Look Up, Look Down

After taking panorama of cherry trees in blossom at University of Washington campus I started photographing individual trees. Always my favorite shorts of trees looking up into the sky with a wide angle lens. I love the mesh of branches:

And then I focused on individual flowers and brick pattern with a macro lens:

Cherry Blossom

There are so many great photographers around that we don’t know about. Recently I’ve discovered John Song (http://www.johnsongphoto.com/). He considers himself a beginner photographer but he does this amazing work that captivates my imagination. What’s most interesting for me is that he lives in Seattle area too and captures his amazing landscapes of places that I’m very familiar with. It makes me ask myself how I did not see that and inspires on photographing even more.

Inspired by his photograph of cherry blossom at University of Washington campus (http://www.johnsongphoto.com/?p=1876 last photo with a brick walk going into the distance) I went there for several morning trying to do something similar, but as it often happens ended up with a different interpretation of the same subject.

Cherry Blossom at UW
Cherry Blossom at UW

PS Click on the image to see a large version.

Magnolia

Spring time in Seattle is a time of blossom. Lots of trees in parks, in back yards and along the roads are in blossom. As I drive I note places with a nice display of flowers and then return back with a camera.

One of the local favorites is magnolia with its big flowers. One of the challenges photographing magnolia is its really bright petals. This particular tree was in deep shade while background was in an open space with more light. This allowed for some well-balanced photographs.

Death Valley Trip Wrap-up

Finally, I’ve published all my notes from Death Valley trip. I’m glad I’m done. Now I can move on to all the images that I’ve already captured after the trip to Death Valley.

Here are some final thoughts on things I’d do different on a trip to Death Valley.

I’d go to Death Valley in November-February. The sun stays lower thru the day, sunsets and sunrises are longer, and there is more time for night photography and sleep. The reason I went this end of March was because a few years back there were a lot of wild flowers blooming at about the same time. But it was an unusual year with more rains than normal. That happens only once in lifetime.

I’d take at least one tilt-shift lens to get sharpness through the scene while photographing dunes and canyons without locking aperture all the way down.

I’d drive to Eureka Dunes from Big Pine, it is much easier and safer road (could be faster too).

I’d rent a smaller car to travel to Death Valley and to get around and I’d rent a car with heavy duty tires in Death Valley to go to Race Track. Having big car is not helpful. Heaving heavy duty tires or couple full size spares is what is really needed.

A Tale of Light

Day 6, Dawn

It is my last day in Death Valley, to be more accurate my last morning at Death Valley since after sunrise I will be driving back to Las Vegas and flying home. I can’t wait to hug my wife and son.

On my last morning at Death Valley I decided to photograph at Zabriskie Point. Morning photos from Zabriskie Point has become cliché. I heard stories of tens of photographers showing up there at sunrise. Strangely enough with several trips to Death Valley I’ve never been there. It was about time to change that.

Surprisingly I was the only person there… That’s one hour before sunrise. By sunrise there were 9 photographers and about 15 spectators.

I took several panoramas before, during and after sunrise. The sunrise was not very impressive – there were not much clouds in the sky. Only while reviewing panoramas at home I realized that I created a tale of light of that morning – I was taking a panorama every time there was significant change in light.

So here it is, a tale of light at Zabriskie Point. (Click on the images to see them in larger size.)

6:07 Deep blue of twilight.
Deep blue of twilight

6:21 Sunrise moving across the sky.
Sunrise moving across the sky

6:29 Touchdown. The gap between horizon and line of sunrise closed. The clouds lit up.
Touchdown

6:32 Sun kissed the mountains.
Sun kissed the mountains

7:03 The light is deep in the valley.
The light is deep in the valley

Just a Little Bit of Water

Day 5, Sunset

Finding water is a bit of a challenge in Death Valley. On a rainy year (which was a few years ago) there was water on Badwater flats and lots of photographers and spectators were taking photos of reflections. This year there was no water at all on Badwater.

As I was driving thru the valley I noticed a brisk reflection of the Sun. It must have been water.

Indeed there were a few small creeks with salty banks. And where water is there is life. There was some grass. Most of it dried out but there was some still green. The dry ones mineralized with salt turned into sharp spikes.

That’s where I settled waiting for a sunset.

Here are a couple of images I took at that place. The first one is right before the Sun disappeared, the last rays just touching the tops of the greenery:

Last Rays
Last Rays

And here the afterglow:

Afterglow
Afterglow

Dante’s Peak

Day 5, Noon

What an amazing breathtaking view of Death Valley opens up from Dante’s Peak!

The elevation gain of Dante’s Peak is so high that the temperature drops 15C comparing to the the temperature at the bottom of the valley. I got there in t-shirt and shorts but quickly had to put on long-sleeved shirt, warm jacket and gloves to keep myself warm.

Here is a panorama with Badwater in the front (click on the image to see bigger size):

View from Dante's Peak

Here is horizontal photo of the part in the distance:

View from Dante's Peak

And here are is a vertical:

View from Dante's Peak

Tracks

Day 5, Dawn

At night dunes are filled with animal sounds. By the morning there are lots of signs of creatures’ night life – all kind of tracks in the dunes.

Tracks

Everything Interesting Is In The Cracks

Day 5, Dawn

Cracks

In lowlands between dunes you can find solid pressed fine grained sand. I always start working with a subject from far a way, since once I get closer I won’t be able to erase my tracks in case I want to step back. So, I started by photographing one of these islands as a part of landscape, then I got closer.

First that caught my eye, as I got close to it, was little domes and shadows around them. It looks like they were pieces in large puzzle. I tried to photograph those domes but photos ended up borings with a piece straight in the middle. I tried to shift them off center in my frame. That was when I realized that the really interesting thing in that puzzle were cracks in between the pieces.

Sand Storm

Day 4, Dusk

At night dunes are calm and quiet. But as sun rises strong winds start moving sands. Dunes become violent and unpredictable.

Today I went into dunes for sunset. There was little to no wind at first then within a few minutes wind became very strong. It was not only moving dust, it was moving sand.

Would you want your skin be polished with sand paper? That’s how it felt standing in that sand storm. I had to hide behind a bush hoping that it will be over soon but it was picking up more and more. As I was standing behind the bush I saw sand settling on camera. I needed to get out.

I was walking backwards toward a road to keep my back against the wind. The fun part in walking backwards was seeing my footsteps disappear right in front of my eyes. The wind and moving send would repair the dune texture within seconds.

Sand Storm
Sand Storm. No Visibility