Justin Lowery is an internationally published fine art landscape photographer specializing in original nature and wilderness images from the American Southwest. He is based out of Southern California and works primarily in large format film.
The Beautiful Badlands
The Sahara? Namibia? Sudan?
The silence and beauty of this place was absolutely breathtaking.
On Canyon's Wings
Rosy golden light emanates from around a bend in this remote California slot canyon.
I spent the day in this canyon just to get to know it better, and came out with some of my favorite desert photos yet!
When I look at this photo, I see vivid wings of color, like an abstract butterfly. What do you see?
Halls of Gold
The light in these canyons never ceases to amaze me. In this spot, I've witnessed blues, purples, oranges, and pinks. Diverse portions of the light spectrum reveal themselves as the sun passes over these narrow gorges each day, before crossing the horizon and being replaced by the vivid glistening of the Milky Way.
This is another image from one of my desert trips last winter, when I accidentally discovered a hidden slot canyon that was absolutely incredible. The only way to get into this slot canyon is to walk around a large boulder to find a passageway between two rock walls leading to a cave entrance. Then you have to crawl through the cave and find the exit on the other side, which then opens out into this hidden cavernous slot canyon! I felt like I was a character in an Indiana Jones movie navigating all the tight sandstone passageways! I can't get enough of these places.
This is one of my favorite slot canyons, and I always photograph it in the late afternoon reflected light. This time around, however, I was in there in the morning and decided to try capturing the subtly different hues you find there in the morning light. Luckily, I was also blessed by the presence of this interesting tumbleweed that had blown down into the slot. I think it worked out really well.
Into The Deep
This perfect s-curve forms the exit to the beautiful South Fork Palm Wash slot canyon deep inside Anza-Borrego Desert State Park in Southern California. As far as I know, it was first meaningfully photographed by Floris van Breugel, who has done some of the first great fine art photographic work from this particular area.
This canyon turned out to be deep, long, and visually interesting. The light kept changing, and could be ice cold and blue in one spot, and hot orange in another spot just 20 feet down canyon. This canyon was about 3 feet wide and nearly 100 feet deep for most of the way, and quite long, winding through the heart of the desert.
There are so many amazing places out there. You just have to do the research and get out there and do the legwork to find them.
This warm glowing light lasted only a few minutes before the clouds washed back in and the colors faded.
I made the 2-hour drive and 2-mile hike out to explore the Canyon Sin Nombre Slot Canyon in Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, California. It was completely silent there, and I only encountered two other hikers the whole day, and otherwise had the entire place all to myself for most of the day!
While digging through my image archives, I came across this one from one of my many trips to the desert last winter, and realized it had a lot of potential. I like the visual tension between light and shadow, warm and cold light, and the diametrically opposed curves that meet in the middle.
The shape and colors of the canyon wall on the right remind me of the right hand of a giant dragon reaching down from above.
Look closely, and you'll see thousands of little white flecks in the stone, especially on the left wall. Those are actually sea shells! This area of California's Colorado desert used to be underwater, when it was part of the ocean floor of the Sea of Cortez.
Reflected golden late afternoon sunlight emanates from the opening of one wind cave in the California desert as viewed from another adjacent cave.
Skin of the Earth
These intricate patterns are formed when wind and water gradually erode solidified sand dunes in the "badlands" regions of deserts, revealing what very closely resembles naturally occurring topography lines.
Afternoon reflected light bathes one of California’s little-known slot canyons in a warm glow.
This is an image from our 2013 Black Friday canyoneering expedition into a bunch of remote canyons in the California desert. Several friends and I explored a variety of very difficult to access slots and branches off of this canyon system. Thanks to the fact that we had 5 people in our group (including 3 with a bit of canyoneering experience), we were able to do a bunch of crazy stuff to get into more remote / inaccessible sections that wouldn’t have been safe for me to do alone. It was a blast, and we would go again in 2014 to explore even more of the area.
What can I say about this one? On one of my canyoneering trips with a close friend of mine, I rounded a bend in this canyon on the way out of the slot, and was immediately struck by the beauty of these colors, textures and shapes, emphasized by the light entering from the end of the canyon just around the bend. I never tire of exploring and spending time in these places, with all of their desolate beauty.
Tip of the Spear
Reflected light cascades through this California slot canyon illuminating a passage that rather appropriately forms the silhouette of a Native American spear point, much like those used by the native peoples who inhabited this very area for thousands of years.
Into the Light
This is another image from that canyon system I found while out exploring alone in the desert. This particular area is located in an adjacent fork of the canyon system from the previous image.
To put this to scale, the boulder in the foreground is about 4 feet in diameter, and the one above me framing the top left of the image is the size of a car and suspended between the walls of the canyon, where it fell and got jammed there. The walls are about 50 feet apart in the bottom of the cavern area, while the gap at the roof where the sun is shining through is about 60+ feet above, and is as narrow as 3 feet wide in places. There are three more boulders suspended in the gap in the ceiling. Don't worry, they are stuck for a reason - they are just too wide to fit through the opening, so they remain suspended ominously there above you in the canyon.
Around that bend in the bottom center of the photo, there is a single huge native California Fan Palm tree growing in the bed of the canyon, and it does not reach the opening. That tree in itself is a sight to see!
These places are utterly incredible to behold, and I have certainly failed miserably to do this one any justice whatsoever in my photographs or videos. These places must be experienced in person to be comprehended.
God's wild places are vast, silent, powerful, and jaw-droppingly majestic. They force upon those who visit them with open eyes, ears and hearts a life-changing sense of renewed perspective and universal awe that simply cannot be attained without leaving behind man's shallow, fabricated reality and traveling into the purity of the wild. They are a high-octane fuel for the soul.
Ok, y'all ready for this? Today I bring you a brand new composition… of a new place that I found while out exploring. As I'm able to research, and tell from the condition of the place, it's possibly new to anyone recent. (The Native Americans probably knew about everything out there, having lived there full-time and known the land intimately well, and I wouldn't be surprised if an explorer or two found their way out here at some point or another.)
After exhaustive research over the last 2 years, I've explored more slot canyons than I ever knew existed in California, and read about every single known canyon that I can find evidence of. Recently, in search of new territory to explore and new compositions to create, I've turned to Google Earth satellite data and high resolution topography maps to chart new routes to new places off the beaten path, and away from any form of human trail or established route.
After driving out to this remote corner of the desert in California and then hiking for nearly an entire day to reach this spot, I found one of the most incredible slot canyons I've explored yet. (Man, things are whole lot farther and bigger on foot than they look from space!) As far as I can tell, this photograph may well represent the very first time human feet have set foot in this particular spot. I found no evidence whatsoever of prior human presence in this canyon branch, and have been unable to find any reference to it anywhere online or in print. This canyon and it's adjacent sister canyon are both incredibly beautiful.
I'd love to tentatively/unofficially christen this place "Joshua Canyon," in memory of my brother who left this world a couple of weeks ago at the tender age of 17. He was an avid hiker and amateur photographer would have loved this place. I'm not sure if there's any official way to do that, but I'll start by thinking of it as that, and publishing it online as such. A place this beautiful deserves to have a name, and I think that's a fitting one.
As always, prints are readily available in your favorite size and medium. Just message me for details or with a specific request. These things look a whole lot better in person!
This is an area off to one side under a deep and somewhat unusual overhang inside a narrow, intricate slot canyon that I found way out in the desert after exploring a lot of area on Google Earth and then hiking out to the location on foot, which took the better part of a day. I loved the way the light shone by from right to left in the canyon and lit up the textured sandstone in a glow all around.
After a chilly night camped spent in a wider spot further up the canyon, I awoke at dawn to photograph the morning light in this slot canyon.
I witnessed a gorgeous rosy pink & gold reflected light that occurs for only about 45 minutes in the morning, at 30 minutes after sunrise, growing to pink intensity before morphing to a harsh yellow. I could hardly believe my eyes when I rounded a curve in the canyon to see these colors. They're the brightest I've seen out there yet.
The lines and colors found in these desolate slot canyons never cease to fascinate me. This particular canyon in Southern California has almost never been photographed, and is filled with gorgeous light and texture.
Nature's Bowling Alley
These smooth, round boulders are certainly beautiful to behold. They provide a nice stark contrast with the warm, flowing ridges of the slot canyons they are found in. However, let's think about this: these boulders measure about 3-4 feet in diameter, and weigh nearly a ton each! Now, imagine them being washed down this very deep, narrow canyon like massive, deadly bowling balls, hidden within violent surges of deep, brown water in flash floods until they became jammed between the canyon walls. I certainly wouldn't want to be in there during a rainstorm! But as long as it stays dry (as it almost always is in the desert) they are a lot of fun to scramble up, explore, experience and photograph!
I love this place.
Hot & Cold
Warm hues of orange and pink slowly give way to cool shades of blue and violet in the depths of this remote slot canyon in California. This may be the first time this section of the canyon has ever been photographed, as I did some rock climbing to get in here and it seems few others have gone here before. Due to the nature of the tight and steep climb up-canyon, taking a camera and tripod up here was rather difficult!
Pools of Light
The very thing that draws me to these slot canyons over and over again is the light. The endless pools of reflected light, the warm orange and pink glows, the cool blue depths of the shadows, the rich textures in the stone – all of it. These things combine with the deep, sinuous depths of the canyons as they wind left and right, up and down through the earth's crust giving us a portal to another world. It's a world of silence, calm, peace and sanctity. It's a world that never changes on its own, and yet can do so suddenly when water and earth collide in a deluge of mud and water from a flash flood. This particular canyon is one of my favorites, as it is even deeper, darker, and more rich in texture and tone than some of the others I've spent time in. I love returning to this place, and hope to continue doing so again and again in the future. Each time I return, I get to know the place a little better. I see it a little more clearly, and get a feel for its character on a slightly deeper level. It's an ongoing relationship with meaningful places that tends to produce the best experiences, and as a result, the best images.
Walk in the Light
As I walked through this corridor forming the exit to one of my favorite slot canyons, I caught the afternoon light at just the right point in time and the place was filled with a powerful glowing orange reflected light that gave it an incredible aura of warmth. It stopped me dead in my tracks and I stood there taking it all in. Finally I got out my camera and made this panorama of 3 horizontal images to span the spectrum of light and capture every bit of the finest detail in the scene.
An image that was never intended for consumption on a tiny digital screen, my vision for this image is to be executed as a statement piece that fills the space above a sofa in a southwestern-style home.
Two photographer friends and I arrived at these badlands with just minutes to spare. As the sun crested the eastern horizon, there was a delay in the light, as a dense layer of fog in the distance over the Salton Sea caused it to form a big orange disc. Then, the sun rose from the fog and ignited the vast expanses of badlands in a vivid pink and orange glow that painted the hills in gorgeous light and color. After the sunrise, we 4-wheeled our way back to the paved road, grabbed their rental SUV, and headed over to a slot canyon area, where they hopped into my 4x4 and we headed into the canyon wash systems, driving as far in as possible and then hiking the rest of the way on foot up the canyons. We spent the morning exploring 3 different slot canyons, and experienced some beautiful light.