Tuesday, December 27, 2011

December Trip West - Day 9 - Death Valley


Spend the night in Beatty Nevada, the gateway to Death Valley.  Since sunrise is like 6:40 and I wanted to give myself 2 hrs to get to Badwater it meant I was going to rise really early and I almost didn't hear the alarm.  I wear hearing aids and have a bluetooth device that links my iPhone to my hearing aids. When they are linked whatever sound the iPhone makes it gets rerouted to my hearing aids.  I'd forgotten to unlink the two before going to bed so when the alarm on the iPhone went off it squawked once on the iPhone speaker then switched over to my aids, which I don't sleep with.  Thankfully I heard that one squawk.

Anyway I was up, got Thule in the car, stopped for a "free" coffee and hit the road.  We got to Badwater well before sunrise.  There was already one photographer parked in the parking lot and out on the basin.  I took my brothers advice and drove around the bend and walked out about 3.4 mile from there.  I must admit I wasn't sure what I was going to be seeing out there.  I've seen different formations in Death Valley but wasn't sure what this one was, all I know was my brother said this was a sunrise you must do.


Well Badwater is Bad, I mean BAD.  I've seen some amazing things on this trip and this ranks right up there with the best.  It's all salt formations out there.  I tasted it and you could season your food with it.  If you were to stop at Badwater and walk out as far as most people walk you would have no idea what Badwater was all about.  You have to walk way out beyond where most people go, to where the photographers go, to really see it's grandeur.


After a couple of hours I went back to the car and Thule and we both had breakfast.  It was time for the second adventure of the day.

Devils Golf Course

Ever since seeing the rocks at Racetrack I've wanted to go see these marvels but I'd always heard warnings that the road out there eats tires, lots of flats.  The recommendation is 4x4, high clearance and all terrain tires.  Of the three all terrain tires are the most important.  So since I wanted to go to the Racetrack and my Forester had all seasons on them I needed all terrains and get all terrains I did.  I knew they would be useful beyond the Racetrack but it was the Racetrack that was the real reason for getting them.

I was pretty paranoid when I got on the 27 mile road, driving maybe 10 mph.  A number of people were passing me by but I was determined to make it without getting a flat.  After about 2 1/2 hours I finally arrived with about an hour left before sunset.  I had to remember sunset has a different meaning in mountainous areas.  Sunset is when the sun goes behind the mountain.  There were a number of people out on the playa where the rocks are to be found, about .6 miles from the parking area.  I started on my little trek to join them.

Tea Kettle Junction
What you see is mind boggling how these sometimes large rocks move from this one hill out on to the playa then move in all sorts of different directions.  Scientists only guess how they move which I thought was strange.  I'd think they would have figured it out by now.  One of the strange things is you see alot of trails but the rock that made them is missing.  I guess people have been removing them for some strange reason.  I can only imagine what this playa looked like before all of the rocks were removed by ignorant people.

I had been planning all along to spend the night out at Racetrack and make a star trail image.  While out there shooting I was looking for places that I'd want to use as a foreground.  When I found that location I marked it as a waypoint on my GPS then headed back to the car to feed Thule. 

Once it got dark and all of the others were gone I went back to my spot and set up my night shot.  I was going to do some light painting on the tracks but that turned out to be harder than I though so I played around making images of different light patterns.  My thought was the ground would be virtually black during the star trail shot and I could use whatever foreground light painting I wanted. 

I finished up the light painting then setup for the star trail.  I was going to make consecutive 15 minute images until the battery ran out.  The exposure was 15 min at f4 and ISO 400.  All was setup and I got the process going.  As I was walking back to my car I noticed I could see my breath.  I hadn't put a heating pad around the lens and decided I needed to do that so went back.  It's a good thing I went back since my ISO was still at 6400.  I do 30 sec exposures at ISO 6400 to setup the composition then change all the numbers when making the final exposures.  Well I'd forgotten to set the ISO to 400.  While I was at it I also decided to try my experiment of putting a heating pad on the battery as well.  It's about 7:00pm by now and the temp is about 32 so back to the car I went.


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