JOSHUA TREE, Calif. --
If someone unfamiliar with the deserts of Southern California were to take a drive down Highway 62, he or she might see nothing beyond sandy dunes and brittle shrubs, but one artist who has an eye for natural beauty unveils a very different desert world.
The works of David Jesse McChesney, a renowned wildlife photographer, have been displayed in the “Miles of Wonder” free photo exhibit at the Joshua Tree National Park visitor’s center since April 10. The exhibit has been extended twice due to its popularity and is now scheduled to end Aug. 9, according to a July 17 Joshua Tree National Park news release.
McChesney has visited and photographed 50 of the 58 American national parks and has been published in over 100 publications in over 80 countries, he said.
McChesney’s 230 exhibit photos range from a feuding pair of desert hares to the brilliance of a desert flower budding from a barbed cactus.
His first exposure to photography was when he inherited a camera at age 12. He started off by taking photos of animals in his grandparents’ backyard and live concerts. His hobby soon transformed into a passion, he said.
McChesney first visit Joshua Tree 30 years ago. He said he fell in love with it almost instantly, and began appreciating photography even more “for the joy of observing animals.”
Aspiring bird watchers, outdoor enthusiasts, star-gazers and animal lovers alike can all find material to appreciate in McChesney’s vast gallery.
“I first saw David’s photos at the Hi-Desert Nature Museum in Yucca Valley,” said Joe Zarki, the Joshua Tree National Park chief of interpretations. “I was really impressed with the detail of photos and his ability to capture wildlife and landscapes in an intimate way. The exhibit gives visitors a chance to see the park in ways they don’t normally get to since they’re here for such a short amount of time.”
Arleen O’Conner, a tourist from Lake Hopatcong, N.J., was one of the exhibit’s many enthusiastic visitors.
“This is different scenery than most national parks,” she said. “It shows that each park really has its own beauty.”
Taylor O’Conner, Arleen’s 14-year-old granddaughter, paced the exhibit room and paused near a photo of a howling coyote.
“There are a lot more animals out here than I thought,” she said. “In Jersey, you look around and just see a lot of deer. We didn’t see this many animals when we went to the park yesterday, but that’s when it was hot outside so they were probably hiding.”
McChesney advises aspiring photographers to begin as he began – with what they love.
“I have always really enjoyed wildlife,” said the Orange County, Calif., native. “You do what you like to do. Take pictures of what you enjoy and eventually you’ll end up with a lot of material and you’ll discover what clicks for you.”
McChesney’s next exhibit will be featured in the “David Jesse McChesney Room” at the Purple Agave Art Gallery in Morongo Valley from Sept. 6 until the end of the year.
The Joshua Tree Visitor Center is located at 6554 Park Boulevard in Joshua Tree, off Highway 62 and is open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. To see McChesney’s work online, visit his Web site http://www.outmywindows.com.