Death Valley’s desert landscapes are simply phenomenal. The stark beauty continually changes and offers something new and unusual with each visit.
In an effort to seek out something new, Josh and I set out on scouting missions at sunrise and sunset for a potential new location. We wandered the salt flats for a few miles in the morning and then again in the evening before meeting the group for the first time. But Death Valley is vast place, especially in the middle of the salt flats. We accidentally pulled over one wash too early and found ourselves wandering about. Luckily, we found the location we had scouted that morning. And for those that know the story, we may have appeared to passers-by as the reincarnation of Shorty Harris staggering across the seemingly endless valley floor. But alas, we made it back in time for introductions and dinner.
Friday saw us visit the famous Badwater Basin, Natural Bridge, Golden Canyon, and a memorable sunset along the salt flats. Saturday started off at the iconic Zabriskie Point where we caught a colorful, albeit brief, sunrise to the east. We then headed down into the badlands to get some more intimate views of the geologic wonders within. In the afternoon, we took a chance at the Mesquite Dunes, but upon arrival, it was apparent the winds had picked up too much. With sand in teeth and ears, we retreated to a new location (the one we scouted two days earlier) and braced ourselves against the stiff wind…but a sand-free wind it was. Lens caps were seen rolling like tumble weeds (but recovered) and sunglasses went flying. Josh even didn’t his best impression of a kite (see image below). The sunset was marked by some nice golden pre-sunset light, but clouds to the west snuffed out any chance of a repeat of the rainbow of colors from the night before. Due to the forecast for 40mph gusts, the night shoot turned into a night at the dinner buffet and some decadent cobbler and chocolate cake. On the final morning, I was up at 3:30am and the windows in the room were still rattling every few minutes due to the wind. With a 4;30am alarm awaiting, I contemplated another windstorm at the dunes. With not much time to spare, I decided to go see for myself. I figured we could still salvage a sunrise somewhere else if the winds were too strong at the dunes. Luckily, the wind was calmer north and we were able to finish a great weekend with some golden morning light among the Mesquite Sand Dunes. Just about the time the light was flattening out, the wind kicked up which indicated it was time to leave.
A big thanks to Susan, Kathy, Gary, Andy, Nirav, Kevin, Dave, and Andrew! It was a certainly a pleasure and we hope to see you again!
~Jim & Josh