Kurt M Lawson Photography »

Masthead header

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!

C o n n e c t
F l i c k r

Warning: file_get_contents(index.php): failed to open stream: No such file or directory in /nfs/c03/h08/mnt/48217/domains/blog.kurtlawson.com/html/wp-includes/plugin.php on line 446