, Desert, Landscape, Nature, Photography, Salton Sea, Travel, Wildlife

… or turkey cultures, if you prefer.

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Birds, Desert, Landscape, Nature, Photography, Salton Sea, Travel, Wildlife

Our first intended stop was the Sonny Bono Salton Sea National Wildlife Refuge.  These are probably sandhill cranes, flying overhead.

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Birds, Desert, Landscape, Nature, Photography, Salton Sea, Travel, Wildlife

This is probably a great blue heron.

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Birds, Desert, Landscape, Nature, Photography, Salton Sea, Travel, Wildlife

… with an egret or two out of focus in the background.

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Birds, Desert, Landscape, Nature, Photography, Salton Sea, Travel, Wildlife

Not far from the wildlife refuge is an outcrop of  small mud volcanoes.

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Birds, Desert, Landscape, Nature, Photography, Salton Sea, Travel, Wildlife

This is a reminder of the San Andreas Fault and subterranean heat.

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Birds, Desert, Landscape, Nature, Photography, Salton Sea, Travel, Wildlife

Not far away is the Elmore Geothermal Facility.

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Birds, Desert, Landscape, Nature, Photography, Salton Sea, Travel, Wildlife .

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Birds, Desert, Landscape, Nature, Photography, Salton Sea, Travel, Wildlife .

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Birds, Desert, Landscape, Nature, Photography, Salton Sea, Travel, Wildlife

Normally I’d reduce this in size so images are roughly equal in area, but I’ll leave it as it is. We are at Calipatria, just south of the Salton Sea. We are at 56 metres below sea level (184 feet, or more than 30 fathoms). The top of the flag pole represents where the surface of the ocean would be if a fissure opened from the Gulf of California. I have read that it is a home-made construction and given that we are on or near the San Andreas Fault, one should not stand too close in the event of an earthquake.

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Birds, Desert, Landscape, Nature, Photography, Salton Sea, Travel, Wildlife

We are now back at Salton City and I am photographing hummingbirds in Jeni’s back yard.

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Birds, Desert, Landscape, Nature, Photography, Salton Sea, Travel, Wildlife

Black-chinned hummingbirds.

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Birds, Desert, Landscape, Nature, Photography, Salton Sea, Travel, Wildlife .

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Birds, Desert, Landscape, Nature, Photography, Salton Sea, Travel, Wildlife .

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Slab City

California USA, 1 October 2016

With Jeni Bate of Skyscapes for the Soul ..

(Click on any image for a larger view).

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Art, Desert, History, Landscape, Photography, Salton Sea, Sculpture, Slab City, Travel

You may recall from the previous post that Leonard Knight, the creator of Salvation Mountain initially came to the nearby Slab City.

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Art, Desert, History, Landscape, Photography, Salton Sea, Sculpture, Slab City, Travel

Currently we are in the desert between Salvation Mountain and Slab City but the sculptures belong more to Slab City than Salvation Mountain.

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Art, Desert, History, Landscape, Photography, Salton Sea, Sculpture, Slab City, Travel

The more observant amongst you may notice some artistic differences in the style of the sculptures here as compared to Salvation Mountain.

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Art, Desert, History, Landscape, Photography, Salton Sea, Sculpture, Slab City, Travel

The materials used can be somewhat different too.

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Art, Desert, History, Landscape, Photography, Salton Sea, Sculpture, Slab City, Travel

It appears that cycling around in the desert may sometimes have been uncomfortable.

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Art, Desert, History, Landscape, Photography, Salton Sea, Sculpture, Slab City, Travel

There’s a conundrum here.  Is it a political statement, a sculpture or a theme park?

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Art, Desert, History, Landscape, Photography, Salton Sea, Sculpture, Slab City, Travel

We are now in Slab City and the rows of bottles indicate boundaries for vehicles.

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Art, Desert, History, Landscape, Photography, Salton Sea, Sculpture, Slab City, Travel

Before there was Slab City, there was Camp Dunlap.

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Art, Desert, History, Landscape, Photography, Salton Sea, Sculpture, Slab City, Travel

This was a World War II military base, chosen for suitability for desert warfare training and proximity to San Diego.  It opened in 1942 and ran for three years.  By 1956 all the buildings had been removed but the concrete slabs they were built on remained.

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Art, Desert, History, Landscape, Photography, Salton Sea, Sculpture, Slab City, Travel

It’s reasonable to assume the array of sculptures wasn’t created by the Army in the 1940s to give a sense of normalcy to their soldiers.

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Art, Desert, History, Landscape, Photography, Salton Sea, Sculpture, Slab City, Travel

From the 1980s, people came to stay here.  Originally there were “snowbirds”, seasonal refugees from the cold northern winter, taking advantage of the concrete slabs as a place to park a mobile home.

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Art, Desert, History, Landscape, Photography, Salton Sea, Sculpture, Slab City, Travel

It has expanded to include artists, squatters, survivalists, people trying to escape and homeless people.

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Art, Desert, History, Landscape, Photography, Salton Sea, Sculpture, Slab City, Travel

The population is around 4,000 during winter months and 150 during the summer.  It is a harsh place to spend a summer.  In the hottest four months June to September, maximum monthly temperature is likely to be around 50ºC (122ºF) and maximum daily temperatures are likely to be around 40ºC to 42ºC (103ºF to 107ºF).

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Art, Desert, History, Landscape, Photography, Salton Sea, Sculpture, Slab City, Travel

There is no electricity, running water, sewers or rubbish services provided by government.  There is also an absence of law enforcement, taxation or administration.

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Art, Desert, History, Landscape, Photography, Salton Sea, Sculpture, Slab City, Travel

So it might sound like a libertarian paradise and it is self-styled as “the last free place”.  Life must be hard for most of the people here though.  In recent years there has been an increase in drug use (particularly chrystal meth), theft and rubbish build-up.  Currently they are hiding out, closed to outsiders and trying to avoid COVID-19.  Many or most of them will have no health insurance and be unable to afford a doctor or even transport to see one.

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Art, Desert, History, Landscape, Photography, Salton Sea, Sculpture, Slab City, Travel

There are times when the light changes and an eerie glow descends over the area.

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Art, Desert, History, Landscape, Photography, Salton Sea, Sculpture, Slab City, Travel

This might be the Earth trying to fight back and defend itself from commercial exploitation and Climate Change.

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Art, Desert, History, Landscape, Photography, Salton Sea, Sculpture, Slab City, Travel

One might mistake it for the aftermath of a nuclear apocalypse.  But it is due to permeation by future ghosts of the wealthy political figures who are currently striving to overwhelm Democracy by propaganda and legal manœuvres and end up here, despised by other residents and bereft of personal resources.

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Salvation Mountain

California USA, 1 October 2016

With Jeni Bate of Skyscapes for the Soul.

(Click on any image for a larger view).

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Art, Desert, History, Landscape, Photography, Salton Sea, Salvation Mountain, Sculpture, Travel

Next we visited Salvation Mountain, near the south west corner of the Salton Sea.

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Art, Desert, History, Landscape, Photography, Salton Sea, Salvation Mountain, Sculpture, Travel

Leonard Knight created Salvation Mountain.

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Art, Desert, History, Landscape, Photography, Salton Sea, Salvation Mountain, Sculpture, Travel

He came to this area in 1984 with a massive 230-foot high hot air balloon he had sewn together over a six year period.  It had ten-foot high letters on the side; “God is Love”.

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Art, Desert, History, Landscape, Photography, Salton Sea, Salvation Mountain, Sculpture, Travel

He came to Camp Dunlop or Slab City, near the south west corner of the Salton Sea but more on that in the next post.

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Art, Desert, History, Landscape, Photography, Salton Sea, Salvation Mountain, Sculpture, Travel

He had help from the locals at Slab City to launch the balloon but when it came time for the launch, he discovered that the material had rotted so the launch never took place.

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Art, Desert, History, Landscape, Photography, Salton Sea, Salvation Mountain, Sculpture, Travel

Inside the Hogan.

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Art, Desert, History, Landscape, Photography, Salton Sea, Salvation Mountain, Sculpture, Travel

So, instead of the balloon, he decided to display his God is Love message on the face of a small nearby mesa.  However, concrete was expensive and he used too much sand.  So after three years of hard work, when he must have thought he was making progress, his creation slithered down the face of the mesa into a gloopy mess.

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Art, Desert, History, Landscape, Photography, Salton Sea, Salvation Mountain, Sculpture, Travel

Undeterred, in 1989 he started again, using a small donated front-end loader to cut more deeply onto the hill and using metal scrap to anchor his new façade into the hill.

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Art, Desert, History, Landscape, Photography, Salton Sea, Salvation Mountain, Sculpture, Travel

He proceeded without needing regular income, scavenging materials and receiving donations of paint, money and food.

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Art, Desert, History, Landscape, Photography, Salton Sea, Salvation Mountain, Sculpture, Travel

Inside “The Museum”.

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Art, Desert, History, Landscape, Photography, Salton Sea, Salvation Mountain, Sculpture, Travel

In 1994 there was some controversy about the presence of a private monument on public land and the local government threatened to bulldoze the mountain due to the claimed presence of lead in the paint.  This produced public support, including a documentary from a Los Angeles film maker and the local authority relented.  An independent assay also showed no lead in the soil.

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Art, Desert, History, Landscape, Photography, Salton Sea, Salvation Mountain, Sculpture, Travel

It was declared “a folk art site worthy of preservation and protection” by the Folk Art Society of America in 2000.  In 2002, Senator Barbara Boxer of California entered Salvation Mountain into the Congressional Record as a national treasure.

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Art, Desert, History, Landscape, Photography, Salton Sea, Salvation Mountain, Sculpture, Travel

Leonard Knight aimed to repaint the mountain every year to ensure the paint remains thick but he died in 2014.  In his absence, volunteers continue this maintenance.

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Art, Desert, History, Landscape, Photography, Salton Sea, Salvation Mountain, Sculpture, Travel

This is his truck.  He initially used it to transport scavenged materials and at least later, lived on the back of it.

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Art, Desert, History, Landscape, Photography, Salton Sea, Salvation Mountain, Sculpture, Travel

“He lived in the funky camper on the back of his old flatbed”.  I presume this is it (or perhaps, was it).

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