Friday, May 7, 2010

Zabriske Point - Death Valley National Park

Zabriske Point has so much history associated with it, beginning with Christian Brevoot Zabriske, whom it was named after. Zabriske was the vice-president and general manager of the Pacific Coast Borax Company, which used its iconic twenty-mule teams to transport Borax from this heavily mined area (one doesn't have to venture far to run into "Danger - Keep Out" signs).

In 1970, a movie of the same title included a soundtrack by Pink Floyd and Jerry Garcia. It has served as the "surface of Mars" in Robinson Crusoe on Mars and many other sci-fi movies, and not so long ago found itself on the cover of U2's famous The Joshua Tree album.

Of course, Zabriske Point is simply a beautiful place and worthy of a visit on its own merits, especially if one can time it at or near sunrise. Early light highlights the color contrasts of the area and turns much of the badlands a golden color, intermingled with darker browns. Views across eroded badlands to the prominent Manly Beacon, and across the salt flat and out to the Panimint Range. Sunsets can be attractive from here.

Manly Beacon is the centerpiece of the panorama viewed from Zabriskie Point. It begs for your camera's attention, and quite convincingly. It towers over the surrounding badlands as if standing guard over its kingdom.

I had hoped to catch the earth's shadow above Manly Peak the morning I visited (marked by a pink and blue layered sky), but light was filtered to the east. I also wasn't fortunate enough to have any clouds in the sky to catch turning pink at first light. But there was still plenty that interested me.

This area offers great photography before sunrise. In fact, while editing my images of the trip I realized these images taken during this time were amongst my favorites from the shoot.
The first light strikes the area a little later than one might imagine. In fact, the badlands to the south of the view point receive light long before the area around Manly Beacon.
I enjoyed catching the first light as it swept over the area to the west, taking notice of the subtle differences in the quickly changing colors. Then I switched over to my 70-200 lens and worked at isolating various colors and patterns. There is a lot here to entice a photographer and keep the adrenaline running!

There are also a couple of trails starting from the parking lot that are worth investigating. One climbs up and runs the ridge to the north of the view point, offering fantastic and much different views of the area, especially Manly Beacon.

The other descends down into Golden Canyon, one of the most popular hikes in the park - and for good reason! This trail offers incredible views, including up-close personal views of Manly Beacon and Red Cathedral. I'll be sharing images from there soon.

Zabriske Point is just a short distance south of Furnace Creek along Highway 190, and one of the main attractions of Death Valley National Park. If visiting the area, make sure not to miss it!

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