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Wednesday 24 May - arrival and Joshua Tree National Park

My flight landed at LAX at 6:40 and at 8pm I set off in my rental car. I had already been up almost 24 hours and it was a two and a half hour drive to the town of Twentynine Palms. I checked in to the motel and set off into the darkness of Joshua Tree. I parked at Jumbo Rocks campsite and shot the sky from 12-1am.

Thursday 25 May - Joshua Tree National Park

After a large Denny's breakfast went to the visitor centre while a talk was going on. Walked the Split Rock trail for about two hours and back to town to do some shopping. Bad lunch at Burger King then drove to Casey's house for the workshop. We drove to the Hall of Horrors parking area to take some golden hour shots before heading to Arch Rock to take some test shots for this evening. At the camp site Megan made us barbeque. I was so tired I napped in my tent for a bit before heading out around 10pm. We photographed the rock until 1am. Most people went back but a couple of others wanted to keep shooting so we walked a bit further with the low level light Casey had left us. Went back to the campsite at 2:30am.

Friday 26 May - Joshua Tree National Park

Woke at 5:30. Not the most comfortable sleep but slept OK. I thought we were going to shoot sunrise but apparently not. We packed up and drove back to the house where Megan had prepared granola and yogurt for breakfast. Casey used one of the participant's photos to demonstrate his workflow in Lightroom. Also played us one of Megan Hutch's video which Casey shot and one of his time lapse videos. Left the house at midday and checked into America's Best Value Inn. I had a burrito for lunch at John's Place then back to the motel where I slept from 2-8. I went back to John's Place and had a Caesar salad. At 11pm I headed back out to Jumbo Rocks then drove further along the road to the Hall of Horrors parking area where I shot until 3am.

Saturday 27 May - Joshua Tree National Park

I only managed 3-5 hours sleep. I went to Denny's for breakfast and then looked for a massage place. At the first place, a Japanese place, I was greeted by a middle aged woman in a short purple satin dress, so I went to the Thai place. The woman who opened the door didn't speak much English and was helped by another woman inside who gave me a bit more confidence. Until she asked me to strip naked. But the massage turned out to be OK. I went to the motel pool where I spent a couple of hours reading and splashing around. In the late afternoon I drove to Cholla Cactus Garden where I wandered around slowly taking photos with my 14mm for an hour, then to Hidden Valley. It was a green valley with a mix of desert plants and pine forest. The loop trail took about an hour and a half. On the drive back I noticed the sun setting behind and pulled over at a car park to photograph the eerie looking Joshua Trees silhouetted against the glow on the horizon. Back in town I filled up the car and got a Pappa John's pizza which I hurriedly ate in the car as the Sky's The Limit event was starting at the observatory just outside the national park. Several enthusiasts had their telescoped pointed to various planets, stars and galaxies. I saw Jupiter (and four of its moons) and Saturn with its rings clearly visible, and a couple of galaxies, one of which, the Needles, was edge on. I stayed until 11 and went back to Jumbo Rocks for the last time to try some more experimental things. I stayed until 1am and on the drive back as I was thinking about the coyote I'd heard earlier I saw one at the edge of the road.

Sunday 28 May - to Death Valley

Another breakfast at Denny's and at 11:30 I set off north for the long drive to Death Valley. I stopped at Baker for lunch, which was a bit of a dive. I ate at Del Taco and continued the journey, reaching the edges of the park around 5pm. Just beyond the entrance was Zabriskie Point where I stopped for some pictures before continuing to the visitor centre, which was closed and almost deserted, so I drove on to Badwater Basin 17 miles south. I passed the walkway and found a place to park on the edge of the basin. A large group had set up a shelter and I later learnt were shooting an Indian pop song. At one point they set of a red smoke bomb forcing me to move away. I walked around looking for some interesting looking hexagons. They weren't quite as clear as I had seen in photographs but I found some good enough to shoot until sunset. I saved the spot in Google Maps and went back to the car around 8:30. It was still hot so I intermittently switched on the air conditioning while I lay in the reclined seat. I set the alarm for 12am but it was on silent, but luckily I woke at 1am and headed back in eerie darkness and silence to the spot I had saved. It was tricky lighting the foreground. I had to use my Maglite and a piece of paper to reflect the light. I stayed on the basin till about 3am. Was a really good evening.

Monday 29 May - Death Valley to Los Angeles

I only slept until 5am. But it gave me the opportunity to take some shots back on the basin in the soft morning light. I then drove along the one-way Artists Drive route, though its colourful rock formations. On the way back I saw a lot of cars parked outside the Golden Canyon trailhead and decided to walk at least some of it as I needed some physical activity. It was an hour walk to the overlook at Red Cathedral and half an hour back. Back at Furnace Creek I had a breakfast buffet for $12 which was awful. I freshened up in the bathroom and spent an hour or so at the visitor centre. I found it quite interesting reading about the place and its history. It was a long drive to Los Angeles. I stopped at a major junction for fuel and lunch at Subway. The road approaching LA was crazy, people mostly driving over the speed limit with exits on both sides of the wide highway. There was heavy traffic around San Bernadino but nothing too bad. I arrived at Laguna Beach just before 5pm. I checked into the room along the busy Highway 1. I showered, repacked then walked down to the beach to take some sunset photos by the rocks. It was overcast so not the best light but I was pleased with one or two shots. I had dinner at Gina's Pizza, which was a gnocchi in a bad cheese sauce with a plastic plate and cutlery, which I thought summed up the food experience overall. Back at the room I fell asleep at 9pm watching TV.

Tuesday 30 May - departure

I looked for a Denny's and found one half an hour away on the way to Culver City Westfield. Spent the afternoon shopping there and at Santa Monica not far away.  It was a bit rushed in the end but I made it and back to the car rental place in Inglewood and the shuttle got me to the airport in good time for my flight at 6:30.

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