Got up before sunrise and headed to Zabriskie Point. There is always a crowd but photographing the sunrise on this barren landscape is a must-do for any photographer visiting the park.
– After the sun comes up over the horizon at your back the colors of the badlands begin to pop from the sun’s warm glow. The shape, color, and texture of the barren land seem to change by the second as the sun continues to rise.
– Looking down into the badlands from the Zabriskie Point overlook it seems that anywhere you point your camera in the sculpted landscape you can make a striking image. Zoom in and you can focus on the abstraction created by the play of light and shadow. Zoom out and focus on the whole of this ancient landscape that looks like it should be on another planet.
– One of the more popular and accessible trails in the park is Golden Canyon Trail. The trail is about a mile long and leads to a formation known as Red Cathedral. Do yourself a favor and if you hike this trail go ahead and complete the Gower Gulch Loop that adds another 3 miles to the hike. You really get up close and personal with the amazing badlands.
– There are a lot of well known spots in the park where you (and thousands of other photographers) can get the great photos, but always keep your eyes open to those little things in between not everyone may see. This is just a little spot where a wash meets the road. Water had pooled here at some point then the soil dried out and cracked.
Again, I got up before the sunrise and went to the other most popular sunrise spot in the park, the Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes.
– Both sunset and sunrise are the best times to photograph the Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes. Most prefer sunrise as the time to shoot for a couple reasons. 1) There are usually a lot less people out walking on the dunes in the morning. 2) Throughout the night the wind has a chance to cover up the massive amount of footprints at sometimes scar the dunes. 3) The light is usually more vivid and crisp in the morning before the atmosphere has a chance to get full of dust and sand.
– Near the Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes is the Mosaic Canyon trail. Close to the trailhead you walk into a slot canyon made of 900 million year old Noonday Dolomite polished smooth by thousands of years of flash floods flowing down the canyon.
– Sunset is a great time to photograph the salt flats at Badwater Basin. At 200 feet below sea level (the lowest point in North America), Badwater Basin is one of the main attractions at Death Valley. Its also one of the most dynamic spots. Occationally flash flooding occurs in the valley, filling the low lying areas with water which desolves the salt. The water quickly evaporates leaving a flat, smooth surface of salt crystals. The heat of the day and cool of the night cause the salt to expand and contract creating large polygon cracks in the salt. Asthically the area looks a little better when the salt is newly deposited and the cracks are small. After time the cracks get bigger and look a little messier but with a great sky and a little hiking a great photo can still be made.
All of these photos and many more can be seen in a book I designed:
Photography in Death Valley National Park