Kesh, Sogdia, Timur and a Sufi

Shakhrisabz, Uzbekistan, 2 October 2018.

(Click on any image to see it in a larger size.)

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Architecture, Ceramics, Dor-us Siyodat, Dor-ut Tilovat, History, Kok Gumbaz Mosque, Landscape, Photography, Shakhrisabz, Street photography, Travel

Walking past the twin domes of the mausolea at Dor-ut Tilovat.

Shakhrisabz is one of the oldest cities of Central Asia, at more than 2,700 years old.  It was called Kesh and was one of the capital cities of Sogdia (or Sugd), and Kesh was the capital city of all Sogdia at some times.   Sogdia, though, was more a loose confederation of cities than a centralised state.  In terms of current borders, it was in Eastern Uzbekistan and Western Tajikistan, with some encroachment into Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan.   Other Sogdian Capitals were Buhkara, Afraysiab (now Samarkand, which we will visit next) and Khujand in Tajikistan.

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Walking towards Dor-us Siyodat.

Sogdia was independent during the first half of the first millennium BC until it was conquered by the Persian Emperor Cyrus the Great around 540BC.  It was then independent again from about 400BC, when it freed itself from the weaker reign of Ataxerxes II.  This was at the time of the unsuccessful rebellion of his brother Cyrus the Younger, who died in a battle that he otherwise would have won.  Greek historian Xenophon, one of the leaders of the ten thousand Greeks that supported Cyrus, wrote Anabasis, an account of the battle and the subsequent story of the Greeks fighting their way back to Greece.  Egypt revolted at the same time and the last native dynasties retained independence for nearly 60 years (Persia had occupied Egypt since 525BC).  Ataxerxes was probably too busy unsuccessfully trying to retake Egypt, dealing with the later Satrap’s Revolt, and interfering in the conflicts of Greek city-states to focus on retaking Sogdia.

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Walking through the gardens, no doubt to an ancient plan but recently planted.  Gardens are always an essential part of Islamic public architecture.

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Alexander the Great then conquered Sogdia in 327 BC.  At this time, the last Archmaenid Emperor, Darius III is said to have been murdered near Kesh, retreating to the edge of his empire after military defeat.   Alexander’s famous paramour Roxane was also a Sogdian princess.  Sogdia became part of a succession of various empires, including Selucid, Greco-Bactrian, Kushan, Hephalite and Sasanian.  It still retained its identity and culture. 

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The birth of Sogdia was also associated with the formation of the Zoroastrian religion but Sogdia came to be an area of religious tolerance, also allowing Buddhism, Manichaeism, Judaism and Nestorian Christianity until Islam slowly took over from the eighth century AD.

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Loquats.

The Sogdians were also great traders, travelling the Silk Road from China to Byzantium and becoming prosperous as a consequence.  In 128BC, in the declining days of the Greco-Bactrian Empire, the Chinese succeeding in pushing through to Sogdia and successfully besieged the capital Alexandria Eschate (Fergana Valley, present-day Uzbekistan). They were after larger more robust horses so they could successfully combat and defeat the Xiongnu Khanate, a massive Mongolian empire of the ancestors of the Huns. This helped to open up the Silk Road, including for Sogdian participation.

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Eurasian magpie.

The Han dynasty did not remain in the area for long but in the first half of the eighth century AD, the Tang dynasty had expanded so it was bordering on Sogdia.  However in 751 they were defeated by the Abbasid Caliphate (Persian-based Moslems).  Then in 755 came the An Lushan Rebellion which ultimately failed but hugely weakened Tang China. There had been a significant Sogdian community in China for many years, including some in influential positions.  But because An Lushan was part Sogdian, a Sogdian identity became less politic and they blended into the general population.

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A corner of Dor-us Siyodat.

While Sogdians were of Iranian origin, the Uzbeks are Turkic, so Sogdia gradually faded away after the Islamic takeover and the current inhabitants of Shakhrisabz are not Sogdian and do not speak a Sogdian language.  However, over the border in Tajikistan, Sogdians survive in the form of the Yaghnobi people in the Sugh Province, who also speak a language descended from Sogdian.

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Khazret Imam Mosque on the right (a working mosque we did not visit).

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Dor-us Siyodat, or the mausoleum of Timur’s eldest son Jakhongir.

All the buildings we will see are from much later than Sogdian times.   Shakhrisabz was the birthplace of Timur the Great (Tamerlane).  He had magnificent building projects here and for a while considered making it his capital.  So the buildings are from the fourteenth to the nineteenth centuries. 

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Looking up inside the mausoleum.

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This image and the next are probably details of the same door.

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This was to be Timur’s tomb.  He wanted something small and simple but his successors gave him instead the magnificence of Gur-Emir in Samarkand (coming up, in a while).  He was never interred in this sarcophagus.

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Dor-us Siyodat was to be the burial place of Timur’s family.  Construction started in 1379 and two of his sons were buried here but most of the complex was destroyed by Bukharan ruler Abdullah Khan II in probably the 1570s and only Jakhongir’s mausoleum survived.

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Here we see the nearby Dor-ut Tilovat ensemble which includes Kok-Gumbaz Mosque (the large dome), the Gumbazi-Sayidon Mausoleum (the two smaller domes) and a Madrassah.  The mosque and one mausoleum was built by his Timur’s grandson Ulugbek, the left hand mausoleum was built by Timur.

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We are now inside the mausoleum of Shamsidden Kulol.   He was a potter, philosopher, theologian and scholar and the founder of Sufism.  He was also the primary spiritual and intellectual influence on Timur.  This is Timur’s testimony to him and and its elegance is breathtaking.

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The tombs of both Shamseddin Kulol and Timur’s father Taraghay are underneath the mausoleum.

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This is underneath the other cupola, built by Ulugbek for his descendants, though it is not clear whether any were ever buried here. 

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This image and the next two are details painted on the interior walls of the mosque.

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These palm trees are the calling cards of the original Indian and Iranian designers..

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There is a large courtyard between the mausolea and the mosque.  We are looking across that courtyard, either to the madrassah or back to the mausolea.

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Arches in a corridor inside the mosque.

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The three final images are inside the Kok-Gumbaz (Blue Dome) Mosque built between 1435 and 1436 by Ulugbek in honour of his father (and Timur’s son) Shah Rukh.

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The recess in the white rectangle is the mihrab which indicates the quibla, or the direction to face in order to pray towards Mecca.  The minbar, or the imam’s pulpit, is just to the right of the mihrab.

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It was built on the foundations of an older mosque from the Karakhanid era (900 to 1200) and originally had a much larger dome.  That collapsed in the late eighteenth century and was rebuilt two hundred years later.  Judging by the apparent imperfections of the interior of the dome, they must have used original materials where possible.

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Live Music in Canberra in Times of COVID (Part 2)

December 2020 to February 2021, Canberra, ACT

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Continuing from the previous post….  Canberra has largely escaped COVID (so far at least).  It has never been mandatory to wear masks here and lockdown is a long tome ago.  There are few restrictions on live music now, though you have to be seated and not use a dance floor.  Other States have gone in and out of lockdown though, especially Victoria so interstate musicians were quite often unable to visit. This post is mainly of a couple of large events with many bands.  I have avoided including more than one image of each musician (over both posts) except where they appear as part of a band.

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On 20th December 2020, the Canberra Blues Society held its Christmas party, featuring Bonnie Kay and the Bonafides from Sydney.  It also included the monthly jam and there were six jamming bands.  This is Catherine Golden with Bonnie Kay and the Bonafides, who played both at the beginning and the end.

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Wayne Rigby (Bonnie Kay and the Bonafides).

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This is Ross Buchanan, with Jamming Band 1.

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Australia, Blues, Canberra, Live Music, Photography, Travel, Wildlife

Steve Hartnett (Jamming Band 1).

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John van Buuren (Jamming Band 2).

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Dave Jensen (Jamming Band 3).

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Leo Joseph (Jamming Band 3).

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Jeffro Martin (Jamming Band 4).

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Mimo (Jamming Band 4).

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Berno (Jamming Band 4).

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Johnny Huckle (Jamming Band 5).

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Juanita Cucinotta (Jamming Band 5).

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Australia, Blues, Canberra, Live Music, Photography, Travel, Wildlife

Calvin Welch (with Bonnie Kay and the Bonafides but playing here with Jamming Band 5).

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Bonnie Kay and the Bonafides is back up again at the end.  This is Bonnie Kay.

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Illya Szwec.

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Australia, Blues, Canberra, Live Music, Photography, Travel, Wildlife

The next big event was on 9th January, Bucky’s Birthday Bash.  This is Bucky (David Buckmaster) in an image from 2007.  The event has been held for many years and he played in last year’s event but he died of cancer last year, so the event continues in his honour.  There were six bands this year and P.J. O’Brien Band was supposed to be the climax but they were unable to attend due to a lockdown in New South Wales, so it was all local bands.

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Johnny Reynolds (Johnny Reynolds Band).

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Australia, Blues, Canberra, Live Music, Photography, Travel, Wildlife

Dave O’Neill (Rodeo Clowns).

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Australia, Blues, Canberra, Live Music, Photography, Travel, Wildlife

Chris Van Der Wielen and Dene Burton (Urban Drover).

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Mitch Preston (Chris Harland Blues Band).

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Chris Harland.

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Australia, Blues, Canberra, Live Music, Photography, Travel, Wildlife

Cam Hall (Sunbears, but playing here with Moondog).

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Dylan Harding ()Sunbears).

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Sunbears.

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Australia, Blues, Canberra, Live Music, Photography, Travel, Wildlife

Wiesse Wade (Sunbears).

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On 19th January there was a celebration of  Mitch Preston’s Birthday at Smith’s Alternative (now a venue; originally a bookshop).

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30th January.  Fiona Boyes, who lived in Canberra for some years, came up from Victoria.  This is Ali Penney accompanying for a track or two on the piano.

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Fiona Boyes.

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Australia, Blues, Canberra, Live Music, Photography, Travel, Wildlife

4th February.  Blues Roulette visited from Melbourne.  Organised by Ben Wicks, this is an array of eminent musicians that changes with each visit.  This is Jimi Hocking.

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James Southwell (Blues Roulette).

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Australia, Blues, Canberra, Live Music, Photography, Travel, Wildlife

Davo Fester (on drums; Blues Roulette).

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Jimi Hocking, James Southwell and Ben Wicks.

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Australia, Blues, Canberra, Live Music, Photography, Travel, Wildlife

5 February.  Pachamama at Gang Gang Cafe, Downer.

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Live Music in Canberra in Times of COVID (Part 1)

February to November 2020, Canberra, ACT

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I covered Thredbo Blues Festival in January 2020 and took some photographs at Goulburn Blues Festival in February. Then COVID hit and we went into lockdown.

Usually I cover Blues Festivals but not so much local bands because my processing methods are very time-intensive and three hours photographing may lead to three to five days on the computer, processing.  During the last year I had more time on my hands and no festivals for me for 2021, so I covered more local bands.  There will be two posts, this one and the next.

Altogether, since lockdown started last March, I have photographed eighteen events, 36 groups (including solo performers) and 153 people, though seven groups and 48 people are duplicated in different performances.  All performances are in Canberra but some of the musicians are from Sydney or Melbourne.

My selection may be somewhat arbitrary and I’m not trying to cover everyone but I have avoided putting anyone in twice.

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This is the Sisters and Brothers Community Choir playing upstairs at Beyond Q on the 29th February, just before we went into lockdown. Beyond Q was a wonderful second hand bookshop and a great music venue. They had had to change addresses due to a lease issue and just got organised at the new location. Sadly, they closed down due to COVID 19. From left to right there is Juanita Cucinotta, Juliet Reeve, Chris Cavanagh, Michelle Mannion, Julie Manley (my partner), Simon Daly, Don Dennes and Mary Bryden.

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It is now 7 June. We have been in lockdown for three months. This is the first gig I saw a notification for and must have been close to the first after lockdown. We are outside a small group of shops at Belconnen markets and in the open air because lockdown is just being slowly relaxed. Some of the shops appear to have been abandoned including the one in the background. This is DJ Gosper and Jeff Prime.

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It’s now a month later, 5th July, and indoor gigs are now allowed, albeit with limitations on seating and distancing. We are at the Artists’ Shed in Fyshwick. It may look as though we are way out in the country but that is just a backdrop. Dan Fernandes is playing solo as support.

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A couple of hours later, this is Bernie Keenan playing drums for Johnnie Reynolds Band.

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10th July and further liberalisation has allowed Shane Pacey to come down from Sydney and play solo at the Keller Bar in the Harmonie German Club. Shane usually plays with the Bondi Cigars or the Shane Pacey Trio.

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Australia, Blues, Canberra, Live Music, Photography, Travel .

31st July and this is Frank Sultana (based in Kiama) playing in the Keller Bar at the Harmonie German Club. He has Grant DW Barnes (not shown) supporting him on harmonica on some tracks.

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8 August and this is Ana Key and the Underdogs playing at the Artists’ Shed in Fyshwick.  You can see the background in context here.

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Ole Nielsen.

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Australia, Blues, Canberra, Live Music, Photography, Travel, Wildlife
Ana Key.

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5th September and this is Milena Cifali launching her book Mallacoota Time at East Hotel, Kingston.  The event included book recitals, poetry recitals and musical performances.  While Milena and Jim were away in Queensland they were burnt out of their Mallacoota house in the huge fires of January 2020 and lost all their possessions and most of their birds.  Here, I am also in the photo, using a cable release to trigger the camera and fisheye lens.

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This is at a second book launch the next day at the Artists’ Shed in Fyshwick.  This is Peter Swain.

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Jim Horvath, Milena’s husband.

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2nd October and this is 19 Twenty at the Abbey.  John Gwilliam is on double bass.

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Syd Green.

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Kane Dennelly.

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Australia, Blues, Canberra, Live Music, Photography, Travel, Wildlife

19 Twenty.

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9th October and this is Paul Callan with Johnny Reynolds Band at the Austrian Club.

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Johnny Reynolds Band.

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15th October at the Basement, Belconnen.  Chris Harland Blues Band (setting up).  Restrictions were in place including that you need to stick to your seat, not visit other tables and no dancing on the dance floor.  Most of those restrictions are still in place but now you can mingle.

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Paul Leeder.

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Australia, Blues, Canberra, Live Music, Photography, Travel, Wildlife
Rick Milliband.

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Moondog was up next, playing solo.

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Owen Campbell was the final act for the night.

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It was a three-piece band, including Matt Nightingale on bass.

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27th November, this is Llara Weaver, part of Stella’s Way, at the Basement Belconnen.

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Stella’s Way.

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Next up was Ana Key and the Underdogs,  This is Stephen Deakin.

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Keith Joliffe.

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Last band for the night was Carnival Road.

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Not set up, this was just at the side of the stage.

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3rd December. Julian James, Keller Bar, Harmonie German Club.

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Keeping quiet in Canberra

February 2020 to January 2021, Canberra, ACT

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My last local post in January 2020 was Australia Burning, which included images taken in Canberra on one of two days when bushfire smoke meant Canberra had the worst air quality of any city in the world.  Then COVID struck.

There was lockdown in Canberra for a month or two but there have been no local cases since last April, just a handful of incoming people in quarantine hotels.  There are currently no locally-sourced cases in Australia, just a few incoming travellers.  Though many criticisms can be made, State and Federal Governments did fairly well, supporting many people (though with glaring holes) and following medical advice.  State Governments have been prepared to engage lockdowns where necessary and from time to time closing off State borders and isolating localities.  People arriving from overseas have to stay for a fortnight in a quarantine hotel.

Unfortunately, while the Federal Government has been prepared to follow medical advice, it shows no signs of being willing to follow scientific advice on climate change.  Huge areas burned in January and a significant majority of the population want effective action on climate change. If nothing continues to be done, temperatures will continue to rise, fires will become larger and more prevalent, the ecology and wildlife of the country will be devastated and the capacity for agricultural production will greatly decline.

In the meantime though, I have made no overseas trips since 2019 due to COVID and have been keeping fairly quiet.

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Buoys in a small canal at Kingston Foreshore.

In March I joined a Fuji event that allowed you to use various new cameras and lenses. I tried some of these but this image and the next were taken with my X-T2 and 100-400mm lens.

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Reflections in the same canal.

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Roots of a bonsai tree at the National Arboretum.

In June I visited the Bonsai Garden at the Arboretum and took this photo with my Fuji 80mm macro lens.  It is focus-stacked, which means I have taken many images at different points of focus and later combined them with software.

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Succulent in the front garden.

In August I had purchased a Fuji 8-16mm zoom and took some test shots in the front garden, this one and the next one.  The succulents are quite small so it’s almost macro because the lens can focus quite close.  These are also focus-stacked but because I was using a very wide angle lens, that required only a few exposures.

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Small flowers in the front garden.

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Grevillea Macleayana.

I also visited the Australian National Botanic Gardens from time to time, this image and the next four.  The first three were taken in September and the last two in October.

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Telopea Speciosissima.

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Banksia Spinulosa.

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Pimilea Physodes and panorama near the Visitor’s Centrte.

I took this with a circular fisheye lens and it is also focus-stacked, with just two exposures.  The depth of field is amazing, but not quite enough to go from the stamens of the flower (0.1 metres) to infinity in one exposure.

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Grevillea Macleayana.

Another focus-stacked exposure with the Fuji 80mm macro lens.  This one took 70 exposures and I had to wait for it to be still and retake it several times when a breeze came up during the exposure.

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Archie Webb in the Top 12 Challenge.

I have also gone back to table tennis, both socially and competition and this is an image I took in October at the Top 12 Challenge, with the top 12 Canberra players competing for prizes.  Archie is the leading competition player but he did not win this challenge.  Here he is gearing up for a forehand loop.

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ACT Table Tennis Open.

I also took photographs at the ACT Open in November.  Table Tennis is remarkable in that players of very different ages can compete equally.  The far player is Faisal Pirwani and he is returning the ball with his backhand,  He is one of Canberra’s leading players; I do not know the name of the youngster but from his shirt he probably comes from Melbourne.  Some young players can be very good.  We had a couple of players as old as 93 in the Social Seniors Group prior to COVID though they have not returned since.

(The two table tennis shots were taken with a Nikon D850 and 85mm f1.4 and 50mm f1.4 lenses respectively).

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Malua Bay rock pool.

In early January we went for a trip “down the coast” (which means to the south coast of New South Wales, near Canberra).  This image and the next two were taken on that trip.

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Glasshouse Rocks, Narooma.

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Architecture, Australia, Canberra, Focus stacking, Kangaroos, Landscape, Macro, Nature, New South Wales, Photography, seascape, Table Tennis, Travel, Wildlife

At Glasshouse Rocks looking through to Montague Island Lighthouse.

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Architecture, Australia, Canberra, Focus stacking, Kangaroos, Landscape, Macro, Nature, New South Wales, Photography, seascape, Table Tennis, Travel, Wildlife

Kangaroos at an Ainslie pond.

I live backing on to a reserve and a week or so later, we had a long walk to a couple of ponds in that reserve.

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Architecture, Australia, Canberra, Focus stacking, Kangaroos, Landscape, Macro, Nature, New South Wales, Photography, seascape, Table Tennis, Travel, Wildlife

Pond reflections.

Since I am mentioning equipment in this post, the Malua Bay rock pool was taken with the Fuji 80mm macro and the last four with the Fuji 100-400mm.

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

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

Cottonwood Spring.

Joshua Tree National Park (IR).

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

Mountains and desert.

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

Ocotillo and desert landscape.

Joshua Tree National Park (IR).

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

Desert landscape.

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

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

Chollas.

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

Desert landscape, possibly with Triffids.

Joshua Tree National Park (IR).

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

Jumbo Rocks.

Jumbo Rocks and Hidden Valley.

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

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

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

Joshua Tree.

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

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

Hidden Valley.

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

Coyote.

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

Rock climber.

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

Joshua Tree National Park (IR).

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

 

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

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

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

North shore palms.

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

Dead fish by an endangered sea.

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

Bombay Beach.

Salton Sea

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

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

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

Slab City.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Slab City.

Salton Sea (IR).

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

Salton Sea.

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

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

Mud Volcano.

Birds and Mud Volcanoes.

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

Hummingbird.

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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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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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Salton Sea

California USA, 1 October 2016

With Jeni Bate of Skyscapes for the Soul.

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This day we drove clockwise around the Salton Sea.  This post show the journey from Salton City to Bombay Beach as well as comments on the history and current fortunes of the Salton Sea.

(Click on any image for a larger view).

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Desert, Ecology, History, Irrigation, Landscape, Nature, Photography, Salton Sea, Travel, Wilderness, Wildlife

As you read the account that unfolds  below, you may wish to come back to this map occasionally.  Note the Salton Sea at the top, the American Canal that is now the main source of water diverted from the Colorado River at just above the border, Canal Central (the diversion from the early 20th century) below that in Mexico, the Colorado river flowing from top right and the Gulf of California (or the Sea of Cortez) at the bottom.

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Desert, Ecology, History, Irrigation, Landscape, Nature, Photography, Salton Sea, Travel, Wilderness, Wildlife

The Salton Sea at the north-east corner.

Most readers will be aware of the long peninsula below California in Mexico which is the Baja California Peninsula.  The body of water between that and the rest of Mexico is the Gulf of California.  The peninsula and gulf are a consequence of seismic activity along the San Andreas fault, a part of which runs under the Gulf of California and along the valley to the north of it, including the Salton Sea.

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Desert, Ecology, History, Irrigation, Landscape, Nature, Photography, Salton Sea, Travel, Wilderness, Wildlife

The ecology of the Salton Sea is also highly connected with the Colorado River.  Five million years ago, the Colorado River was much more minor or did not exist as such and there were massive glacial lakes in the centre of North America, held there by glacial ice.  There was a catastrophic collapse of the ice wall, like a giant dam collapsing, and huge amounts of water were released along the Colorado River, carving out the Grand Canyon in a relatively short period of time.  Around 600,000 years ago there were also several episodes where the canyon was dammed by volcanic lava and after a time spectacularly broke though.  This creates lots of sediment which has to go somewhere and the Colorado River comes out at the Gulf of California.

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Desert, Ecology, History, Irrigation, Landscape, Nature, Photography, Salton Sea, Travel, Wilderness, Wildlife

Once there were palm trees, planted in the 50s or 60s.  Now few survive.

So the end of the Gulf of California is also the delta of the Colorado River.  Even with water in it, the Salton Sea is below sea level, so the delta of the Colorado River has blocked it off from being part of the Gulf of California.  The Salton Sea is not thought to have previously been part of the Gulf of California though.  Rather, the whole valley it is in sunk as a result of seismic activity along the San Andreas fault.

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Desert, Ecology, History, Irrigation, Landscape, Nature, Photography, Salton Sea, Travel, Wilderness, Wildlife

Tombstone for a palm tree, now in the desert.

The course of the Colorado River at the delta is very changeable since it flows though loose alluvial soils.  The area below sea level in the Salton Watershed is also much larger than the current Salton Sea.  In the last thousand years water from the Colorado River has poured in to fill this area four times, forming a body of water called Lake Cahuilla, and then receding.  The last time it dried up was around 1700.

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Desert, Ecology, History, Irrigation, Landscape, Nature, Photography, Salton Sea, Travel, Wilderness, Wildlife

Salt, water, mountains.

The Salton Sea is an historical accident.  In the nineteenth century it was dry.  From 1900 Charles Robinson Rockwood constructed a canal to divert water from the Colorado River to enable irrigation of potential farmland in the Imperial Valley below what is now the Salton Sea.  The canal initially ran parallel to the river.  The mouth of the canal silted up so he cut another.  This silted up too so he cut another, larger opening.  But this time, cutting financial corners, he failed to construct a gate to regulate floods.  And in 1905, there was a massive flooding of the Colorado River.  It changed course to flow along the canal and poured into the Salton Sink unchecked for two years, creating the Salton Sea.

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Desert, Ecology, History, Irrigation, Landscape, Nature, Photography, Salton Sea, Travel, Wilderness, Wildlife

Dead fish on the salt.

Eventually, after massive expense and remarkable effort, Edward Harriman of the Southern Railroad Company plugged the gap but the Salton Sea was born.

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Desert, Ecology, History, Irrigation, Landscape, Nature, Photography, Salton Sea, Travel, Wilderness, Wildlife

Lots of dead fish on the salt.

In response to fears of flood and drought, and to avoid canal water sourced from Mexico, there was a massive project in the 1930s to build the Hoover Dam on the Colorado River and a new All-American canal north of the Mexican border to irrigate the land between the border and the Salton Sea.

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Desert, Ecology, History, Irrigation, Landscape, Nature, Photography, Salton Sea, Travel, Wilderness, Wildlife

This and earlier images are Salton City and surrounds.  Here we have a resident who has managed to retain and water their palm trees.

There came to be a successfully irrigated agricultural industry but the modified flow of the Colorado River affected Mexico as well as the US.  An international agreement short-changed Mexico which only received one third to one half of the water that went to the Imperial Valley.  The magnificent delta lands at the mouth of the Colorado were also greatly compromised.  Previously it had been a wetlands paradise for wildlife.

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Desert, Ecology, History, Irrigation, Landscape, Nature, Photography, Salton Sea, Travel, Wilderness, Wildlife

The end, but of what?  The end of Time?  The end of Western Civilisation?  The end of Life as we know it?  The end of Memory? The end of speculative development projects? The end of water?  The end of the Salton Sea?  The end of words?  Or is it just where Jim Morrison came when he wrote “This is the end …”?.

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Desert, Ecology, History, Irrigation, Landscape, Nature, Photography, Salton Sea, Travel, Wilderness, Wildlife

The level of the sea has not always remained constant though.  Notwithstanding the Hoover Dam, there were floods in the seventies and eighties that raised the level for a while and then subsided.  The level now is lower than it was in say the 1960s.

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Desert, Ecology, History, Irrigation, Landscape, Nature, Photography, Salton Sea, Travel, Wilderness, Wildlife

In 1958, M Penn Phillips launched Salton City to replace the desert as “the Salton Riviera”.   There were to be 250,000 lots with roads, electricity, sewage, a golf course and a marina.  Nine thousand fan palms were planted.  Lots were sold on the never-never where buyers didn’t own anything until all payments were made.

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Desert, Ecology, History, Irrigation, Landscape, Nature, Photography, Salton Sea, Travel, Wilderness, Wildlife

Once a Marina, perhaps.

Phillips bailed out in 1960 and by the end of the 1960s the bubble had deflated.

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Desert, Ecology, History, Irrigation, Landscape, Nature, Photography, Salton Sea, Travel, Wilderness, Wildlife

Still a jetty and a boat though the water has receded from the original jetty.  This is probably at Desert Shores.

As early as 1927 there was fishing, boating and waterskiing on the sea and for a while there was an edge of glamour with this.  During the sixties and seventies the Salton Sea was a fisherman’s paradise and a refuge for large numbers of migratory birds.  From the 90s it has become a poisonous ecological disaster.  Millions of fish died at a time.  There were massive epidemics of seabirds.  Bad odours have wafted from the lake, especially during die-off events.

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Desert, Ecology, History, Irrigation, Landscape, Nature, Photography, Salton Sea, Travel, Wilderness, Wildlife

We left the lake for a while to walk in a nearby valley.

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Desert, Ecology, History, Irrigation, Landscape, Nature, Photography, Salton Sea, Travel, Wilderness, Wildlife .

Desert, Ecology, History, Irrigation, Landscape, Nature, Photography, Salton Sea, Travel, Wilderness, Wildlife .

Desert, Ecology, History, Irrigation, Landscape, Nature, Photography, Salton Sea, Travel, Wilderness, Wildlife

Ever left your car and not sure you can find it again?  Especially a rental car?

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Desert, Ecology, History, Irrigation, Landscape, Nature, Photography, Salton Sea, Travel, Wilderness, Wildlife

The key didn’t seem to work and I couldn’t get the motor to turn over.

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Desert, Ecology, History, Irrigation, Landscape, Nature, Photography, Salton Sea, Travel, Wilderness, Wildlife

There seemed to be something wrong with the car but there was no mechanic nearby.

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Desert, Ecology, History, Irrigation, Landscape, Nature, Photography, Salton Sea, Travel, Wilderness, Wildlife .

Desert, Ecology, History, Irrigation, Landscape, Nature, Photography, Salton Sea, Travel, Wilderness, Wildlife

Lone pelican on a pole.

(For this and the next seven images, we are at or near North Shore Beach and Yacht Club).

The Salton Sea is a sink.  It is below sea level.  There is nowhere else for the deposits of the water to go.  The water there is saltier than sea water but that is not the problem because other salt lakes can be much saltier and still support abundant bird life.  It also has concerning levels of metals such as selenium, washed down the Colorado, but this is not the problem either.  It received agricultural runoff mainly from the US and also sewage and industrial waste from Mexico, which builds up year by year.

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Desert, Ecology, History, Irrigation, Landscape, Nature, Photography, Salton Sea, Travel, Wilderness, Wildlife

A few surviving palm trees.

Corvina (cilus gilberti), a large seawater fish from Central and South America, was introduced to the sea in the 1950s.  Then tilapia, mainly freshwater fish from Africa, were introduced to the sea in the 1960s to the great delight of the corvina.  The salinity of the lake at that time, about the same as seawater, was not a problem for the tilapia and the level of nutrients from the agricultural runoff meant that they flourished.  Consequently, the population of corvina skyrocketed to an extraordinary extent.  It was easy to catch 20-pound corvina (9 kilos) and 30-pound (14 kilo) fish were also available.

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Desert, Ecology, History, Irrigation, Landscape, Nature, Photography, Salton Sea, Travel, Wilderness, Wildlife

Pelican on the wing.  Perhaps the rared brown pelican rather than the white one.

From the eighties and especially from the nineties, the sea started to become too salty for the tilapia and the excess nutrients continued to build up resulting in excessive blue green algae, bacteria and parasites.  This came to include selenium-contaminated pile worms, cyanobacteria, botulism spores and amyloodinium gill parasites.  This produced die-offs of millions of tilapis in single events.  There was a bird sanctuary at the south of the sea.  Then came mass bird die offs, principally grebes, pelicans and cormorants, from eating the poisoned fish.

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Desert, Ecology, History, Irrigation, Landscape, Nature, Photography, Salton Sea, Travel, Wilderness, Wildlife

Lots more dead fish again.

Given that the Salton Sea is a sewage sink, this problem is going to get worse.  The fish are largely or entirely gone now and fish-eating birds are scarce.  The sea is on their migration routes but continuing loss of habitat means there may not be somewhere else for them to go.

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Desert, Ecology, History, Irrigation, Landscape, Nature, Photography, Salton Sea, Travel, Wilderness, Wildlife

The fisherman seems to have stepped aside for a smoko.  Perhaps there were no fish to catch anyway.

There have been studies on how to effect a solution and two main alternatives emerged.

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Desert, Ecology, History, Irrigation, Landscape, Nature, Photography, Salton Sea, Travel, Wilderness, Wildlife

One was to physically divide the sea in two, half for “fresh” water and the other half for an evaporative sump.  In the long term though, nutrients and salts would continue to come in and this would not work.

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Desert, Ecology, History, Irrigation, Landscape, Nature, Photography, Salton Sea, Travel, Wilderness, Wildlife

Tyre and rust.

The other was to pump water from the Gulf of California to the Salton Sea, restoring the sea to the level of say the 1960s.  At the same time, there would be a controlled outflow the other way.  This could extract pollutants using the mothballed Yuma desalination plant, which was completed but never used because a flood destroyed the canals that would supply it.  The flushing is necessary because otherwise there would still be a buildup of pollutants.  In time fish could be introduced again.  However, this would require the cooperation of Mexico which would require special treatment since it has received the raw end of the deal so far.

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Desert, Ecology, History, Irrigation, Landscape, Nature, Photography, Salton Sea, Travel, Wilderness, Wildlife

More dead fish.

Neither of those options eventuated.

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Desert, Ecology, History, Irrigation, Landscape, Nature, Photography, Salton Sea, Travel, Wilderness, Wildlife

My guess is that this was a boat and what pokes up is the mast.

The Salton Sea is drying out and must have deteriorated significantly since I was there in 2016.  In 2003, measures were taken to improve efficiency of water usage in the Imperial Valley, including moving from flushing the soil with water runoff to drip irrigation.  The unanticipated effect of this though was to reduce the excess water flowing into the Salton Sea.  At the same time, there was an agreement to transfer large amounts of water from the Imperial Valley to San Diego.  An “easement period” in which it was assumed that relief measures would be taken for the Salton Sea, expired in 2018.  Nothing had been done for the sea in the intervening period.  From 1st January 2018, 40% less water flows into the Salton Sea.  That must be having a significant effect.

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Desert, Ecology, History, Irrigation, Landscape, Nature, Photography, Salton Sea, Travel, Wilderness, Wildlife

Former pleasure craft or fishing craft.  Not currently much in use it seems.

Some remedial action is occurring but not much.  It follows a solution for another problem.  Owen’s Lake, inland from San Francisco and Los Angeles, was drained for Los Angeles water in the early 20th century.  By the second half of the 20th century it had become the single largest source of dust in the US.  From 1997 they replaced the dustbowl with a series of shallow ponds, which solves that problem though requires continuing maintenance.

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Desert, Ecology, History, Irrigation, Landscape, Nature, Photography, Salton Sea, Travel, Wilderness, Wildlife

The shore has receded.  We are at Bombay Beach, once a celebrity destination.

A similar proposal has started for the Salton Sea.  However, it only affects a small area at the southern end of the sea.  For the rest, the sea will continue to recede and give rise to dust clouds laden with insecticides and other toxins.  In due course this will probably become a noticeable problem for LA as well.  Already there have been very high levels of asthma for decades in people living in the Imperial Valley south of the sea.  Conditions south of the border in Mexico are likely to be worse.

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Desert, Ecology, History, Irrigation, Landscape, Nature, Photography, Salton Sea, Travel, Wilderness, Wildlife

There is another solution that Nature itself may provide.  Seismic activity along the San Andreas fault could open a fissure so that water rushes in and the entire Salton sink becomes part of the Gulf of California.  That may not be a desirable solution for the many people that live or farm there.  It may even be inevitable.  But even if so, it may not happen for maybe even millions of years.

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Desert, Ecology, History, Irrigation, Landscape, Nature, Photography, Salton Sea, Travel, Wilderness, Wildlife

… and the population has receded too.

It’s easy to look at this as a severe problem in an isolated obscure area that nobody much has heard of or should worry about.  But it’s also part of an ecological crisis in the south west of the US associated with twenty years of drought in the Colorado Basin.

More generally, it is a metaphor for what we are doing to the environment and how urgently our action is required.  Climate change, over-consumption and overpopulation are rapidly undermining our world.  This calls for well considered action.  Solutions are expensive but so is ignoring the problems.  Pretending there is no problem and doing nothing will not work.

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My primary source for this account has been Salt Dreams by William de Buys and Joan Myers.  I have also made some reference to Ancient Landscapes of the Colorado Plateau by Ron Blakey and Wayne Ranney, A history of water — and the Salton Sea — in Imperial by Neal V Hitch, Salton Sea: California drought could soon see the state’s largest body of water sleeping with the fishes by Tim Walker and Dust Rising by Michael Zelenko.

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(I have usually been posting once a week but this post has been delayed by the time required for research.  The next post has infrared images and that is also likely to be delayed because they are time-consuming to process, and also because I have some other tasks including preparing, printing and framing three images for an exhibition.)

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Encounters with Megafauna

Galleta Meadows, Borrego Springs, California USA, 30 September 2016

With Jeni Bate of Skyscapes for the Soul.

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Desert, Galleta Meadows, Landscape, Megafauna, Nature, Photography, Salton Sea, Sculpture, Travel, Wilderness, Wildlife

A few days before, we saw the remains of prehistoric megafauna that had been trapped in the La Brea Tar Swamps.  There are still a few places you can see them though such as here at Galleta Meadows.

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Desert, Galleta Meadows, Landscape, Megafauna, Nature, Photography, Salton Sea, Sculpture, Travel, Wilderness, Wildlife

Their brown colour is an evolutionary adaption for living is a desert environment.  Indian and African elephants by contrast are grey because they evolved to live in black and white forests before the age of colour. You can see this in old films and nineteenth century photographs.

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Desert, Galleta Meadows, Landscape, Megafauna, Nature, Photography, Salton Sea, Sculpture, Travel, Wilderness, Wildlife

This appears to be a small group of gomphotheres which are usually very hard to find in the wild.  Not sure of the actual species though.

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Desert, Galleta Meadows, Landscape, Megafauna, Nature, Photography, Salton Sea, Sculpture, Travel, Wilderness, Wildlife

Getting up close and personal with a gomphothere.

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Desert, Galleta Meadows, Landscape, Megafauna, Nature, Photography, Salton Sea, Sculpture, Travel, Wilderness, Wildlife

A very large locust or grasshopper and a scorpion.  Quite a bit larger than a human.

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Desert, Galleta Meadows, Landscape, Megafauna, Nature, Photography, Salton Sea, Sculpture, Travel, Wilderness, Wildlife

They were just sitting there sizing each other off, hardly moving at all.  Well if they were moving at all, I didn’t notice it.  Perhaps I shouldn’t have got quite so close.  I understand scorpions can move quite quickly when they have a mind to.

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Desert, Galleta Meadows, Landscape, Megafauna, Nature, Photography, Salton Sea, Sculpture, Travel, Wilderness, Wildlife

Grasshoppers and locusts are essentially the same but they are locusts when they swarm.  Younger readers may not remember bygone decades driving through a plague of locusts when they would hit your windscreen like hail.  These days the thoughtful agricultural chemical producers have solved this problem by eliminating something like 90% of insects world-wide in the last forty years or so.  Before long they could well take this wonderful profit-based progress even further and eliminate all flowering plants.  Then we will all be able to experience the extraordinary privilege of living in a desert.

In the meanwhile, Californian residents must have interesting times in locust plagues.  Having one of these coming through your car window could make quite a difference to your day.

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Desert, Galleta Meadows, Landscape, Megafauna, Nature, Photography, Salton Sea, Sculpture, Travel, Wilderness, Wildlife

There was also a group of agricultural workers.  They are protesting about low rates of pay for agricultural workers in an insufficiently regulated economy and involved in a form of industrial action known as a go-slow.  They are taking this very literally.

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Desert, Galleta Meadows, Landscape, Megafauna, Nature, Photography, Salton Sea, Sculpture, Travel, Wilderness, Wildlife

You will notice that behind to the right is a tall thin sculpture from the prehistoric era before wifi.  It is called a telegraph pole.  No-one is sure what a telegraph was.  Some kind of precursor to wifi, it seems, using fender telecasters and some kind of drawings.

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Desert, Galleta Meadows, Landscape, Megafauna, Nature, Photography, Salton Sea, Sculpture, Travel, Wilderness, Wildlife

Here are a couple of ground sloths but they were too preoccupied to notice me.  When photographing wildlife you have to be quite sensitive to the situation and not for example wander right up to a ground sloth or a bear to take a selfie.

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Desert, Galleta Meadows, Landscape, Megafauna, Nature, Photography, Salton Sea, Sculpture, Travel, Wilderness, Wildlife

The largest ground sloths come in at four tonnes and six metres long (20 feet).  I’m not sure how big this one was and I didn’t weigh it.

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Desert, Galleta Meadows, Landscape, Megafauna, Nature, Photography, Salton Sea, Sculpture, Travel, Wilderness, Wildlife

You might think it is surprising to see a Chinese dragon in California but their range has been increasing.

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Desert, Galleta Meadows, Landscape, Megafauna, Nature, Photography, Salton Sea, Sculpture, Travel, Wilderness, Wildlife

You can see it is shimmying along through the desert sand and this is because it has burrowed through all the way from China.

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Desert, Galleta Meadows, Landscape, Megafauna, Nature, Photography, Salton Sea, Sculpture, Travel, Wilderness, Wildlife

I didn’t see it breathing any fire but if you sneak up behind it and touch its skin, you can see that it can get very very hot.

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Desert, Galleta Meadows, Landscape, Megafauna, Nature, Photography, Salton Sea, Sculpture, Travel, Wilderness, Wildlife

Some say that the Chinese Dragon is casting a larger shadow these days but I didn’t really notice that while I was here.

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Desert, Galleta Meadows, Landscape, Megafauna, Nature, Photography, Salton Sea, Sculpture, Travel, Wilderness, Wildlife

That massive tongue looks almost like the trunk of an elephant so perhaps  dragons evolved into elephants.

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Desert, Galleta Meadows, Landscape, Megafauna, Nature, Photography, Salton Sea, Sculpture, Travel, Wilderness, Wildlife

This looks to be just an ordinary elephant. Perhaps it escaped from a zoo.

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Desert, Galleta Meadows, Landscape, Megafauna, Nature, Photography, Salton Sea, Sculpture, Travel, Wilderness, Wildlife

There were also a couple of locals here, who appeared to be having navigational difficulties with their vehicle.

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Desert, Galleta Meadows, Landscape, Megafauna, Nature, Photography, Salton Sea, Sculpture, Travel, Wilderness, Wildlife

I asked them what they were doing there but they didn’t want to talk to me or even acknowledge me so I went off in a huff.  (A huff is a somewhat impractical motor vehicle that is a cross between a Hummer and a Fiat 500).

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