View Full Version : Permit in the desert?

6-Feb-2006, 05:43
Hi I am abot to travel to California. I will go out in the Desert to make a couple of landscape pictures. Do I need a permit in the desert? I will use my 4x5 camera and a tripod. The pictures are stricly for personal use.

Regards /Erik

Jim Rhoades
6-Feb-2006, 06:09
One thing the ranger's at Death Valley are used to are L/F photographers dragging along their tripods. As long as you don't set up in the middle of a sidewalk in front of the restrooms you will be OK. If you set off on foot cross country, have a compass and know how to use it to find your way back to the car. The Mojave is humungous.

There are a lot of Government installations out there. Don't go cutting barbed wire fences. The MP's will not have a sense of humor. There are even some installations that, well, don't exist. If you go in there we might find radioactive L/F gear on e-bay and no more Eric :-)

You will have a great time and come back with wonderful photos. Bring warm clothes. It will be very cold at night.

Ralph Barker
6-Feb-2006, 07:35
As Jim said, permits are generally not an issue in the desert of CA. But, "desert" in CA covers a lot of territory, and is a mix of private and government land, and often unfenced, even if private. Jim is also correct about taking a compass, or a GPS unit, if you hike far from your vehicle. It's easy to become disoriented by the terrain. Oh, and don't forget water. ;-)

The last time I was in Death Valley, there was a European film crew shooting at Zabriski Point. They had obtained the appropriate (commercial) permit, and even had a Park Ranger assigned. He objected to the fold-up golf cart that I often use to carry gear ("Sorry, no wheels, sir"), but actually helped me carry stuff from the parking area to the top of the hill.

Donald Brewster
6-Feb-2006, 07:56
Permits might be an issue if you end up on native American tribal reservation land, though usually you just have to convince them that an LF camera is not always for commercial use. Asking first is always a good idea. Good luck and good light. And as Ralph said, bring lots of water.

John Kasaian
6-Feb-2006, 08:35
Beware the Mojave Greens! Very anti-social critters they be.

Ralph Barker
6-Feb-2006, 09:57
"Beware the Mojave Greens! Very anti-social critters they be."

Gee, I found members of the Green Party living in the Mojave to be a pretty laid-back bunch. ;-)

Seriously, yes, snakes like the Mojave Rattlesnake (aka the Mojave Green, because of its typical pale green coloration) are something to watch out for in the desert. The stories of them chasing people all the way back to Los Angeles, or attacking bull dozers ("killed that Deere dead in its tracks") can be discounted. Due caution and proximity avoidance are usually enough, but many like the security of tall leather boots, to boot.

Tom Jones
6-Feb-2006, 15:05
The Mojave Green has a VERY nasty bite for a rattlesnake. Years ago I worked in the hospital at Barstow. Every spring the number of snakebite cases goes way up. The snakes are out trying to warm up and lots of people, usually with an elevated alcohol level, think they're fast enough to catch the things with their hands.

I've seen lots of rattlesnake and sidewinder bites. The only one that came close to killing the victim , who in this case was a relatively young, very healthy miner, was that of a Green. Kids and old folks are at higher risk.

Something like four hours after the bite on his hand, he was so swollen up we almost had to do a tracheostomy. It had taken them over three hours to get into Barstow from the mining site near Goffs. He wouldn't have lived another thirty minutes without our intervention. 6 or 8 vials of antivenom later he was more or less okay. A little surgery to cut off all the dead tissue at the bite site was all that was needed. I'll wager he never gets near a snake, let alone a Green, again.

They're not going to attack you unless you step on, or nearly on them, or try to grab them. Just watch where you step, particularly in the late afternoon and early evening, leave them alone and you'll have a wonderful time.

By the way, they have a very beautiful green sheen to them. You'll probably know it if you see one.

Jim Rhoades
6-Feb-2006, 16:21
Hey guys, come on, cut it out. I'm taking my wife to the desert this Spring for the first time. Now your talking about rattlesnakes. I told her St. Patrick chased them all out of the desert too. She wanted to go to some salt water infested island.

Conrad Hoffman
8-Feb-2006, 17:57
Just a generic warning on GPS units. They're the most wonderful and convienent things in the world, and you should have one. At the same time, never rely on a GPS unit as your sole source of navigation. Carry a compass and a map, and be aware of where you are at all times. If the GPS unit fails (batteries or whatever), you should know where you are and be able to get back the old fashioned way.

John Brownlow
8-Feb-2006, 18:16
I'd never been to the desert before I drove up into the Mojave to do some LF stuff (the first real 4x5 stuff I ever shot). The main surprises for me were --

-- how friggin' cold it was before the sun came up
-- how much water I drank

I took about twice as much water as thought I could possibly drink and ended up consuming it all by noon. It's not the sun that dries you out but the, um, dryness I guess.

I did find it was pretty much a bust to photograph after more than two hours after dawn or less than two hours before sundown.

Definitely take a compass -- and a GOOD map.

When you get tired of Joshua trees, go to Salton City and the Salton Sea for one of the most amazing places to photograph on earth.

Paul Coppin
12-Feb-2006, 10:44
To add to Conrad's warning about GPS -throw a spare set of fresh batteries in pack, even if the ones in the unit are new. Before you leave your vehicle, take a GPS fix and WRITE DOWN the coords. If you have to do a reset or battery change, its nice to know where you are returning to. And take a compass too. One of the nice things about taking a GPS along, is being able to mark spots you might not get to get set up on, or think you might want to return to in different light.

13-Mar-2006, 06:03
I had no problem at all in the desert...and it allso was a greate experience. I drove around allover and made some amazing potographs and saw the most amazing landscape I ever seen. I did find the locals around Salton sea`s Desert Shore a bit dodgy but I`m a nice guy so they where nice back. I wish the dusk and dawn would last longer.

Thanks for all the grate answers.