This assignment in California has been different for us as we are living in San Diego and commuting into El Centro for my shifts. We stay in El Centro for my work stretches and then hit the road for an hour and a half to get back to San Diego. Due to scheduling and staffing needs, we had a week where we just had one night off in between night shifts. We discussed if we should stay in El Centro and if we did what we would do there. After some thought and research we decided to stay in the valley for the night and explore an area close to us.
We knew that we wanted to get out into the desert and grab some photos and quickly realized that we were so close to Saguaro cacti. These cacti are native to Sonoran desert and are huge magnificent plants. We decided to utilize our night off to find some cacti!
Our original plan was to drive out East to the Sonoran Desert and see the famous Saguaro cacti, do a photo shoot and watch the sunset. After looking up where to see these iconic cacti, we found out that we didn’t have time to drive all the way to Tuscan and see them in the Saguaro National Park (although this place is still on my list of must-see’s in my lifetime). So here we were, trying to locate a species of cacti in the desert with minimal help. When in doubt my friends, WING IT! We hit the road and headed east towards to Sonoran desert to (hopefully) see a Saguaro cactus in its natural habitat.
We hit the road west and quickly realized that on our route we were going to drive right through the Imperial Sand Dunes. When we got there, we decided to pull of to grab some pictures and enjoy the view. Quickly, we were overheating and not able to tolerate the desert heat. Don’t worry, we already have plans to come back and enjoy the sand dunes later. Onward we went in search of cacti!
Once we got into Arizona, we noticed some Saguaro cacti from the highway and started to get excited. We’d see clusters of them, some close and some far and then some as spears and some decaying. James and I chatted and agreed that we would just stop when it felt right. That moment came and we saw the sun setting into the Arizona mountains and two huge and beautiful Saguaro’s…time to stop!
We got out and were in such awe of the size of these plants. We grabbed some shots with the Canon, switched over to the DJI Osmo and grabbed some footage and then last (but not least) launched the DJI Mavic Pro to get some final shots of the sunset from the air! We are so excited to have added the DJI products to our collection. We used to have the Go Pro Hero 5 and the Go Pro Karma to capture video and drone footage. In Ohio, we (by we I mean James) sadly crashed the drone into the freezing river and had to say goodbye. We are still playing around with our new products and have yet to make a final decision on which one is better – maybe a blog post to come on that! We are just excited to have footage from this assignment to make a video like we did with the first two assignments.
We then grabbed some more shots of the Saguaro cacti and the Teddy Bear Cholla cacti as the sun had faded. James was in the midst of being sick and was starting to feel the heat kick in. We sat for a while in the sand and dirt and just enjoyed the moment. We are sunset lovers and really enjoy these moment together. As we were gazing into the desert, we noticed a big SUV pull of the highway and near our car. James and I were concerned for a minute, realizing that we have an unlocked vehicle a ways from us and a ton of camera equipment sitting out (not our smartest move). Luckily, a police officer exited the vehicle to check in on us and make sure we were stranded there. Must not be a common practice to just be sitting in the middle of the desert. We were grateful for his service and checking in on us just in case!
It got dark quickly and was (finally) starting to cool off. We played around with the off camera flash and the Saguaro as our model. Trying some back lit shots and then side lit shots, its really fun to play around with camera equipment and learn how to be even better photographers! As we were grabbing shots, we noticed that a couple of the flowers were blooming on the very top of the cactus! We did some research and found out that flowers on the Saguaro only bloom in the late evening to early morning and one flower only blooms once in its lifetime. We feel so lucky to be able to see these unique moments in nature.
The desert was so dark, like barely see your hand in front of your face dark. We were using the flashlight on our phones just to see where we were walking. James stopped me and prompted me to turn the light off and look up. WOW! I have seen some dark skies full of stars up in the Rocky Mountains before but this was completely different. We set up the camera to grab some star shots and while that was going we crawled up on the hood of the car. It took a minute to get us both on the car without breaking ourselves or the car, but we eventually figured it out. We laid back onto the windshield, held hands and just stared into space. It was so peaceful laying there and stargazing together. Stargazing has a way of centering you and reminding you how big the universe is! The sky was completely clear, not a cloud in our sight, and was pitch black and quiet. This is almost like therapy, just taking a moment to enjoy the world and not think or stress about anything else.
This random desert trip was perfect and we enjoyed taking photos and taking time to be present with each other.
One of the biggest lessons we’ve learned from traveling is that not every great experience has to be expensive and extravagant. This trip cost us about half a tank of gas – that’s it – and it was such a magical and memorable trip! We recommend finding places near you, that may not be the tourist spots but have underlying beauty to be enjoyed and explored.