Why Death Valley? Out of all the beautiful National and State Parks California has to offer this is probably the most inhospitable and least human friendly stretch of the Southwest desert. According to numerous sources hottest temperature on the planet was recorded here in Death Valley in July of 1913, the ground temp can reach 200F, yes you can fry eggs on a rock! Summer travel is simply discouraged and I can vouch for it, in August of 2002 my car battery simply exploded under the hood of my car while climbing out of the valley many miles before reaching cooler air of the Sierras. Nevertheless, I have always been drawn to the place and continue to return time after time (winter months are far more enjoyable).
Our recent visit to the park began dropping down in our Astro van early morning in to the Zabriskie Point. Just before April crowds filled the parking lot we were gazing at the spanning views from the top of the ridge, just us, most tourists prefer paved view points… Feasting my eyes on the scenery I have snapped hundreds of images with my 5d mark III, time lapses with my GH4, but simply couldn’t capture what I was seeing, so I began to photograph only sections of the eye’s view and stitched those together in post. I really liked the results and thought this was a great approach for a lot of the photography in Death Valley.
Day time is great for exploring the valley, visiting the settlements and scoping out the areas for the sunset shoot. We took a drive down to the Southern part of the Valley and hiked out about a mile in to the Badwater basin to find less disturbed salt deposits and capture a few day time pictures of this 282 feet below sea level white basin. Though, the evening may have been a better time to be there, clouds in the sky added the necessary dimension to the images, even thought the sun was high above us. Don’t forget to protect yourself from the sun, even in the spring it’s easy and fast to cook/sunburn out there on the white reflective surface of the salt covered field.
Devil’s Golf Course is equally spectacular site just a short drive from the main road, more rugged salt surface can be a nice foreground to the images here. The skies behind the basin brough some rain in the distance creating an interesting spectacle of light in the distance, it was hard to leave this scene, hundreds of frames later we had to wrap up and move on as it was getting closer to the evening light, and I envisioned the Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes for my sunset spot to be.
As the sun was reaching the west horizon of the Death Valley, we hiked out a short distance from the road to the sand dunes, waited for the sunset color in the sky and watched the shadows move across the eastern end of the mountain range.
Although, we missed the 2016 super bloom in the park and didn’t get on many dirt roads, scenery never disappoints and we can always count on the ever changing dramatic skies, gorgeous sunrises snd sunsets. Driving out o the Death Valley on the California side heading in to the Sierras more views are worth a stop to capture this magnificent hot spot on the planet. We’ll be back soon, this time with a beefed up Astro to conquer the backroads of the valley.