Desert Wanderings

Well, I left you with a cliff hanger last time, so I figured I should share my post-thanksgiving view with you before I depart for the icy Mt. Whitney this weekend. I have had a fascination with using long telephoto lenses for providing a unique viewpoint since taking my Bristlecone image titled “The Graveyard“, though haven’t found many opportunities to use the technique. So when I figured out where and how I could get such an image of the Death Valley dunes I knew I had to try. I suspected this image would work best at dawn, but I had a practice run at sunset, which already got me fired up. The following morning I awoke to find one of the most promising sunrise skies I’ve seen in quite a while. With such a sky I thought I shouldn’t let it go to “waste”, and headed down to the dunes proper to find a wide angle composition. After five minutes hike into the sand I realized my mistake: not only would I not find a pristine expanse of sand to photograph (there were footsteps everywhere, as usual), but that fantastic sky would provide the best light on the dunes themselves that I could hope for by reflecting the orange and pink light. I hustled back to my distant perch, and took in the sandbox from afar as the clouds began to glow under the sunrise light.


“The Sandbox” ~ Death Valley NP
The Tech: Canon 5D2, 500mm + 1.4xtc, tripod
Exposure: iso 100, f/14, 5 sec

I spent the rest of the morning exploring remote slot canyons, and came across this marble sculpture of a dry fall that caught my eye. Rock hopping up the canyons and slipping down the falls brought back good memories of the annual trips I used to make here with my parents. They were supposed to be here, but car troubles kept them at home, along with my thanksgiving dinner.. oh well, the sand, I mean light, made up for it!


“Marble Sculpture” ~ Death Valley NP
The Tech: Canon 5D2, 16-35mm mkII, tripod
Exposure: iso 100, f/18, 8 sec

Being restless, I decided to head to the Alabama Hills in the hopes of photographing some beautiful round boulders I had discovered earlier in the year. As I drove into the hills I was struck by an astounding display of unsuspected fall color. I had never been to this area at this time of year – and hadn’t seen pictures or reports of the fall color there either. I suppose most photographers abandon the concept of fall once the aspens have passed their prime halfway through October. And then don’t return to the East side until the winter magic sets in. As the sun set behind the Sierra Crest, the last backlight it cast on the rabbitbrush and other desert plants brought them to life like I’ve never seen before. What a marvelous and colorful plant community! Be sure to view the larger version on my website!


“Flames of Fall” ~ Alabama Hills, CA
The Tech: Canon 5D2, 100-400mm, tripod
Exposure: iso 100, f/16, 1/30th sec
Processing: 3 image (vertical) stitch. I had to clone out two small powerline poles. Maybe I should have cut them down instead.. perhaps if there was just a bit more Edward Abbey in me.

Thanks for all the kind words on my Zion trip, it was a most incredible place.. one I hope to return to more frequently. Fortunately it’s not all that far from California!

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