Thousand Palms Ca. Photography

The Center for Natural Lands Management (CNLM) manages an extensive and diverse preserve in the Coachella Valley called the CNLM Thousand Palms Oasis Preserve (CNLM Preserve). This Preserve is approximately 880 acres in size and is on the northern edge of the Indio Hills. From the Preserve offers, you can see the Little San Bernardino Mountains from the edge of Joshua Tree National Park.

It’s a good 20 minute plus walkout to the oasis so be sure to bring some water for hiking in the heat. The office is really cool. It’s an old rustic cabin with lots of neat things inside.  Follow the wooden walkways out to the trail to the incredible oasis. Don’t go off the path and around the back as we did. We got yelled at, sort of. I have a tendency to explore. There was a gate, and it was open. So..

We would pair this up with other locations for the day. You can stay busy photographing here for a few hours. An excellent trip to downtown Palm Springs for lunch after a morning shoot is a good idea. There is another oasis in downtown Palm Springs, but you can hike that one all day long. It’s huge. It’s called Indian Canyons, and we will be doing a page on that also. It’s too much to do them both in one day so a two-day trip would be better.

Thousand Palms, Ca. Photography Hot Spot Location

Thousand Palms Photography Information

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Lens: Wide Angle but you may find a bird or two. Not much wildlife here.

Gear List at a Glance: Circular polarizing filter, neutral density filter, tripod, shutter release, wide-angle lens.

When to Go:  The only time not to go is when it is not too hot. Check for hours before you go.


If you have moving subjects, you will want to shoot in shutter priority to assure your shutter speed is high enough to have your subject in sharp focus. For people walking by, approximately 1/250th of a second is appropriate, and adjust your ISO accordingly. If they are running fast, increase your shutter speed to about 1/500th of a second. A fast bird flying by would be shot at about 1/1000th of a second. If it’s a bright sunny day, go as high as  1/1200th of a second. Remember, the higher your shutter speed; the less light comes into the camera. It should not be an issue outside during daytime hours. For More Details, see our Shutter Priority Page.


You have moving waters here. You can do your long-exposure running and milky water shots. You will have to use a tripod for this effect. Your settings will vary depending on the lighting and your neutral density filter. You will shoot in manual mode for the milky waters. ISO is always 100 or as low as your camera will allow. The aperture is f22. Your shutter speed will be the only variable depending on the light. Roll your shutter speed until your meter reads zero. (In the center)  Use your shutter release or your 2-second timer to prevent camera movement when exposing. You will want at least a 2-second exposure for milky water. If you don’t have a neutral density filter, you may not get more than 1/15th of a second in the sun. 

If you don’t have a neutral density filter, you can buy one here. We highly suggest you do not go anywhere without one. It makes all the difference between lifeless images and outstanding, dynamic images.


Aperture Priority is often used to blur the background of your images and control your depth of field (how much from the subject to the background is in focus). For more information on this – see our Aperture page 


The higher you set it, the more light comes in when exposing an image. The higher the number, the more digital noise, so if possible, stay below 800. If you need to go higher to get the shot, you can use Topaz Denoise to filter out the digital noise later.

Thousand Palms Area Information:

Entrance Fees: None.  The CNLM Preserve gates are open from 7:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. from May through September and from 7:00 am to 5:00 p.m. October through April. The parking area at the Visitors’ Center is small, so plan on carpooling or bringing a smaller vehicle as the lot is not well-suited for RVs and campers. Large groups should call ahead.

Hotel Information:

The Westin Mission Hills Resort Villas, Palm Springs

71777 Dinah Shore Drive, Rancho Mirage, California 92270 – Phone: (1)(760) 328-595

This is our pick for where to stay. We loved the grounds at this location. We didn’t stay only because we have a brother right down the street. We get lucky sometimes. We went here and did some photography on the grounds though. It was that nice. It’s much more affordable in the summer months and the winter can run up $199-$299.00 a night.

Homewood Suites by Hilton Palm Desert

$79.00 to $263.00- 2 bedroom suite in high season and all in between.

36999 Cook Street, Palm Desert, California, 92211, USA TEL: +1-760-568-1600 FAX: +1-760-568-1608


There is no food out this way so be sure to bring snacks and water in your backpack.


Cathedral Palms

35901 Cathedral Canyon Dr
Cathedral City, CA 92234-7260
(760) 324-8244

Cathedral Palms on Cathedral Canyon Dr in Cathedral City, CA is in the Beach California section(s) Rv (Recreational Vehicle) Parks And Campgrounds.

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