Adventures in Death Valley National Park – Part 2

Greetings and salutations,

Welcome to the second part of my photography workshop adventures in Death Valley National Park. Last week, I brought you Part 1. Thanks for the views and comments, I appreciate your kind words.

Before I begin this weeks article, it was two years ago today on March 13, 2020 that the COVID-19 lockdown began here in the United States. Since then nearly one-third of the population, over 100 million people have tested positive and nearly one million deaths are attributed to COVID. These are grim statistics. I think of those who mourn the untimely loss of loved ones, some quite young, others nearing their natural end. Let’s hope, no believe, we can do better the next time a public health crisis like this comes along. May all rest in peace.

Salt Creek Flats at Cottonball Basin

It was still pitch dark when we left our lodgings at Furnace Creek for parts unknown. Brenda and Jed knew where we were headed for our morning photo shoot. Like ducklings we followed the silver Sprinter van closely eager to see where we stop. After about ten minutes of driving north on Highway 190, they pulled to the side of the road. The temperature this morning was much cooler, requiring layers, ear warmers, and gloves to keep warm. We turned on our headlamps to make sure we had cameras, lenses, tripods, and our backpack with snacks and water. Carefully, we made our way through about a quarter mile of rough, rocky washes until we came to the Salt Creek Flats. After setting up, we waited for the first light to appear and illuminate the sky and Tucki Mountain.

Death Valley is one of the driest and hottest places in the Western Hemisphere. Yet, there are places where a thin layer of water lies on the surface to provide life to the valley. Lucky for us photographers, this moisture provides an opportunity to catch the reflection of the mountains on the westside of Death Valley when the sun peeks over the horizon. Below are a few photos from our morning shoot.

Enlarge the photo below to see part of our group off in the distance.

This photo was behind me, looking towards the northeast.

I like this abstracty reflection photo taken with my telephoto lens after the sun rose over the horizon.

Here’s the evidence that critters come out at night to hunt and have a drink of water. 

That’s David, off in the distance, patiently waiting for us to return from our trek out to the salt flats. It was a fun shoot and beautiful morning.

Ubehebe Crater

Our afternoon shoot took us to the Ubehebe (pronounced YOO-bee-HEE-bee) Crater. From Furnace Creek, the crater is about an hour and fifteen minute drive to the north part of the park.

Ubehebe Crater is over a half mile wide and over 700 feet deep. It’s estimated to be between 1000 and 7000 years old. The crater was created when the hot lava came in contact with groundwater that made steam and threw large quantities of rock across the landscape. You can see in the photos below the reddish-orange sedimentary rock exposed in the crater walls.

I took this photo for the benefit of my Traveling Partner to show her that I took heed of the caution signs!

This is a feeble attempt at a selfie from the rim of the crater. The sun is behind me, I’m the tallest blob in the middle.

After leaving Ubehebe, we spotted the cholla cacti being backlight by the low sun in the western sky. We pulled off the road into a ranger station and walked into the desert to make photos of these interesting plants.

A close-up of a barrel cactus can provide an interesting perspective.

Below are two photos of the same scene, the top is converted to black and white, the bottom is shot in color. Which one do you like best?

The sun was close to setting when we left the ranger station. We were almost back to Highway 190, when we saw the nearly full moon pop over the top of the Grapevine Mountains. We couldn’t resist stopping for a few photos.

Dantes View

On our last morning shoot at Death Valley, we were up early for the forty-five minute drive to Dantes View. After parking and gathering our photo gear, we made our way along a narrow ridge to the east of the overlook. We were are nearly 5500 feet above sea level, looking down into swirling Badwater Basin that was 282 feet below sea level. It was a chilly morning with a breeze blowing out of the west so warm jackets and gloves were required.

Across the valley are the Panamint Range of mountains. Telescope Peak is the tallest point in the park at over 11,300 feet. Dantes View comes from the Italian fellow, Dante Alighieri (1265-1321) who wrote the Divine Comedy, considered one of the greatest works of Italian literature. He described the circles of Hell, Purgatory, and Heaven in his epic poem. Legend has it that when a group of businessmen looking to capitalize on tourism in Death Valley looked for the best view, they were led to this peak. They immediately named it Dantes View. It stuck.

One of the rules of thumb for photographers is to take a look in the opposite direction the camera is pointed. Sometimes the photo is behind you!

After the sun rose higher and the light became too flat for good photos, we headed back to Furnace Creek for coffee and breakfast. On the way, we stopped to use the facilities. Here was another sign too funny to past up, at least for me, I’m allergic to bee and wasp stings!

Chuck, the driver, saw a turnoff for a short drive through Twenty Mule Team Canyon. Star Wars fans might recognize scenes from this 2.5 mile drive, some of the landscapes were filmed here. While the road was narrow, there was enough space to pull off for photos. Here’s a few more that I added to my collection.

Titus Canyon

The cloudy conditions modified the plans for our afternoon shoot. Brenda and Jed decided we should take the 27-mile drive on Titus Canyon Road. For those who follow my adventures, my Traveling Partner and I made that drive before the photo workshop began. Click here to read all about it. Although I’d been there only a few days before, I’m always game for another adventure into Titus Canyon, one of my favorites.

For fun, I shot this short video as we traveled the bumpy, rocky road to give you an idea how it felt riding in the back seat. Click on the link to view: IMG_8961.

Here are a few other photos I took during our drive that ended just before sunset.

We all had a fun five days of exploring and photographing Death Valley. For my Traveling Partner and I, it’s one of our favorite National Parks. Not only is there a lot of variety, it’s a vast park so the crowds are spread out. November is a great time to go, not too hot and the sun shines most days. For more information on Death Valley, click here.

Let me end with these words: Glory to Ukraine! The invasion of this beautiful and vibrant country we visited in 2019 weighs on our minds every single day. We have Ukrainian friends in Lviv, Kyiv, and Vinnitsya. We fear for their safety. Join me next week for a look at Ukraine as it was then. I’ll share insights on the people, culture, and why Ukraine is so special to us.

Until then, happy travels!



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