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A visit to Death Valley

A few weeks ago my buddies Chris Frailey, Rick Young and myself, took a quickie trip to Death Valley. We hit some of the most popular spots, like Race Track Playa, the salt flats, Devil’s Golf Course, etc. Along the way I took some photos…some of them I take a lot of time to edit and process (see here), but sometimes I’m just taking snapshots that I quickly edit using presets in Lightroom.

The day started off foggy and overcast from Phoenix through west of Las Vegas, you can see that in a few of the first photos. I’ll add some notes along the way!

Hope you enjoy.

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The way the mountains just kinda rose right up from the ground, so near to the highway, was mind-boggling to me.

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Devil’s Golf Course

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Artists’ Palette

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On the way to Race Track

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An awesome photographer we met out there

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Rick brought fire and steel wool to have a bit of fun after the sun went down.

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Timelapsing

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Frailey

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Rick

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I was mesmerized by the cracked playa.

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That rock formation is known as The Grandstand. Sits in the middle of the dry lake bed. Kinda crazy.

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Random people showed up with this alien statue…

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We got buzzed twice by this jet. On the way back, it was literally only a few hundred feet off the ground and not very far from us. This was taken with a 135mm, so not that much of a zoom.

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Ubehebe Crater

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A selfie

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Early morning at Devil’s Golf Course

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Yes, a weather station!

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There is a little wide “dash” less than halfway up the cliff face…that’s sea level.

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The salt flats look a lot like ice…in fact it almost felt like ice except for the fact you didn’t slide.

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A sliding rock out on Race Track Playa

Impact
(please click to view on black // canon 5d mark iii, rokinon 14mm f/2.8, iso 50, 1/6th, f/16 // buy print)

The hard part about doing brief, 2-3 day trips to awesome places, is wishing you had more time. When we arrived at Race Track Playa, it was just over an hour until sunset. In reality, it would have been nice to be there many, many hours earlier to scout spots and looks for the perfect compositions.

Race Track Playa is huge. You start walking from the car, you go 15-20 minutes, and you realize you’ve barely crossed 1/4 of the lake. And the good stuff is waaaay in the distance. The size of the lake bed is deceiving.

I set up a timelapse to run for sunset, which makes it kind of hard to wander away and shoot other things. You really want to make sure that timelapse is going well. Still, I ended up making my way to this giant-ish rock sitting out on the damp part of the playa. I LOVED this spot. The rock itself was bigger than most I saw out there, and the trail behind it almost made it appear to be the crash site of a meteor. Granted, a very soft landing!

The sunset wasn’t spectacular, so I opted for black and white here. I don’t see many monochrome shots from Race Track, but I think this kind of alien landscape really shines when it’s devoid of color.

A short timelapse from Death Valley

This past weekend I was joined by two buddies on a whirlwind trip to Death Valley. We left on Friday morning at 4am and returned Sunday evening back to Phoenix. We essentially had from just before sunset on Friday until Sunday morning to take pictures.

I would have loved to have 10 days there, to capture all kinds of angles and spots, but I did what I could with the time I had! As it is, these clips were taken at Race Track Playa (and the nearby campground), the salt flats near Badwater Basin and also Devil’s Golf Course.

This was also a practice run with some new gadgets I have. Namely an eMotimo TB3 Black and a Stage Zero system from Dynamic Perception. I have also been practicing with the Promote Control more, because while it’s many times a pain in the butt to get to work right, the smoothness of the ramping is impressive.

I encountered lots of issues on this trip…namely realizing with the old firmware I had, the Promote Control just couldn’t get me what I wanted with shorter intervals, like 5 seconds. I just upgraded to the 3.00 firmware this week and NOW I see that I can kind of get what I want. So I’m anxious to practice with it again.

I also learned that I have really trashed my Rokinon 14mm more than I ever thought and have some ugly scratches that really give me weird light artifacts at f/10+. Plus spots. So that lens is toast I guess.

But mostly I had a lot of fun. I enjoyed the rail a lot and the results I got with it. Can’t wait to use it more. The eMotimo is a lot of fun for big panning shots.

I really want to do a long project now of timelapsing for a year or more of a certain subject, like Arizona landscapes, etc., and put that together into a nice long film. A separate beast from my summer storm series.

Hope you enjoy this very brief taste of Death Valley.

A salty sunset from Death Valley

A salty sunset
(click to view on black // canon 5d mark iii, canon 17-40mm f/4 l, 17mm, f/16, iso 100, 1.6 sec (blend) // buy print)

I’d been dying to go to Death Valley for awhile now. And when I finally got the chance, it was more amazing than I thought it would be. I only wish I had more time to explore. On our trip I kept comparing this place to an amusement park. You’d drive along and there were salt flats. Further the salt flats were taller and jagged, almost like frozen waves. And then there were dunes. And then rocks that slide. And a giant volcanic crater. And Star Wars had parts filmed there.

I mean…it was endless. And we only had two days. So we did what we could.

And by we, I mean my buddy Rick Young and Chris Frailey. Super thankful to have these guys along, we had an awesome time!

The above photo was taken somewhat near Badwater Basin. We have a photographer named Rick to thank for leading us to this spot. We met him the night before at Race Track Playa and he was such an amazing guy…he gave us advice on the cold, where to shoot and then he pointed us in the right direction for the salt flats. We’d have frozen our buns off that first night if he hadn’t warned us ahead of time. And we STILL were friggin’ cold!

We got lucky to have a beautiful sunset for the salt flats, despite my buddy Chris Frailey’s worry that it would be a bust like the night before. These flats were pretty crazy…you honestly feel like you are walking on a frozen landscape, but it’s just crispy salty earth. The patterns they form are incredible and amazing.

I shot a bunch of timelapse sequences during this trip, so I’ll have a short movie out hopefully soon.