Drive south from San Francisco for a few hours and then turn left at “Where in the Hell Am I.” Keep driving a few more hours and go just past “Middle of Nowhere” and you will have arrived at Inyokern, cleverly named by combining the names of Inyo and Kern counties. It’s still in California, though not the California that jumps to the minds of tourists. This is high desert, where shade is at the same premium as water. Just the perfect location to shoot the brochures for Mazda’s 2014 full line of cars – for seven glorious days.

Now, I actually love the desert. There’s something about being able to see 100 miles in any direction that’s a great antidote for city living, but there are a few things about the desert that are easy to forget. There’s Weather (with a capital W) in the desert. The sun can be relentless, so making shade is a priority. Also included in “Weather” would be the 30 mile an hour winds that come up around 4pm almost every day. (Coincidentally, that’s about the time the sun starts moving into position to make some pictures). Of course, the desert has different priorities – like blowing away anything that you could put up to make shade. You get the idea. We were also warned about the Mojave Red Rattlesnake and how it’s the most poisonous rattlesnake in the world. A quick Google search and, check, stay away from those critters. The skies in the desert can be awesome, in the purest sense of the word (see the picture), and I guess that would be Weather too.

The closest city that has lodging would be Ridgecrest. A lovely and flat desert town mostly inhabited by military folk and people attached to military folk and businesses that mostly service military folk. We had concerns that there would be little to do at night and less to eat. We actually did pretty well. We found a restaurant that served sushi and Chinese food. Remarkably good for not being near the sea. It had entertainment too – in the bar (which is quite common in these parts), Stacey, the bartender, needed almost no provocation to illuminate the patrons to the details of her storied, quite dramatic life. Some people can sure pack a lot into their twenties. An E! Network reality show in the making. One night we drove the 14 miles to the eight buildings they call the town of Wells. The specialty of the eatery/brewery we visited was beer, brewed in whiskey casks. It was actually quite good, and necessary to wash down the not so good food. Depending on your point of view, either the high point or the low point was coming across a bottle of Glazed Donut Vodka.

I know it sounds like we didn’t take too many pictures. In fact, we shot every 2014 model Mazda makes, several times (did I mention all the cars were red?). I have to give tremendous credit to our art director, Diana Phillips, for the fact that between all the adventures, we made a lot of work. And without the vision to take advantage of the great things our location had to offer (instead of sticking to what was in the comp), we were able elevate the images beyond where they started. I mean, really, how do you pass on those skies? It didn’t hurt that our crew was highly experienced, professional and came equipped with a great sense of humor. There was even room for “T Rex Trying” jokes (try the link if you need a laugh…) which, for some reason, seemed even more funny in the middle of nowhere.

So, a sincere thank you to Jessica, Mark, Alicia, Josh, Geoffrey, James, and the Mojave Red Rattlesnake, who was no match for our fearless leader Diana.