At the end of January I participated in a photography workshop in Death Valley National Park. The workshop, run by the Out of Chicago group and called the Out of Death Valley workshop involved about 100 participants and 16 to 18 professional photographer instructors. Participants were divided into groups of 8 to 10, and each morning and afternoon went out with different instructors. The workshop was a great experience and helped me look at Death Valley in slightly different ways than I had before.
A number of the instructors that our group was paired up with were more into “small scene” photography as opposed to grand vistas. Over the last year or so, I have been gravitating more toward small scenes, even if at times I wasn’t fully aware of it. This workshop came at a perfect time, I feel, on my photographic journey.
The first morning we were shooting the octagonal salt formations at Badwater Basin. While it was fun and I experimented with a lot of stuff, when I got back and looked at my images on the computer, there weren’t any that particularly turned my crank. On the way out, though, I caught this cute little tree that kind of looks like a Bonsai.
In the evening we photographed mud cracks. They were kind of mesmerizing, looking at patterns and seeing shapes in them. They were kind of like a huge Rorschach test. Can you see the elephant head in this one? Or maybe a lobster? Or maybe … ?
The image below was taken just after sunset at the Mesquite Sand Dunes. It was shot from some distance, looking down on the dunes using a telephoto lens. By isolating a small section of the dunes you get some interesting patterns with the dunes catching some of the pink reflections from the sky. The shrub provides a bit of an anchor point. To me, the dunes look like peaks of whipped cream or perhaps a meringue.
Believe it or not, there is water in Death Valley. We were very fortunate to enjoy a beautiful sunrise at Salt Creek, as the following photos will show.
Zabriskie Point is a popular spot with photographers. Rather than doing the traditional shots of Manly Beacon (which I have photographed before), I spent my time photographing the interesting rock formations and amazing colors.
The inclusion of people in the shots gives a sense of scale to these formations, such as with the photographer in the first image below and the couple in the second image.
This particular valley almost looks like it has a river flowing through it.
Just when we thought that sunset was going to be somewhat ho-hum, the sky burst into beautiful “flames”.
Early morning on our final day found us at Dantes View. If you are willing to risk substantially colder temperatures and blustery winds, this outlook provides an incredible view over Badwater Basin and the Panamint Mountains. Sunrise can be quite spectacular.
In this image, I love the layers and the early morning colors.
In the next two images, I really liked how the first rays of sunlight lit up the ridgelines of the hills.
One might think that the photo below shows ocean waves washing up on a beach. The white is actually salt deposits in Badwater Basin. I liked how Badwater Road on the right mimics the curves of the salt deposits.
This was my third visit to Death Valley. I have to say that, more so than my previous trips, this workshop really opened my eyes to the vast range of photographic opportunities in this National Park.