Posted by: kerryl29 | October 31, 2022

Return to the Desert: More from Death Valley

The second full day at Death Valley involved a great deal of location scouting and less photographing than we would have liked, but we did get some time behind the camera. 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 up, we realized that we hadn’t hiked far enough into the field as copious footprints were still visible all over the place. It was also completely clear that morning and occasionally windy (meaning there was some blowing sand). But we persevered and managed to get a few images in.

Mesquite Flat Dunes, Death Valley National Park, California
Mesquite Flat Dunes, Death Valley National Park, California

Before we hiked out, we spent some time in a playa area of the dunes field, where a series of abstract and semi-abstract image opportunities presented themselves. This experience had been one benefit of scouting the area the previous day as we’d discovered the playa and made a point of setting aside time to examine it more closely this morning.

Playa Abstract Black & White, Mesquite Flat Dunes, Death Valley National Park, California
Playa Abstract Black & White, Mesquite Flat Dunes, Death Valley National Park, California
Playa Abstract Black & White, Mesquite Flat Dunes, Death Valley National Park, California
Dunes Intimate Black & White, Mesquite Flat Dunes, Death Valley National Park, California

Around mid-day, we returned to a spot that we’d looked over without our gear the previous afternoon. The light was quite harsh, but I wanted to see if what I could capture would hold up to a black & white treatment. (To be honest, I’m doubtful that it does, but I’ll let you be the judge of that.)

Badwater Basin Black & White, Death Valley National Park, California
Badwater Basin Black & White, Death Valley National Park, California

Much of the rest of the day was spent scouting various locations sans photo gear (the light was not conducive to good photography), but mid-afternoon we did haul our equipment into Golden Canyon, which yielded several interesting opportunities.

Golden Canyon Abstract, Death Valley National Park, California
Golden Canyon, Death Valley National Park, California
Golden Canyon Black & White, Death Valley National Park, California

In the early evening, we returned to a location in Badwater Basin that we’d looked over at length the previous day. Those intimately familiar with Death Valley may recognize this area, but I’m being deliberately vague about the specific spot as it’s quite sensitive terrain and I don’t want to encourage a stampede of visitors by identifying it any more specifically than I already have.

We were quite taken with this location when we first came across it and, luckily for us, for one of the very few times on the entire trip, the sky cooperated as sunset approached. I started out with an image that I planned to convert to monochrome.

Badwater Basin Black & White, Death Valley National Park, California

As the sun dropped closer to the mountains to the west, the salt-encrusted edgings of the stream caught the angular light and simply lit up.

Badwater Basin, Death Valley National Park, California
Badwater Basin, Death Valley National Park, California

When the sun dropped below the mountains and started to light up the clouds, I carefully moved around to the other side of the water. Doing so required a significant detour, as I didn’t want to mar any of the delicate ground-based formations you see in the above images.

Sunset, Badwater Basin, Death Valley National Park, California
Sunset, Badwater Basin, Death Valley National Park, California
Sunset, Badwater Basin, Death Valley National Park, California

That concluded the day’s photography. Opportunities had been limited, but rewarding, in most instances. The next day would begin yet again at Mesquite Flat Dunes and the resulting photo opportunities would be more plentiful than they had been this day.


Responses

  1. Because I have limited knowledge of Death Valley, the images of Badwater Basin surprised me. I didn’t know a stream flows through, and these images are really striking.

    • Water in Death Valley is an ephemeral thing. The entire valley can flood at times (as happened earlier this year–some months after I was there), but most of the time there’s little or no surface water at all. The first place to look is right at Badwater proper (that’s not where the images in the post were made), the lowest point in North America.

  2. It must have taken a lot of effort to walk around that place. I was in Arizona when the weather was still cooler but I still found it too hot. The danger of dehydration was also there. I could only imagine what it is like in Death Valley! I still would like to take photographs around there though sometime.

    • These images were from early February this year, so it wasn’t all that hot in Death Valley. Highs were in the 70s most of the time we were there (it did creep past 80 one day), and the relative humidity is extremely low, further mitigating how warm it feels. In the summer it can be dangerously hot.

  3. Especially loved the images from Badwater Basin. We saw the most amazing sunset of our lives there, some years ago. The entire sky was filled with the richest, most gorgeous colors for what seemed like a long time, with the colors reflecting in the salt flats’ water. We tied plastic grocery bags on our feet to protect from the gummy mud. There was no compelling composition to capture what we saw, but it was an amazing experience (https://www.carterfoto.com/p486014402/h8759e6b5#h8759e6c0).

    • Thanks, Steve.

      Yeah, finding the channels of water was a major compositional asset. obviously. The sky performance we got was a happy bonus. Here’s the link to a larger rendition of the final sunset shot, which I think reveals the place a bit more effectively:

      https://www.lightscapesphotography.com/p16866097/h6c6783e#h6c6783e

      Thanks for linking your shot. Honestly, I think the “negative space” makes the starkness that is Death Valley come alive. Well done.

  4. […] time after dark on the second to last full day in Death Valley, the wind kicked up. It was sufficiently strong at times that we were concerned that the tent might […]

  5. […] 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 finally started to really get a feel for the place, as […]


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