Back on Kauai, I have just spent 4 full days in Death Valley for the first time. Somehow it managed to coincide with the coldest tempertuares of the year as I experienced below freezing weather every night with the coldest being 14F on the last night at the Racetrack. Very bizarre considering the hottest temperature ever recorded was in this valley.
Having seen images from DV for years it was with much anticipation that I was able to visit and see for myself. The park itself is HUGE. Many hours to traverse across it with many roads needed 4wd and high-clearance. My car provided me with decent amounts of both for some good off-roading and washboard type roads. But no boulder hopping this time 😛
While there are many stories and images to share I will start with this photograph made on my first evening at the park. After getting some good advice to visit these remote dunes I headed out after my morning shoot clear across the park…2+hrs away. What I didnt realize is that these dunes were not right next to the road. As I followed the dirt roads I realized that it was going to be a park and hike kinda day. I picked a spot about in the middle of the length of this stretch of sand, packed my bag, water, WARM clothing, put a pin on my phone map so I didnt lose my car…and off I went. Looking out across the wash the dunes loom large…maybe 200+ft high. Hiking across a flood plain made for a unique experience as the evidence of rapidly flowing water (however infrequent) was apparent everywhere. Oh what a sight that must be to see (and NOT be standing where I was).
Making my arrival to my destination after approximately 1-1.5mi of hiking it was time to start finding lines. Often times I am first overwhelmed by the opportunities of locations like this…where to start!?! While taking in the fading sun and shapes that play along the dunes I knew my end goal for the night would be some star work. The sky was fairly clear and the moon was a crescent…so bright enough for some light but not too bright to overwhelm the stars. As twilight arrived I knew I needed a strong composition to compliment this scene. After playing around I settled on this edge of the dune leading up to the big peak. Then to wait. As the sun sets in the desert the temperature drops fairly quickly, that combined with the windy conditions had me in for a good introductory to Death Valley in winter. Just at the boarder of twilight and night it was time to make the exposure. Capturing the end of the magenta glow as the stars made their appearance. The clouds that happened to appear and hang around were some of the FEW that I saw my entire 4 days in Death Valley as was very lucky to have them exist where they did. After I made this exposure I waited a bit longer and did some star-trail work…but that’s for another day 😉