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  • Writer's pictureMick McMurray

Joshua Tree National Park, White Tank Campground

Updated: May 19

Joshua Tree National Park is located in Southern California and is characterized by rugged rock formations and the namesake Joshua Trees that dominate the landscape.

Joshua trees at sunrise with mountains and cloudy skies at Joshua tree national park
Joshua trees at sunrise

We have been to Joshua Tree National Park many times over the years. It’s a 2.5-hour, 170-mile drive from our house. Coming from San Diego the first entrance you come to is the West Entrance. It is in the town of Joshua Tree and is the main entrance to the park. After you enter you are on Park Blvd. the main road through the park which loops thru the park all the way to the North Entrance which is by the town of 29 Palms. There is another South Entrance off of Interstate 10 on Pinto Basin Rd. which ends at Park Blvd.

We have stayed at the White Tank campground a number of times due mainly to my wanting to photograph Arch Rock at night.

It is a small campground with 15 sites some of which can accommodate small trailers and RVs. Most of the campgrounds in the park are available by reservation however the White tank campground is first come first served. It is a popular campground so if you want to camp on a weekend plan on getting there early on Friday.

There are many interesting rock formations in the area that make for some interesting walks or longer hikes.

My favorite times in the park for photography are the hour before and after sunset and sunrise. It is cooler and the Joshua trees make interesting subjects.

I have had generally good results when photographing Arch Rock at night. I have had the area to myself a couple of times which made for the best experience. I have found that my best results come from using a good SLR and a lens with a large aperture. It is a popular spot so if you are the 1st photographer there most other photographers will be respectful and courteous and allow you to finish what you are shooting or you can decide to work together.

Make sure you plan your milky way nighttime photography around the new moon for dark skies and check an app to see where and when the milky way will rise. I use Sky Gazer, a popular app that is great for planning your nighttime photography. I like to plan the photo shoot on my computer before I leave home and take notes with me to the destination. I find it easier than trying to do it in the field.

Photo gear for Milky Way photos:

Camera with ISO of at least 3200 thru 6400

Zoom or fixed f2.8 lens

Sturdy tripod

I take a small flashlight for the light painting and for the wider scenes I cut up a plastic cutting board to hold in front of the light to diffuse it and eliminate hot spots.

I take test shots to get the best ISO (between 3200 & 6400) and length of the exposure (20 to 30 seconds)

To see the photo gear I use click here

On to Quick escapes to Joshua Tree National Park, Jumbo Rocks


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