Wednesday, December 28, 2011

December Trip West - Day 10 - Death Valley

Yesterday ran in to today.  I ended up sleeping in the car, in the drivers seat of the car.  The plan was to go back and get the camera around midnight then take it back out for moonrise.  Well when it came time to get the camera I was just to cold plus I'd been sleeping anyway.  So I decided to wait till moonrise and just replace the battery for the sunrise sequence.  I almost didn't go change the battery cause I was just to cold, temp was 26.  26 isn't that cold if you're dresses for it which I wasn't and I was to cold to get dresses for it.  The one thing I did know is a mile and a half walk would warm be a little so around 3am I headed out.

Being the brave soul I try to be I opened the car door and shook off the cold and began my walk.  On the way out I was wondering how long it would take them to find my frozen body on the playa, did I say I was cold.  Again I followed my GPS right to my camera, I never would have found it without that.  I quickly switched batteries, change the exposure to 30 sec, f4, ISO 6400 and headed back to the car.

It was well before sunrise when another photographer arrived.  I'd seen him coming and was rather surprised to see someone that early.  He got there a good hr before he could start shooting and the road takes an hour or more to drive.  At any rate once I got back to the car I ran it for about 15 minutes to warm the inside a little, tilted back the front seat and dozed off again.

Before I knew it it was time to head back out on the playa for the last time.  I got out to my camera and finally had the opportunity to check the star trails.  Remember I said I frequently run into problems.  Well when I put one of the heating pads on I moved the camera.  The composition I'd setup moved and cut in half of my foreground rock.  Looks like the star trails came out really cool but the rock was screwed up.  Oh well better luck next time.  I think the Mesa Arch star trail turned out though.

I stayed an extra hour or so shooting star bursts.  I was able to get 5, I think, star burst compositions thanks to the ragged mountain the sun was rising above.  At the other end of the playa is a monolith called the Grandstand that I had to walk around on my way out.

Also on my way out, it's actually at the start of the dirt road to Racetrack is the Ubehebe Crater.  I did stop and have a look.  It's a half mile across and 500ft deep.  There's a trail that leads to the bottom, a steep trail.  I went down the trail a ways then was reminded of the thought that once you go down you must come back up.  I decided to swallow my pride and make a hasty u-turn, besides I didn't see anyone else down there either.  The crater was a cool stop.  I'd have liked to spend more time but I had to get to the sand dunes, tonight's sunset location.

We pulled into Stovepipe Wells and paid for a night of camping before heading over to the dunes.  The plan was to shoot the dunes at sunset tonight and sunrise tomorrow.  It was about 3:00 PM, sun sets around 5:00 so it was time to head over to them.  Ralph told me how to get around the public entrance and increase my chance of finding dunes with no footprints.

It was about a mile walk into the dunes, an easy walk.  I got there and started looking around for inspiration.  I tried a few things but nothing really clicked.  A few ideas were spoiled with foot prints.  Maybe I could isolate something with my longer lens so tried that.  I made a few images that have some potential but in the end I found the dunes uninspiring.  That coupled with my plans to spend 3 days at White Sands resulted in a change of plans.  Instead of staying in Death Valley tonight I drove to Lone Pine in the shadow of the Sierra Nevada Mountains.  Tomorrow I'll be shooting sunrise in the Alabama Hills.

After shooting the Alabama Hills I'll be heading to southern California to be with my brothers and their families for Christmas.  On Friday Carolyn will be flying in and I'll finally be able to see her again.  Life is Good.  On Monday December 26 I will leave California and head toward New Mexico where the photography part of the trip will continue.


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