View Full Version : Death Valley

Terry Hull
13-Mar-2014, 08:06
I have visited several times before, always early spring. I am considering going in June this year, and wonder what I will find other than heat. Any difference in clouds, absence, thereof,etc? More people, less people,
site access differences(not snow) ? Filter/exposure etc for b&w?

Thanks again.

13-Mar-2014, 08:18
No clouds, not many people (except some foreign tourists), too hot to photograph easily. Treat the light the same as you would in the spring.

110F or hotter during the day, cooling down to the 80's at night.

Drew Wiley
13-Mar-2014, 08:45
Be careful what kind of shoes you wear. ... the soles can literally start melting on an asphalt road surface. Picnic box with ice packs for your film. Lots and lots of
water. But don't leave patrolled roads either. No place to break down in summer.

13-Mar-2014, 09:39
Another DV thread, who'd a thunk!

I just noticed in the DV book by Adams and Newhall I referenced in one the earlier multitudes of threads (see also Death Valley Light (http://www.largeformatphotography.info/forum/showthread.php?111705-Death-Valley-Light&p=1117327#post1117327)) that there is a page devoted to photography in DV. I don't think you can do much better than that as a primer both in terms of general advice and specificity in what can be a very challenging environment. I don't think you'll have much to worry about in terms of condensation under the dark cloth though. ;)

P.S. Snow will be gone from all high elevation roads, and possibly all high elevations altogether given present snow on the ground. I believe most people go to DV either in the late winter – early spring (Feb., March), or when temps rise to record levels in the middle of the summer – mostly Englishmen :D (to fry eggs on the sidewalk). I'm sure the park keeps records on use, and I know it disapproves strongly on the practice of sidewalk egg frying.

22-Apr-2014, 10:39
Another DV thread, who'd a thunk!

DV is about as close a well known shooting destination as anything else to me these days, but until the end of this February, I hadn't been back since the massive wild flower bloom year, some time ago. That's quite a bit easier to do when Valley temps are tropical and the rest of the country is frozen (thumb on nose, saluting). I began reviewing some historical and photography references and became fascinated once again with its other worldly features and pedigree. So, I came across this YT video of a vintage documentary. It was a lot of fun and quite relaxing to sit back and watch. I could swear I could hear the whirr of a 16mm Bell & Howell projector in the back of the class. Watch for "Johnnie Shoshone" at 3:30. I presume it is the very same Shoshone Johnnie, referenced in the Adams – Newhall book, who breyfogled a mining claim near the Bullfrog Hills from which $5 million was eventually taken. He was paid two dollars, and a pair of overalls for the claim. It was said, he was still wearing the overalls five years later when Rhyolite collapsed. He didn't seem to be wearing them in the flick.


Drew Wiley
22-Apr-2014, 11:07
Interesting you brought that story up. His grandson, Ben Shoshonie (actual name - nicknames often became surnames with the Indians) - was frequently at our house when I was growing up, and I heard the mine story from him.

Andrew O'Neill
22-Apr-2014, 11:50
Thank you for sharing! I enjoyed my short time there last month. Will go back but will probably go in December and spend some time outside the valley in the Alabama Hills.

22-Apr-2014, 18:49
Interesting you brought that story up. His grandson, Ben Shoshonie (actual name - nicknames often became surnames with the Indians) - was frequently at our house when I was growing up, and I heard the mine story from him.

Well, I thought it without question that everything thing I bring up is interesting ;). But I knew I was going way out on a limb with the connection. I think it just as likely that nearly every endemic native was called "Shoshone Johnnie" by whites. However, the timing and perceived notoriety, by choosing him to appear in the film, perhaps, makes the case for it being the same personage a bit more plausible.

Drew Wiley
23-Apr-2014, 08:35
I of course heard the name as John Shoshone, and the actual value of the mine was quite a bit higher. And the way I heard the story, he traded the mine for a bottle of whiskey and a pair of bluejeans. I have no idea if the person in the movie would be the same; but given the timing, he would have to have been pretty old
at that time. His grandson lived about half a mile from us with a white family. Long story. He grew up with us as school kids. But by this point in history, California
Indian communities were largely amalgams of people from completely different ancestries, though around that part of the world, most were either of some kind of
Paiute (Mono) or Yokuts extraction. Not many Miwok left from up towards Yosemite - they got hit pretty hard by the Gold Rush.

Drew Wiley
23-Apr-2014, 08:55
ooop... as my memory is slowly coming back, the name of the fellow who sold the mine was Shoshone George, not John. But Indians were often given arbitrary nicknames, some of which stuck, some didn't. So a "John" in the movie migh have been a son or relative, or someone else entirely. The timing just seems to be too
late to be the original person. But the original story is pretty well documented from multiple sources, and I have no doubt the person I knew was a direct descendant.

23-Apr-2014, 11:25
Silly white men..... Think they can OWN the land.

Drew Wiley
23-Apr-2014, 11:39
The Indian in the flick does have a family resemblance to who I knew, but indeed appears too young if the actual footage is anywhere near 1950. It's in color, so...

lab black
5-Sep-2014, 01:17
I have been to Death Valley in May. It was extremely hot and was not conducive ... to me ... for making images as I much prefer the cooler temperatures of November through February. I suggest carrying lots of fluids, both for you and the vehicle as well as extra hoses and belts. Also, there is very limited cell phone service in Death Valley. That being said, I believe Robert Adams, when asked what is required to make a good photograph, replied, "A pocket full of film." So, I'm sure that you will find many things of interest.

5-Sep-2014, 10:04
I never visited this place before. my knowledge has been increased after reading the above posts. Is there any member who can share some pictures of death valley which he/ she capture during his/her trip. I want to read more views and experiences of others before visiting this valley. I am looking for more replies.

Just a few I have shown here before -- most if not all were taken during the month of February. All from 4x5 negs (TMax100, Gowland PocketView, 150mm lens)

5-Sep-2014, 10:08
And a few taken at the sand dunes in the Park (these are of the Eureka Valley Sand Dunes).

All from 4x5 negs (TMax100, Gowland PocketView, 150mm lens)

5-Sep-2014, 10:14
Very nice, especially like "Windpocket"...

5-Sep-2014, 10:19
Agreed on the "Windpocket"

5-Sep-2014, 10:51
Thanks! A lot of sand blowing through the scene! The photo of my friend photographing was earlier in the day -- no wind, and "Windpocket" was taken towards the end of the day near the top on the dunes seen just beyond and to the right of my friend. The wind had picked up strongly by then and this was the only opportunity I found to use the sand and wind in an image.

The image of the bright rock and the dunes in the back was taken on the same trip on a day that started off with wind. Instead of getting sand-blasted, we explored the area off-dune, so to speak.

Drew Wiley
5-Sep-2014, 10:51
Roufi - The Death Valley complex is large and photographic possibilities are almost infinite, that is, in the context of desert subject matter. The cardinal rules are to carry sufficient gas, food, and water, and in winter a good sleeping bag (it can get cold there), even if you are staying at the Inn. Cars can break down a long ways from nowhere in that part of the world. Dont travel off a paved road unless you know what you are doing, and don't hike around without good footwear and plenty
of water, or anywhere you can't find your way back out. There are a few short popular trails easy to follow, but places like Mosaic Canyon are best done early in the
day, before the herd competes with your tripod socket. Another big logistical problem is dust, either from blowing wind or by some car passing you on a dirt road.
One more reason to stick with paved roads of set up your tripod a safe distance from any dirt one. Most color films have a very hard time with some of the exotic
mineral and clay colors down there, so really need a practice round or two. Black and white shooting is a fairly straightforward option, but due to the high contrast
lighting typical of desert conditions with very clear air, I prefer films with a long straight line which can separate the shadow values neatly. In this day and age, I'd
probably pack TMY400, but I could make ACROS or FP4 work, and several others. Don't make the mistakes of trying to see all the "mandatory sights" on a single
trip. There is just way too much there. But most people start out by working the central area, roughly between Stovepipe Wells and Badwater. A drive up to
Dante's View is also not that inconvenient. Wildrose is a longer drive, and get you up into the Pinyon, but is otherwise easy. There are a lot of interesting things in
the adjacent Panamint Valley and over toward Owens Lake and Lone Pine too. But honestly, you could probably spend a week photographing within modest distances of Furnace Creek itself, if that is where you wish to hang out. Things like salt formations down on the pan are rather seasonal in terms of both accessibilty and
appearance. I'd rather not be there in March when it gets windy. Really a problem with dust then. Nov, Dec, Jan - magical !

9-Sep-2014, 20:16
Been there three times, weekdays are best to avoid the masses. I will be there for nearly three weeks this November, was hoping to spend a couple days at the Racetrack, but it might be trashed from inconsiderate people:


9-Sep-2014, 21:21
Ansel shot it, so, I recommend Zabriskie Point at sunrise.
The first rays of light on Manley Beacon from there is incredible.
I usually go the last week of January.

9-Sep-2014, 21:34
I usually spend about a week, but this would include time in the northern part of the Park (Eureka Valley Sand Dunes). Since I am arriving from the north west, I'll spent 2 or 3 days in these places...Eureka Valley, Mesquite Springs Campground in the northern end of Death Valley and then just west of Stovepipe Wells (Emigrant Campground) at sort of in the center section of the Valley. The last two camps hover around 2000' elevation and are a little cooler than Furnace Creek. A trip out of Death Valley to Rhyolite is a day's worth (return via Titus Canyon!)

Driving distances are long, so that is why it is nice to change camps and work out of different areas for a few days. I am not an early riser (with exceptions), but generally I am away from camp all day, catching the sunset/moon set (or rise) before finally returning to camp. No need to hang around a camp and the people too long.

So, in the end, spend as much time as you need...and if you go late in the season (May or later), then stay as long as you can take the heat. A week could very well be too long when it gets hot! Drink lots of water -- at least a gallon per day per person...more if you are carrying your LF all over the place! Pick some of the higher elevations to give yourself breaks from the heat...there are some campgrounds pretty high up...Telescope Peak, for example.

Anyway I wish you luck!