Day 4/24 – Part 2/2

Improving on Camp Location

While it is still early in the day, I decide to drive to the Furnace Creek Ranch of which I have good memories sleeping there over 10 years ago. It’s the only other alternative within the park and as winter is not as busy as summer, chances are good to find a bed without reservation.

And I’m right. I book for two nights because I will leave Death Valley via the south exit and this location is closest by.

Trona Pinnacles in Rebound

These Trona Pinnacles of the evening before are still ringing in my mind, although it’s a 5 hour drive there and back, I just have to see them again and photograph them properly this time.

Being there well before sunset I have ample time to explore the area and find the sweet spot. The wind is blowing very hard this time and I have to shelter the tripod behind the car and shoot from a low position to prevent vibrations.

Trona Pinnacles

See how the quality of the light changes over a short period of time.

Trona Pinnacles

This particular one measures a whopping 96 megapixels and takes me around two days to process. The pinnacles, the mountains in the background and the sky all needed specific processing and had to masked carefully. Lot of work, shooting is only a small part of the total package.

Trona Pinnacles

Trona Pinnacles

This one also took quit some work as again there are three regions that each need their own processing with respect to light, color, details and contrast.

Trona Pinnacles

Most people would leave directly after sunset because ’the show is over’, but sunset is actually more like half-way. Until 45 minutes after sunset really spectacular photographs can be taken while the darkening sky turns into beautiful pastel tints. The sensor of the camera sees this type of light quite differently than our eyes do.

Trona Pinnacles

Trona Pinnacles

This is typically the afterglow most people miss. The sun has set some time ago and the sky reflects beautiful warm light on the mountains.

Trona Pinnacles

Trona Pinnacles

The soft pastel coloring of this one I really like.

Trona Pinnacles

Trona Pinnacles

Trona Pinnacles

At some point, the sky turns darker and becomes ugly on photos. Waiting for an hour now could make me switch to night photography, but I still have a 2.5 hour drive through the dark desert ahead and I guess this very location here will become a kind of haunting place soon as well (-;

Again a Scary Drive

After the driving the 8 kilometer dirt road, I’m back at the main road and darkness has fallen completely. A GPS becomes a really handy gadget in these circumstances as you can anticipate on the dark road ahead. Like the evening before it guides me to the dirt road in the mountains. This time I know for sure it is the wrong one.

Before turning around, I decide to stop for a while, turn out the lights and leave the car to watch the night sky which is really clear and twinkling with millions of stars. The Milky Way is already visible as a cloudy band along the sky. It takes some time to let my eyes adapt (it takes usually around 30 minutes for your eyes to adapt to total darkness), but decide not to stay too long as I have wild plans for the morning after, implying a very early wake-up.

I close the car and walk around a bit. After a while, it occurs to me that I have left my flashlight somewhere in the car and that I would really have a problem if I would drop the car keys here accidentally. I decide to stop this exercise and press the button to open the car, at least that iss what I think I’m doing. The car starts to honk and blink like a madman and for a second I do not understand what’s happening. I must have hit the alarm button I did not notice before. So I start to press all the buttons on the key until it finally stops and the car is open.

This was a really odd experience as I have adapted to darkness and quietness, only to be spooked by all this noise and these lights! It becomes a bit funny soon after, as I wonder how many coyotes have been spooked by all this (-;

It’s a bit weird and even a bit scary at times to be on your own in such a remote place in the dark, as the terrain is unfamiliar and sometimes the darkness makes you wonder what is lurking over there.

I mark this spot though, as I will definitely return somewhere in the future for some nice night time photography. Shooting the Milky Way is still on my wish list and appears to be quite impossible in most places in Europe because of the amount of light pollution.

Bryce Canyon National Park is well known as a good night time location because of the clean air and high altitude. I have been there several times now, but sofar there has always been something that prevented me from exercising some star shooting, being it sickness or cloudy skies. At some time in the future, conditions and location will turn out to be optimal I hope.

I return to the main road and continue to the Ranch for a good night sleep, wondering how the photographs of the Trona Pinnacles will turn out after processing.

Maps, Charts & Downloads

GPS Map with color coded altitude information

Color coded distance/altitude chart

Color coded distance/altitude chart, South West USA Winter 2010, Day 04

Download the original gpx file here.