Friday, March 25, 2011

Photographing Devil's Golf Course in Death Valley National Park

Evening clouds over Devil's Golf Course.

The Devil's Golf Course in Death Valley National Park is one of my favorite photography destinations in the park.  The area is just so interesting and different than anything I have previously experienced.  It's as if you've stepped onto another planet.

This magnificent place is accessed from the Badwater Road, 13 miles south from Furnace Creek.  The area closest to the parking lot is not very attractive, having been trampled by many feet.  But wander out a short ways and this will all change.  The rounded salt crystal mounds will turn to sharp, serrated formations that are much more interesting.

Be warned:  the salt crystals are very sharp and abrasive.  Sturdy boots, gloves and knee pads are highly recommended.

I was surprised at how little traffic Devil's Golf Course received during my visits.  It gets no where near the traffic that Badwater receives.  I found most visitors to be car tourists who quickly read the information signs, took in the immediate surrounding of the heavily abused area near the parking lot, then sped off to their next destination.  Very few remained longer than 10 minutes.

I spent a couple of evenings photographing this area, and found myself all alone at sunset both times.  During my second evening another photographer did show up and explore areas close to the parking lot.  After appearing frustrated, he packed up and drove off just before the prime light appeared!

Sunset over Devil's Golf Course.
Devil's Golf Course is a great location for wide angle and normal range lenses.  Getting low with your tripod can be a little challenging, both in the positioning of your tripod legs and being able to get low enough to compose your shot through the view finder.  Don't expect to be comfortable!  But do expect the rewards to be worth it.

A telephoto lens would be useful to play with the patterns, though I did not do this.  Do you get the feel that there is just so much potential here?

Graduated neutral density filters should be considered mandatory.  I would also consider a warming filter if you don't have access to this during post-processing.

I found evening to be the best time to photograph here, though mornings could still be rewarding as well.  Though the southern sky is typically considered the most rewarding for pinks and interesting colors, both images appearing here are actually of the northern sky.  Also, watch the Black Mountains at sunset and the Panimint Range at sunrise as these respective mountain ranges catch the suns special light.

I highly recommend making Devil's Golf Course part of your itinerary during your next Death Valley National Park visit.

Friday, March 18, 2011

2011 Washington State Visitors' Guide

Good friends Alan Bauer and Kim Brown
on Steamboat Rock.
I have an image appearing in the upcoming 2011 Washington State Visitors' Guide.  I was excited at the publisher's selection, because it includes two of my good personal friends, fellow photographer Alan Bauer and one of my favorite writers, Kim Brown.

This image is from the first trip that Alan and I did together, and was full of fun memories.  One of those memories was unexpectedly meeting Kim at the trailhead, and her joining us on our trek up Steamboat Rock.  This was also the trip I first met another friend, Karen Sykes - who reviewed my book Mount Rainier for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer.  Did I mention how fun this trip was?

Oh, but it get's even more interesting!

2011 Washington State Visitors'

Unbeknownst to me when agreeing to submit this image, it would accompany an article written by another friend and accomplished writer, Craig Romano - a mutual friend to all of us!

If you get a chance, check out the free online version.

Here's to more future trips and projects together!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Death Valley National Park Gallery

Early light on Manly Beacon from Zabriske Point
I've just gone live with my new Death Valley National Park gallery!  This gallery is comprised of images from a trip I did almost exactly one year ago, and includes images from Zabriske Point, Dante's View, Badwater Salt Pan, Devil's Golf Course, Mormon Point, Ashford Mill, Artist's Point, Golden Canyon, Furnace Creek, Mesquite Sand Dunes, Stovepipe Wells, Devil's Cornfield, Fall Canyon, The Racetrack, and more.

Puting this gallery together brought back a lot of memories for me, and I hope you find an image or two that touch you or maybe kindle your desire to visit this wonderful national park yourself.
Sliding rock at The Racetrack
I'll resume revisiting the photography aspect of each destination I visited within the park in my next posts.  If you missed them, you may view my previous posts of Artist's Palette and Zabriske Point.

I wish to take the time to say Thank You once again for your interest in my photography and endeavers.  As always, I am happy to answer your questions - either about photography or helping plan your own visit to any of the wonderful places I share on these pages.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Spring Appearances Cancelled

Just a note:  I've elected to cancel my scheduled spring appearances in order to focus on some business projects.  I will surely have shows to announce later in the year - stay tuned.  Thank you for your understanding.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Shi Shi Beach and Point of the Arches - Olympic National Park

Point of the Arches at the south end of Shi Shi Beach
 Winter isn't the time that most people think of visiting the coast.  After all, there's snow in the mountains and plenty of skiing, snowboarding and snowshoeing to do.  However, winter does offer some advantages (including having all those people in the mountains skiing, snowboarding and snowshoeing!).  The sun is further to the south in the winter months, offering softer light for a larger part of the day, and low and high tides tend to be more extreme.  With this knowledge in hand, a photographer can employ much creativity while exploring options not necessarily available to visitors later in the season.
Sunset at Point of the Arches
Of course, there are some downsides to visiting in winter as well, starting with temperatures.  My visit took place with snow in the forecast and temps in the 20's.  For Shi Shi in particular, this made the approach interesting with an icy boardwalk section and an icy crossing of Petroleum Creek.  Couple cold temps with the moisture present in the air, and it is very easy to get chilled to your core.  I strongly recommend a layer system and several extra pairs of socks.

As for camping, make sure you set your campsite in the trees.  While camping on the beach can be an attractive option in the summer, I can tell you firsthand that not much, if any, of the beach is safe in winter.  High tide can make much of the beach impassable in the winter months.

Sunset at Point of the Arches

From a photography standpoint, if you have visited Shi Shi in the spring, summer or fall, you may have some adjusting to do when planning your compositions. Did I mention that the sun sets much further to the south?  Much further than I anticipated I will admit.  Still, as long as you plan for this, there can be rewards.

The tidal pools around Point of the Arches are some of the best I have seen on the Washington coast.  Though they can be enjoyed in all seasons, the extreme low tides of winter make even more of them accessible and allow for further exploration.  But don't spend all of your time looking down.  Bald Eagles can be regularly seen flying overhead and even perching in the trees above the arches themselves.  Sea otters are also a common and fun sight.

Point of the Arches at dawn.
Campsights near the Point of the Arches can be ideal for quick and easy access.  Camps around Petroleum Creek afford a nice composition of having the winter sun set behind the sea stacks, with its light seen through two separate arches.

Raccoons must be reckoned with.  I've never experienced them in previous visits, but they were certainly present during my last visit.  Though I had a visitor at my camp near the point, they seemed concentrated around the campsites at the very north end (beginning) of Shi Shi Beach.  Remember that a hard food container is required (see the Olympic National Park web site).

For lenses, I found my 24-70mm most useful for landscape, and 70-200mm with 2x extender for tidal pools and wildlife.  Though I brought my 17-40mm, it never saw the light of the day on this visit.  Graduated neuatral density filters and polarizers are also important.

I hope you get a chance to visit our coast during its "off season".  I think you will enjoy it.

If you are interested in further viewing, I have other images from this area as well as Rialto Beach, Hole in the Wall, Ruby Beach, Strawberry Point, Toleak Point, Cape Alava and more in my Washington Coast gallery.