Posted by: kerryl29 | October 10, 2022

Return to the Desert: Zabriskie Point, Plus

Much of our first full day at Death Valley was spent scouting. This was my first visit to the park and Jason had only been there once previously, merely for parts of two days. But despite our inexperience, we did have a predetermined spot for sunrise–Zabriskie Point. The drive to the location would take about 35 minutes from Stovepipe Wells and we wanted to arrive roughly 45 minutes before sunrise, so it would be an early morning.

It wasn’t much past the onset of civil twilight when we arrived at the Zabriskie Point parking lot; it was dark enough that we needed headlamps to see where we were going. There’s a short, but somewhat steep, hike up to the viewpoint at Zabriskie from the parking area, and we weren’t the first people to arrive that morning. But it wasn’t super crowded and we quickly grabbed our gear and made the short walk up to the spot where I would first glimpse the utterly unique landscape visible in the valley below.

By the time we reached the viewpoint there was just enough light to begin to see the formations and I made a quick sweep of the area and quickly decided that the broad rock ledge below the “official” viewpoint was the place to be. After several minutes of careful observing, I set up my tripod and made a long exposure of the scene below me.

Earthshadow, Zabriskie Point, Death Valley National Park, California

This was the first of a series of images I produced while the earthshadow effect was still in evidence. The resulting gradient is among the best ways to retain interest in the sky when there are no clouds, and it requires photographing in the direction opposite where the sun is rising or setting. So, this largely west-facing viewpoint was a perfect perch for sunrise on this clear-sky morning.

Earthshadow, Zabriskie Point, Death Valley National Park, California
Earthshadow, Zabriskie Point, Death Valley National Park, California
Earthshadow, Zabriskie Point, Death Valley National Park, California
Earthshadow Panorama, Zabriskie Point, Death Valley National Park, California

When the sun pierced the horizon and shadows began to be cast across the terrain below, I changed my focus to much tighter compositions and started thinking–most of the time–about abstract and quasi-abstract monochrome renderings. Sometimes I focused my attention on areas that were still in open shade, and sometimes I was drawn to locations where direct sun was beginning to make an impact.

Either way, patterned themes were the order of the day. And a substantial majority of the time, I felt that black and white renderings of the image would be a more effective way to reveal the patterns. There were a few exceptions, but they are just that–exceptions.

Zabriskie Point Foothills Black & White, Death Valley National Park, California
Zabriskie Point Foothills Abstract Black & White, Death Valley National Park, California
Light Points, Zabriskie Point, Death Valley National Park, California
Zabriskie Point Foothills Abstract Black & White, Death Valley National Park, California
Zabriskie Point Foothills Abstract Black & White, Death Valley National Park, California
Zabriskie Point Panorama, Death Valley National Park, California
Zabriskie Point Black & White, Death Valley National Park, California
Zabriskie Point Foothills Abstract Black & White, Death Valley National Park, California
Zabriskie Point Black & White, Death Valley National Park, California
Foothills, Zabriskie Point, Death Valley National Park, California
Spotlight Black & White, Zabriskie Point, Death Valley National Park, California
Foothills Black & White, Zabriskie Point, Death Valley National Park, California
Spotlight Black & White, Zabriskie Point, Death Valley National Park, California
Foothills, Zabriskie Point, Death Valley National Park, California
Shadowland Black & White, Zabriskie Point, Death Valley National Park, California

When the light became too hot, we put a wrap on our Zabriskie session and moved along, scouting numerous spots in the park over the remainder of the day. It was well into the afternoon before we photographed again, at a spot known as Mosaic Canyon. There are a number of readily accessible canyons in Death Valley that aren’t narrow enough to qualify as slots, but still of interest.

The photo options are mostly of the subtle variety; teasing out interesting compositions requires some careful observation.

Mosaic Canyon Black & White, Death Valley National Park, California
Mosaic Canyon, Death Valley National Park, California
Mosaic Canyon, Death Valley National Park, California
Mosaic Canyon Abstract, Death Valley National Park, California
Mosaic Canyon Close-Up, Death Valley National Park, California

Late in the day, we spent a fair amount of time scouting a location we would photograph multiple times later in the trip, the Mesquite Flat Dune Field. Much of that time was spent without our gear–a pure scout–but before the end of the day, I did retrieve my equipment to make one image of the scene.

Land of Shadows, Mesquite Flat Dunes, Death Valley National Park, California

By the time we were in the dunes, they were crisscrossed with footprints (even though we walked at least a mile into the field), so unmarred scenes were limited. Our hope was that the wind would kick up that evening and sweep the dunes clean, as we hoped to photograph in the dunes at first light the next day…


Responses

  1. I’ve never been to Death Valley. These images give me a good idea of what the landscape looks like at Zabriskie Point…so interesting and definitely endless photo possibilities.

    • Thanks, Ellen!

  2. Gorgeous!

    • Thanks very much!

  3. Wonderful fractals 🙂

  4. Lovely light. Interesting textures. Great images!

    • Thanks very much!

  5. […] The day started out at Mesquite Flat Dunes. Even though we spent some time in the dune field the previous day, it was still a bit difficult to gain our bearings in the pre-dawn darkness. When the light came […]

  6. […] Canyon, our third and final Death Valley canyon exploration of the trip. As had been the case in Mosaic and Golden Canyons earlier in the week, image opportunities were extant, but […]

  7. […] (and bits of two others). And the final experience was, I think, by far my most productive. The first time, I made exactly one image; on the second occasion, I made a handful. The third time around, I […]


Please feel free to comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Categories

%d bloggers like this: