Death Valley Field Trip, March 2009

Field Trips

David Wilkins, our trip leader, led fourteen LPA members, on a four day photography adventure to Death Valley. David did his “homework” (I’ll give him an A+) and planned the trip around the Full Moon, very seasonable/nice temperatures, and a hopeful show of Wildflowers.


The schedule was planned around Sunrise/Sunset and Moonrise photo opportunities. The whole group was out photographing together for sunrises, and sunsets, and met for breakfast/dinner each day. Photograph when the light is sweet! Eat later!!! During the flat light of mid-day, people scattered a bit into smaller groups and followed their own interests (touring, photographing, hiking and napping).

While the wildflowers were a bit scarce (any there were hunted down and had their picture taken by Tylene and Sue), the moon made a predictable showing, although a bit obscured by all the haze in the air. While not really windy in Death Valley, the winds were gusting up to 50 mph in the AV, and think all the dust blew northeast!

Photographing moonrise over the Dunes in Death Valley proved to be a challenge. In addition to planning on the proper moonrise/sunset time, and leaving time to hike 20 minutes out into the dunes, and time to find that perfect spot, one also needs to consider that the sun drops about 15-20 minutes earlier than expected behind the mountains (you lose the light on the dunes), and the moon rises 15-20 minutes later than expected due to the mountains to the east. That had all been taken into consideration, and we did it all “right”, but also had to deal with the haze/dust. For myself, I am now wondering… just how do you get a clear crisp full moon rising over the lighted dunes? Photoshop?

Everyone had loads of fun trying, comparing/sharing notes, and offering suggestions. The photo ops for lighting on the dunes, patterns in the sand, silhouettes of photographers/ hikers on the ridge were endless.

One morning David led the group to Zabriskie Point for sunrise.

It’s an easily accessible location to drive to, where you can photograph the morning sun as it begins to light up snow covered Telescope Peak (over 11,000 ft) and photograph the light working it’s way down all the colorful ranges of mountains, until it lights up Badwater (below sea level) on the valley floor.



Seven of the group made the drive to the North end of the valley to Scotty’s Castle or the trek to the Racetrack Valley to find the moving rocks.

The day started out with a thick haze layer to the North toward Racetrack Valley, which didn’t look promising. By the time the group got to Ubehebe Crater the skies were clear and after a good shaking over 27 miles of very rough gravel road we spotted the Racetrack Valley.

We walked over the lakebed to the area where the rocks are “launched” so to speak and they must have numbered in the hundreds. We spent the afternoon photographing rocks and tracks. On the way back we stopped to shoot flowers and cacti until the sun fell below the horizon.


After dinner at Furnace Creek Ranch the group stopped at Harmony Borax Works. The moon and stars were out and it was just our luck to catch the ghost of Borax Bill, the famous teamster of the 20 Mule Team Wagons, checking out the wagons. Look in the April 2009 newsletter for a picture of Borax Bill and the wagons.

The meals at Stovepipe Wells, and Furnace Creek Ranch were surprisingly good! Gas was around $2.70 a gallon out in the middle of nowhere, and ice cream bars only 49 cents! Wi-fi is available at the lobby of Stovepipe Wells, although didn’t find that out until we got there. Camping is available across the street, for dirt cheap, if you don’t mind sleeping on the cold hard ground.


Once again… another GREAT trip to Death Valley with members of the LPA! Thank you David Wilkins!!!



Thanks to Sue Craft and Dave Wilkins for providing photographs
Article by Sue Craft

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