Death Valley National Park January 2020

Death Valley National Park has been another "bucket list" destination of ours for a while. After returning from Africa last year we decided to try a new domestic destination for 2020. Death Valley was high on the list, and going in winter seemed like a good idea. Summer temperatures soar to 120F. It's also interesting to note that this year saw a new 5-year heat record, reaching 128F in June 2020. Winter is a different story, with temperatures in the 20s and 30s in the dunes in the morning and warming up to the 60-70s by mid-day. It also means that some places can be inaccessible due to snow and road closures from flooding. We took a chance and went in January and we had great weather. There had been heavy rain and snow the week before which washed out some roads and blocked off the high passes, but the week we were there the weather was really good (we even had one day of wind that smoothed out some footprints in the dunes). We spent 3 days in Stovepipe Wells near the sand dunes and 4 days at Furnace Creek -- close to Zabriskie Point and Badwater Basin. This was also Mike's first trip with an infrared converted camera and Hali had a brand new full spectrum converted camera as well. It's always a challenge to take a new camera on vacation, but for both of us we had used the cameras in other forms before, it was the challenge of learning infrared for Mike and working with the different IR filters for Hali. Although 7 days was good, it wasn't nearly enough. We foresee a return trip when things settle down a bit. We hope you enjoy the images that we’ve shared from our vacation. Best wishes to you all and Happy Trails! -- Mike and Hali

> Just click on any image to see a larger version <

We flew into Las Vegas, rented our sad excuse for an SUV and drove out towards Death Valley. Our first stop was Pahrump, NV to buy food and water — knowing that the dining options were limited in the park. We bought important things, like peanut butter and jelly, bread, oranges, dark chocolate M&M's, apples, cheese, juice and lots of water. We thought it was enough to last the entire trip, but it turns out that we had to make a return trip later in the week for more peanut butter and jelly and bread. And more dark chocolate M&M's -- those never last long. After our stop at Pahrump we continued to the park.

It just happened to be around sunset as we approached Zabriskie Point, so we decided to stop and shoot a bit. After a few quick snaps we pushed onto Stovepipe Wells, getting there just at dark. Left (Hali | Canon EOS R | 01/11/2020 4:19PM | ISO 400 | 1/80s | f/11 | EF 70-200 f/4L). Right (Mike | Nikon D750 (IR) | 1/11/2020 4:21 PM | ISO:1000 | 1/60s | f/16 | 65mm).

We got up well before dawn the next day and made the short drive to the Mesquite Flats Sand Dunes. Hali had done a lot of research and reading on where to park, where to walk, etc. All of that went out the window in the wonderful full moon dark, and we just parked in the main lot and walked through the dunes. Our eyes soon adjusted to the light of the moon, and we found our way to probably the most trampled section of the dunes -- but it was...perfect! Having never been in dunes like this before, it was going to be great. But... wow, there were a lot of footprints in the sand!

Left- Mike lining up a shot of the "big" dune (Hali | Canon EOS RP | 01/12/2020 6:52AM | ISO 400 | 1/4s | f/11 | EF 70-200 f/4). Middle - Hali amidst a sea of footprint laden dunes ( Mike | Nikon D850 | 1/12/2020 7:07 AM | ISO:1000 | 1/320s | f/5 | 200mm). Right- Top of a dune with line of footprints (Hali | Canon EOS RP | 01/12/2020 7:02AM | ISO 400 | 1/15s | f/11 | EF 70-200 f/4).
The dunes are a very popular place for photographers. Sometimes they walk right into where you are shooting and don't notice you've set up for a shot. Instead of being irritated in such a beautiful place, I walked back a little and recomposed the scene with the interloper in a better position. (Hali | Canon EOS RP | 01/12/2020 6:39AM | ISO 640 | 1sec | f/9 | EF 70-200 f/4).

We tried to find angles that didn't have as many footprints, but when all else failed, there was always post processing to smooth things out.

On left is an IR image processed in faux color (Mike | Nikon D750 (IR) | 1/12/2020 6:34 AM | ISO:1000 | 10s | f/16 | 58mm). In the middle is an attempt at finding a curving line of dune (Mike | Nikon D850 | 1/12/2020 7:14 AM | ISO:400 | 1/250s | f/5.6 | 200mm). On right is sand dune abstract using one of the few dunes around with absolutely no footprints (Mike | Nikon D810 | 1/12/2020 7:33 AM | ISO:640 | 1/320s | f/11 | 390mm).
We really liked the abstract, graphical nature of the dunes when the sun rose and lit them up. The bright sun created wonderful sharp intersections of light and shadow that were amazing in both color and black and white. Left (Hali | Canon EOS RP | 01/12/2020 7:36AM | ISO 400 | 1/60s | f/11 | EF 70-200 f/4) Middle (Hali | Canon EOS R | 1/12/2020 7:31AM | ISO 640 | 1/500s | f/11 | EF 100-400 f/4.5-5/6) Left (Hali | Canon EOS RP | 01/12/2020 7:39AM | 1/25s | f/16 | EF 70-200 f/4).
Early morning in the dunes. It was pretty chilly at the start of the morning, but by the time we headed back to the car we had shed most of our layers. Left (Mike | Nikon D850 | 1/12/2020 7:38 AM | ISO:400 | 1/250s | f/8 | 70mm). Right (Hali | Canon EOS RP | 01/12/2020 7:40AM | ISO 400 | 1/100s | f/14 | EF 70-200 f/4).

After our early morning in the dunes we went back to the hotel for a buffet breakfast. Then we went right back out for a walk in Mosaic Canyon...

Left: Mosaic Canyon, Infrared (Hali | Canon EOS RP | 01/12/2020 11:47AM | ISO 400 | 1/125s | f/9 | EF 24-105 f/4 II) RIght: On the way up Emigrant Canyon road there was a small area that had a stream and apparently a fairly high aquifer since there were a few Cottonwood trees and plenty of grasses isolated to this one area, Infrared (Hali | Canon EOS RP | 01/12/2020 1:28PM | ISO 400 | 1/250s | f/8 | EF 24-105 f/4 II).
On left is Hali as we made our way through the winding trail (Mike | Nikon D850 | 1/12/2020 11:05 AM | ISO:200 | 1/2500s | f/4 | 55mm). We set up a tripod to get a shot of the two of us (Mike | Nikon D850 | 1/12/2020 11:46 AM | ISO:200 | 1/4000s | f/4 | 29mm).
This shot of Hali is actually an iPhone panoramic image! (Mike | iPhone XR | 1/12/2020 11:09 AM | ISO:25 | 1/3185s | f/1.8 | 4.3mm).

After that we headed out with thoughts of driving up Emigrant Canyon Road to the old Charcoal Kilns. We got pretty far up Emigrant Canyon road, but as we approached the charcoal kilns the road was covered in snow and our nearly bald tires were not going to make it safely. On the way back we stopped for a selfie on the deserted road.

An open road is a great place for a selfie! When we go back we will make sure to do a retake that's more symmetrical (Hali | Canon EOS RP | 01/12/2020 2:11PM | ISO 400 | 1/1000s | f/8 | EF 24-105 f/4 II)

We took in sunset that night at Aguerberry Point. The drive up there was a little nerve wracking considering the rental vehicle and it's tires. But Mike, as always, got us up and back down safely (although there are now indentations of Hali's fingers in the "oh sh*t" bar above the passenger door).

We can see the reason people take the drive up, it was 360 degrees of desert and badlands beauty. Clockwise, from top left: (Mike | Nikon D850 | 1/12/2020 3:00 PM | ISO:200 | 1/200s | f/16 | 24mm). Brush pushing up through the snow, Infrared (Hali | Canon EOS RP | 01/12/2020 3:20PM | ISO 400 | 1/160s | f/8 | EF 24-105 f/4 II). A break in the clouds shinning the sun on only a nearby peak (Mike |Nikon D810 | 1/12/2020 4:26 PM | ISO:400 | 1/400s | f/8 | 160mm). A view down the valley towards Badwater basin, Infrared (Hali | EOS RP | 01/12/2020 3:42PM | ISO 400 | 1/50s | f/8 | EF 24-105 f/4 II).

While up there we met David Kingham and Jennifer Renwick, the owners of NPN (Nature Photographers Network). Jennifer was kind enough to take a picture of the two of us.

On left (Mike | Nikon D850 | 1/12/2020 4:09 PM | ISO:400 | 1/160s | f/8 | 32mm). Middle, taken by Jennifer Renwick (Nikon D850 | 1/12/2020 3:46 PM | ISO:400 | 1/60s | f/14 | 52mm). Right: Mike capturing the beautiful end of the day light on the Panamint Range (Hali | Canon EOS RP | 01/12/2020 4:24PM | ISO 400 | 1/250s | f/8 | EF 24-105 f/4 II).

We thought about leaving as the clouds started to roll and the sun went down without much of a show. But we decided to wait it out and we were rewarded with fabulous color after the sun set.

Just.Wow. It pays to stick around after the sun sets! Left: A few minutes after sunset, looking south over the Panamint Range (Hali | EOS RP | ISO 400 | 1/30s | f/8 | EF 24-105 f/4 II). The image on the right is actually stitched together from two shots with similar EXIF data: (Mike | Nikon D850 | 1/12/2020 5:04 PM | ISO:1000 | 1/800s | f/2.8 | 24mm).

The next morning had us up early and back at the dunes. We parked in the lot, again, but took a different path out into the dunes.

We weren't the only people trying to catch the beautiful colors of sunrise (Hali | Canon EOS RP | 01/13/2020 7:07AM | ISO 500 | 1/125s | f/14 | EF 24-105 f/4 II).
Monochrome in the dunes Clockwise from top left: sun weathered dead wood, bush and sand ripples, infrared (Hali | Canon EOS RP | 01/13/2020 6:27AM | ISO 400 | 8sec | f/4 | EF 24-105 f/4 II) Those curves in the sand were irresistible (Hali | Canon EOS R | 01/13/2020 7:09AM | ISO 200 | 1/25s | f/9 | EF 100-400 f/4.5-5/6 II) The eye in the dune, infrared (Hali | Canon EOS RP | 01/13/2020 7:44AM | ISO 200 | 1/160s | f/9 | EF 24-105 f/4 II) Minimalist abstract in the dunes, infrared (Hali | Canon EOS RP | 01/13/2020 7:40AM | ISO 500 | 1/800s | f/9 | EF 24-105 f/4 II)
Upper left: light and shadow abstract (Hali | Canon EOS R | 01/13/2020 7:19AM | ISO 200 | 1/40s | f/11 | EF 100-400 f/4.5-5.6 II). On the upper right, Mike got creative with some art filters on this shot: (Mike | Nikon D810 | 1/13/2020 7:23 AM | ISO:200 | 1/10s | f/29 | 340mm). Bottom right: Sunrise created a sharp line between light and shadow and turned the dunes a brilliant orange (Hali | Canon EOS R | 01/13/2020 7:31AM | ISO 200 | 1/60s | f/11 | EF 100-400 f/4.5-5/6 II). Bottom left: more abstracts in the dunes, light and dark, smooth and rippled, the sand in early light was just a delight (Hali | Canon EOS R | 01/13/2020 7:26AM | ISO 200 | 1/125s | f/11 | EF 100-400 f/4.5-5.6 II).
Hiking back out we spotted the setting moon near this small tree and we just couldn't walk by without taking a shot (Mike | Nikon D850 | 1/13/2020 8:20 AM | ISO:400 | 1/500s | f/16 | 220mm).

After breakfast, we drove back out towards Aguerberry point, but this time we only ventured as far as Pete Aguerberry's camp. We wandered around the old mining camp for a while, looking at the buildings and remnants of the mining life.

A picture of the site plaque (Mike | Nikon D850 | 1/13/2020 12:28 PM | ISO:250 | 1/160s | f/16 | 34mm).
Infrared was fun, and challenging. Top left: Cactus among the rocks (Hali | Canon EOS RP | 01/13/2020 11:24AM | ISO 200 | 1/200s | f/8 | EF 24-105 f/4 II) Top right: the old car at Pete Aguerberry's camp, it's been shot up, beaten up and made a wonderful subject. (Hali | Canon EOS RP | 01/13/2020 12:33PM | ISO 200 | 1/160s | f/8 | EF 24-105 f/4 II). Lower right (Mike | Nikon D750 IR | 1/13/2020 2:28 PM | ISO:400 | 1/250s | f/16 | 24mm). Lower left: the road very much less traveled (Hali | Canon EOS RP | 01/13/2020 2:23PM | ISO 200 | 1/160s | f/8 | EF 24-105 f/4 II).

The next stop was a long drive to Rhyolite, NV, -- a small ghost town to the east of Death Valley. Rhyolite, named for the area's unique volcanic rock, was one of those boom towns during the gold rush. It started in 1905 when gold was found in the Bullfrog Hills. Rhyolite was near the biggest mine -- the Montgomery Shoshone Mine. Rhyolite grew as long as the gold held out, from 1905 through 1910. At it's peak, Rhyolite had electric lights, telephones, three train lines, three newspapers, three swimming pools, three hospitals, two undertakers, an opera, and symphony and 53 saloons. During the height of the goldrush in 1907-08 it had a population approaching 5,000 people. The decline of Rhyolite happened as precipitously as its rise. In 1908 there was a re-evaluation of the mine which found it to be overvalued, and the company's stock crashed, by 1910 the mine was operating at a deficit and closed the next year. By 1911 the population had dropped below 1,000 people, and by 1920 nobody lived there. Now it is a tourist attraction and has also been used as a setting for motion pictures.

On left is one of the few complete buildings still standing in the town -- the train station. In the 1930s, the old station became a casino and bar. Later it became a small museum and souvenir shop that stayed open into the 1970s. (Mike | Nikon D850 | 1/13/2020 3:58 PM | ISO:250 | 1/250s | f/16 | 45mm). On right is a dilapidated shack of unknown purpose (Mike | Nikon D850 | 1/13/2020 4:08 PM | ISO:250 | 1/160s | f/16 | 56mm).
Left: The remains of the old bank, infrared, with some creative editing (Hali | Canon EOS RP | 01/13/2020 3:53PM | ISO 200 | 1/800s | f/8 | EF 24-105 f/4 II) Right: Possibly a Mesquite Bush that had blown over, infrared (Hali | Canon EOS RP | 1/13/2020 4:16PM | ISO 1600 | 1/100s | f/6.3 | EF 24-105 f/4 II)

On the edge of town there is a house made of glass bottles! Australian Tom Kelly built this house for himself in 1906. That was before the railroad had reached Rhyolite and building materials were scarce. Lumber was nearly impossible to find, so Kelly used adobe mud to hold together the 50,000 glass bottles that make up his three-room, L-shaped home.

On left is the famous bottle house (Mike | Nikon D850 | 1/13/2020 4:24 PM | ISO:1600 | 1/640s | f/14 | 62mm). On right is the remains of a stone building that can be seen near the bottle house (Mike | Nikon D850 | 1/13/2020 4:34 PM | ISO:400 | 1/80s | f/14 | 27mm).

Our next morning was the last staying at Stovepipe Wells and close to the dunes, so we got up early and headed out to the dunes again.

Left: Sand grass in the rippled dunes, infrared (Hali | Canon EOS RP | 01/14/2020 6:48AM | ISO 400 | .5 sec | f/8 | EF 100-400 f/4.5-5.6 II) Middle: Curvaceous, infrared (Hali | Canon EOS RP | 01/14/2020 6:57AM | ISO 400 | 1/4s | f/8 | EF 100-400 f/4.5-5.6 II) Right: Sunlight in the sand (Hali | Canon EOS RP | 01/14/2020 7:01AM | ISO 400 | 1/6s | f/8 | EF 100-400 f/4.5-5.6 II)

You are all going to be entirely sick of sand dune photos soon (if you are not already).

Three shots from Mike. On the left is one of the more prominent S curves, just before sunrise (Nikon D810 | 1/14/2020 7:03 AM | ISO:200 | 1/2.5s | f/18 | 180mm). In the middle is Mike's least favorite sand dune image. It looks a bit like "Victory at Sea", except with sand instead of water (Nikon D810 | 1/14/2020 7:11 AM | ISO:200 | 1/4s | f/18 | 116mm). The abdominal dunes are on the right. Notice how radically the color changes once the sun clears the mountains on the horizon(Nikon D850 | 1/14/2020 7:21 AM | ISO:800 | 1/100s | f/16 | 56mm).
More infrared abstracts in the dunes. Left: Curvaceous 2 (Hali | Canon EOS RP | 01/14/2020 7:18AM | ISO 400 | 1/80s | f/8 | EF 100-400 f/4.5-5.6 II) Middle (Hali | Canon EOS RP | 01/14/2020 7:20AM | ISO 400 | 1/60s | f/8 | EF 100-400 f/4.5-5.6 II) Left: Sinuous (Hali | Canon EOS RP | 01/14/2020 7:27AM | ISO 400 1/50s | f/8 | EF 100-400 f/4.5-5.6 II)
The dunes just really lent themselves to black and white photography. Left: An unusually clean line on the top of a dune (Hali | Canon EOS RP | 01/14/2020 7:11AM | ISO 400 | 1/250s | f/16 | EF 100-400 f/4.5-5/6 II | Stacked 8 images) Top right is an abstract in infrared, maybe showing you the eye of Ra. Or maybe not (Mike | Nikon D750 IR | 1/14/2020 7:54 AM | ISO:400 | 1/200s | f/16 | 70mm). ) Bottom right: broken branch lying in the dunes (Hali | Canon EOS RP | 01/14/2020 8:02AM | ISO 400 | 1/250s | f/8 | EF 100-400 f/4.5-5.6 II).

It's a bird, it's a plane, it's air force testing grounds!

Left: A B2 stealth bomber with a specialized 747 accompanying it flew over us while we were in the sand dunes (Hali | Canon EOS R | 01/14/2020 7:32AM | ISO 1600 | 1/1000 | f/9 | EF 24-105 f/4 II) Right: When we got back from the dunes we were treated to some overflights by test pilots. We think this is an F-18 Hornet (Hali | Canon EOS RP | 01/14/2020 10:14AM | ISO 200 | 1/1250s | f/5.6 | EF 100-400 f/4.5-5.6 II)

We packed up and took the relatively short drive to the Furnace Creek Inn. When we checked in we were pleased to see a nice restaurant there. We were less pleased when we noticed that entrees started somewhere around $50. PB&J was sounding better and better. Our supply of peanut butter and bread was running low, so we took the drive back to Pahrump for more supplies, and on the way back took the picture below at the welcome sign.

The light was terrible, but decided to take the shot anyway (Mike | Nikon D850 | 1/14/2020 2:34 PM | ISO:400 | 1/320s | f/16 | 32mm).

The late afternoon saw us taking a short drive down Badwater Road to Artists Drive. The rock formations were incredible along the way, and the colors on Artists Drive were beautiful.

Left (Hali | Canon EOS RP | 01/14/2020 2:58PM | ISO 200 | 1/1250s | f/8 | EF 100-400 f/4.5-5.6 II) Middle: You can get an idea of how massive these lava flows were if you look closely - there is a hiker in the bottom center of the image. Infrared (Hali | Canon EOS RP | 01/14/2020 3:02PM | ISO 200 | 1/400s | f/8 | EF 100-400 f/4.5-5.6 II) Right: Some the beautiful colored rocks on the aptly named Artist Drive (Hali | EOS RP | 01/14/2020 3:50PM | ISO 200 | 1/800s | f/8 | EF 100-400 f/4.5-5.6 II)

We decided not to go to Artists Palette for sunset because hadn't had a chance to do any scouting during the day. Instead we headed back to Zabriskie Point to watch the sunset...

On left is the most prominent feature at Zabriskie Point -- the Manly Beacon. While this may inspire you to think of a hearty BLT sandwich, the Manly Beacon is actual named in honor of William L. Manly, who along with John Rogers, guided members of the ill-fated Forty-niners out of Death Valley during the gold rush of 1849. (Mike | Nikon D810 | 1/14/2020 4:59 PM | ISO:1000 | 1/5s | f/16 | 160mm). The image on the upper right shows some of the fascinating striations in the massive dune-like formations (Mike | Nikon D810 | 1/14/2020 5:03 PM | ISO:1000 | 1/3s | f/16 | 200mm). Lower right: the trail leading over the sandstone towards Manly Beacon, the colors in the rock became more pronounced after the sun had sent and almost seemed to glow (Hali | Canon EOS R | 01/14/2020 5:09PM | ISO 400 | 1.0sec | f/11 |EF 24-104 f/4 II).
Black and white, Zabriskie Point. Left: Infrared is great after the sun just goes down, there is enough infrared light to bring out the textures and shapes (Hali | Canon EOS RP | 01/14/2020 5:23PM | ISO 640 | 6.0sec | f/8 | EF 24-105 f/4 II). On the right is a shot similar to Hali's shot (on the left). To give you an idea of the scale, please note that the indentations along the top of the ridges are hiking trails (Mike | Nikon D750 IR | 1/14/2020 5:24 PM | ISO:200 | 25s | f/18 | 48mm).

The next morning we decided to try Zabriskie Point for sunrise. It is a *very* popular spot with photographers, for good reason. I am pretty sure we get up earlier on vacations like these, than we do at home. But we are motivated to capture the early morning light!

The Manly Beacon just before sunrise. On left is the infrared version (Mike | Nikon D750 IR | 1/15/2020 6:42 AM | ISO:200 | 4s | f/16 | 70mm). On right is the color version (Hali | Canon EOS RP | 01/15/2020 6:45AM | ISO 200 | 1.6s | f/16 | EF 24-105 f/4 II).

There are so many photography workshops given in Death Valley that sooner or later you will show up somewhere that has 2 or 3 groups all shooting at once.

On the left you can see the crowds of workshop photographers lining up to catch first light (Hali | Canon EOS RP | 01/15/2020 7:17AM | ISO 200 | 1/10s | f/16 | EF 24-105 f/4 II). Middle: Patterns in the sandstone, the stone itself was more interesting than the actual sunrise (Hali | Canon EOS R | 01/15/2020 7:23AM | ISO 200 | 1/400s | f/8 | EF 100-400 f/4.5-5.6 II). On right: The different colors and textures of the stone were captivating, the early light brought out the textures (Hali | Canon EOS R | 01/15/2020 7:23AM | ISO 200 | 1/320s | f/8 | EF 100-400 f/4.5-5.6 II).
This is a 5-shot panoramic image that Mike took just after sunrise. The EXIF data is typical (Mike | Nikon D810 | 1/15/2020 7:39 AM | ISO:400 | 1/200s | f/16 | 82mm).

After a big buffet breakfast at the Inn we headed out to 20 Mule Team Road where we hiked up the top of the bluffs for a while and got a great view of the surrounding badlands and the 20 Mule Team Canyon.

We tried to get a few shots of us together, because we sometimes forget to do that! (Mike | Nikon D850 | 1/15/2020 11:01 AM | ISO:200 | 1/400s | f/16 | 38mm).
A nice drive along 20 Mule Canyon Road, then some hikes through the badlands. Top left (Hali | Canon EOS RP | 01/15/2020 11:15AM | ISO 200 | 1/200s | f/16 | EF 24-105 f/4 II) Right: Infared as we hiked down from a butte (Hali | Canon EOS RP | 01/15/2020 11:54AM | ISO 200 | 1/500s | f/8 | EF 24-105 f/4 II) Bottom left: also infrared, slightly different perspective (Hali | Canon EOS RP | 01/15/2020 11:54AM | ISO 200 | 1/500s | f/8 | EF 24-105 f/4 II)

After a nice drive and a few fun hikes we headed back down Badwater Road and made a few stops. One of these was at the Devils Golf Course, which is a large salt flat that is named after a line in the 1034 National Park Service guide book which said "Only the devil could play golf" on it, due to the very rough texture of the salt crystal formations. It is the bottom of the former Lake Manly, which covered the valley, and the salt that remains is from the minerals that were dissolved in the lakes water and left behind when it evaporated. Because the "Golf Course" is slightly higher (by several feet) than the floor at Badwater, the course remains dry even after rain storms, the salt forms large, complicated forms. Unfortunately, during times of government shut downs and lack of ranger oversight, people have gone out with ATV's and driven on these delicate formations, crushing and destroying them, leaving permanent scars on the landscape.

A salt crystal at the Devils Golf course (Hali | Canon EOS RP | 01/15/2020 1:17PM | ISO 100 | 1/500s | f/16 | EF 24-105 f/4 II)

We had planned to catch sunset at Badwater Basin, but since we had some time we continued driving down Badwater road where Hali took some more infrared landscapes and Mike got a good picture of the only wildlife we saw the entire trip: a coyote.

Left: That otherworldly landscape was captivating (Hali | Canon EOS RP | 01/15/2020 1:31PM | ISO 200 | 1/250s | f/8 | EF 100-400 f/4.5-5.6 II). We often remarked at how harsh the environment was, and how little wildlife was present. Then we saw this healthy coyote! It must be eating something, so we assume there is wildlife that we just didn't see. Lizards? Birds? (Mike | Nikon D810 | 1/15/2020 1:49 PM | ISO:200 | 1/400s | f/7 | 200mm).

And so we finally came to Badwater Basin, the lowest spot in North America, and home to the hottest temperature in the world. Interestingly, Mount Whitney, the highest spot in the contiguous 48 states is only 84 miles away.

The light wasn't great but how can we resist a photo op with the sign (Hali | Canon EOS RP | 01/15/2020 2:46PM | ISO 200 | 1/200s | f/16 | EF 24-105 f/4 II)

Badwater Basin was amazing. There had been heavy rains the week before, and I heard the entire basin had been flooded. This day the water had receded quite a bit, enough to start seeing the salt polygons beginning to reform. Like Zabriskie Point, Badwater Basin is a big draw for photographers and photography workshop groups. There is a good reason for that -- it is amazingly photogenic with the water reflecting the beautiful sky above as we were treated to another gorgeous sunset.

Left: It was hard to find a wide angle shot without other photographers in it, so I found one that had fairly good posture. (Hali | Canon EOS RP | 01/15/2020 3:44PM | ISO 200 | 1/400s | f/11 | EF 24-105 f/4 II). Right: (Mike | Nikon D750 IR | 1/15/2020 4:32 PM | ISO:200 | 1/80s | f/16 | 24mm).
Oh, those beautiful reflections from the clouds in the sky after the sun went down. On left (Hali Canon EOS RP | 01/15/2020 5:00PM | ISO 200 | 1/10s | f/13 | EF 24-105 f/4 II). On right is an HDR composite from 3 different exposures (Mike | Nikon D850 | 1/15/2020 5:08 PM | ISO:200 | f/18 | 32mm).

We decided to sleep in our next to last morning, we had heard the weather wasn't going to be great, strong winds and possible rain had been forecast. We woke up to beautiful skies, though so we set out to make the best of it. The forecast had moved the wind even up to the mid afternoon, so we planned around it. We took an early morning drive down Badwater road to see Artists Palette in the morning light, and to plan for our sunset shoot there.

Left: Sun and shadows over the mountains from Badwater Road (Hali | Canon EOS R | 01/16/2020 8:42AM | ISO 200 | 1/125s | f/16 | Canon EF 100-400 f/4.5-5.6 II). On the right, the clouds that had been absent for most of our trip had finally appeared. This made for more interesting infrared landscape images (Mike | Nikon D750 IR | 1/16/2020 8:55 AM | ISO:200 | 1/200s | f/8 | 78mm).
Badwater Road has some really interesting scenery, so it's a great road to just drive around and take pictures. These two images are faux color from Mike's infrared camera. On left (Mike | Nikon D750 IR | 1/16/2020 8:25 AM | ISO:200 | 1/400s | f/8 | 120mm). On right (Mike | Nikon D750 IR | 1/16/2020 8:38 AM | ISO:200 | 1/320s | f/8 | 75mm).

Artist's Drive is beautiful loop off of Badwater Road. Even if you didn't want to spend time at Artist's Pallete, the drive is still well worth it. Wikipedia had this great detail on the area: Artist's Drive rises up to the top of an alluvial fan fed by a deep canyon cut into the Black Mountains. Artist's Palette is an area on the face of the Black Mountains noted for a variety of rock colors. These colors are caused by the oxidation of different metals (iron compounds produce red, pink and yellow, decomposition of tuff-derived mica produces green, and manganese produces purple).

Called the Artist Drive Formation, the rock unit provides evidence for one of the Death Valley area's most violently explosive volcanic periods. The Miocene-aged formation is made up of cemented gravel, playa deposits, and volcanic debris, perhaps 5,000 feet (1,500 m) thick. Chemical weathering and hydrothermal alteration cause the oxidation and other chemical reactions that produce the variety of colors displayed in the Artist Drive Formation and nearby exposures of the Furnace Creek Formation. *Thank you Wikipedia*

The area know as Artist's Pallete is beautiful to see. On left (Mike | Nikon D850 | 1/16/2020 10:07 AM | ISO:200 | 1/250s | f/16 | 29mm). On right (Mike | Nikon D850 | 1/16/2020 10:23 AM | ISO:200 | 1/250s | f/16 | 24mm).
Artist's Drive is not just a beautiful drive, it's also a fun drive. The road has some challenging dips and rises, as well as some very tight turns. On left, Hali stepped out of the car to capture some of the interesting drive (Mike | Nikon D850 | 1/16/2020 9:26 AM | ISO:200 | 1/800s | f/10 | 48mm). On right (Mike | Nikon D810 | 1/16/2020 10:42 AM | ISO:400 | 1/160s | f/16 | 150mm).

Then we went to hike the Golden Canyon Trail to Red Cathedral. The Golden Canyon trail is well known to Star Wars fans, several locations from the original Star Wars movies were filmed there, there are even online guides that give step by step guides for different spots and their scenes as you hike.

It was brisk outside of the canyon, with a cool wind blowing strongly. Inside the canyon, the temperature quickly rose. Shorts and t-shirt would have been fine at that point! (Mike | Nikon D850 | 1/16/2020 1:04 PM | ISO:200 | 1/1000s | f/6.3 | 42mm).

The Golden Canyon Trail splits, one way goes off towards Manly Beacon and Zabriskie Point, the other goes towards a massive sandstone formation - Red Cathedral. The first part of the hike is pretty flat and wide, with interesting side canyons, then the last bit is a scramble through rockfalls and up a steep slope, with loose sandstone and gravel underfoot. But the payoff was beautiful, if very unnerving to stand on.

The Red Cathedral, captured from various points along the Golden Canyon trail. On top left is the approach (Mike | Nikon D850 | 1/16/2020 1:42 PM | ISO:200 | 1/320s | f/16 | 52mm). On top right is a better view of the rock formation that comprises the Red Cathedral (Mike | Nikon D850 | 1/16/2020 1:42 PM | ISO:200 | 1/250s | f/16 | 22mm). On bottom left is a vertical composite of two images. At that point we were under the cathedral wall. Looking up showed us all kinds of rock that looked like it wanted to be free of it's earthly constraints. At our feet, the ground was strewn with all kinds of fresh rockfall. It was not a good place for a picnic. We moved quickly through that area! (Mike | Nikon D850 | 1/16/2020 2:09 PM | ISO:200 | 1/160s | f/16 | 24mm). Lastly, on the bottom right, is the view back as we returned to the trailhead (Mike | Nikon D850 | 1/16/2020 2:40 PM | ISO:200 | 1/250s | f/16 | 70mm).

We returned to Artists Palette for some sunset shooting. As the sun went down the colors in the rocks became more saturated. The colors in the rocks are due to the presence of different minerals, which are mostly forms of iron. The red/orange rocks are due to Hematite, the yellow ones are from Limonite. Green/Blue rocks are a mix of Chlorite and Nontronite, and the purple ones are also from Hematite.

The soft light after sunset really intensified the colors of the rocks at the "palette" Left: (Hali | Canon EOS R | 01/16/2020 4:46PM | ISO 200 | 1/8s | f/11 | EF 24-105 f/4 II) Upper right, more of the beautiful colors in the rocks (Hali | Canon EOS R | 01/16/2020 4:51PM | ISO 200 | 1/6s | f/11 | EF 24-105 f/4 II). Bottom right shows the two of us bundling back up as the sun goes down (Mike | Nikon D850 | 1/16/2020 5:01 PM | ISO:400 | 1/2.5s | f/16 | 70mm).

Sadly, all great trips come to an end, and for our last day we started out with a drive back to the Mesquite Flats sand dunes. The wind storm during the previous night was not as strong as was forecasted, but it did remove a lot of the footprints. It was an experience making first tracks in the sand, and we tried to minimize the ones we did make. Another beautiful sunrise awaited us...

We got to the dunes long before sunrise, and it was really worth it! Left: (Hali | Canon EOS R | 01/17/2020 6:39AM | ISO 640 | 1/40s | f/9 | EF 100-400 f/4.5-5/6 II). On right is an HDR composite from 3 different exposures (Mike | Nikon D850 | 1/17/2020 6:56 AM | ISO:400 | f/16 | 38mm).

And we weren't the only ones out there to experience the sunrise.

On left, Hali sets up for a pre-sunrise shot (Mike | Nikon D850 | 1/17/2020 6:42 AM | ISO:400 | 1.3s | f/14 | 48mm). On right: A couple taking an early stroll in the dunes (Hali | Canon EOS RP | 01/17/2020 6:53AM | ISO 200 | 1/6s | f/8 | EF 24-105 f/4 II).

With all that beautiful smooth or rippled sand we just had an amazing morning, shooting both color and infrared.

Left: a small bush nestled in the dunes (Hali | Canon EOS R | 01/17/2020 7:01AM | ISO 640 | 1/200s | f/4.5 | EF 100-400 f/4.5-5.6 II). Middle: a tiny plant drowning in a sea of sand (Mike | Nikon D850 | 1/17/2020 7:08 AM | ISO:400 | 1/13s | f/16 | 50mm). Right: more fun with textures and shadows (Hali | Canon EOS R | 01/17/2020 7:19AM | ISO 100 | 1/8s | f/16 | EF 100-400 f/4.5-5.6 II).
This may be Mike's favorite dune shot of the trip. An abstract taken just after the sun rose (Mike | Nikon D810 | 1/17/2020 7:26 AM | ISO:1000 | 1/250s | f/16 | 190mm).
Two more of Mike's abstract dune shots. On left (Mike | Nikon D810 | 1/17/2020 7:25 AM | ISO:1600 | 1/500s | f/16 | 102mm). On right (Mike | Nikon D850 | 1/17/2020 7:29 AM | ISO:400 | 1/160s | f/16 | 48mm).
On left (Mike | Nikon D810 | 1/17/2020 7:51 AM | ISO:100 | 1/30s | f/16 | 200mm). On right: Golden morning light in the dunes (Hali | Canon EOS R | 01/17/2020 8:03AM | ISO 100 | 1/100s | f/16 | EF 100-400 f/4.5-5/6 II).

The sun is fully up now, and we just have to make our way out of the dunes one last time during this trip...

On left is a faux color infrared shot (Mike | Nikon D750 IR | 1/17/2020 8:18 AM | ISO:200 | 1/320s | f/11 | 24mm). On right Hali poses for a farewell to the Mesquite Flat Sad Dunes (Mike | Nikon D850 | 1/17/2020 8:38 AM | ISO:320 | 1/160s | f/16 | 32mm).

We had breakfast then wandered over to the corral where they kept the horses for trail rides. A few of them were feeling feisty.

These two mixed it up for a while before going off to get a drink of water. The backlight was harsh for infrared, but we made it work (Hali | Canon EOS RP | 01/17/2020 11:54AM | ISO 400 | 1/250s | f/7.1 | EF 24-105 f/4 II)

We had heard that the old Harmony Borax works site was great for night photography, but we never stayed up late enough for that, instead we took a walk through it on our last afternoon. Borax is, and was, used in many laundry and cleaning products, used as a pH buffer and for scientific purposes, it was also, in years past, used as a food additive (it is now banned in foods in the US). The Harmony Borax works were the reason for the opening of Death Valley, and the plant, with its location near the Furnace Creek Ranch, was the reason for the popularity of the area. The plant, which started operations in late 1883 was only in business for 5 years. The difficulty of getting the borax to market, the high heat of the summer which prevented the water from cooling enough to crystallize the suspended borax caused the owner to go bankrupt and the new owners never resumed work there. The image of the 20-mule team is the symbol of the borax industry in the United States. On December 31, 1974 the site was placed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Left: The double wagons were pulled by 20 mule teams to get the borax from Death Valley to Mojave. The picture was taken in infrared (Hali | Canon EOS RP | 01/17/2020 12:39PM | ISO 320 | 1/500s | f/7.1 | EF 24-105 f/4 II). In middle is a shot of Hali leaning again the fence around the borax works (Mike | Nikon D850 | 1/17/2020 12:51 PM | ISO:100 | 1/1600s | f/4 | 70mm). Right, a bush along the fence near the wagons at the site (Hali | Canon EOS RP | 01/17/2020 12:52PM | ISO 320 | 1/400s | f/8 | EF 24-105 f/4 II).

We went back out to Badwater Basin for our final evening. The water had receded more, leaving the salt polygons in more relief, but enough water remained for reflections. It looked it would be a dull sunset until the sun fell below the mountains and the clouds just lit up again. A wonderful send off for us!

On the left is a South facing shot just after the sun ducked behind the mountains. It's a 3 exposure HDR with similar EXIF data (Mike | Nikon D810 | 1/17/2020 5:10 PM | ISO:200 | f/18 | 24mm). In the middle is a North facing shot of the color after sunset in that direction (Mike | Nikon D810 | 1/17/2020 5:08 PM | ISO:100 | 1/1.3s | f/18 | 14mm). On the right is a phone picture looking more directly Westward. This picture also demonstrates the challenges photographers face when shooting at popular locations. You do what you can (Mike | iPhone XR | 1/17/2020 5:13 PM | ISO:100 | 1/84s | f/1.8 | 4.3mm).
And this is one last South facing, post-sunset shot from Mike. It really is worthwhile to stay well after the sun sets (Mike | Nikon D810 | 1/17/2020 5:13 PM | ISO:200 | 1/1.7s | f/18 | 24mm).
The sky was on fire, and with a little water left in the basin the reflections were perfect. It was hard to get away from all the people, and many of the polygons were crushed by people not watching where they were walking, but we managed to capture the beauty. Left (Hali | Canon EOS R | 01/17/2020 5:06PM | ISO 200 | 1/6s | f/11 | Canon 16-35 f/2.8 II) Middle (Hali | Canon EOS R | 01/17/2020 5:10PM | ISO 200 | .5sec | f/11 | Canon 16-35 f/2.8 II) Right (Hali | Canon EOS RP | 01/17/2020 5:18PM | ISO 200 | .5sec | f/9 | EF 24-105 f/4 II)

You made it to the end! Congratulations and thank you for your patient viewing! We hope you enjoyed viewing these images. We also hope that you enjoyed reading the fun facts. Oh but wait -- there are more! Death Valley is the largest U.S. National Park outside Alaska and is about 4 1/2 times the size of Rhode Island. We often hear people say that visiting Death Valley doesn't warrant more than a day or two, but we would strongly disagree. If you have the time and inclination this park is well worth a long look. Happy Trails!