Anza-Borrego in southern California is one of my favorite desert locations for its vast wilderness feeling. Just a short distance from Palm Springs, it is a sprawling preserve that encompasses 600,000 acres making it the largest state park in California and the second largest in the United States. Needless to say, you can find your own space both by day and by night in this arid oasis.
The park is well-known for its annual spring blooms, and the multitude of flowering succulents that have adapted to this unique climate. Although not as colorful as the other varieties, the ocotillo has to take the prize for most unique. Its spiny branches are a perfect example of natural chaos and in the spring and summer, especially after a good rain, crimson flowers cap each branch, giving them an almost comical appearance.
In this image, I wanted to convey both the unique characteristics of this desert icon and the feeling of open space that this park exudes. The Milky Way overhead was the obvious choice for the latter and I used a bit of light painting to emphasize the daytime colors of the ocotillo. I used colored gels on a special snout that I built for a mag light. The challenge was waiting for the gusts of wind to subside for a relatively sharp image with the long shutter speed required. – Russ Bishop
Equipment and settings: Nikon D7000, AF Fisheye-Nikkor 16mm f/2.8D lens – long exposure of 25 seconds at f/3.5, ISO 2500