Saturday, March 28, 2015

Warrior Tree

I thought I knew what a good dark sky was, but I had no idea just how good it could be until I went to Death Valley.  We stayed out at the Mesquite Flat Dunes past sunset to watch the sky turn dark and fill with stars.  We had no idea just how many stars we would see!  We have some pretty dark skies in northeast Minnesota, but Death Valley's night sky blows ours away.  The stars were so bright we could actually see enough to walk around without the aid of a headlamp.  We found this cool mesquite tree right near the trailhead for the dunes.  It was the perfect foreground for photographing some stars.  We spent at least an hour at the base of this tree photographing it and enjoying the beautiful sky above.  I sure wish we would have had more than one night to spend in Death Valley.  I can't wait to go back and photograph more of the night sky in this amazing park!

Friday, March 27, 2015

Sunrise at Zabriskie Point

Probably the biggest surprise of our trip was being able to photograph Zabriskie Point at sunrise.  We had figured that we would have to save this location for a future trip. We had it on good authority that the park service had completely closed the area while they made repairs to the walkway.  Indeed, Zabriskie Point had been completely closed down.  However, they had finished the work well ahead of schedule and the point had re-opened more than a month earlier than they had planned!  This changed our itinerary immediately and we planned on doing sunrise the next day at the the point.  We sure are glad it was open because we had an AMAZING sunrise!  The view shown in this photo is actually looking sort of west-southwest, the opposite direction from which the sun was rising.  It was one of those mornings, though, where the clouds all throughout the sky glowed with this rich color from the rising sun.  And we sure had some beautiful clouds that morning!

Death Valley Dawn

I have often heard that desert sunrises and sunsets can be some of the best in the world.  Coming from the shoreline of Lake Superior, I find Superior sunrises and sunsets hard to beat.  That being said, there were a few times on our trip that gave Superior a run for its money.  Such as this beautiful sunrise from Death Valley National Park.  The stillness of the desert air was unbelievable and the silence was deafening.  It was a well-appreciated morning in the desert that I will never forget!

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Evening at the dunes - Death Valley

After photographing the Mesquite Flat Dunes from the side of the highway a few miles away, we continued on to the dunes themselves to explore and photograph them at sunset.  When we arrived at the dunes the wind was blowing quite strongly and was whipping sand everywhere.  We were wearing shorts and the blowing sand stung as it hit our legs.  Still, it was a very beautiful evening and we really enjoyed our time at the dunes.  Another inconvenience is that there were people everywhere, making it hard to find a composition without any people in the background.  As such, there are some people in the distance in this photo, but they do help lend a sense of scale to the scene.  

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Mesquite Flat Dunes - Death Valley

One of the locations in Death Valley that I was hoping to see and photograph was the Mesquite Flat Dunes.  I had seen enough photos of the dunes that I knew it was an area I wanted to see for myself.  We decided to try sunset at the dunes which probably wasn't the best idea because it was pretty windy and there were a ton of people there.  Sunrise was out, however, as we were planning on Zabriskie Point for that.  

As we were driving towards the dunes from the Furnace Creek Campground, there were beautiful yellow flowers all along both sides of the highway.  The spring bloom was just beginning.  Soon the dunes became visible down in the valley even though we were still several miles away.  Our first glimpse of the dunes was like something from a dream.  The wind and early evening light made the dunes look irresistible. We simply had to pull over so I could make this image.  This was taken from the side of the highway 3 or 4 miles away from the dunes using my Tamron 150-600 lens zoomed all the way out to 600mm.  

Monday, March 23, 2015

Horned Lizard - Death Valley

Jessica spotted this cute little horned lizard as we were walking down the trail to Dante's View in Death Valley National Park.  She really has an eye for spotting things.  I don't think I would have noticed this little guy if it weren't for her.  In fact, I think I might have even walked right by it once before she noticed it.  He sure was a cute little guy! We watched him for a few minutes and I made several images of him with my Tamron 150-600 lens.  This image was probably my favorite because you can see his whole body as he peers over the top of the rock.  It sure was a fun thing to see at our very first stop in Death Valley!

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Dante's View - Death Valley

For the past week we've been in California, visiting some new places and enjoying some warm weather!  Actually, warm is a bit of an understatement as it was HOT in Death Valley.  I know, it's Death Valley... it's supposed to be hot!  But, it was a bit warmer than usual for mid-March.  We read that the average temperature this time of year is in the mid 80's, but during our stay the temperature actually hit 100 degrees.  Just a week before we left on this trip we still had temperatures that were below zero in northern Minnesota.  It was quite a shock to go from below zero to 100 degrees!  Everybody says "Well, it's a dry heat."  Yeah, that's true, but it is still 100 degrees.  Anyway, we did enjoy the heat and the sun, even though it made falling asleep in our tent a little difficult.  

Our first impression of Death Valley was one of jaw-dropping beauty.  Before we actually got down to the valley floor we took a side trip to Dante's View, which provided an AMAZING view of the valley floor and the mountains on both sides.  We took a little hike down to a view point, which is where I made this photo.  The temperature here wasn't too bad, it was in the mid 70's.  Hard to believe there is almost a 30 degree difference between where we were standing to make this photo and the valley floor below!