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Desert Heat

This is Part 2 of our trip to California last month. It has been slow in making it’s way up onto the blog. This portion of the trip not only involved vacation for us, but included my BIL’s wedding (the premise for a trip south in the first place) which I was given the honor (er, immense responsibility and pressure) to photograph. The 5 days we spent in Joshua Tree were me juggling a few different hats- Photographer, Mom, Family, Guest and Vacationer- all of which aren’t as separable as those categories suggest (I ended up shooting the second half of the Ceremony with a fussy Pia in my arms). This was the first Extended Weekend wedding I have been to (or photographed) and since we held so many different roles, differentiation of picture categories within the 2400+ images I shot during these three days gets blurred. I have hesitated to post too many images from the celebratory festivities because the Bride & Groom have yet to see many of these (FYI- I’m about halfway through uploading). Anyways, most of these have already leaked themselves out on Twitter and Facebook already and this was for sure a personal highlight of our time spent there.

I have to say also, this was a very unique and kick-back wedding. Three days of events were planned, ranging from a camp-out in the park, rock climbing, a picnic, swimming and tons of eating.


DAY 1 :: Hang-out

Arrival was right around lunch time. We had ascended into the desert from a very rainy LA basin and were greeted with bright blue skies skimming across the vast dryness spanning infinite distances away from us. It has been a long time since I have driven such long, flat expanses on such straight roads. We made our way up to our abode- a classic 70′s style Dome home perched atop the nearly unmaintained dirt roads of the highlands. The house had been recently remodeled, still reminiscent of wood paneling, updated in Ikea Tiki Chic yet still missing a ‘I HEART Bucky’ placard.

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The first thing I noticed when we got out of the car was the noises. More specifically, wind blowing through Joshua Trees has a very distinct sound- rustling swooshing that runs up and down the valley, that in the moment announced that we were here, set to enjoy 5 days of this place.

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I love the notion of living up some dirt road. Perhaps it is reminiscent of places from long past, or just some romantic notion I have about owning a get-away out in the sticks to retreat to. The topic of acquiring some cheap land out here and plopping down a tiny prefab cabin, completely off-grid then visiting in the wet, dreary Seattle months was a frequent (and fleeting) conversation as we drove up and down these roads.



After we settled into our house, which provided us separate bedrooms than the kids for the first time on the trip (this was a big yippee!), unpacked the loads upon loads of camera gear into (slightly) smaller bags to schlep around for the remainder of our stay, we cruised over to the bigger dome home. In the other house, the kids instantly changed into swimsuits and we spent the afternoon in the pool. Unfortunately, Matt spent a good portion of the first two days trying to finish our taxes (yes the ones that were due in April) which created some conflict in how the first bit of the Vacation portion was being spent. But regardless, the best thing was just to be here and be able to soak up the warmth, relax, and enjoy this amazing environment.


DAY 2 :: Camp-out

This was the first day of wedding-related activities. Friends & family began to filter in, many of who we haven’t seen since the last family wedding, our wedding or even before we were married. There were under 40 attendees, so it allowed for a very personal, intimate time of simply hanging out and enjoying the celebration. On the other hand, there were under 40 attendees, most of whom were intimately involved in putting on this wedding, which included tons of food, set-up and coordination. The celebration kicked off with Camping in Joshua Tree Park, a big Chili-cook, bonfire, tents and marshmallows under some A-mazin’ starry sky. I have never actually done much nighttime photography like this, so as soon as the kids were as occupied with making S’mores as possible, me, a tripod and some 30-second exposures took a little walk into the darkness.



This second one the girls and grandpa are running around in circles with green glow sticks. Pretty fun!


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At first the girls were a little bummed we didn’t stay the night and camp with everyone else. From Mom & Dad’s perspective we wanted to take advantage of adequate beds for good sleep since we had them. There were still some full days in front of us, so after many nights of couches, floors, 5 of us in one bed, and air mattresses the prospects of a nice plush mattress versus the sandy ground wasn’t much of a debate.


DAY 2 :: Climbing

I know for Matt this is a highlight. Neither of us have climbed in a really, really long time. He could have gone a lot more, but time was far shorter than we’d have liked and the heat was enough to wear you out if allowed to directly beat down on you long enough. The nooks and rocks provided shade and ample play areas for the girls, who were (and still are) really into ‘rock climbing’ and set to scaling little boulders then drawing in the sand for most of the day.

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I was one of the very last to rope up, there’s me above right. Between watching kids, taking pictures and ensuring Matt got a lot of opportunities (4 routes!), the afternoon went by pretty darn fast. Since having kids, my athletic prowess has severely dwindled, and with it my confidence in my physical abilities. Much to my surprise and detriment to all the negative mental psyching myself out beforehand, it came back far easier than I anticipated. Now in regret I wish I had done more. Even Matt wishes he had done more and we really should have explored the park more. Oh well, reveals the necessity for another future trip.

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DAY 3 :: The Wedding

For me, this seemed like the fullest day. I am sure it did for everyone else too. Because these were extraordinary clients, there was far less of a set time-frame and schedule for what is considered me ‘working’ or not. So I was gone by 7:45am to go shoot the bride icing her own cake. It goes like that when you are culinarily inclined. Matt and I then shot the rest of the day’s festivities together, so essentially this was a 15 hour work day. Not that I’m complaining, it was awesome, just really full. Araiya was the lone child still standing, still in the pool at 11:30 that night when we finally forced ourselves to leave.

Overall, it was a unique wedding. I find it interesting how all of Matt’s siblings have had destination weddings- Truckee, Hawaii, now Joshua Tree. Makes for some great travel.

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DAY 4 :: the Friends

Our last full day in Joshua Tree we got to hang with more college friends. This was symbolically full circle for me, as this couple was one of the first weddings I photographed. We traveled all the way to Preston, Idaho (ring a bell? Napoleon Dynamite, gosh) in the middle of Winter where they got married in a TeePee on her dad’s wheat farm. It also involved a notorious story we tell about me driving our huge rental SUV, headlights, getting pulled over in Salt Lake and having a very expensive bottle of Port wine (which was stored in a bag in the back cargo area, by the way, no drinking involved, gosh) poured out on the side of the highway. Anyways, that wedding is still a highlight in my mind, an oddly strategic milepost on my somewhat arbitrary path into running a photography business. There was a moment of sentimental awe as I sat in their little house out there in the desert looking at their wedding photos I had taken almost 6 years ago under the magnets on the fridge.

It was nearing the end of our trip, exhaustion from a busy few days had set in for the kids. Almost thankfully, they all fell asleep in the car on the drive up to the house, and remained passed out in their carseats where we left them for all of dinner, and we as adults got a rare snippet to engage without the distracting pull of needy children. I can’t think of a better note to close our time in the desert with.

DAY 5 :: Homeward

As the prior day’s sunset on our trip brought down time, our final day’s journey home brought frantic-ness. From loosing Matt’s iPhone (thankfully last minute recovered under a recliner), leaving Joshua Tree late, an excess of bathroom stops back across LA, missing a friend we had really wanted to see in Chinatown, having to pay a $75 cleaning fee to the rental car agency for an excess of Cheerio’s in the Jeep, a test in patience with the baggage check-in agent who’s fees were twice what we were charged on the flight down, we arrived at our departure gate frazzled and eager to be done with the travel. Then our flight was delayed 30 min. Then another 30. Desperate, with three antsy children, we caved and bought a bottle of Children’s Benadryl at the Airport convenience store. Pure strategic genius whomever made the call to sell this stuff there. I am sure they make a killing off parents who find themselves suddenly second guessing the notion of getting on a confined airplane with a frustrated small child who’s patience has been far beyond tested by uncontrollable setbacks. While it didn’t knock Pia out, it took enough of the edge off through grogginess she was unwilling to put up much of a fight as an infant in lap who didn’t want to stay in lap. We arrived back to Seattle just after their normal bedtime, eager to be home in our own beds, eager (yet dreading) to witness first hand the resulting upset of the break in.

Reflecting, now a few weeks post-trip, makes me realize what a deep desire I have had to go back to these places, and still desire to go back to again. The things missed, the time that ran short, even 10 days didn’t seem to do enough justice for what it could have been. We will be back, that’s for sure.

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