Death Valley Report Part 1: Morning at Zabriskie Point

January 27, 2022  |  Death Valley National Park, California

It's been a few months since I last traveled to photograph anywhere- the Oregon Coast in September, and Acadia National Park in October- so I was excited to get on a plane last week and head to Death Valley National Park with Kristen Wilkinson for a few days of photographing the desert. Living in Maine, I don't get to the desert very often. This was my first trip since I visited Arches in 2015, so I was excited to get there and see what kind of photographs I could make. We spent our time split between three areas of this vast park. I'll address each one in a separate post as I get to processing those images, but our first stop was sunrise at Zabriskie Point, so that's my first entry in the journal!

Manly Beacon and Gower Gulch lie beneath a starry sky at Zabriskie Point in Death Valley National Park.

Zabriskie Starlight

Manly Beacon and Gower Gulch lie beneath a starry sky at Zabriskie Point in Death Valley National Park.

Zabriskie Point being a popular place for a sunrise, we decided to arrive early. So early, in fact, we still had stars twinkling overhead. I quickly decided to take advantage and found a composition I liked, just down the trail from the viewing platform at the Point. The moon was out, providing some light to see by, and illuminating the hills, so it wasn't too difficult to capture both the starry sky and the ridges of hills in the badlands. I did use two separate exposures, one for the sky, and one for the landscape, and then blended them together later.

The sky glows pink as the sun rises at Zabriskie Point in Death Valley National Park, California. Alpenglow lights up Telescope Peak in the distance.

Zabriskie Dawn

Limited Edition

The sky glows pink as the sun rises at Zabriskie Point in Death Valley National Park, California. Alpenglow lights up Telescope Peak in the distance. This is a Limited Edition of 100 prints. Each print includes a signed Certificate of Authenticity, and a matching serial number.

As the sun began to rise, the sky took on this pink hue, with the warm light bathing the rocky landscape. Alpenglow shone on Telescope Peak and the Panamint Mountains in the distance, and I managed to compose Zabriskie Dawn, above, showing both the hills in the foreground and mountains in the distance. This photograph is my latest Limited Edition of 100 prints.

The spines of rock that make up the badlands of Death Valley National Park in an abstract photograph.

Zabriskie Abstract

The spines of rock that make up the badlands of Death Valley National Park in an abstract photograph.

I knew that I'd have the opportunity to make some abstract images in Death Valley, and the ridges of rock at Zabriskie Point offered the perfect opportunity to do so. I used a telephoto lens to zoom in close and try to contrast the highlights on the ridges with the shadows in the valleys. A small river of sand leading deeper into the composition made a great leading line. I definitely plan to try and do more abstract work in 2022.

Manly Beacon is a spire that rises above the badlands in Death Valley National Park. Captured at sunrise here, the Panamint Mountain Range is bathed in alpenglo

Manly Beacon

Manly Beacon is a spire that rises above the badlands in Death Valley National Park. Captured at sunrise here, the Panamint Mountain Range is bathed in alpenglow in the background.

As the sun continued to rise, the alpenglow grew stronger on the Panamint mountains, and Manly Beacon was silhouetted in the foreground. It is named for William Manly, a guide who helped rescue a party of 49ers headed for the California Gold Rush, who had become trapped in the valley. I loved the pink light in the background, and the textured ridges in the foreground.

It's not often I get to a location and make four solid photographs straight off. After two and a half months at home in Maine, wanderlust was getting to me and I was thankful for this colorful morning in the desert. Just what I needed! I'm not sure where my next trip will take me yet, but I can't wait to get there!

Stay tuned for more from Death Valley as I continue to process my photographs.