Cataviña Desert – Baja | Pons Brooks Comet Photo Trip

The Cataviña Desert in Baja California, Mexico is one of my favorite places in the entire world. It’s such a unique desert with unique plants and geology. The surreal Boojum and Elephant trees dot the landscape along with the more familiar desert plants like Ocotillo, Fire Barrel cacti, and Cardón cacti (which resembles the Saguaros of the Sonorran Desert, but reach even higher into the sky).

One of the other unique aspects of the Cataviña is it’s isolation provides for incredible dark skies. Perfect for astrophotography. And when I heard Pons-Brooks Comet was making once-in-seventy year appearance I knew exactly where I wanted to be to photograph it. I packed up all my camping gear on Thursday April 4th, and headed South.

It’s about a seven hour drive from San Diego. And once you turn inland from Ensenada, it’s usually a dry, dusty experience. But we’re coming out of a very wet winter, which has led to a very colorful Spring in Baja. Fields of green, and wildflowers exploding along the Transpenisular Highway.

I arrived in Cataviña and found a great spot to camp. Started a fire, had dinner, and enjoyed the stars and solitude. The following morning, I grabbed my camera and captured a gorgeous sunrise.

I have a fondness for finding and photographing Descansos, the resting places of people that have passed away while driving on the highway. The markers can range from simple crosses on the roadside, to shrines the size of small houses. It’s common for relatives to make regular trips to maintain the ofrenda (the offerings left in the shrine).
I think at some point I will embark on a mission to make a book about the Descansos in Baja.

Even in a desert, Spring puts on an incredible display of color.

The Cataviña is also home to some well preserved cave paintings left behind by the Cochimi Indians of Central Baja. While the Cochimi people perished due to diseases the European Missionaries brought to Baja, their beautiful artwork lives on.

Evening crept along and I got my equipment set up to photograph the comet.

To my surprise Space-X launched a Falcon 9 rocket right at sunset providing for some entertainment as I set up for the comet shot.

After the condensation trail left behind by the Falcon 9 rocket, I was able to start making some exposures of the comet. Being in the neighborhood of a 5 magnitude, it wasn’t supposed to be a very bright. And with it located just above the setting sun, spotting the tail in the glow wasn’t possible even with binoculars. But with my star tracker mount, I can get very long exposures with the camera. My exposures were 2 minutes long!
While my final result is probably not the best picture of the comet out there, it’s mine and it was taken somewhere very special to me.

Check Out William's Latest Book

There Ain’t No Pageantry in Cockfighting

A short novela recounting a surf trip to Baja turns South when the engine my '71 Volkswagon seized, leading me on an adventure down Baja 1000 roads, encounters with transvestite prostitutes, and drought ending weddings.

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