This is the last group of Death Valley images I have to share from my last trip. I am intentionally holding my two favorite images back which I look forward to sharing with you next week, so stay tuned .
On a bit of a side note, I ordered a tripod clamp for my iPad from my buddy Marty Cohen over at tripodclamps.com . I’ve been eyeing these for awhile and Marty was good enough to point me to a couple wireless image review options that I can use in the field. I thought this could be a great way to double check focus and image sharpness rather than relying on the LCD screen. I’ll let you know how it turns out.
Morning at Zabriski Point
My morning started around 2:30am when I arrived here. I came specifically for a night shot that I’ll share with you next week but I decided to stay for sunrise. My favorite time for shooting here was just before dawn – the soft light really illuminated this area of the badlands beautifully. Please enjoy these and have a great weekend!
On the Dunes
The last time I was out on the sand dunes I got caught in a sand storm with winds gusting up to 35mph. The sun had already set and I had ventured over a mile out unto the dunes when the winds picked up. Every time I crested a dune on my walk back to the truck I was met with a face full of flying sand. It took me days after returning home before I truly felt sand free. All this is to say that it was with a certain amount of trepidation that I ventured back out onto the dunes when the weather forecast called for 20mph winds.
It turned out to be one of those times where the forecast was dead wrong and I was pleasantly surprised to have a very calm afternoon during my time on the dunes. I had scouted an area to the east earlier in the day and decided to try the western edge of the dunes. This proved to be a good idea. It’s hard to go wrong with sunset on sand dunes – the brilliant golden light is reflected by the sand and the shadows created by the dunes add so much character to photos. But the light AFTER sunset – that was incredible. Here are some of my favorite shots from the afternoon.
This was something else. I knew what I was really looking for was sand dunes during the blue hour. I found this formation earlier and headed back to it just after the sun set. I watched, as I so often do, the light slowly change from brilliant gold until the stars just began to come out before snapping the shutter. I couldn’t be happier with the results.
My first day in Death Valley gave me time to scout locations for that day’s sunset as well as the next day’s sunrise. The day ended with an excellent shot from the Salt Flats and I was eager to start my next day’s adventure. I woke at 2am and headed back to the salt flats. I wanted to get what I call my “night bearings”. It’s all well to plan things out in the day time but things can look quite differently at night. After playing around with some different exposures for awhile, I headed off to another location. This was to be my highlight shot of the trip. I had pre-visualized this and knew when I wanted to shoot and from where. When I arrived however, my jaw dropped. Right next to my planned shot was a much better opportunity. I had missed the optimal time frame for it so I filed the information away intending to come back the next night at the right time.
After taking a few test shots and making plans for the next night, I headed off to my sunrise location. Much to my dismay, I didn’t find what I was looking for. I had scouted the area early in the afternoon the previous day and since then, much of the water had evaporated and with it, so had my shot. Without another plan, I hiked around the area I had scouted and came up with a few descent shots that I liked ok. Except for the mosquitos and biting flies, I very much enjoyed the morning hiking around and taking a few pictures here and there while listening to the coyotes howl. It had been a quite unexpected morning, but a very enjoyable one. Here are some of the shots from that morning, along with some more night shots. Click on the image to view larger and Enjoy!
According to a recent study that I read, Death Valley has some of the darkest skies in the nation. The downside however, is that they get a lot of high winds in the area and there can be a lot of dust and haze in the air which makes photographing the milky way difficult. On my first night, I had these problems with dust and haze but I used the time to learn where and when the milky way would best be visible.
My second night brought hardly any wind and beautifully clear skies. Finding compositions in the dark is difficult so I used my gps to mark specific locations I wanted to come back to after hours which made life so much easier for me. Although this looks like one image, it is actually a four image panorama. Two frames were used for the sky which were exposed for 30 seconds at f/2.8 and iso 4000 with the camera pointed slightly upward. I then pointed the camera downward and focused on the ground and exposed for 90 seconds at f/2.8 and iso 1600. My goal was to showcase the repeating pattern of the salt flats in the foreground with the milky way in the sky. This could only be accomplished by merging two different perspectives together. Questions and comments are welcome!
After setting up my campsite, my first destination was the Salt Flats. There are approximately 200 square miles of salt flats in Death Valley and almost everyone who visits heads to the same place to see them: Badwater. I therefore headed in a different direction looking for areas of salt more pristine than those found in the general area of Badwater. I scouted around for a few hours in the heat and came across a couple areas that were less trampled, and to my eyes, more unique. As I explored nearby areas, I discovered some interesting formations similar to those of “The Devil’s Golf Course”. I found a few tiny arches weathered away by the elements which made for some interesting subjects. Here are a few shots from the afternoon:
I watched as the the harsh light gave way to brilliant gold which the salt flats around me reflected. As the sun began to set, the fading light brilliantly lit the surrounding mountains with the last of the sun’s rays. The contrast between the the blazing mountains and the shaded salt flats was beautiful, but still the time was not yet right. The brilliant golden light of sunset gave way to the soft blue light as the day began to turn to night. It was almost time. I set my composition, pointing the camera down to highlight the beautifully repeating pattern of the salt flats but still, I waited. Soon, the tiny sliver of moon, hidden by the harsh light of the day began it’s illumination of the land on it’s descent. I used a 30 second exposure to capture the last glow of the day and pressed the shutter. It was an amazing afternoon watching the as the world changed from day to night and I was rewarded for my efforts.