And The Sky With No Clouds

The desert never has any clouds…right?  After this trip I wouldn’t say never.  Thanks to an advancing storm front we experienced some pretty interesting clouds as the storm moved ashore.  The nice thing about the weather changing in the desert is the fact you can see the sky from horizon to horizon.  So when the clouds start to roll in they become part of the landscape.  On four days of our desert journey we were treated to fabulous skies and I tried to take advantage.

Just north of Mojave is a signal bridge that I’ve seen photographed numerous times.  As we approached to photograph it on the second day I couldn’t help but notice the sky and how interesting it was.  While the crew used long lenses and framed the nose of the train with the signal bridge, I hiked .3 of a mile up the access road and used a wide angle lens to bring in the cirrus and con-trails.   Add in the UP 1995 this was certainly a great start to the second day of the trip.

Mojave Bridge

After spending the morning of the third day at Lavic, Ludlow, and Bolo, we landed at Goffs for one train each way.  I set up for the photo below of a westbound passing under the signal bridge at East Goffs.  Just like at Mojave I couldn’t resist the cirrus that were preceding the storm coming ashore.  Of course just after I set up we could hear an eastbound climbing up from Fenner.  Great, my shot was going to be blocked.  Contrary to usual railfan luck the eastbound cleared and gave me long enough to change lenses and reset for the westbound.  I love the desert!

Goffs Bridge

Near the end of the third day it became quite apparent that the weather was changing.  There was moisture in the air and being from the Northwest I could tell it was going to rain.  In fact by the time the sun dropped behind the clouds at Ibis the streams of rain could be seen falling from the sky over the Dead Mountains.  A perfect backdrop for another stack train.

Ibis Storm Clouds

The fourth day it rained.  Not monsoon rain, Northwest rain.  How far did I travel to photograph trains in the rain?  Well, the nice the about California and Arizona is that when the weather changes, it changes.  Thanks to 3G coverage in the desert we could tell the rain ended somewhere west of Pisgah.  Driving west we came out of the rain between Ludlow and Pisgah and into fabulous clouds trailing the rain storm.   Add in a Z train speeding through Newberry Springs and the combination looks great!

Out of the Rain

Once we hit a lull on Monday we decided it was time to head south to Palm Springs.  On arrival at the Salton Sea we found the desert a big mess thanks the thunderstorm from the night before.   All the washes that crossed the road were wet and filled with debris.  At one point we ran across a CDOT front end loader scraping the debris off the road attempting to get things back to normal.  The next challenge was to find a train to photograph with one of these washes.  Between Rogoza and Wister we found a great sample along with super desert sky.

Desert Wash

How did I shoot these photos?  All 5 were taken with my Canon 10-22mm EF-S lens at focal lengths from 10mm all the way to 22mm.   On some a circular polarizer was used and on some it was not.  In Lightroom I added clarity to the sky areas to help the clouds pop out and used Photoshop CS3 to correct the perspective.   I can’t say enough about the 10-22 and what it will capture.

2 thoughts on “And The Sky With No Clouds”

  1. Killer shots and very cool blog post Steve!

    Without a doubt the desert can be scary during the stormy season which seems to last throughout most of the summer. The water forms walls and debris is everywhere. With little high ground, the lightning is certainly a risk as well. Despite this, you discovered one of the treasures of the Mojave; the rain and clouds. It can really beautiful when the flowers and cacti bloom.

    Let me know if you guys are down in the area again.


  2. Very nice. I know there's a certain crowd that thinks the only way to shoot in the desert is with long glass, but you've shown there are plenty of wide-angle opportunities as well.

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