The Death Valley Photography Workshop of 2015 is ‘in the can.’ We had a great time and were treated to some very special weather, something photographers always seek and are thrilled when it happens. And, unlike vacationers, very special weather is not clear skies and balmy temperatures. We started the workshop with rain and snow above 5000’. It was beautiful and the desert smelled so good. Combined with the great weather was an eager, enthusiastic and motivated group. We had a great time and you can’t ask for more than that.
I want to share a few highlights of the workshop with you.
Day 1 – Sunday
The storm Sunday night and into Monday created exciting skies. We drove up to Ubehebe Crater Sunday afternoon for ‘sunset,’ although the sun was hidden behind the clouds. My favorite photograph is an abstract of the crater bottom that was rendered best in black and white.
Day 2 – Monday Morning
Monday we had an early start to drive down to West Side Road at the north end of what is considered the Badwater area. The road crosses a small area where the salt pan is particularly dramatic. And the lingering storm added to a memorable morning.
Again, black and white created the best rendering of the moment.
After West Side Road, we headed over to Artist’s Palette. The cloud cover provided a unique opportunity to photograph this explosion of color in rare light. The effect was stunning.
Behind us, something even more amazing was happening up on Telescope Peak.
Looking at this incredible display I felt I was transported to a high, dramatic alpine world and not the hottest, driest desert in North America.
Day 2 – Monday Afternoon
To wrap up Day 2 we ventured out on Cottonball Playa. The rain had created puddles and streams on the salt. The clouds lingered, adding to the anticipation. And we were not disappointed.
Day 3 – Tuesday
Tuesday turned into an exciting adventure. The plan was to do sunrise at Rhyolite, the ghost town east of Death Valley. But the best laid plans can be thwarted by bitter cold and a howling wind. But the plan had always been to follow up Rhyolite with a trek down Titus Canyon and that was an exceptional experience.
Here’s an example of the start of the adventure, the road between White Pass and Red Pass. What extraordinary country. Can you see the road snaking through the peaks? It is rare and special and so exciting to experience.
After the thrill of traversing the two passes the road drops down into Titus Canyon itself and eventually reaches the narrows. Every mile of this remarkable trip has something to marvel at.
After nearly seven fulfilling hours on the Titus Canyon road we were treated to this wonderful light on the dunes that we captured from the side of the road – almost too easy.
Day 4 – Wednesday
The workshop wrapped up on Wednesday. We went back to the dunes but this time we walked out on them in time to greet the sun.
Oh, and it smelled so good out there with the recent rains.
The final shoot was in Mosaic Canyon, a fantastic slot canyon of fanciful textures and patterns. But what caught my eye was this section of the wall that has obviously experienced unimaginable forces.
That marked the end of the workshop. But, in Death Valley, it’s my custom to spend one more day to venture out on my own. The clouds had returned during the day so I headed out to Hell’s Gate just in case a colorful sunset materialized. I’ve shot from Hell’s Gate many times and never gotten anything. This time was different.
The only thing that disappoints me about this sunset is I wish it would have happened before everyone went home.
Thursday morning I got off to another early start to shoot sunrise in 20 Mule Team Canyon. Friends had recommended it to me so I was eager to give it a try. Again, I was not disappointed.
20 Mule Team Canyon is just up the road from Zabriskie Point, my favorite place to photograph in Death Valley. But Zabriskie Point is closed for a major upgrade so this provided the perfect opportunity to explore its neighbor. The geological formation is the same at both locations but the major difference of 20 Mule Team Canyon is you can walk through the badlands rather than observing them from a distance.
Death Valley always comes through but this year was extra special. With great weather, fantastic light and good friends this will be a workshop that I’ll be talking about for years to come.