Every New Year's Day, Stephanie and I take a long day trip to the Mojave. It's our way to start the year with some calm beauty, because few places are as serene and lovely as the Mojave Desert in winter.
This year, New Year's eve was scheduled to receive bad weather--snow flurries and icy rain-- so we moved our annual trip forward a day. I always make a point to get out to the desert when the weather is going to be doing something interesting, because the more interesting the weather, the more interesting the landscape photography. In fact, if the sky is blue and the sun is high, my camera probably stays in the bag.
A fact about the Mojave that many people don't realize: its elevation varies wildly, from a low of 282 feet below sea level at Badwater to a high of 11,000 feet in the Panamint Mountains. Much of the Mojave is mountainous, and when it snows the elevation differences really stand out. One moment you can be driving in a snow storm, and a moment later you can be driving through a sand storm.
Moving our trip back a day to catch the weather was fortunate; the day was absolutely gorgeous and moody, the light at turns submarine and ecstatic. At its worst, in the wrong light, the desert can look stark and hideous, like a wound. But in the right light, it can be desperately lovely, full of promise and begging to be explored.