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Death Valley 2018 – Prologue and Day One

Death Valley 2018 - Prologue and Day One

Please enjoy the video above which documents the beginning of our trip to Death Valley at the end of 2018. The transcript of the video follows and if you would like to view high res images click here.

Neither of us have ever been to Death Valley before and from a photographer's perspective I knew the park offered many unique landscapes, dramatic light and vast expanses so we were both excited to finally have this opportunity.

The government shutdown was days old as we headed out on December 27th. The immediate impact for us was that our reservation in the furnace creek campground was cancelled. So we looked around around and found an RV park that was about the same cost just outside Death Valley Junction over the border in Nevada.

I had my list of sites to visit. Knowing that most locations were square miles in size and there would be a lot of exploring that was on a much larger scale than our trip to Zion at the end of October.

We were unsure of what to expect with holiday crowds, the shut down and no familiarity with the park but we were happy to be on the road and in the desert enjoying the views on our drive. As we neared our destination at the campground, we looked forward to the days to come.

The campground was spacious and had great views and we were glad to be hooked up as it was below freezing at night and keeping warm was much easier using somebody else's power. So after setting up the RV it was time to kick back and enjoy the dramatic sky as our day drew to a close.

The next day as we drove towards Furnace Creek, the overflowing parking lot at Zabriskie point was an indication of what these locations would be like. It was clear by the end of our first day that the known points of interest, the iconic sites, were magnets to the very large crowds. Our intention was to be where everyone else was not so we headed to the Salt Flats, parked on the side of the road and started to hike west looking for possible subjects to photograph later in the trip.

The mountains and expansive sky were familiar but the surface beneath our feet definitely was not. The salt infused soil was more like hard ice without being cold and slippery.

"We did some exploring, found some possibilities for later or early tomorrow morning and now we're gonna head back to the jeep, visit the sleeping dogs, have some lunch and go explore some more."

In the afternoon we decided to explore the Badwater highway and after leaving a very very crowded Badwater site we turned around and took the access road up to the natural arch, slung our packs and started hiking up the canyon.

As we hiked I became increasingly aware of others being busy taking pictures with their phones usually posing with friends or family. No surprise really but I was noticing most were so preoccupied with this that they weren't looking around and enjoying where they were. At one point I paused to give some young folks time to finish taking a phone picture of the view and happened to see the image on their phone that had an effect applied as it was not anywhere close to the actual scene. This person then said "I'm gonna rock Instagram with this one!"  This seems to be what's driving so many to visit our national parks. I witnessed the same thing in Zion.

There is so much more to see and feel when we open our eyes and our hearts, slow down and pause to take in the beauty and feel the appreciation well up. For me photography comes after this feeling.

I was kind of hoping to expose an image or two this first day but just didn't see anything until on her way back down. The Sun was lighting up the left side of the arch and I found an unusual composition and used the GFX to do an exposure blend. (I don't typically approach photography with these methods and this was a fun play at it. There are many that do and get beautiful though sometimes unrealistic results such as this photo, and that's all fine. I just prefer to get as much as I can right in the camera and on film and do minimal processing after.)

The second was a view of the valley below with the last light warming the slope in the foreground. I didn't think much of this one initially but it has grown on me and I love the last glow combined with the blue light on the salt flats below.

Stay tuned for Day Two and please if you haven't already subscribed to my YouTube channel, do so as it will help bring the channel to a larger audience.

Thank you so much!

3 thoughts on “Death Valley 2018 – Prologue and Day One”

    • My journey into Death Valley was in May many years ago and was very different. As always, your narrative is so much fun. Thank you for sharing the experience.

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