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Author Topic: Death Valley California, USA  (Read 11179 times)
jdemott
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« Reply #20 on: January 22, 2008, 01:11:29 PM »
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Titus Canyon is a great place to visit, and as others have said it is best if you can take it slowly with lots of time for hiking into side canyons, etc.  Because it is a one way road, you can't turn around and go back if you pass a spot and then decide a few minutes later that you wish you had stopped.  So the best advice is to go slowly and take it all in.  

The area outside the eastern end of the canyon and the upper part of the canyon provide some great photo opportunities.  Here's an early morning shot taken on the eastern approach to Titus in early February:
[attachment=4810:attachment]

The lower part of Titus Canyon is very narrow (often just wide enough for a single vehicle without any place to pull out).  It is quite spectacular as you pass down through layer after geologic layer of different types of rock.  In 2005 and 2006, the canyon was closed to traffic because of wash outs due to a flash flood. That actually made for quite a nice hiking experience since you could hike into the lower part of the canyon without being disturbed by vehicles (or many other people at all).  

BTW, the advice mentioned earlier about being aware of the danger of flash floods applies to all the canyons in Death Valley.  Those broad alluvial fans of rock and gravel spilling out into Death Valley from all the side canyons and washes give you an idea of the power of the floods when they happen, so it pays to keep an eye on the weather.
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John DeMott
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« Reply #21 on: January 22, 2008, 01:38:18 PM »
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Hi again!

  The road leading up to Titus Canyon has some interesting sites as well as the canyon itself as mentioned above. There is a small ghost town before you get to the canyon proper. Also inside the canyon are some petroglyphs left by the indigenous indians. Of course these have been supplemented by some petroglyphs left by idiots. Fortunately, in most cases, they've chosen to create their own rather than adding to the ancient 'glyphs. The plants were real interesting too. As for the canyon walls themselves, interesting is too small a word. It's very easy to see where the canyon floods have been due to high water lines on the canyon walls. Also, since there is sandstone in the formations, huge chunks have been washed out by flooding leaving shallow caves in the sides of the canyon. Very photogenic.

  As for the road, it can be traversed by a regular car, but I would highly recommend a high-clearance vehicle. Once into the canyon, the road is actually pretty good (well, it was when I went through, prior to the above mentioned flooding), however, the road leading into the canyon has some areas that are quite rocky with big potholes.

  If I can get to it this weekend, I'll scan in some photos I took while there.

Jerry
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Hank
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« Reply #22 on: January 22, 2008, 01:58:57 PM »
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I hesitate to bring this up and risk adding people to remote resources.  But in fact the risk is small because most people won't walk far, especially without marked or mapped trails.  I'm not going to get specific on locations though, because there are many of them and there's value in exploring for your own.

But many of the alluvial fans in the valley emanate from really noteworthy small canyons- none named or on trails.  Consider them miniature versions of Titus, but with shank's mare the only access.  There are even some worthwhile small slots.  They're anywhere from half a mile to three miles off the road, so no one is going to bother walking to them during the hot season either.  And flash flooding is an even bigger concern in them, too.

But for walkers and explorers, DV has rich rewards when you get off the beaten path.  Nuff sed.
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jdemott
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« Reply #23 on: January 22, 2008, 02:55:05 PM »
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I'll second what Hank says about the joys of exploring DV's remote locations.  But I have to add a note of caution--some of those areas are really, really remote so you must be prepared even for a short day hike.  First and foremost that means taking enough water.  Also, be sure someone knows where you are and when you plan to return.
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John DeMott
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« Reply #24 on: January 22, 2008, 08:57:48 PM »
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Does anyone know the worst time of year for flash floods? I think we may return in late February, to beat the heat, but be warmer than we were on the last trip. I think I want to come into Death Valley from Titus canyon.
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Hank
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« Reply #25 on: January 22, 2008, 11:05:43 PM »
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I don't recall, but do remember it's over a fair span of time.  Check the DV web site.  Most of the canyons I deal with a short enough that it's safe enough if you stay out when the weather is bad or get out if it turns bad, you're fine.
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gdanmitchell
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« Reply #26 on: January 23, 2008, 06:17:27 PM »
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Having done the Death Valley Thing a few times, I enjoyed your report and then thought I'd chime in with some of my experiences.

(Some photos are here: http://gdanmitchell.com/gallery/v/Landscap...rt/DeathValley/)

I've been meaning to go there in December/January, but my visits have all been during the very first week of April. I've encountered weather ranging from in the 90s to near 100 right on down to sub-freezing with snow. I've been rained on there at least three times.

The scale of DV is huge. For those who have shot other NPs, this comes as something of a surprise. The first time I went there I sort of thought "I'll shoot here in the morning, then go over there, and after that I'll hit the other place, and then..."

Wrong.

Really photographing two locations a day is generally about it. In some cases you might get a third it but only if you plan and time things carefully.

I have not been up to Eureka Dunes yet. In a way, I haven't been able to get charged up about shooting dunes. I have shot the dunes at Stovepipe Wells a couple times, including at night. I'm sure I'll get to Eureka one of these times.

I've been to the Racetrack Playa a number of times. It is my favorite place in DV - not just for the photography, and not just for the moving rocks, but also for the beautiful and rather extreme isolation of the place. There is nothing quite like walking across the vast expanse of that playa - perhaps under a full moon and with the wind blowing.



My reaction to the road is perhaps a bit different that the OP. I have driven it in a AWD Dodge Durango and a AWD Subaru Outback. Both handled it fine, but it is not a fun road to drive at all. I think that the park service may possibly allow this road to remain in fairly horrible condition partially as a way of ensuring that too many people don't attempt the drive. The road is not steep at all, so AWD doesn't really seem necessary (though rain/snow would definitely change that) though reasonably high clearance is important.

The road is generally well graded but terribly washboarded. I've heard of (and briefly tried) the "go faster than 30mph and it smoothes out" approach, but there are just too  many ways for things to wrong quickly and badly on this road at those speeds. So I tend to go slower... and get the crap bounced out of me for an hour and a half each way. Ah, well.

I would not bother to drive out there for a daytime shoot. In my view, the _only_ way to experience the Racetrack is to stay overnight - during a full moon if at all possible. There are no services there whatsoever and no water is available. I've seen as many as perhaps 20 other folks out there, though one time I only ran into one other person.

I like the OP's idea about photographing Mosaic Canyon (and potentially other areas) at night with artificial light. I've done some night photography at the Racetrack but not with any artificial light. Oddly, I found Mosaic Canyon and some of the other canyons (Golden Canyon, for example) to be worthy of photography during the midday in the winter season. Something to think about if the weather isn't too darn hot.

I've written enough for now... so one more photo from the Racetrack.



Dan
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G Dan Mitchell
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« Reply #27 on: January 24, 2008, 06:12:42 AM »
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Quote
Having done the Death Valley Thing a few times, I enjoyed your report and then thought I'd chime in with some of my experiences.

(Some photos are here: http://gdanmitchell.com/gallery/v/Landscap...rt/DeathValley/)

I've been meaning to go there in December/January, but my visits have all been during the very first week of April. I've encountered weather ranging from in the 90s to near 100 right on down to sub-freezing with snow. I've been rained on there at least three times.

The scale of DV is huge. For those who have shot other NPs, this comes as something of a surprise. The first time I went there I sort of thought "I'll shoot here in the morning, then go over there, and after that I'll hit the other place, and then..."

Wrong.

Really photographing two locations a day is generally about it. In some cases you might get a third it but only if you plan and time things carefully.

I have not been up to Eureka Dunes yet. In a way, I haven't been able to get charged up about shooting dunes. I have shot the dunes at Stovepipe Wells a couple times, including at night. I'm sure I'll get to Eureka one of these times.

I've been to the Racetrack Playa a number of times. It is my favorite place in DV - not just for the photography, and not just for the moving rocks, but also for the beautiful and rather extreme isolation of the place. There is nothing quite like walking across the vast expanse of that playa - perhaps under a full moon and with the wind blowing.



My reaction to the road is perhaps a bit different that the OP. I have driven it in a AWD Dodge Durango and a AWD Subaru Outback. Both handled it fine, but it is not a fun road to drive at all. I think that the park service may possibly allow this road to remain in fairly horrible condition partially as a way of ensuring that too many people don't attempt the drive. The road is not steep at all, so AWD doesn't really seem necessary (though rain/snow would definitely change that) though reasonably high clearance is important.

The road is generally well graded but terribly washboarded. I've heard of (and briefly tried) the "go faster than 30mph and it smoothes out" approach, but there are just too  many ways for things to wrong quickly and badly on this road at those speeds. So I tend to go slower... and get the crap bounced out of me for an hour and a half each way. Ah, well.

I would not bother to drive out there for a daytime shoot. In my view, the _only_ way to experience the Racetrack is to stay overnight - during a full moon if at all possible. There are no services there whatsoever and no water is available. I've seen as many as perhaps 20 other folks out there, though one time I only ran into one other person.

I like the OP's idea about photographing Mosaic Canyon (and potentially other areas) at night with artificial light. I've done some night photography at the Racetrack but not with any artificial light. Oddly, I found Mosaic Canyon and some of the other canyons (Golden Canyon, for example) to be worthy of photography during the midday in the winter season. Something to think about if the weather isn't too darn hot.

I've written enough for now... so one more photo from the Racetrack.



Dan
[a href=\"index.php?act=findpost&pid=169102\"][{POST_SNAPBACK}][/a]

Your insights and pictures have inspired me to go to the racetrack now more than ever. And you're right, two times a day, and that is if the locations are not too far apart. However, I want to do much more work at night, and with artificial light is necessary. I have some good ideas about what I want to get with artificial light, and with a full set of strobes and two battery packs, plus all other studio equipment, I'm prepared to go the extra mile to get it. The Racetrack seems perfect for this type of thing. I'd also like to hire a model to get some shots in these places, but that would be rather expensive, not to mention I'd want to have a million in liability. Things happen fast out there.
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B-Ark
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« Reply #28 on: January 24, 2008, 09:25:54 AM »
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Dan - I really like your b+w racetrack image - almost has an IR look to it - the low angle works well. Haven't stayed over night yet - next time.
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Hank
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« Reply #29 on: January 24, 2008, 09:59:58 AM »
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Here's a tip for you if you're interested in night work, Dan:  

Full moon + Stovepipe Dunes = Be There.

Tracks are notaprob.
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dwdallam
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« Reply #30 on: January 24, 2008, 04:16:48 PM »
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Here's a tip for you if you're interested in night work, Dan: 

Full moon + Stovepipe Dunes = Be There.

Tracks are notaprob.
[a href=\"index.php?act=findpost&pid=169253\"][{POST_SNAPBACK}][/a]

Seems like that would work for Eureka Dunes too.
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gdanmitchell
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« Reply #31 on: January 26, 2008, 09:31:38 PM »
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Seems like that would work for Eureka Dunes too.
[a href=\"index.php?act=findpost&pid=169336\"][{POST_SNAPBACK}][/a]

Thanks Hank and dwdallam. I actually did try to shoot the stovepipe dunes under full moon last year. However, for some bizarre reasons I seem to create cloudy, rainy, and even snowy weather in DV. I hiked all the way out to the top of those dunes in the dark... and it was pitch black as clouds obscured the full moon almost completely.

Fortunately, I had better luck at the Racetrack.

I do want to get to Eureka Dunes soon - that is one area I haven't made it to yet. Almost went last year, but as I drove back from the Racetrack the thought of another bone-shaking drive up there was just too much.

I may try coming in from the north this year.

Dan
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G Dan Mitchell
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« Reply #32 on: January 26, 2008, 09:39:38 PM »
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If we go in February, I'm thinking about coming into Eureka Dunes from the north also, then back out and dropping down into DV from Titus Canyon. for those of you in the know, would this be viable? I'd like to miss as much of that washboard as I can.

Quote
Thanks Hank and dwdallam. I actually did try to shoot the stovepipe dunes under full moon last year. However, for some bizarre reasons I seem to create cloudy, rainy, and even snowy weather in DV. I hiked all the way out to the top of those dunes in the dark... and it was pitch black as clouds obscured the full moon almost completely.

Fortunately, I had better luck at the Racetrack.

I do want to get to Eureka Dunes soon - that is one area I haven't made it to yet. Almost went last year, but as I drove back from the Racetrack the thought of another bone-shaking drive up there was just too much.

I may try coming in from the north this year.

Dan
[a href=\"index.php?act=findpost&pid=169883\"][{POST_SNAPBACK}][/a]
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tjhanlon
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« Reply #33 on: January 27, 2008, 07:00:57 PM »
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Dan,

Thanks for the info. A bunch of us are headed out after PMA. Any ideas for some less well known areas?

Your images are astounding, especially the B/Ws of the Racetrack. I visited your website, and you have really strong work. "Last light on El Capitan" is one of the best photographs I've ever seen.

tjh
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gdanmitchell
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« Reply #34 on: January 29, 2008, 10:28:05 PM »
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Your images are astounding, especially the B/Ws of the Racetrack. I visited your website, and you have really strong work. "Last light on El Capitan" is one of the best photographs I've ever seen.
tjh
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Well, thank you very much for your kind words! I appreciate that. That is one of my favorite photos, too. The light on that evening was just astounding, with light fog drifting in the Valley, the last light of the day hitting the top of El Cap and Half Dome, and very interesting lighting in the sky.

But that's Yosemite. :-)

There are, of course, a bunch of places you'll want to photograph if you haven't been there much before - so don't shy away from them: Dantes View, Zabriskie Point, the salt flats, etc. Many of these are good in the usual early morning or evening light. In the middle of the day, assuming it isn't absurdly hot - and it probably won't be this time of year - a good bet is to shoot in some of the deeper and narrower canyons. During "golden hour" there often isn't a lot of light down deep in the canyons, but in the middle of the day interesting light does get down there, and often reflects in interesting ways from the canyon walls.

I have shot both Golden Canyon and Mosaic Canyon during the middle of the day with some success. I wrote earlier that it is often plenty to shoot two major areas each day - one in the morning and one in the evening. One way to get in an extra shoot or two is to use the midday times to go into the canyons.

One other really interesting thing worth shooting, especially if you have "interesting" weather, is the Trona Pinnacles. These are along the road from Ridgecrest up toward Panamint Valley. Just as you come into Trona from Ridgecrest, look back over your right shoulder to see the Pinnacles out in the Valley. The present some really wonderful photographic opportunities.

I don't know how the recent rains have affected DV, but if you are lucky enough to find some pooled water in the Valley, look to shoot reflections of clouds and so forth.

Have a great trip!

Dan
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G Dan Mitchell
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« Reply #35 on: March 07, 2008, 09:10:11 PM »
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For what it's worth....just got back from the Eureka Sand Dunes.
Went in from Big Pine. Road was in really good condition all the way
to Death Valley Road. This has some washboard sections.....35 mph
seems to be the best speed for me on these stretches.

Saw about five other vehicles in and around the dunes. People on the
dunes and of course all the weee little footprints. This was on the west side.

Drove around to the east side. Would recommend 4wd as it is pretty sandy
and soft. The eastern side of the dunes were pristine. I think that is because
they are more difficult to reach. This would be the place to get some great
early morning shots on the eastern side. The west is better in the evening.
Had a front move in right around sunset and killed the light.

Great trip....loved it. Highly recommended.

ps....I think it was in the low 80's.....got a little bit of a sweat up.

Greg.....
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