Death Valley 2018 - The Eve and Day Five, Baby it's Cold Outside!
One of the themes of the final two days of our trip to Death Valley was that it was cold for the two pre-dawn outings I took. I was able to talk Lisa into to joining me for a trip up to Dante's View on New Year's Eve at dark thirty only to find that it was uncomfortably cold with high winds and the peaks shrouded in a cloud. As we waited a little for it to get light enough to hike the ridge we sat in the jeep with the heater on getting buffeted by the wind. I was determined to get out and give myself an opportunity at sunrise and Lisa was determined to say warm so she chose to stay in the jeep with the heater running! When it was light enough for me to see, I took off down a trail that descended down to the south from the overlook parking lot. I found a good vantage point and set up the camera but the light was pretty dead except at the horizon where there was a gap between the clouds and the horizon. I waited just in case the conditions changed but though I took a few images the light just wasn't cooperating. It was fun to be out in the elements 5000' above the valley floor and watch the day begin and the ravens dance on the wind. It actually snowed a little too.
We drove to the Artist Palette later that afternoon and while Lisa hiked over to the viewpoint for the palette, I spied a beautiful scene looking out over the valley where the light was sending beams down over the far slopes. Unfortunately by the time I got the camera set up the light was gone. When I don't have a plan made from scouting a location ahead, I do find myself chasing light. Sometimes I can catch it but the odds decrease using large format film as it takes a good twenty minutes to get everything set-up, composed, focused and metered and that twenty minutes is flying. It was a beautiful afternoon exploring more of the park. Back at the RV while everyone else was in the casino celebrating New Year's we had our own little celebration appreciating all that the past year had brought to us. As had been the case for the past several years we ran out of steam well before midnight.
I was out the door at five or so on New Year's day to drive across the desert from our camp to set up for a sunrise shot of a scene I had been looking at twice a day as we drove past on our way to and from the RV. I was thinking it would set up nicely for a sunrise image and hoped the light would come as I thought and light up the beautiful palette of color in the mountain range and a beautiful foreground leading to them. It was very very cold and windy and I was a ways from the jeep so I just endured while I set up and then waited for the sun to rise. It did not disappoint as the blue hour, the sunrise and the warm beautiful light bathed the Funeral Mountains and the mesa below in the most wonderful way. I was very happy to make it back to the jeep after and turn the heater on to thaw out.
After breakfast we loaded the dogs up and drove to the Panamint Valley area to continue to get familiar with the park. We passed the mesquite dunes that were crawling with people and headed up and over into Panamint. It was a little quieter over there where we drove past some mud flats and the Panamint dunes in the distance. Needing to gas up the jeep we headed into Panamint Springs which amounted to a gas station, a cafe with a little store, some camping and a lodge. We wanted to drive back while doing somewhat of a loop so headed up Wildrose canyon where we started to see signs that gave us doubts as to whether the road was open all the way so we just found a cool little oasis and stopped to have some lunch. After lunch we turned around and headed back the way we came and drove to Badwater arriving after the sun had set.
Badwater still had a pretty full parking lot but we found a spot and hiked out to the flats for the blue hour light. Badwater is another unique landscape and I was glad to see it in such beautiful light. Again there were no clouds in the sky so I focused my composition on the foreground out to the horizon with the 4 x 5 and came away with a beautiful blue hour image.
This was our last day for this trip and we look forward to returning to discover more of this magical place and enjoy those many moments of silence and magic.
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Nice job, Jim…stunning landscapes and textures – of land & light.