This is a continuation of my Algodnes Desert photoshoot. Catch up on part one by clicking here.


Since I was boon-docking and sleeping in the Bureau of Land Management space, I was looking forward to my next goal of capturing the Milky Way over the dunes. Bummer there are city lights on the horizon eating up the Galactic Core.

No worries — I rethought the Milky Way shot and decided to incorporate the lights on the horizon, as a feature contrasting with the night sky.

Brawley CA milky way over the desert dunes
The town of Brawley, CA, with a light glow on the right eating up the Galactic Core of the Milky Way. I incorporated more of the dunes and other horizon lights into the composition.
Imperial desert dunes milky way and meteor photo
After ducking behind the restroom wall to escape the blowing sand I faced north and was trying to capture the Perseid’s Meteor shower. Then came the clouds. Note the one meteor in the composition.

I thought, maybe I’ll shoot a time0lapse of the stars. Winds picked up to plus 15 MPH and the sand took flight. I had to stop working with the Galactic Core, or my gear would have been trashed.

Alternate plan two — find a windbreak. The only view behind the break was to the north. The Milky Way is there as well, but without the Galactic Core. I started a time-lapse and in came the clouds. It’s all good!

Turns out that pulling some stills from the time-lapse led to some interesting shapes surrounding the stars. Another win.


Because the wind blew so strong, the dunes were scrubbed clean. Yay! I can now plan a sunrise shoot with the pristine sands.

I set up my cameras for a time-lapse sunrise. I was very excited, as this was just what I wanted. But suddenly, a car pulls up next to me and a group of girls pile out. And they immediately head out into the dunes right in front of my cameras.

Another car and a couple guys head out to fly a drone. But wait! There’s more — here comes the pick up truck with the dirt bike.

I restructure my plans once again.

sunrise desert dunes photography
Turns out having people in the image helped to give a sense of the vast expanse before me.

The biker returns

Since I had seen the way the biker took the dunes, I was ready for catching some action shots. Being able to anticipate action is three quarters of getting solid images. It could only have been better if I could direct where and when he was going to be.

dirt bike in the sand dunes
Some of the biker shots were a total surprise. Oh, and don’t forget to reset your camera’s ISO down from 5000 like I did! Hence the extra noise in the bike photos.
dirt bike photo jumping the desert dunes
Jumping the desert dunes was anticipated as I had seen him hit this exact spot the day before. I set up hoping he would be there again.

All in all I ended up with more cool images. The secret, I’ve found, is to not get too married to an idea and learn to go with the flow when a plan doesn’t quite come out as you envisioned. Sometimes it’s just that much better!

Yours in Creative Photography, Bob