A year ago, just prior to our visit to Death Valley, I saw a photo by a prominent landscape photographer that inspired me. It was a photo of interesting mud flats with mountains in the background. These mud flats had fascinating geometrical shapes, knitted together in a mosaic that resembled a complex jigsaw puzzle. I saw it, liked it, wanted one of my own. Maybe I could have purchased the photo from the artist, but there is nothing like capturing one for myself. I showed the photo to Kathryn and she wanted one too. It then went on our shot list for our visit.

We stayed three days last year, searching the valley high and low (actually, just low) but could not find mud flats that looked remotely the same. We asked the concierge at the Inn. He hadn’t a clue. We stopped at the visitor center and queried. No luck there. We finished our visit without the shot we wanted. Maybe next time, we said.

Fast forward to the present. On a whim, we decided to visit Death Valley again for three more nights with a goal to locate and photograph the elusive mud flats. To pinpoint their location I wrote to the photographer asking the exact location, perhaps GPS coordinates. No reply. If he successfully photographed the mud flats, probably someone else had also. So, I did an internet deep dive, searching photographs from photographers good and bad, near and far. After some time, I came across a couple of candidate images. I then dug a bit further hoping they wrote about their image in a blog. Luckily most every would-be photographer likes to write about their adventures. I found it.  It turns out the mud flats in question would be just 3 miles from our Inn.

On our first night we drove to the described location, across from Golden Canyon. We parked at the trailhead parking lot and set out in search of the flats. We meandered quite a bit, hiking almost a mile into the wilderness, when we came across some prospective mud flats. Upon closer inspection, they lacked the size and separation we were looking for. We kept on hiking. Remembering what the author had noted, look for water runoff spots, we pinpointed an area that might work. It did. Voila!

Mud flats during the golden hour.
These mud flats were shot during the golden hour, prior to sunset. When composing this photo, I wanted to make sure there was a discernible pattern. Unfortunately, due to the sun, there a shadows and an yellowish hue to the flats.
Mud flats just after sunset.
This photo was shot just after sunset, still in the golden hour. You may notice the same geometric pattern in the mud flats, just rotated 90 degrees. With the sun down the sheen and shadows are no longer on the flats, making for a more pleasing image.
Mud flats during blue hour.
I always try to include a shot during the blue hour. The mud flats have a pinky-blue hue to them, due to the reflection from the sky above. The entire scene is more vibrant making for the best image of the set. IMHO.

While shooting we noticed a group of photographers parked along side the road about 1/2 mile from where we parked. They congregated just a short hike from the roadway. There must be more mud flats there. We decided go there for our next evening’s shoot. It turned out to be a gold mine of mud flats. Everywhere we turned there were flats. Here is a shot of Kathryn’s. The mud flats look like they go on forever.

Mud flats representing a geometric jigsaw puzzle.
These mud flats have a true “mud” color. We get this during daylight with the sun blocked by whisky clouds. I like how this image shows the mud flats as a jigsaw puzzle extending forever. Perfect puzzle for my mom!

Now that we found the mud flats and hexagonal structures at Badwater Basin, there might not be a reason to come back to Death Valley. If we never come back again, I’m satisfied with the photos we took.

Remember, it’s all about the light!