Shooting Your Engagement Photos in a Park: Featuring Joshua Tree and Paul Douda

We just LOVE seeing engagement photos from fun and adventurous places! Only certain photographers will 'shoot outside the box' and go the extra mile [literally] to create something extra special for you  like these gorgeous photos from Joshua Tree National Park by expert San Diego area wedding photographer Paul Douda.  We asked Paul for his tips [and even his secret spots!] for shooting at Joshua Tree and then Scott Moey from Live Once Live Wild offers us some great visitors info on Joshua Tree National Park.  All images by Paul Douda.... Enjoy! 

Expert engagement, wedding and creative photographer Paul Douda shares his tips [secret spots!!] for getting everything you want out of a Joshua Tree engagement shoot:

Q: What things should one watch for to make this trek safe and fun?
A: Two things when it comes to Joshua Tree. First and foremost, the weather there should be planned for because certain times of year are extreme! (i.e. snow capped boulders are beautiful but the conditions can be cold and harsh. On the flip side it can be stunning when its warm but the sun can be blaring around 100+ degrees). However, planning for the right time of year can make for a much better experience. The best time of year, in my opinion, is late winter, mid-fall. Secondly, don't underestimate how much time could be spent to take advantage of the location. Its a long drive for most Southern Californians and the shifting light of the high desert can offers many different looks through the day. Get there early and take advantage of the time!  

Q: What are the best times of year for your Joshua Tree engagement photo shoot?
A: Late winter or mid-fall. October was perfect and late February and March is good too - the days are perfect but the evenings can get very very cold!

Q: What should one bring along?
A: For the shoot pack anything that brings in your personality. Whether it is multiple wardrobe changes (that include multiple layers) or maybe even a telescope for star sightseeing!  Oh and enough gas and water, hey you should always be prepared. 

Q: Okay spill, where are your secret spots for shooting?  [you know someone loves what they do when they share their secret spots!!] 
A: You want to know our secret spots!? Just kidding! Keys View (highest point for the best panoramic view) - the road to Keys View has multiple turn offs that have very majestic views that you can pull over to the side of the road for equally spectacular views. Everyone tends to head to the Jumbo Rocks but there is a spot before you get there that is about a half mile east on Park Blvd from the intersection of Park Blvd and Joshua Tree National Park Blvd. There is an oval lot there to park and I love that spot.  [what a guy!!]

Q: Where is the best place to park? 
A: Depends on the spot you're heading to. There are many turnouts and lots to park in for some of the popular spots in the park. However, parking is generally not an issue and it's common and acceptable to pull over on the side of the road and get out of your car for your shots. 

Q: How should one work with the light  / is there a best time of day for shooting?
A: Each season has its own best time of day and consideration should be taken differently for sunsets. Despite the season, great light can really happy at the right time of day in any month. We all get there early and work with the light as we are shooting. An engagement session or shoot should be a big deal! We always plan to be together with our couples for an afternoon and evening so we tend to start around 1 or 2 and last into the evening. Time of day totally depends on the couple and the photographer because Joshua Tree is a little more elaborate than a typical park engagement session. We tell our couples to please let us know if they want deep, dark, rich, moody shots that we capture at nighttime, or if their personalities are better suited to the bright daylight of desert, sun, sand, and lots of natural light.....we are always open to whatever the couple is going for in their session. 

Joshua Tree National Park is one of the nation´s largest desert areas that is officially protected by the U.S. government. Spanning an area that is larger than the state of Rhode Island, this desert paradise offers a whole range of outdoors activities, from desert hiking to star gazing.

In his awesome [and very complete] guide to the Joshua Tree National Park, he shares all the information you need to plan a one of a kind trip to one of our nation´s most unique ecosystems. Scott's guide is really a good read before visiting this beautiful and protected area. 

Fun facts and tidbit's from Scott's comprehensive guide to Joshua Tree:

  • The park has over 790,000 acres, making it larger than the state of Rhode Island

  • Over half of the Joshua Tree National Park is a designated wilderness area waiting to be explored by desert lovers

  • The famous band “U2” has an album named after the national park´s namesake: The Joshua Tree

  • The name “Joshua Tree” was given by early Mormon settlers who thought that the tree looked like the biblical character of Joshua who raised his hands to the heavens

  • In Spanish, the tree is called “izote del desierto”, roughly translated as desert dagger

  • Joshua trees are an indicator species that designate an area as a desert

  • The Joshua Tree National Park is unique in that it encompasses two distinct desert ecosystems: the Colorado Desert which is a lowland desert and the higher Mojave Desert which is over 3,000 feet in elevation

  • Over 2.5 million people visited the park in 2016

  • Despite officially being a desert ecosystem, the Little Bernandino Mountains run through a part of the park and can occasionally receive snow fall during the winter months

  • Geologists estimate that the rock formations in the park are well over 100 million years old

  • There are also several oases located throughout the parks where lush green vegetation contrasts sharply with the dryness of the surrounding landscape