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Desert Bloom

A photographic journey through the American Southwest.


This album was shot at the tail end of 2021, but the story begins a few years earlier. After losing a job I didn't love, I was offered $50/day to join a small team out west creating a travel website. I flew out to Santa Barbara on a whim and started working. We rambled over sand dunes and mountain passes for a couple of weeks, documenting the remoteness of obscure little towns. We were telling stories through photo and text, and publishing it online. I had no idea what I was doing, but the underlying instincts and passion were there. When I got home, I saw a vision of an entirely new career path laid out in front of me. That's when I began freelancing as a photographer and graphic designer.

In late 2021, with travel still largely restricted by Covid, I engineered a new roadtrip through the west. This time I knew my way around the camera and I intended to do the scenery justice. I saddled a rooftop tent to my car and enlisted two co-pilots. My uncle Dave—stateside at the time from Barcelona—would join me for the journey west. At L.A.X., my girlfriend Ani would tag in, and we'd make our way back home. A Desert Bloom is a climatic phenomenon where the vegetation of a dry, dormant landscape comes alive after a period of rain. Like one of these blooms, this photo-journal represents both a personal creative rebirth, and rejuvenated adventurous spirit following the Covid years.


I-70 west

Saturday Oct. 30th, 2021   |   Day 1 
8 hours through the rain from Boston to Pittsburgh.

Looking through a rainy windshield on the highway
Overlooking the football stadium in Pittsburgh
View of Pittsburgh from atop Mount Washington

Pittsburgh, PA

Dave wearing a halloween mask while driving
Dave sipping coffee while driving
Dave sipping coffee through a halloween mask

Oct. 31st, 2021   |   Day 2
Staying under cover all the way to Grand Junction. Lots of coffee.

The Columbus skyline from the highway

Columbus, OH

The drive-through states

Sign for the Mississippi River in St. Louis
The Gateway Arch in St. Louis
Tree silhouettes in the dusk

Into the night

The spedometer

Nov. 1st, 2021   |   Day 3

Somewhere in Kansas

Sleeping in the passenger seat
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Gas mileage dwindles over hundreds of miles of slight incline across the plains.

Dave in the rearview mirror
instagram story from eastern Colorado
5,280 feet into the mountains


8,400 feet up in the mountains
Snowy Vail Pass in Colorado
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Clock in downtown Frisco, Colorado

Frisco, CO

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Sun drops below cloud level. Everything turns to liquid gold.

Pulling over the Utah line.

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Roof tent parked under the stars

Camp for the night. Outskirts of the Spanish Valley.

Moab, Utah

Nov. 2nd, 2021   |   Day 4

Moab, a lush valley town surrounded by red desert.

Bike Shop sign
USPS truck in Moab
Red and green colored fire hydrant
Moab Garage Co. Cafe & Espresso
Red rock stairway in Arches National Park
Trail sign in Arches

Arches National Park

Sun flare through a giant arch in Arches National Park
Dave rock climbing in Arches
Dave on a rock ledge in Arches

Dave in his element

Delicate Arch

Delicate Arch


Castles in the Sky

rock formation in Arches National Park

Rock formation that inspired the title

Man walking along a rocky trail


My car parked in Arches
Cooking a meal on an open fire
The night sky near Moab
Camp meal on an open flame

Camp meal

Camping under the stars in a rooftop tent

Nov. 3rd, 2021   |   Day 5

Canyonlands National Park

Sitting on the edge of a huge cliff
Watching the sunset at Dead Horse Point State Park

Edge of the World

View from Dead Horse Point State Park

Dead Horse Point

My car with a sun flare behind it


Monument Valley

Nov. 4th, 2021   |   Day 6

South through Monument Valley en route to Page, Arizona.

Driving into Monument Valley
Monument Valley floor
Taking a picture in the road

The angle

Iconic shot of Monument Valley

The shot

Driving in the desert dusk

Page, Arizona

Nov. 5th, 2021   |   Day 7

Accidentally waking up to a giant balloon fiesta in Page, Arizona

Hot air balloons fill the sky
Two hot air balloons prepped for takeoff
Hot air balloon prepares to lift off
People rigging up a hot air balloon
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Free rides

Page Hot Air Balloon Regatta
Hot air balloons floating up


A hot air balloon over the desert
Balloons flying over Page, Arizona

Taken by the wind

Hot air balloons landing in the desert


Taking a selfie on top of a cliff
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Red and yellow hot air balloon in the desert
Glen Canyon Dam

Glen Canyon Dam

Lizard on the rocks
Horseshoe Bend in Arizona

Horseshoe Bend

Bryce Canyon

Nov. 6th, 2021   |   Day 8

Detour: Bryce Canyon National Park

Tunnel on Scenic Byway 12 in Utah
Bryce Canyon rim view
Sign for closed off area
Trail along the rim of Bryce Canyon
Rainbow cliffs in Bryce Canyon
Sign for Rainbow Point in Bryce Canyon
Sensitive plant habitat sign
Thor's hammer in Bryce Canyon
Standing on the edge of Bryce Canyon
Pine tree in Bryce Canyon

Thor's Hammer

The horseshoe shape of Bryce Canyon from the rim
Hoodoo's of Bryce Canyon

The Hoodoos

Wall street sign in Bryce
Taking pictures deep in the hoodoo canyon

Borealis Sunset

Zion National Park

Nov. 6th, 2021   |   Night 8

Late night arrival to Zion National Park

The sky above our campsite in Zion
Waking up in a tent just west of Zion Park
The Milky Way appears over the desert hills

Kolob Gardens Gate

Making a fire at the campsite next to the rooftop tent


First sunrise in Zion National Park

Sun wakes the Canyon

Cactus plant in front of a sign
Zion Park Motel in Springdale, Utah
Stained-glass sconce light in Zion
Footbridge over the Virgin River
Tarantula on red sand
Part of Angel's Landing trail cuts into a cliff

Angel's Landing trail

Virgin River swerves through Zion Canyon
Sharing space on a perch on the cliff
Sharing a narrow ledge on Angel's Landing
Climbing down Angel's Landing

Cliff walking

Sure-footed Dave along the climb
A view back down the narrow sandstone fin of Angel's Landing in Zion

Scared of heights

A sitting spot along the trail
The final plateau of Angel's Landing
The view of Zion Canyon

Zion Canyon

Small waterfall trickles down the cliffs
Dave looking into a cavern
A rock shaped perfectly for a nap

Rest for the wicked

Court of the Patriarchs

Court of the Patriarchs

The Watchman overlooks the Virgin River in Zion

The Watchman

The Halfway point

Nov. 8th, 2021   |   Day 10

Nevada. Just passing through. 


Nov. 9th, 2021   |   Day 11

Sunrise reaches the Pacific at Crystal Cove State Park, CA.

Sunrise over the Pacific at Crystal Cove State Park

Nov. 10th, 2021   |   Day 12

Inland Empire

Wig Wam Motel in San Bernardino, California
Backlit Route 66 sign

Palm Springs, California

Nov. 10th, 2021   |   Day 12

Pull into Palm Springs for a couple days of cheap motel pools and potent cocktails

Stardust Hotel sign
Fan palm in Palm Springs
Grove of palm trees in golden hour
Corner of a motel pool
Sunglasses on a striped towel
A yellow desert flower

Relaxation Station

Caliente Tropics hotel entrance
A small spikey palm plant
Sinatra's estate Twin Palms

Twin Palms

Overlooking Palm Springs at night

Mojave Moonrise

Palm Canyon Roadhouse Bar and Grill

Joshua Tree

Nov. 13th, 2021   |   Day 15

J-Tree by moonlight

a lone joshua tree beneath the moon
Spiked desert plants
Skull Rock formation in Joshua Tree

Skull Rock

Orange glow shines through an opening in the rocks
Gazing out onto the Joshua Tree landscape
The moon over Joshua Tree in the twilight
Valley floor in Joshua Tree
Close-up of a Cholla cactus
A small Cholla cactus

Cholla Cactus Garden

Small lizard on a rock
Detailed close-up of cactus thorns
Cholla cactus garden
Man standing in a rock archway
Sun flare over a boulder
Two people rock climbing in Joshua Tree

This place rocks

Person's shadow on to of a rock
Joshua Tree Saloon sign

Dos Tecate's with lime

Sunset skies over Joshua Tree Park

Orange soda

Desert plant silhouette
Rooftop tent in the desert sunset
Rusted out car under the stars at Skyfire Ranch

Sky Fire Ranch

Logo of a rusty Chevy Corvair
Coyote footprints in the sand
Rear end of a rusty Chevy Corvair
Roys Motel and Cafe sign in Amboy, California

Amboy, CA. Population: 4

View down a long stretch of highway in the desert

Heading back east

The Grand Canyon

Nov. 14th, 2021   |   Day 16

5:28 am. Elevation 10,000. 28 Degrees.

Looking out over the Grand Canyon
Grand Canyon overlook at sunrise
Orange sun washes the cliffs of the Grand Canyon
Trail guides harnessing up a donkey
Canyon telescope
View down into the Grand Canyon
Big crevice in the canyon
Artists hut along the south rim of the grand canyon
Girl sitting along the edge of the Grand Canyon
The Grand Canyon from the south rim
View of the backside of the Grand Canyon

Grand Canyon reverse angle

An elk in the woods

Sedona, Arizona

Nov. 15th, 2021   |   Day 17

Popping in for a quick, quiet weeknight. Fulfilling destiny on a certain corner.

Paparazzi of photograhers at the Sedona red rock overlook
Overlooking Sedona Arizona
Route 66 graphic in the road
Standin' on the corner in Winslow Arizona
The corner in Winslow Arizona
Red flatbed Ford F-500 truck
Chrome silver truck against a brick wall

White Sands, NM

Nov. 16th, 2021   |   Day 18

Wide open New Mexico

Long highway out near White Sands New Mexico
A distant mountain ridge in New Mexico
Sign for White Sands visitor center
Old blue pickup truck driving down the highway
Sign for the Sands Motel
Ripple texture in white sand
Girl sledding down a sand dune
Sotol plant in White Sands
Girl sledding down a sand dune
girl in orange walking along a sand dune
Two people sitting on a sand dune watching the sunset
Girl watching moonrise in White Sands
Sotol plant in white sand
White sand ripples
Alien crash site exhibit at the International UFO museum in Roswell

far west Texas

Nov. 17th, 2021   |   Day 19

There's East Texas. West Texas. And then there's Far West Texas.

Train tracks stretching across the Texas plains
Prada Marfa in the daytime
Prada Marfa at night
The Marfa water tower
Texas Lone Star on a building
Texas newspapers on a table
Broken down ice plant in Marfa
Restaurant in disrepair in Marfa
Marfa Film Shop mural
Freida Kahlo mural on an auto parts garage
Desert themed mural on a small house
Front end of a rusty Chevrolet pickup truck
Granada sign in Alpine Texas
Pink art deco style fire station in Marfa
Window sign for a book store
Large mural on the side of a building in Alpine Texas
Lemon wheel in a cocktail
Chihuahuan Desert Sotol
Sign for El Cosmico under the moon
Yellow and red string lights

The Marfa Lights are a mysterious, potentially extraterrestrial, series of glowing orbs in the Chihuahuan desert. The town aptly uses this phenomenon to influence its entire personality, and it's what makes such a remote place worth visiting. With regret, I can't say the same about Roswell, NM (don't bother). Even if it all just turned out to be an atmospheric refraction of headlights from a distant valley highway. 

Glamping tents at El Cosmico Marfa
Yellow trailer front with eyes painted on it
Custom painted trailer
Cosmic eye entry sign at sunset

Neon cowboy

Nov. 19th, 2021   |   Day 21

7 hours across Texas from Marfa to Austin.

Cowboy hat on fire
Guero's Taco bar in Austin Texas
Looking down South Congress street in Austin
Neon sign for Stetson hats
Two cowboys roughing up a hat


Man steaming a cowboy hat in Texas
Neon lights along the street in Austin
The Meteor Wine and Beer bar

Quite the combination

Cowboy hat on fire
Heritage Boot Company neon sign

New Orleans

Nov. 26th, 2021   |   Day 28

A full day's drive from Austin. The final night.

French Truck Coffee sign
Grungy green building in New Orleans' uptown
Neon sign saying slow down
Neon sign for This must be the place
Floral art on the corner of a diner

Nov. 28th, 2021   |   Day 29-30   |   Saturday into Sunday

Home, is where I want to be.

After 30 days on the road, I woke up in New Orleans sluggish and hungover. I drove 21 hours straight home to Boston and went to sleep. After watching the Pats game, of course.

Back to the travel gallery
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(c) 2023 Nick Gianetti

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