June is the perfect time to visit Mt. Charleston which is a quick drive from Las Vegas, Nevada and a quick way to get out of the very hot summers we have in the desert. The drive up to the top of Mt. Charleston on the Kyle Canyon side is only 35 miles from the Las Vegas strip but a difference of being around 20 degrees cooler is the nice perk to driving up to this beautiful location. Along the way up to the top you can see the drastic change in topography starting from desert shrubs at the turn off from 95 to the 157 and then on to wonderful smelling evergreens at the top. I got to work with a fantastic model from Las Vegas on this day of shooting. I loved her spiky mohawk and as we drove past the spiky Joshua trees I got inspired to pull over and photograph my model in the perfect setting for her.
My model for the day seemed quite inspired by the natural elements as well and blended right in very gracefully with her natural surroundings. The Joshua tree is native to this area and is mainly confined to the Mojave desert and lives only under certain conditions within a specific elevation range. They look rather spiky and sturdy. I do not really consider them a photogenic specimen but their branches can look interesting as they jet out into the sky and they do look rather intriguing at twilight when all you see is their silhouettes against the desert sky.
As my model posed within this somewhat sparse Joshua tree forest she was careful not to bump into one of the trees. They are not soft in any way and would probably be almost as painful as running into a cactus. These trees can live to be hundreds of years old and some have known to have lived for 1000 years. Because of the fact they can survive in such harsh conditions in the desert for so long, they have my respect and regard. Their roots can reach up to 36 feet deep which also sounds pretty amazing.
The Cahuilla people were Native Americans who considered the Joshua tree, or also known as the yucca palm, to be a very resourceful plant for their existence. They used this tree to make meals from it's flower buds and they used it's leaves to weave sandals. Food and shoes! Who would have guessed this somewhat awkward tree had so much value to a small native culture.
One of the things I notice most when I travel just a short distance outside the city of Las Vegas is how intensely blue the sky turns. In the days it is so vivid and rich and at night a sea of stars are very visible. In the city we have such bright lights which are fun to look at but they drown out the lovely desert skies we have here in southern Nevada. I loved using the arms of this healthy looking Joshua tree and placing my model in the frame to get this low angled shot. I shot low to get the gorgeous blue hues of the sky.
Back onto route 157 after getting some great images around the Joshua trees. As we proceeded up the hill we came across this amazing cave that I have grown to love. I discovered it several years ago when I was out exploring. It is just along the side of the road where all of these great weathered looking pillars of rocks and earth are. I love this part of the drive because these mounds are very different looking with various small caverns and cave like holes within the stacks of earth. This particular hole in the rocks or tunnel like structure is an easy hike from the road side and as I photograph models here this amazing phenomenon happens. Because of the thousands of jagged smaller rocks that are embedded into the mud walls, the flat side of the smaller rocks throw all kinds of light all over the place making it work like a photo filter. Specs of gold and other earth tones are in these rocks so the colors are so warming and velvety on skin tones. It is like a magic cave of light! I love it because the results are always so beautiful.
As we pass the new visitor center I can see they put in a new roundabout in the road. I guess it makes it easier for traffic flow to get to the new visitor center. Roundabouts always stress me out. I feel like I never know when I am supposed to go or yield. A continuous circle and I never know when I am supposed to exit out of it for where I am trying to go. This one is not so bad since most cars are only trying to get to one place and not 16 different ways! At the top of Kyle Canyon there are pine trees! Yes pines that smell so good and provide a forest for the Las Vegas desert folks and tourists. This was actually the destination where I was planning to shoot my model but with the Joshua tree mini forest and magic light cave we already had a wonderful amount of images. The pines did provide a wonderful place to continue our shoot for the Mt. Charleston day of shooting.
We finished up our shoot at a great Aspen grove at the trail head of Mary Jane Falls. This Aspen grove is another favorite spot of mine and my model for the day was looking very stylish in her grey jacket. Another fabulous day of shooting with a fabulous model. Mt. Charleston is a place I shoot at very regularly in the warmer summer months.