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Death Valley – Location Scouting 1/30/10

After the morning shoot and after breakfast, friend and fellow photographer Robert Mance and I headed out in search of more water for sunset. We decided to head down towards Badwater Basin, the lowest point in North America. Instead of going to the main parking lot area, we headed down the West Side Road to see what could be found on the west side of the basin, where neither of us had ever been before.

Here are some pictures from what we found.

Telescope Peak from the West Side Road

Telescope Peak from the West Side Road

The closest I’ve been yet to Telescope Peak.

Cracked Mud Pattern

Cracked Mud Pattern

This group of cracked mud caught my eye.

The seemingly endless Devil's Golf Course

The seemingly endless Devil's Golf Course

Water along the road

Water along the road

This patch of water was quite large. In fact according to my GPS it is part of Salt Creek, although the water is way too salty here to support the Death Valley Pupfish. A strange car load of people stopped and asked Robert if we saw any fish here. The main Salt Creek area was closed due to muddy roads although you could still get there on foot if you were willing to hike a few extra miles. Anyway, we were pleased with this location and decided to head back for Sunset.

Salty patterns and water

Salty patterns and water

Big blue sky and water in Death Valley

Big blue sky and water in Death Valley

Looking south towards Badwater

Looking south towards Badwater

The next update will feature pictures from an amazing sunset in Death Valley unlike any other I’ve seen.

February 5, 2010 - 8:55 am

Robert Mance - What an awesome ‘side trip’ that turned out to be huh! Great pics. I’m emailing you some photos of you shooting Death Valley. Keep an eye out for’em.

Death Valley – Sunrise 1/30/10

After upgrading my camera a few months back, I haven’t quite had the chance to do a proper multi-day photo trip until now. After a seemingly endless drive starting with rush-hour traffic out of LA on a Friday night and sleeping in my car of all places, I was rewarded in the morning for our first shoot in one of my all time favorite places – Death Valley National Park.

Death Valley is an absolutely amazing place. This 3 million acre + park is an alien landscape. There is little life to be seen anywhere, and indeed in some places there is basically none at all. In the summertime temperatures can soar into the 130’s. The stark beauty presented here is unlike anything else I’ve ever seen. The Mojave desert in places seems like a tropical jungle of vegetation in comparison to some places in Death Valley.

This is my fourth trip to Death Valley. Every time I’ve been there has been full of awesome opportunities for photography in this unique, harsh and desolate environment. Our prime focus on this trip was water. And, naturally, reflections.

The first rays of sunrise hit Telescope Peak and the Panamint range

The first rays of sunrise hit Telescope Peak and the Panamint range

Morning Glow in the Panamint Range

Morning Glow in the Panamint Range

Sunrise Reflections

Sunrise Reflections

Mirrored Panamints

Mirrored Panamints

Sunrise Symmetry

Sunrise Symmetry

The Sun peeks over the Funeral Mountains

The Sun peeks over the Funeral Mountains

The most amazing thing happened with the light this morning. Some clouds blocked the sun, but leaving a slot through which the light could go through. The result of this was a dark hillside in front of the Panamints but with a narrow laser of light illuminating the salt encrustations on the far side of the water. Here are the best of my shots in my mad scramble to capture this phenomenon:

Amazing Light

Amazing Light

Just Magical

Just Magical

I’ve never seen anything like it, and I might not ever again.

Clouds make all the difference

Clouds make all the difference

Having clouds in Death Valley makes a huge difference in the quality of photographs there. Clouds are a rare thing there, and this morning in the hours before sunrise there was not a single cloud to be seen. And yet, as sunrise approached the clouds seemingly came out of nowhere to our delight.

Mud and salt encrustations

Mud and salt encrustations

Death Valley is full of phenomenon like these encrustations here. The salt content in the mud causes it to build up and grow into these strange structures. If you could set up a time lapse photo system and let it go for an entire year, I wonder how much you would see these grow and ooze as the salt interacts with moisture in the playa.

Another section of the playa

Another section of the playa

Telescope Peak reflections

Telescope Peak reflections

A parting look back at Telescope Peak as we began to head to breakfast. A peninsula of encrustations provides something different.

A miniature grand canyon

A miniature grand canyon

Looking back from the marsh

Looking back from the marsh

This was just the first of four different shooting sessions this trip. More Death Valley to come!

February 2, 2010 - 8:16 am

Marcia Lawson - Awesome!!! Just gorgeous! I love them all, but my favorite is “Just Magical.”

February 2, 2010 - 8:33 am

Robert Mance - Fantastic images Kurt-O!

Some Oaks in the Snow

Trees have always been a favorite subject of mine. I’ve always loved the way they branch out in various ways in their quest for sunlight. In northeast Indiana the winter months would leave the trees bare and expose their innermost structures of stems, branches and twigs. One one day following a fresh snow I ventured out in search of something to shoot. Nearby I found this marvelous oak tree, covered in snow.

My original Snowy Tree photograph, taken in the late 1990's.

My original Snowy Tree photograph, taken in the late 1990's.

Now in 2009, Sunday’s snowfall gave me the opportunity to head out and take a nearly identical picture more than 10 years later:

Snowy Tree 2009

Snowy Tree 2009

With my comparison of thes two images when lined up, I can see that I was just a few feet away (to the left) of where I must have taken the original shot. The oak tree is very much the same although it has stretched outward a little bit. The seeming ancient technology used in the original – an Olympus OM-1N fully manual, mechanical camera body and film did a fantastic job capturing detail of the tree. This has, however been surpassed by my new 21 megapixel monster, which captures more detail with essentially no grain. Still, you’d have to do an enormous print to tell the difference. For entertainment value only, here are some crops of the same approximate area with the two pictures:

Crop from 4000dpi scan of original 35mm negative

Crop from 4000dpi scan of original 35mm negative


Crop from 5D Mark II image

Crop from 5D Mark II image

I also took some pictures in some nearly wooded areas of the park.
This oak tree caught my eye.

A leaning oak tree

A leaning oak tree

Leaning Oak detail

Leaning Oak detail

This picture came with a surprise. If the man had not moved I might not have even seen him. He was apparently watching what I was doing for a few minutes before moving on.

The man in the woods

The man in the woods

100% crop showing the man in the center of the path

100% crop showing the man in the center of the path

Finally, here is a look at the branches of the Snowy Tree.

Snowy Tree Detail

Snowy Tree Detail

I love the way the oak branches meander outward from the trunk. Perhaps I will try and come back during another season to see what this tree looks like when it’s covered in green or red. It’s just beautiful to see a large oak like the Snowy Tree after a fresh snowfall.

Mojave National Preserve Time Lapse

While I was exploring the Mojave National Preserve, I shot a couple bits of time lapse video. I was inspired to do so after I noticed how fast the clouds were moving. I knew that if I sped up the motion even more it would be interesting.

As I headed south I noticed the clouds were interacting with the mountains. Here is what that looked like:



Both videos were shot with my Canon 5D Mark II and sped up 15x faster.

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