Short trip to Death Valley

We actually went to Death Valley before the Valley of Fire. I didn’t do a whole lot of research before the DV trip so in retrospect I stayed there too short, and would look forward to a longer stay in another season where there would be more rain, which yield better scenics. 

Anywhoo, we took an early flight to Las Vegas and immediately headed over to the rentals, where I was fortunate to pick up a Nissan Maxima at pretty good rate. I never had adaptive cruise control before but I can’t imagine driving long trips without it now. I’m an impatient driver but this thing makes me more mellow somehow πŸ™‚ It’s still a more than 2 hours drive to reach DV and I had to immediately plan for the sunset shot that I’m going to drive to after a biref nap. The Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes seems attractive given it has kid-friendly feature so I decided to go there, and it’s a 25 mins drive from the Furnance Creek Inn/Oasis/The Ranch where we’re staying. The place wasn’t bad if a bit primitive, and the food was expensive at $9 a hotdog?! Ewww. The Pizza was a better deal.

Anyway off I went to the Dunes at around 3:30. I did not do my research and was disheartened with all the footprints on the dunes. The beautiful sunset and clouds were wasted, at the end I could only pull a couple of cloud shots. The first one wasn’t event facing any features πŸ™‚

This one was right at the front of the parking lot. The tree combined wit the clouds reflected in the golden sunset looks fantastic, but the footprints weren’t helping.

With that disappointment I decided to get some sunrise shot off Zabriskie Point, since it’s just a 10 min drive and not so brutal on my sleep schedule. Fortunately the skies were imbued with a beautiful layer of clouds.

Wow. If only it points the other way, where the Point actually is πŸ™‚ I moved around the south edge following my google research, and found a vantage point not on the concrete platform that works well for the foreground.

The layered rocks combines nicely with the reddish hue of the Black Mountains. I like the clouds so I’ve given this shot quite a bit of share of it. The other important feature here is the “elephant feet.” The scaled clouds are fancy.

I hung on for another hour or so but there wasn’t another better shot coming out so that’s that. After some rest we drove to the Dante View, which was a bit tricky of a drive given the gradient. But it was fun. Noon doesn’t make the best of landscape photos but I can’t fancy myself driving here in the dark. Here is a shot of the salt basin and a pano.

We then drive to the Artist Drive and Badwater Basin to finish up. It was mostly to scout out what I want to do for sunset, and finally decided the Artist Pallet inside the Drive would be worth spending the time, because I was quite impressed by its colors and Badwater was too dry to give nice salt bin shots. So I arrived at the Pallet at around 4 and waited for the sunset. It truly was quite magical as the colors appeared different over time. This pano was taken just about sunset and you can see the beautiful colors. 

But I didn’t pay much attention to the backview until a couple of visitors behind me asked me to take photos for them and I turned around to another set of pallets.

It was even more colorful, not to mention the better background here. So I waited for the sun to completely set, alone on one of these small pinnacles πŸ™‚  Sure enough with the sun behind the mountains the colors shifted to give a even more purplish hue on this slope. 


But a even more dramatic shift occurs on the back view, where suddenly more green surfaces. Positively impressed, I left before it got completely dark, but I still got slightly lost πŸ™‚

That evening I went to Zabriskie Point again to make one of those rainbow-milkyway picture. Although the night sky was fantastic, it was so pitch black out there that I had trouble navigating to the concrete platform. I managed to pano one, but it wasn’t very good. I have to learn a bit better to focus when there’s nothing to focus upon, and pan the pano shots correctly. I could barely manage the full arch. 

I also watched too many K-horror films lately and scared myself waking back to the car, imagining someone may push me over the ledge πŸ™‚  With a little sleep I woke up the third day to do the final day of sunrise shots. I got encouraged by all the beautiful sand dune shots, not to mention they would never look like anybody else’s, so I headed over to the Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes yet again. This time I learned my lesson and I immediately walked off the main visitor areas, and quickly the footprints were nowhere to be found. I just needed to scot out good shots. Here’s one right before the sunrise. This is my first time shooting sand and obviously sunlight is necessary to get that beautiful golden reflection, which is absent here. Yet I still like the radial pattern here on this scrub.

The sun has then risen and there is a short window for dune shots – the lights are soft on the sunlit side, but not too dark on the other. After this golden hour the contrast was too big and good shots were much more difficult to come by.

This shot I like the most, the dunes were reflecting lights perfectly and the S shapes ridge was so soft.

It was a long walk back so I’ve gotta take a “weary traveler” shot with my own footprints treading the desert.

This abstract was quite interesting in that the golden sand and some black ash seems to have mixed on some dunes, giving very interesting patterns on some slopes.

You can really spend a lot of mornings or afternoons here to get interesting shots. But it’s also very tiring to walk on sand and I think this session really did me in. Anyway driving back I was trying to get back by 10am, but stopped on the way to check out an area close to Salt Creek. There is water there so there are definite opportunities for some interesting shots. First thing I note was a stream that has a bunch of small birds feeding. They were noisy talking with each other. Definitely nice to see the reflections.

Heading in I tried to get the mountains on the farside to show in the stream’s reflection. Turns out I have to lie down on the ground to get that.

There are a lot of salt deposits here. In this shot below the foregroun shows these small salt pillars standing in the foreground, like grass. The cloud was cooperative and makes the shot work.

Another reflection shot with more of the mountain ranges reflected.

Finally salt forms very interesting crystalline structures, like these bubbly streaky formations.

With that concludes my final day here in the DV, with the obligatory parting highway shot. The section of the highway here has a shifted yellow line with black paint over the previous one, making the line look three dimensional πŸ™‚

 I don’t know when I’ll get a chance to visit DV again during a winter, but I really wanted to go to the Racetrack Playa if I had one more day here. Anyway as usual I have a full Google Photo album for this trip.

Categorized as Travel

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