I plan on doing some southwestern US desert recordings this summer, was wondering if you'd share your favorite places to record in that region for "wild-west" "desert-y" ambiances? (anywhere in CA, NV, UT, CO, NM, or AZ) Thanks!
Well I was born and raised in SE NM (Artesia, NM), and currently live in Denver. If you want desert recordings, I'd actually suggest you find somewhere windy, which I know SE NM has certain times of the year. There are tons of ranches, trains, old-timey folk down in that area. Also, look at Ruidoso, NM or Lincoln, NM (home of Billy the Kid) for very small, mountain towns. White Sands is a great choice for anybody, as you can capture the gritty dirt of the sand dunes, and for the American Indian side of things, check out Santa Fe and the surrounding smaller towns. There are reservations in the NW corner of NM that could suit those needs.
These are just my personal experiences. Ideally, check the weather for the state a day ahead of time, find the windiest location, and go there. It can be a 6-hour drive from top-to-bottom, but definitely still within a one-day jaunt for sound recording.
Especially if you can get to their inner reaches via trails during the weekdays, I've had great experiences in Anza Borrego State Desert Park, Death Valley, and Joshua Tree National Park, all in California. You'll find everything from mine shafts to ghost towns to oases to sculpted rocks and ancient stunted trees. Also recommended is the richly-varied Coconino National Forest and the Saguaro-studded Tonto National Forest, both in Arizona.
Great recommendations above. My only advice, based on my CA desert recording experiences, is to check the flight patterns of major airports and military bases before deciding on locations. You can find several flight traffic maps online.
I was camping in Joshua Tree once and woke up early in the morning to get some ambiences free of any campers or park traffic; only to find that we were camping in the flight path to the Palm Springs airport. It was a major bummer having to wait between takes for airplane noise to clear out.