Badwater basin

This was our last stop while in the Death Valley park and the sun was quickly sinking behind the Panamint Range to the West.  We pulled over to the side of the road and I ventured out about 1/2 mile onto the basin, well away from the visitor parking area. Even though there were only a few people out on the basin, I wanted to go to an area that was more likely to be untouched. What I didn’t know is that the salt was so hard that we didn’t even leave footprints ourselves. Regardless, I still enjoyed having to just the few of us. I Couldn’t believe the landscape I was seeing. I had seen images of the area before but none of them did this place justice. There was an area that looked like volcanic rock on the edges, followed by something that looked like boiling water frozen in time. Then as we went out a little farther, we found the hexagonal shapes I had seen in photos before. Some of these areas are large enough for a few people to stand next to each other in, and some of them are a little smaller. There were it appeared something from below was forcing the cracks taller and cracking open. According to the visitor center, a surveyor from the 1800’s was passing through the area and attempted to get his mule to drink from one of the small pools of water. The mule wouldn’t drink the water so he noted in his journal that it had “bad water” which apparently stuck. I spent about an hour exploring the area before we left. Had I been on my own, I would have stayed several hours and let the full moon light the landscape and captured some star trail images as well. Something to plan for the next time I visit…
Badwater Basin Panoramic - Death Valley NP, CA © Rob Loughrey

 

Hexagonal salt crust, Death Valley NP, CA © Rob Loughrey

 

Grand canyon shots

A few shots from the trip to the Grand Canyon. We pre planned a trip that included a bus ride, helicopter ride, the famous skywalk and visits to a few local points along the West rim of the canyon. At first I was a little apprehensive about whether or not the $ spent was going to be worth it. I can tell you, I thought it was. The bus ride was good, the driver had a good personality and gave a good history lesson along the way. After a short detour at the Hoover Dam, we continued onto the canyon. Once we arrived at the site, we went straight to get weighed in for the helicopter ride. I have to admit, I was pretty pumped to do this, even tho the helo’s looked like they had some age on them. I figured, if this was it, at least I would have a good view on the way down. We flew down to the bottom of the canyon, boarded a party boat and took a 30 min ride down the Colorado River. The guide on this portion of the trip was also a great source of info. You could tell they enjoyed the job. After we finished the boat ride, we took the helicopters back to the top of the canyon. The view from the helo was absolutely unbelievable. It is something you just have to do when visiting the area. We then took some buses to the local points  where the skywalk was installed at Eagle Point and then onto Guano Point which offered a 360 degree view of the area. The skywalk is an engineering marvel. It is a glass floored horseshoe bridge that is cantilevered out over the canyon. When you are walking on it, you can see straight down 4000 feet to the bottom. The walls are also thick glass, giving you an uneasy feeling that you are going to take a plunge. Some people were laying on the glass, others were hanging onto the rails. Unfortunately, they do not allow personal cameras (even cell phones) on the skywalk. They give you this liability issue that they don’t want anyone dropping their camera on the glass and breaking it, watching people plummet to the bottom. In reality it is just to make sure if you want a picture, you pay them $30 for it. They have a bunch of high school kids carrying cameras that are somehow safer than yours around getting pictures for a fee. A total scam. Otherwise, it was an amazing day. Already looking forward to going back and visiting another portion of the canyon. Here are a couple pano’s to start.
 

Grand Canyon from Guano Point © Rob Loughrey

 

Eagle Point - Grand Canyon West Rim © Rob Loughrey

 

Skywalk over Grand Canyon © Rob Loughrey

 

 

Death Valley Sunset

While on the way from the salt flats to Badwater Basin, the last light of day was shining on the mountains to the East. I remembered it was near full moon and that it would be rising as the sun set. Typically 2 days before the full moon, the moon is rising well before the sun sets. This gives you an opportunity to get some great shots of the moon rise while there is still enough light on the landscape from the setting sun. As we were driving south, I kept looking east to see if I could spot the moon. At times it was difficult because the mountains were very close and blocking distant view. Then while driving, I saw it cresting over the mountain tops and pulled over for a few shots. The longest telephoto I own is a 200mm at this point, so I used it to snap a few shots along the way. They turned out quite nice with the warm light of the sun against the mountains.
 

The moon rises over the Black Mountains, Death Valley NP, CA © Rob Loughrey

 

Moonrise over Black Mountains, Death Valley NP, CA © Rob Loughrey

 

Southwest trip continued…

Obviously I have way too much going on. Haven’t been able to get online and post anything in quite awhile. Picking up where I left off, after the day at Death Valley, we headed back to the hotel well after sunset. It got dark quickly but it took a bit of time before a good number of stars were showing. We drove most of the way and were coming back through the mountains outside of Vegas and I stopped to get a few shots along the road. I took some pics looking West towards California. The sky was pretty clear and the air was crisp. I shot a few night exposures with the full moon illuminating the mountains. I grabbed a few shots of cars passing by to add a little sense of scale to the scene. It reminded me of something out of The Close Encounters movie. I turned east and looked towards Vegas. We were still 20 miles away but the light pollution was unbelievable. You could even see the light beams from the Luxor hotel, clear as could be. Really neat, but not good for photographing stars.
Stars over Spring Mountains, near Las Vegas, NV © Rob Loughrey

Stars and light trails, Spring Mountain State Park, NV © Rob Loughrey

 

Stars and Light Trails 2 - Spring Mountains State Park, NV © Rob Loughrey

 


Death Valley Part 2

While in the park, I had wanted to go see the dunes at Stovepipe Wells. This is about 30-45 min north on RT 190 in the park. We stopped by the small shops at Furnace creek before heading north. It was very windy most of the day while we were in the area. While we were driving North on the road, I noticed what looked like a wall of sand blowing towards us. With just a few hours of daylight left, I started second guessing where I wanted to go. I thought to myself – if it is really windy and blowing like a sand storm, I am not going to be taking my camera out in that weather. We decided to turn around and head South to Badwater Basin, another location in the park I wanted to visit. This was about 30 min South of were we were. After turning around, we pulled over next to the mountains to the west. There was a giant salt flat area that we saw some people out walking around on. They were quite a distance away as they looked a small as ants out on the flats. We walked across the rocky terrain for about 500 yds before getting to the flats. The wind was absolutely raging. I looked North and sure enough, that wind had one heck of a sand storm going at stove pipe wells. It was probably 20 miles away from us, so we weren’t getting hit with the sand. I took a number of shots out here on the flats while the rest of the family explored. We stayed here for about 45 minutes before moving onto Badwater Basin. If you look closely in the image, you can see the wall of sand off in the distance.
Salt flats - Death Valley National Park, CA © Rob Loughrey

Death Valley National Park

Picking up where I left off on my previous post, there were a few times that I stopped along the way to Death Valley. After we passed through the town of Pahrump, we made our turns onto the road that takes you into the park. We still had a good 35 miles to go, most of it traveling through another valley as we passed through Funeral Mountains near Pyramid Peak. This was a really neat part of the drive with small dust twisters crossing the long stretch of highway. There were not many cars on the road and the landscape was like being on another planet – at least compared to what I’m used to seeing on the east coast. Once we entered into the park, we made a stop along the road and checked out some of the limestone formations. After spending a few minutes checking the area out, we drove a short distance up the road to Zabriskie Point, one of the iconic locations of Death Valley. We spent a good amount of time there with some really strong wind conditions. I had to weigh my tripod down to make sure I was getting a steady shot, not to mention the concern for it blowing over. I could have spent hours here but I will have to save that for my next trip…
Late afternoon from Zabriskie Point - Death Valley National Park, CA © Rob Loughrey

Trip to the great southwest

I just returned home from visiting my oldest son out west. He is US Navy Hospital Corpsman serving in the Fleet Marine Force (FMF) with the 3rd Battalion / 4th Marines. He is scheduled to deploy soon and we wanted to take a few days and spend them with him before he leaves. Since he is out in the middle of nowhere, we decided to fly to Vegas and spend a long weekend using the city as a base to go and do other things in the area.
After some coaxing, I was able to talk everyone into taking a trip to Death Valley National Park. We finally got on the road around 11am and after numerous photo stops along the way, finally arrived in the park. Being my first time out there, I have to say it was quite an experience. The drive alone from Vegas to Death Valley is really amazing. We traveled South first and then North West into California. We passed through several mountain ranges and small towns along the way. Once getting into the park, we stopped at the iconic Zabriskie Point. The landscape is just amazing to say the least. The winds were also extremely strong. There were a few times when I needed to weigh my tripod down to ensure it wouldn’t blow away in the wind. We had a great time visiting and really didn’t want to leave. I am grateful that I had the time and resources to make the trip out with our family and spend some real quality time with Derek. Here is the first landscape shot from the trip – Spring Mountains along US 160 just outside of Las Vegas. The reason we stopped here is a whole different story that I wont go into here.  More to follow…

Desert landscape - Spring Mountain Ranch State Park © Rob Loughrey