Southwest Road Trip: Soft Light and Shifting Sands

On the last leg of my recent southwest road trip, I had the choice of either heading north out of Zion National Park to head for Great Basin National Park, or heading south into Death Valley.  A brief weather check on the morning of my departure let me know that it was extremely cold in Great Basin, and since I’d been slogging through snow, ice, and freezing water for the previous week, I opted for the more temperature climes of DV.  This turned out to be a great decision: no crowds, beautiful weather, and some choice photography  opportunities ensued.  Full details and video after the jump.

The drive from Zion to DV was easy and I found myself in the park a few hours before sunset, enjoying the lack of crowds and the mild 65 degree temps.  After setting up my tent in the terrible Sunset campground, which is really just a giant gravel parking lot, I pondered where I could go to shoot the sunset.  The Racetrack being closed due to excessive water, my choices for sunset shooting were between the Stovepipe Wells sand dunes and the salt flats at Badwater.  Having shot the dunes some years ago when I was just starting out in photography, I knew first-hand how beautiful they could be, and I was excited to see them again.  So to Stovepipe Wells I went.

I knew my first order of business for creating a memorable image of the dunes was to find a place which was unmarred by footprints.  Even though I headed into the dunes far away from the highly-trafficked parking lot, I still encountered track after track made by human feet.  I actually started to get a little frantic because the sunset was becoming imminent and other peoples’ footprints stretched off infinitely in front of me.

Luckily, after only a mile or so I found a small basin which was free of prints.  And what’s more, it was flush with fantastic textures in the sand, graceful curves in the dunes, and even some bushes of mesquite which could serve as strong foreground anchors for the photo.  Finding this scene quite beautiful and not wanting to risk missing the best light, I nixed the idea of further searching and set up my gear for the shot you see above.

One of the most amazing things about the evening was the absolute stillness of the place.  There wasn’t a breath of wind, no birds chirping, no insects buzzing.  It was 100% silent.  One of those times and places where you feel like the only person in the world.  Pure magic.

~Josh

Full HD video from the evening:

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