September 10, 2020
So, What is it about the Tujunga Wash?
For over twenty years, I've been hiking through the Big Tujunga Wash, taking the dogs for a walk, going there with my kids and yes, taking a boatload of pictures. It isn't really a very big area, although it seems larger than it is with the open spaces of the wash itself, spectacular sunsets, boulders and cacti strewn everywhere against the backdrop of the San Gabriel mountains. And being within the city limits of Los Angeles, the contrast makes it feel out of place. Welcome, but out of place.
Sunset in the Wash ©2015

There are mind blowing landscape locations all over the world, and with good reason they are iconic meccas of just about every nature and travel photographer. Zion National Park, Alaska (pick a spot, any spot), Iceland, New Zealand, Pategonia in South America. And honestly, I would go in an instant if I made the opportunity for myself. But photography is not my full time gig nor do I have the wherewithal to jet off to exotic places.

But right here in my own back yard, I have a desert candy store.
Yuccas in Bloom ©2016 Tom Pula
It's hard to believe that just a couple of miles past that horizon lies Burbank, Pacoima and the whole of "The Valley". The Wash is beautiful, always changing, colorful, full of rabbits, birds and coyotes and gives some of the most stunning lightshows I've ever had the pleasure of witnessing.
Sometime in 2014, maybe 2015, I joined one of the local Facebook groups and on a whim decided to post one of my photos. The sunsets are spectacular and I wanted to share them. Here is (I think) the very first photo I shared on social media.
Sunset in the Wash ©2014
I posted the pictures because I thought they were good, I felt they captured what I felt when I was taking them, and I wanted to see if others would react the same way. I thought I'd get a handful of comments and likes, but was amazed at the dozens and dozens of responses many of them genuinely moved and surprised that such a scenic paradise exists in their own back yard.
Sunland-Tujunga is a community with its own economic, ethnic and political diversity. But it's also a tight community where the people generally care and have pride in it. Almost like a family, and like most families, there is a certain amount of bickering. With Facebook's growing trend toward divisiveness, the diversity has taken on more enmity than simple difference, I just continued to post my photos. I've gotten a bit of a reputation for my pictures and that was alright with me. I want people to know of the beauty we have right here. True or not, I like to think I've brought attention to what we have in the area and away from the infighting and worry. A little mini-mission of mine, you might say.
But a funny thing happened along the way. I grew to see more and more beauty in the Wash from the vast mountain views and stunning sunsets to the interplay of colors and textures to the small details. It's a piece of calm in the midst of the day to day insanity we all face, especially in the current age.
Details ©2015
Condor Peak ©2019
Look Down ©2019
Good Night ©2019
From the broadest vistas of the San Gabriel Mountains
Condor Sunset ©2018
To close up details of the desert in transition
Yucca Coming to Life ©2019
While it may not have the roaring falls of Columbia River Gorge or the stark drama of Iceland, the Wash has been my own little paradise offering an endless variety of photographic opportunities as well as an oasis of separation from the non-stop craziness of the city. And it's only a ten minute walk from my front door.
14th Tee ©2019