I seem to be a weather magnet... In Zion I started the hike to Angels Landing with several friends on a beautiful warm day boasting of a clear blue sky... by the time we reached the top black angry clouds had rolled in, lightning was striking and it looked like Armageddon!
This was not an isolated incident... tornadoes in upstate New York and Texas, a week of camping in the rain in Maine, the tail end of a hurricane on Midway Atoll... Weather seems to follow me.
So is this a curse or a blessing? For the photographer I tend to think blessing. Death Valley is a wonderful place to photograph but throw a couple of storm clouds up and WOW does it pop! Add pools of water in an area that hardly ever sees rain and you have something special. So while we didn't get to visit all of the iconic spots, we definitely came away with some some unique images.
The road crews are working tirelessly to get all of the roads back open and so by Tuesday morning we had an entirely new stretch of road to explore. We shot Zabriski Point at sunrise which turned out to also be moonset. We weren't in the prime position to take full advantage of the moonset but we managed to come up with some nice compositions which included the moon and the unique features of the landscape.
From there we started scouting our sunset location. We drove to Badwater and hiked out onto the salt flats looking for the wide, flat, white, salt rings for which the area is famous. No such luck - the rain has made the ground swell. Badwater looked more like the Devil's Golfcourse with thick high ridges of broken ground. So after a nice walk we headed out to scout other locations. A quick hike in Golden Canyon where we met a wonderfully cooporative raven and then we explored West Side Drive. At the lowest point in the road we found a wonderful mud area and decided this would be our sunset spot. Walking the gravel edge we had to be very careful not to sink into the deep mud... I had a few moments when my tripod slowly stopped being level... after checking the legs were infact locked I had to laugh at myself when I realized the offending leg had actually sunk into the mud. I'm looking forward to heading back to Death Valley to explore some of the side canyons off West Side Drive. We only saw one other vehicle down there, all the other cars stuck to the main highway. In other locations tourists poured off buses and milled around the parking areas.... lining up outside the bathrooms, venturing a few feet out into the desert before retreating to the safety of their metal shell. No thank you! Right now my shoes are covered with a thick mixture of salt and orange clay mud, my jeans are spattered with mud, the knees are thick with salt, I have cactus scratches on the backs of my hands and dirt under my nails. I couldn't be more happy.