Running Out of Gas



Running out of gas is not something you want to do in this place. Call me paranoid, but the whole time I have been here I haven’t allowed the needle on my gas guage to get below half-full! The one running out of gas is me… the early morning starts and jet-lag are starting to catch up. Add to that the hot weather (which I appreciate but am not used to), and the 40 mph winds that blasted the valley all day today, and I am getting pooped.

Anyway… now for another photograph. I wandered out onto the salt flats at Badwater this evening. If you haven’t seen this place, it is well worth a visit. In addition to being at 282 feet below sea level, it is notoriously hot. Death Valley receives less than 2 inches of rain all year, but it has an evaporation rate of more than 150 inches total. What that means is that the sun literally bakes the ground, drawing up any moisture and leaving behind a salt-encrusted, baked and surreal landscape.

The last time I was here a couple of years back with my buddy Steve, the temperature was a stifling 121 degrees. The air was so heavy that evening that it really was a challenge to move at anything other than a snail’s pace. Staying hydrated was key to surviving that adventure, and even though it hasn’t come close to those searing temperatures this time around, water and sunscreen have again been essential.

When photographing the shapes on the salt flats, it can be challenging to “see” patterns that you like for the purpose of composition. I waited and waited for the magic to happen with the light, and I ended up staying out on the flats until after dark. I wanted to represent what my eyes saw, but the camera was unable to render the scene in one exposure. This image is a combination of two exposures… one for the foreground, and one for the sky. For the sky I used a neutral density filter to enable a longer shutter speed… and I think that helped deepen the colors. The salt flats reflect the color of the sky, hence the blue tint. It is always about the light, and when you combine a location like this with special light, you get great memories… and a nice photograph.

Needless to say, on this occasion there wasn’t a soul around for miles. The solitude and serenity afforded by being in a place like this is why I enjoy landscape photography.

I am hoping that the winds have died down by the morning so I can photograph the sand dunes near Stovepipe Wells. I wouldn’t dare take my camera out there with the sand blowing the way it was earlier today… that would be suicide for that little puppy. The good news? Well, the wind will have erased all footprints on the dunes, so if all goes to plan the area will be pristine by morning, and ready to be photographed.


3 thoughts on “Running Out of Gas

    • davidpatterson4

      I do remember the wreck… apparently Death Valley has more than its fair share of car wrecks. You get a combination of wide open roads where people think they can drive faster, awesome scenery grabbing the driver’s attention, and the soft shoulder on every road which if driven on will definitely cause a rollover… that and flat tires everywhere!

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