Trickled Pink

Water runoff at sunrise in the Cottonball Basin, Death Valley National Park

Behind the scenes of this photo


Taken in the Cottonball Basin of Death Valley National Park on February 21st, 2013

In February 2013 I had the great fortune to be caught in a rainstorm in Death Valley, a pretty unique occurrence in the park. The mountains surrounding the valley were swathed in great blankets of precipitation and at one point there was snow capping the hills in every direction. Amazingly, almost none of the falling water hit the valley floor due to the park’s mind-boggling rate of evaporation, and though the higher elevations were inundated, I felt a mere sprinkle or two where I was below sea-level. However, all the rain that fell in the mountains has to drain somewhere and since the basin is the lowest place around, that’s where it heads. So a full 24+ hours after the storm passed by, these little tendrils of water began to seep out of the hills and across the salt flats of Cottonball Basin.

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Devil’s Cornrows

Death-Valley-Borax-Sunset

Behind the scenes of this photo


Taken in the salt marsh a mile or so west of Mustard Canyon in Death Valley National Park on February 19th, 2013

Here’s a little history I recently learned: borax was heavily mined (err, shoveled, as the case may be) in Death Valley around 130 years ago. Chinese immigrants were paid to push this slop into neat rows which could then easily be shoveled into wagons for processing. Once the borax was extracted it was hauled by 20-mule teams from the heart of Death Valley to Mojave. The 20-mule teams became the symbol for borax nationwide, an image that persists to present day. And if you walk out into the Death Valley salt marsh far enough you can still find remnants of those old “cornrows,” as they were called, that the Chinese shoveled into place.

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Eye of the Beholder

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Behind the scenes of this photo


Taken in the Cottonball Basin, Death Valley National Park, on November 14th, 2013

This evening was a great reminder that beauty is all around us. Sometimes to find it all you need is a different perspective. Or maybe you just need to look at things in a different light. After all, when I took this shot I was standing ankle-deep in pond scum, mud, muck, brine, and other bizarre goop and it was the most stunning thing I’d seen in a long time.

The Brainmelter

Cottonball-Basin-Salt-Flats-Water-Mud-Sunset

Behind the scenes of this photo


Taken in the Cottonball Basin in Death Valley on November 14th, 2013

In November 2013, on the night just before our Death Valley photo workshop began, my workshop partner, Jim, and I decided to visit one of our favorite places in the park, [location redacted to help preserve its fragility]. Not only is this area full of psychedelic forms, colors, and geology, but that night we were also treated to a mind-bending sunset, with undulating layers of pink, purple, and orange. The scene, with all its blobs, shapes, and colors, was so unreal that it actually melted my brain a little.

Synaptic

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Behind the scenes of this photo

Taken in the Cottonball Basin, Death Valley National Park, on November 14th, 2013

You guys remember those old commercials: ‘This is your brain…THIS is your brain on drugs…”? Well this is your brain on Death Valley. What a trippy, amazing, photogenic, otherworldly place.

Salt Spring Sprung

https://www.joshuacripps.com/2013/07/salt-spring-death-valley-national-park/

Taken at an unnamed spring near Furnace Creek, Death Valley National Park, California on November 15th, 2012

Death Valley is an absolutely huge park and there is much more to see and photograph than just the iconic spots. This little-known spring was found by my friend Jim Patterson while we were scouting for our 2011 Death Valley workshop and it has quickly become one of my favorite destinations in the park. Thanks to the amazing lines and amazing reflections here it’s a fantastic place to shoot, and I was fortunate to capture and explosive sunset this night.

Sun Spots

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Taken in the salt flats of Salt Creek, Death Valley National Park, on February 21st, 2013

It’s amazing what you find with a little wandering. And in Death Valley there is lots of space to wander. A photographer friend of mine hinted that these bizarre salt circles might be lurking out in the salt flats near salt creek, so early one morning I set out for a wander. I meandered past reflective streams, furrowed cracks of earth, and baked salt pans. Then, out of nowhere, I stumbled upon these dots. As luck would have it the rising sun cast a nearly perfect sundog across the haze of clouds to the east and created a beautiful symmetry to the scene.

Mirror Imaging

Death Valley Springs Sunrise

Taken in Death Valley National Park on February 20th, 2013

Water isn’t hard to find in Death Valley if you know where to look. There is a little-known spring near Furnace Creek where water forms myriad rivulets and channels through the salt pan. The water is only a few centimeters deep and flows at a snail’s pace, making it serenely still and marvelously reflective. Quite a lovely thing when you have a sky as wonderfully textured as this one. On this particular morning I felt surrounded by water, for as I photographed these watery mirrors below me a huge rainstorm was soaking the mountains above me, and a few minutes after I took this shot the pitter patter of little raindrops reached the valley floor, disturbing the reflections and forcing me to cover up my camera.

The Road to Heaven is Paved with Gold

 

Cottonball Spring reflections, Death Valley National Park

Taken at an unnamed spring near Furnace Creek, Death Valley National Park, California on November 15th, 2012

Death Valley is an absolutely huge park and there is much more to see and photograph than just the iconic spots. This little-known spring was found by my friend Jim Patterson while we were scouting for our 2011 Death Valley workshop and it has quickly become one of my favorite destinations in the park. Thanks to the amazing lines and amazing reflections here it’s a fantastic place to shoot, and was heavenly indeed on this evening back in mid-November.

 

Zen Garden

Ibex Sand Dunes abstract photo, Death Valley National Park

Behind the scenes of this photo


Taken at the Ibex Sand Dunes in Death Valley National Park on November 13th, 2012

Sand dunes can be the most peaceful place on the planet, if you can find the right ones. All of them have the magic ability to soak up sound and render the landscape breathlessly quiet. But few of them have the same feeling of pristine isolation as the Ibex Sand Dunes in the southern part of Death Valley. Every time I visit them I experience peace and quiet in a whole new way.

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Dune Avalanche

Mesquite Sand Dunes sunset, Death Valley National Park

Taken in the Mesquite Sand Dunes in Death Valley on November 10th, 2011

Walking along the sharp ridge line of a dune in the Mesquite Sand dunes in the desert of Death Valley I noticed these fascinating chutes formed by small avalanches of sand. I loved the textures and shapes.

Field of Dreams

Tidy tips carpet the floor of Carrizo Plain National Monument

Taken in the Carrizo Plain National Monument on April 9th, 2011

I love Spring for a number of reasons, not least of which is the annual wildflower hunt. As blooms spread throughout California photographers share tips, locations, and gas as they race around the state trying to find the best displays. The Carrizo Plain is typically a hotspot for wildflowers and dozens of colorful varieties can appear in the Monument. Though 2011 has been a mediocre year for flowers overall, I was still amazed by the vast fields of tidy tips that carpeted the Carrizo Plain.