Below Sea Level

From 9300 feet at sunrise to below sea level at sunset, it was a quite a fall for one day. Fortunately, Death Valley is a little cooler than normal (only in the 90’s) and there is a heck of a lot more oxygen in the valley. We may sweat a little, but at least we can breathe.

Sunrise at Badwater

At 282 feet below sea level, Badwater Basin is the lowest point in the U.S.

We didn’t know what to expect photography-wise at Badwater. A photo in our guide book showed what might be described as stain glass effect on a mudflat. A bit dubious, but always looking for something new to shoot, we headed out. After all, with a guide book rating of 4 diamonds, who are we to argue?

The problem with arriving at a new location before sunrise, is that you have no idea what you are shooting or where to shoot. If you wait to see what the light brings, you may miss that magical moment.

From the parking lot we could make out a boardwalk heading into the darkness. It looked as if a trail picked up from there and headed across the valley to a large lake. A lake in Death Valley? That must be the “bad water.”  But darkness can be deceptive.

We walked down the board walk and onto the trail, and then walked and walked. The hard packed mud was so much easier to traverse than last night’s sand dunes. It took a bit to realize the “lake” before us kept receding. Yes, a desert mirage of lighter colored sand and salt.

What lay before us, looked nothing like the guide book. But the blue hour had started so we started shooting – waiting for some magic to appear in our photos. When it didn’t materialize, we figured the magic was in the post processing.


The mysterious lake ahead of us, but blue hour was starting, so it was time to shoot.


Great patterns of salt crystals lay before us. Interesting, but is this worth four diamonds?

A 4 diamond shoot location? Really? We started heading back to our very distant car. We must have walked a mile in search of that lake!

Another photographer heads back to the parking lot. One of the three dots in the distance is Jeff.

And then scenery got more interesting.


Ridges of salt and dirty created unique sculpted patterns


This is what we were suppose to be shooting – we’d walked right by it


Up close, these structures looked like an aerial view of the Swiss Alps

Alas, we had walked right by the best shooting location. So much for our helpful guide book. A reminder that it does help to scout a location before a shoot. Ah well, we made the most of the scenery in the early light and enjoyed the fun.

Devils’ Golf Course

Next stop, Devil’s Golf Course. At this point, I had no expectations and didn’t even take my camera with me as I got out of the car. As usual, it proved to be a mistake.

Devil's Golf Course - not worth a photo - so I thought.

Devil’s Golf Course – not worth a photo – so I thought.

A close look revealed jagged, delicate crystalline structures erupting from what otherwise might be dull looking rocks. Back to the car for camera.


A closer look revealed endless crystalline structures as far as the eye could see


Delicate crystalline structures

Although the light was now getting harsh, I did my best to capture this unique part of Badwater Basin. (I’m still not sure how this relates to a golf course.)

Not quite what we expected, we made the most of the morning light on Badwater Basin. And of course, it’s all about the light.