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Ghaag

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Death Valley Question
« on: January 23, 2019, 02:11:03 pm »

I would like to make a trip to Death Valley either in 2019 or early 2020. I have never been before and wanted to see If I could get some insight from those of you who have been there before. My primary question is would you make this first trip on your own or would you look to go as a part of a workshop group on your first trip?
Thanks,
Greg


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langier

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Re: Death Valley Question
« Reply #1 on: January 23, 2019, 04:23:40 pm »

When I was in high school years, I went with a college workshop the first few times since they offered food, a place for the sleeping bag, and 4wd access, but since then, I've traveled much of Death Valley on my own or with friends (for back-up vehicles venturing off the beaten path!). Since I liked back-country travel back then, didn't have the skills or the vehicle, it was a good choice.

Do your research, but stick to the paved/patrolled roads!

Most of the major sights that most like to photograph in Death Valley are along the major roads and with a few short graded roads to such features as Mustard Canyon, Titus Canyon, etc.

Some of the canyons, especially in the Panamint Range, sometimes The Racetrack, require high-clearance vehicles at the very least, and good preparation and sometimes a rugged 4wd with the skills to operate it. But most of the highlights are fairly accessible.

Your best time for the light is at the start and end of the days and during the rest of the day, you can scout, visit the museum, Castle, etc. and rest.

Most people avoid the summers, sometime around Memorial Day through Labor Day unless they are there to experience a 50į C. temp, otherwise the heat can get you!

Traveling blindly with just GPS can be an issue and a few people ended up dead! Winter can be quite cold and higher elevations can have snow, so be prepared, even with tire chains, nonetheless!

I think that many of the workshops will get you to the best places at the right time and that sometimes the social aspects of going with a group can lead to a great experience, but sometimes, it's nice to travel alone and in peace! Maybe you should consider a 3-4 day workshop, and a few days just to travel on your own.

Do some research of the places you wish to see, the things you wish to photograph and then see if any of the workshops will cover the bulk of your desires. If not, nothing wrong with winging it and lingering where you wish and changing your plans as the weather and your path will lead you.

Have fun traveling there, take lots of pix, kill only time, leave only footprints, but beware the long distances, weather issues, drink a lot of water, and watch (and listen) to the critters who buzz and rattle and give them room! :-)
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Dave Rosser

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Re: Death Valley Question
« Reply #2 on: January 23, 2019, 05:30:36 pm »

I would like to make a trip to Death Valley either in 2019 or early 2020. I have never been before and wanted to see If I could get some insight from those of you who have been there before. My primary question is would you make this first trip on your own or would you look to go as a part of a workshop group on your first trip?
Thanks,
Greg


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My wife and I are Brits so we just hired a 4x4 and booked some accomodation in advance and went (in the coolish season).  Had a great time explolring and hiking the main sights - no problems at all.

Dave
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Ghaag

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Re: Death Valley Question
« Reply #3 on: January 23, 2019, 05:33:11 pm »

When I was in high school years, I went with a college workshop the first few times since they offered food, a place for the sleeping bag, and 4wd access, but since then, I've traveled much of Death Valley on my own or with friends (for back-up vehicles venturing off the beaten path!). Since I liked back-country travel back then, didn't have the skills or the vehicle, it was a good choice.

Do your research, but stick to the paved/patrolled roads!

Most of the major sights that most like to photograph in Death Valley are along the major roads and with a few short graded roads to such features as Mustard Canyon, Titus Canyon, etc.

Some of the canyons, especially in the Panamint Range, sometimes The Racetrack, require high-clearance vehicles at the very least, and good preparation and sometimes a rugged 4wd with the skills to operate it. But most of the highlights are fairly accessible.

Your best time for the light is at the start and end of the days and during the rest of the day, you can scout, visit the museum, Castle, etc. and rest.

Most people avoid the summers, sometime around Memorial Day through Labor Day unless they are there to experience a 50į C. temp, otherwise the heat can get you!

Traveling blindly with just GPS can be an issue and a few people ended up dead! Winter can be quite cold and higher elevations can have snow, so be prepared, even with tire chains, nonetheless!

I think that many of the workshops will get you to the best places at the right time and that sometimes the social aspects of going with a group can lead to a great experience, but sometimes, it's nice to travel alone and in peace! Maybe you should consider a 3-4 day workshop, and a few days just to travel on your own.

Do some research of the places you wish to see, the things you wish to photograph and then see if any of the workshops will cover the bulk of your desires. If not, nothing wrong with winging it and lingering where you wish and changing your plans as the weather and your path will lead you.

Have fun traveling there, take lots of pix, kill only time, leave only footprints, but beware the long distances, weather issues, drink a lot of water, and watch (and listen) to the critters who buzz and rattle and give them room! :-)

Thank you so much for the detailed explanation! I am considering the end of February and first part of March, my daughter and wife are going to WPPI in Las Vegas and I was thinking about venturing out into Death Valley during that time.  Again, thank you for all of the information it was very helpful!


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Ghaag

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Re: Death Valley Question
« Reply #4 on: January 23, 2019, 05:33:56 pm »

My wife and I are Brits so we just hired a 4x4 and booked some accomodation in advance and went (in the coolish season).  Had a great time explolring and hiking the main sights - no problems at all.

Dave

Great Dave, thank you for the encouragement!


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Peter McLennan

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Re: Death Valley Question
« Reply #5 on: January 24, 2019, 11:30:19 am »

I was thinking about venturing out into Death Valley

In the immortal words of Nike: "Just do It"  DVNP is a spiritual experience.  Best experienced alone, in my opinion.

You didn't specify your start location.  I'll assume Southern California.  If Las Vegas, then the Panamint Valley entrance choice may be too much.

Either enter or leave via Towne's Pass, the Panamint Valley and Owens Valley (Lone Pine)
Dante's View is an absolute must.
Walk out into Mesquite Dunes, either at dawn or sunset.
Zabriskie Point at dawn, just because.
Badwater you can visit either on the way in or out, depending on your Towne's Pass decision.

Your timing vis a vis weather is good.  It will be hot, but not debilitating.

If you rent a mini van, you can sleep in it. Invaluable not because you save money, but because you're out there.

Three days is sufficient for the above list. Two, if rushed.



« Last Edit: January 24, 2019, 11:33:55 am by Peter McLennan »
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Ghaag

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Re: Death Valley Question
« Reply #6 on: January 24, 2019, 01:17:52 pm »

In the immortal words of Nike: "Just do It"  DVNP is a spiritual experience.  Best experienced alone, in my opinion.

You didn't specify your start location.  I'll assume Southern California.  If Las Vegas, then the Panamint Valley entrance choice may be too much.

Either enter or leave via Towne's Pass, the Panamint Valley and Owens Valley (Lone Pine)
Dante's View is an absolute must.
Walk out into Mesquite Dunes, either at dawn or sunset.
Zabriskie Point at dawn, just because.
Badwater you can visit either on the way in or out, depending on your Towne's Pass decision.

Your timing vis a vis weather is good.  It will be hot, but not debilitating.

If you rent a mini van, you can sleep in it. Invaluable not because you save money, but because you're out there.

Three days is sufficient for the above list. Two, if rushed.

Peter, thank you so much for the encouragement and the itinerary!
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Wayne Fox

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Re: Death Valley Question
« Reply #7 on: February 01, 2019, 11:40:54 pm »

Your best time for the light is at the start and end of the days and during the rest of the day, you can scout, visit the museum, Castle, etc. and rest.
Lots of good tips, just thought Iíd mention that Scottyís Castle and the corresponding road have been closed for some time due to some serious flash floods, and currently I think they arenít scheduled to open until 2020.

 Iíve been there numerous times (just got back) so I thought Iíd throw in some comments..  Zabriskie to me is better in the morning but isnít terrible in the evening. Badwater can be good either sunset or sunrise so itís more about the light and colors. Pick a day and time that you think will have the best sunrise/set colors. The salt formations right now are pretty good.  to get to decent formations you have to hike out quite a bit from the parking lot past where everything is tracked down. I actually go south past the parking lot and take the curve and park on the road.  Itís a little rocky but still much closer to the salt flats. The salt varies more than you might think, Iíve been there at least 6 or 7 times over the last 9 years and theyíve really never been the same. This is the best Iíve managed to get them.

Mesquite Dunes I think is better at sunrise, but itís not bad at sunset.  Key there is walking up to the north or down around to the south from the parking lot instead of heading straight toward the bigger dunes which is what everyone else does (so lots of tracks) I think it's easier hike and easier to find places where the dunes arenít tracked up as much. allow time to get into the dunes before the light hits, best light is usually right as the sun peaks over the horizon and lights up the ridges.  right now they are extremely tracked up, so probably havenít had much wind in a while.  A good wind takes care of all the tracks.

I like Artist Drive and Artist Pallet, and Golden Canyon isnít bad.  To me those are definitely evening shoots.  Rhyolite offers some interesting things if you want to make the drive and looking for something a little different.  Ubehebe crater is interesting, possible OK for a shoot but Iíve never bothered because there are so many other places I like during sunset and sunrise and itís a long drive. Maybe something interesting to visit during the day. The drive to the Race Track is rough and slow going, but if you have a decent off road capable vehicle (such as renting a jeep) might be worth a trip.   The sliding rocks on are the far south side of the playa.  Like most places light is far better evening or morning, but to do that you almost have to spend the night in the little ďcampgroundĒ.    Pretty much takes an entire day to do the Race Track, although you could do a sunrise at Zabriskie or the dunes.  Long day ...

Danteís View is something Iíve always loved to do, but havenít ever tried to photograph.  Definitely a sunrise location.
If the visit is longer than a coupe of days, something a little different is Darwin Falls. It offerís a surprising and photogenic little spring/waterfall, a reasonable hike, and last time I was there the little cafe served a nice burger.

They have just undergone pretty extensive remodeling in the inn and the Ranches and I didnít see the jeep rental place across from furnace Creek inn (now called Oasis). Not sure if they relocated or are no longer there. 

I prefer staying at the Ranches, lower price and if you get one of the deluxe rooms (buildings 400 or 500) it's very pleasant to sit out on the porch in the provided wood rocking chairs.  They are scheduled to begin an extensive remodel on the rooms at the Ranches (they just finished remodeling all the other areas, really nice store and restaurant now.). Not sure when that will be and what availability will be during the remodel.  Oasis is higher end, and very nice. I think Stove Pipe wells are a maybe a little less than the Ranches, but itís not really convenient to most of the places you will want to shoot, so more driving.  BTW, I called to make my reservation at the Ranches because I need 3 rooms, and found out they offer a substantial discount if you are over 50. Not sure about the OP, but there might be some reading this thread in that category :)

Heresí a shot of Badwater to give you an idea of how the salt formations look right now.

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Richard Man

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Re: Death Valley Question
« Reply #8 on: February 02, 2019, 03:52:48 am »

My daughter and I have been there twice, camping both times. There is something about DV that is compelling in ways that are hard to describe. The tall mountains, the heat, the DEATH ;-)... Last time we were hit with those once in a while dust storm that swamped the valley. Quite an experience - we actually paid good money to stay at the Stovepipe Lodge because it would have been impossible to pitch a tent!

DV is huge. So prepare to tank up as often as possible. Remarkably, the gas in the park isn't much higher than right outside, but tank up.

First time we took our minivan, and we went through the Titus Canyon with it. Second time, we rented a small SUV, and went to the Racetrack. The minivan probably could have done the Racetrack as well.

Even though we just went there 10 months ago, it's calling me again...
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Rajan Parrikar

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Re: Death Valley Question
« Reply #9 on: February 02, 2019, 06:38:45 am »

To add to the excellent pointers you have gotten above -

Go on your own. Best time of the year is from mid-Nov to early March. The wildflowers season could extend into late March.

DeVa NP covers a very large area and driving distances are huge even on paved roads. For a first visit, stick to the iconic sights and get a feel for the lay of the land. Try to cut a trip to the adjacent Panamint Valley. The best things happen in DeVa before and after sunrise & sunset. If youíre lucky, you may get to experience a thunderstorm or a sandstorm which are a godsend for a photographer.

Ghaag

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Re: Death Valley Question
« Reply #10 on: February 02, 2019, 07:36:25 am »

Lots of good tips, just thought Iíd mention that Scottyís Castle and the corresponding road have been closed for some time due to some serious flash floods, and currently I think they arenít scheduled to open until 2020.

 Iíve been there numerous times (just got back) so I thought Iíd throw in some comments..  Zabriskie to me is better in the morning but isnít terrible in the evening. Badwater can be good either sunset or sunrise so itís more about the light and colors. Pick a day and time that you think will have the best sunrise/set colors. The salt formations right now are pretty good.  to get to decent formations you have to hike out quite a bit from the parking lot past where everything is tracked down. I actually go south past the parking lot and take the curve and park on the road.  Itís a little rocky but still much closer to the salt flats. The salt varies more than you might think, Iíve been there at least 6 or 7 times over the last 9 years and theyíve really never been the same. This is the best Iíve managed to get them.

Mesquite Dunes I think is better at sunrise, but itís not bad at sunset.  Key there is walking up to the north or down around to the south from the parking lot instead of heading straight toward the bigger dunes which is what everyone else does (so lots of tracks) I think it's easier hike and easier to find places where the dunes arenít tracked up as much. allow time to get into the dunes before the light hits, best light is usually right as the sun peaks over the horizon and lights up the ridges.  right now they are extremely tracked up, so probably havenít had much wind in a while.  A good wind takes care of all the tracks.

I like Artist Drive and Artist Pallet, and Golden Canyon isnít bad.  To me those are definitely evening shoots.  Rhyolite offers some interesting things if you want to make the drive and looking for something a little different.  Ubehebe crater is interesting, possible OK for a shoot but Iíve never bothered because there are so many other places I like during sunset and sunrise and itís a long drive. Maybe something interesting to visit during the day. The drive to the Race Track is rough and slow going, but if you have a decent off road capable vehicle (such as renting a jeep) might be worth a trip.   The sliding rocks on are the far south side of the playa.  Like most places light is far better evening or morning, but to do that you almost have to spend the night in the little ďcampgroundĒ.    Pretty much takes an entire day to do the Race Track, although you could do a sunrise at Zabriskie or the dunes.  Long day ...

Danteís View is something Iíve always loved to do, but havenít ever tried to photograph.  Definitely a sunrise location.
If the visit is longer than a coupe of days, something a little different is Darwin Falls. It offerís a surprising and photogenic little spring/waterfall, a reasonable hike, and last time I was there the little cafe served a nice burger.

They have just undergone pretty extensive remodeling in the inn and the Ranches and I didnít see the jeep rental place across from furnace Creek inn (now called Oasis). Not sure if they relocated or are no longer there. 

I prefer staying at the Ranches, lower price and if you get one of the deluxe rooms (buildings 400 or 500) it's very pleasant to sit out on the porch in the provided wood rocking chairs.  They are scheduled to begin an extensive remodel on the rooms at the Ranches (they just finished remodeling all the other areas, really nice store and restaurant now.). Not sure when that will be and what availability will be during the remodel.  Oasis is higher end, and very nice. I think Stove Pipe wells are a maybe a little less than the Ranches, but itís not really convenient to most of the places you will want to shoot, so more driving.  BTW, I called to make my reservation at the Ranches because I need 3 rooms, and found out they offer a substantial discount if you are over 50. Not sure about the OP, but there might be some reading this thread in that category :)

Heresí a shot of Badwater to give you an idea of how the salt formations look right now.

Wayne,
Thank you so much for the detailed update, it is extremely helpful!  I think I will be leaving Las Vegas early one morning and spend 1 potentially 2 nights in Death Valley.  So now I need to figure out how to make the most of that time.  Your image of Badwater is beautiful!
Thanks again,
Greg
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Ghaag

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Re: Death Valley Question
« Reply #11 on: February 02, 2019, 07:41:51 am »

My daughter and I have been there twice, camping both times. There is something about DV that is compelling in ways that are hard to describe. The tall mountains, the heat, the DEATH ;-)... Last time we were hit with those once in a while dust storm that swamped the valley. Quite an experience - we actually paid good money to stay at the Stovepipe Lodge because it would have been impossible to pitch a tent!

DV is huge. So prepare to tank up as often as possible. Remarkably, the gas in the park isn't much higher than right outside, but tank up.

First time we took our minivan, and we went through the Titus Canyon with it. Second time, we rented a small SUV, and went to the Racetrack. The minivan probably could have done the Racetrack as well.

Even though we just went there 10 months ago, it's calling me again...

Richard, thank you for sharing your insights and the beautiful images!  I will do my best to keep a full tank of gas.

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Ghaag

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Re: Death Valley Question
« Reply #12 on: February 02, 2019, 07:46:39 am »

To add to the excellent pointers you have gotten above -

Go on your own. Best time of the year is from mid-Nov to early March. The wildflowers season could extend into late March.

DeVa NP covers a very large area and driving distances are huge even on paved roads. For a first visit, stick to the iconic sights and get a feel for the lay of the land. Try to cut a trip to the adjacent Panamint Valley. The best things happen in DeVa before and after sunrise & sunset. If youíre lucky, you may get to experience a thunderstorm or a sandstorm which are a godsend for a photographer.

Rajan, thank your for sharing your insights!  Looks like I will be there the end of this month, where would you recommend for wildflowers?
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Richard Man

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Re: Death Valley Question
« Reply #13 on: February 02, 2019, 08:06:36 am »

... where would you recommend for wildflowers?

The best wildflowers are on the road to the Badwater. Now, even during Superbloom (which may or may not be this year), it's not like the flowers are so thick that you cannot see ground. More like every, ... say, 6-8 inches. However, as DV is otherwise "dead", it's pretty amazing.
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Ghaag

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Re: Death Valley Question
« Reply #14 on: February 02, 2019, 09:45:32 am »

The best wildflowers are on the road to the Badwater. Now, even during Superbloom (which may or may not be this year), it's not like the flowers are so thick that you cannot see ground. More like every, ... say, 6-8 inches. However, as DV is otherwise "dead", it's pretty amazing.

Thanks Richard!  Do you consider this a sunrise or sunset shot?
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Ghaag

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Re: Death Valley Question
« Reply #15 on: February 02, 2019, 09:55:11 am »

I would love some feedback on the locations above and what time of day you would be there.  Weather permitting, I have 2 sunrise shoots and 2 sunset shoots.  I plan on staying in the Furnace Creek area and the list below (I think) are my best options due to my short stay.  I will be there the end of this month.


Zabriskie Point
Badwater
Danteís View
Artist Pallet
Mesquite Dunes
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langier

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Re: Death Valley Question
« Reply #16 on: February 02, 2019, 01:07:43 pm »

I like Zabriskie in the morning when there's fewer busloads. Badwater I've done at sunrise. Dantes' is etherial after the sun sets. I can't remember getting much at Artist's in 30 years but it's still a neat drive, but better with wildflowers. Mesquite Dunes is wonderful at sunrise, though it's lovely at dusk with a long lens agains the Funeral Range from the roadway.

However, there's a lot of sublime beauty to capture at these same sights at other times of the day despite that the classic photos are taken at the edge of the day and the later are the ubiquitous photos, the former can still evoke a Wow! if you work at it.
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Rajan Parrikar

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Re: Death Valley Question
« Reply #17 on: February 02, 2019, 01:24:26 pm »

The best wildflowers are on the road to the Badwater. Now, even during Superbloom (which may or may not be this year), it's not like the flowers are so thick that you cannot see ground. More like every, ... say, 6-8 inches. However, as DV is otherwise "dead", it's pretty amazing.

In addition to what Richard has suggested for wildflowers, you can keep driving eastward past Badwater up until the ruins of the Ashford Mill. All along the route you will see them. If you have the time, you could take the one-way Titus Canyon route. There are a lot of wildflowers there but even without them it is a magnificent (early morning) drive.

Wayne Fox

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Re: Death Valley Question
« Reply #18 on: February 02, 2019, 02:51:52 pm »

I would love some feedback on the locations above and what time of day you would be there.  Weather permitting, I have 2 sunrise shoots and 2 sunset shoots.  I plan on staying in the Furnace Creek area and the list below (I think) are my best options due to my short stay.  I will be there the end of this month.


Zabriskie Point
Badwater
Danteís View
Artist Pallet
Mesquite Dunes
You prob need to prioritize the subjects that most interest you. Based on your list and trying to maximize the good light, I would probably go for Mesquite Dunes and Zabriskie for sunrise, Badwater and Danteís View for for Sunset.  I think Badwater can be good either time, really depends on the sky so sunset there should work.  Artist Pallet is interesting and good shots can be had there if you like more abstract type studies of all the colorful rock formations., but something you could easily check out a couple of hours before sunset on the way to Badwater,. One I forgot to mention and is quite interesting on the way to Badwater and something you should at least check out is Devilís Golf course. Death Valley is a tough place to cover in two days, but you do what you can :)

One other place I forgot to mention (for others checking out this thread) is the area about 5 miles north of the Ranches where there are small rivulets of water flowing across the flat.  Requires a really great sky to be reflected in it, Iíve never been lucky enough when shooting there with a good sky and it can be a little muddy getting in, but Iíve seem some wonderful shots from that location.

A couple of links to shots to locations perhaps lower on your priority list ...
Artist Pallet
Devils Golf Course
And Zabriskie can be OK at sunset (not many buses when I was there last week at sunset, depends on the time of year)
Manly Beacon (zabriskie) at sunset   Another at Zabriskie sunset
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Ghaag

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Re: Death Valley Question
« Reply #19 on: February 02, 2019, 04:58:48 pm »

I like Zabriskie in the morning when there's fewer busloads. Badwater I've done at sunrise. Dantes' is etherial after the sun sets. I can't remember getting much at Artist's in 30 years but it's still a neat drive, but better with wildflowers. Mesquite Dunes is wonderful at sunrise, though it's lovely at dusk with a long lens agains the Funeral Range from the roadway.

However, there's a lot of sublime beauty to capture at these same sights at other times of the day despite that the classic photos are taken at the edge of the day and the later are the ubiquitous photos, the former can still evoke a Wow! if you work at it.

Larry, thank you for all the great information!
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