Miles to Go! Let’s Start Early
One of the few actual plans made before arriving in Las Vegas was a morning sunrise in The Valley of Fire en route to Death Valley.
Leaving Las Vegas by 5:30 allowed us to arrive at Elephant Rock just in time to see the sun beginning to peek over the eastern red mountains. We found our place about 60 feet above the road with Elephant Rock in our viewfinder. We rushed to get into position, as the sun rose rapidly behind her. It wasn’t long before I decided that shooting into the sun might make the type of image I had in mind, not sure if instead it would swamp my sensor and produce nothing resembling a photograph.
I forgot how quickly the sun raced over the shadow-covered earth to bathe her in yellow, golden goodness. And so it did, and we did our best to memorialize the events that day, that morning that undoubtedly will occur every day for a very long time.
Next Stop, Death Valley
I’ve been here before several times and each time I arrive I feel a strange feeling of both familiarity and of excitement knowing I will be revisiting my favorite old spots and discovering some new ones.
On the way in, we stopped at Rhyolite, a small ghost town with a free museum still operated by a retired local resident who seemed happy to meet visitors as we streamed through the one remaining street.
Yet, to my delight, the abandoned train car at the end of the street was mostly unchanged since my last visit. Only a few protective wooden panels were installed to keep people from walking inside. We decided this would be a good location for a night shoot, it turned out we were right.
Our hotel was overpriced for the accommodations but not for the location. While in the heart of Death Valley and close to many of the local landmarks, it was still 35 miles away from its higher priced and more conveniently located competitor. Our room rivaled an older Motel 6, but that might be insulting that fine chain in direct comparison. Yet, the A/C was cold, the shower was warm and the front desk staff friendly and helpful when it came to scouting locations.
That night, we asked the desk clerk for a sunset location and he suggested a high spot called Aguereberry Point, where we could see most of the valley. Unfortunately, we arrived too late to capture a sunset but ended up with an evening photograph of the blue light bathing the landscape while remnants of the day faded over the far mountain peak.
We knew much was to come and we were excited to continue exploring. All the usual suspects were lined up for consideration; Zabriskie Point, The Sand Dunes, Artist’s Palette, Golden Canyon and more were added to our list of destinations over the next 4 days. And yes, those were old friends having visited each location before.
Next, I would soon experience a sight I had never witnessed in person, my first ever viewing of The Milky Way. In order for that to happen, we drove to the top of Ubhebee Crater at night and found a couple who have been astrophotographers for years. With a little set up assistance, I made my first exposure.
But a few new places were on my list and I was excited to explore. Tomorrow, an epic Journey to come.