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Zion National Park
We had a great photographic experience in Death Valley during the winter months. The first set of photos are of the Sand Dunes near Stovepipe Wells. The second set of photos are near "Bad Water", this is the lowest point in North America at 282 feet below sea level. The third set of photos are of "Dante's View" at 5475 feet above sea level where you can see the vastness of Death Valley. Some of these photos were recently featured in a fall issue of "Outdoor & Nature Photography" Toward the bottom of the page you'll see a couple of photos of Yosemite in winter, I like warm weather myself, but visiting Yosemite was a wonderful change. An afternoon photo of a tree in "Old Town" San Diego,and a photo of the a set of trees in Sequoia National Park. Sand Dunes
VERY IMPORTANT! Death Valley can get extremely hot in the summer months. If you decide to visit bring plenty of liquids.
Protection from the suns rays are a must!
Some of the sand dunes can be hundreds of feet high, late afternoon is the best time to photograph them. Just before sunset the dunes start changing colors with the sun descending on the horizon, the white dunes turn from white to light brown, and then redish brown. These photos were done without filters. Just the natural light from the sunset gave us these wonderful reds, and browns.
The Sand Dunes at Stovepipe Wells are located in the middle of Death Valley. You can enter Death Valley take the Baker turn-off from Highway 15, and drive north aproximately 45 minutes into the park. Once you're in the park most of the best photo opportunities are with 30 minutes to an hour from of each other. You'll have to do some driving, and it's hard to see everything that might be of interest in one day, so I suggest spending at least 2 days in the valley. You can camp out, or stay at one of the hotels within the park
This photo of the top of this dune was photographed in the early afternoon, and the following photo was done only a few minutes later when the sun was just starting to descend on the horizon. The redish brown just started to cover the dunes. The color darkens as the sun continues to descend, turning to a golden brown at sunset. The top photos were take almost as the sun disappeared below the horizon.
As you can see you can photograph over a period of time and get verying compositions. Patience is one gift that a photographer needs to possess. To get the variety of photographs you see you'll have to spend some time atop the dunes. But I think you agree these photos were well worth the wait.
This last photo shows you the varieties of light that can be captured in one photograph. The front of the dune is almost white, yet toward the back of the photograph you can see yellows, light browns, and even a little redish brown. Bring allot of film, and don't be afraid to experiment with exposure, or filters. You may come away with a photo masterpiece.
Badwater is the lowest point in the northern hemisphere at 282 feet below sea level. These photos were taking just after sunrise. Yes, you'll have to get up early to really get the flavor of Death Valley. If you haven't learned already, photography is a early morning and late afternoon experience. That's if you want the best of what the sun rays have to offer.
The reflection of the water gave us a nice composition. The rocks in the middle of the water look almost as if they are pillars piercing through the water of a lake. Just beyond the foreground you can see the salt flats in back of this photo. After taking a few photographs you'll want to venture out to the salt flats. The textures of the ground will amaze you. You can pick up a souvenior from you journey also. The salt is crystalized right below your feet. Grab a chunk and take a taste, it really is salt. I wouldn't suggest using it on your dinner table though, it needs a little processing.
Just walking out onto the salt flats can be an experience. I broke off a piece, and brought it home for my youngest son, he couldn't get over the salt taste from this crystalized chunk of white rock I handed him. He would show it off to anyone who would look at what his Dad had discovered. The photo was taken with an enhancing filter, you can see the purple color throughout the photograph.
The valley floor below stretches a 100 miles, to enjoy this National Park plan on staying a day or two. The sites are miles apart and worth taking the time to view. Most accommodations are centrally located. Pick a couple of sites early in the day then take your time and really enjoy the surroundings. A friend of mine posed for the profile shot, I think this was his homeless in Death Valley impression.
Each end of the valley is unique, a diversity in topography to say the least. Mountains reaching 5500' surrounding the valley floor with Badwater's low of 282' below sea level. Salt flats, mud flats, sand dunes, and desert vegetation. You'll be surprised at what lies here.
My first trip to Death Valley was more than I could imagine. I try to visit the valley a couple times each year to photograph the topography. Each time I find something new. Sometimes realizing I could have gotten so much more out of what I was photographing. I've thought of a bunch of things I could have done at the Sand Dunes. More reasons to revist.
Don't let the name Death Valley fool you, the valley is quite habitable. Though winter is still the best time to visit. In the summer make sure you have air conditioning, and carry plenty of water. If you decide to do any hiking, make them short, and sweet. The tempatures can rise to 130 degrees on the valley floor.
Zabriskie Point is a good late afternoon photo shoot. Small rolling hills through a dried mountain rain runoff. Chocolate cream colors, with purple mountains majesty in the background. Just after a winter rain you can get snow capped peaks to enhance you photo.
I know what you must be thinking ... "What a wonderful sunset shot" ... Sorry, mid-afternoon with the sun over head. Centerweighted metering with the light coming through the tree as the light reading. No filters, no gimmics, just natural light. Great effect isn't it ?
I would love to try a few filters to change the mood.
Sequoia & Kings Canyon
Winter in Yosemite can be one of the most beautiful times to visit this park ... Entering & Exiting the park can take some time, but well worth the effort. This creek is near "Bridle Vail Falls" near the west entrance. I did a classic loss of balance, and roll through the snow after I took the photo. My wife thought I was showing off. Some how I kept my camera equipment safe. That's what any good photographer would do.
Yosemite falls are in the background, what I would call a generic photograph of Yosemite, except this was photographed in winter. It was very cold, and I like warmer climates. These photos took a real effort on my part. I'd much rather be in a t-shirt on my photo ventures.
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While on a hike through Sequoia I took this photo. I didn't use a great deal of effort. A photo tip, center-weighted metering on the branches of the tree will give you this photograph. Center-weighted metering with the sun in the viewfinder will give you the "San Diego Tree" effect.