Beautiful Wasteland: Exploring the Deserts of Southern California

Beautiful Wasteland: Exploring the Deserts of Southern California

something about the
of California that feel lost and forgotten, the void
you pass through on your way elsewhere, only stopping for fuel,
food or the occasional selfie. Some might even call them a
wasteland, full of barren patches of neglected property populated
by dusty houses and discarded items hidden under a layer of

For me, this wasteland was a chance to explore something that
wasn’t modern, perfect or overcrowded. Whether it’s climbing dunes
or plunging into canyons, surveying mountains or scouting lakes,
exploring this place in-between places never ceases to feel
adventurous. It’s a beautiful country filled with incredible
textures, rich colours and interesting characters, and I became
obsessed with trying to capture those qualities.

My first stop was the Salton Sea. There I raced with a freight
train along a winding road on my way to the beach surrounding its
infamous salty lake. The sulphuric stench of rotting tilapia
greeted my nostrils long before I arrived at its shores. The beach
was covered with thousands of dead fish in various states of decay,
having been suffocated and betrayed by the lake that created them.
That night, I watched the desert sunset reflected in water so calm
you’d swear it was a giant sheet of glass had it not been for the
many species of birds dipping into it.

For the next 18 months, I attempted to mimic that first trip,
venturing through both high and low deserts, small towns and
national parks. I visited Death Valley, El Centro, Brawley,
Imperial and more. It became clear that I will never bore of trying
to find new moments exploring the deserts of southern California,
a beautiful wasteland.

@ryan__speers |

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