Death Valley:  How Low Can You Go?

This winter I have been fortunate to be able to travel away from home.  My first trip, which I reported on recently, was to Iceland.  Last week, under the guidance of John Barclay and Cole Thompson, I attended a photography workshop in Death Valley, CA.  Much of the workshop was devoted to converting photos from color to black and white. Color photography has been my passion, as colors seem to make me feel more alive, but I learned that black and white photography can create moods not available in color.

Decomposing Car Near Abandoned Mine

 Decomposing Car Near Abandoned Mine

The process in “developing” black and white images is different, as well. In spite of the “focus” of the workshop, I was compelled to create both color and black and white photos. I love stretching myself, learning new approaches and skills, as I form my unique vision.

Sand Dune Art with LIght, Shadows, and Textures

Sand Dune Art with Light, Shadows, and Textures

When in Iceland, I was unable to photograph the aurora borealis because the sky was cloudy every night. Mother Nature conspired against me in Death Valley, too. The week before I arrived, there was an intense rainstorm, the result of which was that many areas in the national park were closed. I had hoped that the rain would result in the growth of desert flowers while I was there, only to learn that it is not recent rain that causes that growth, but rather rains from the fall, of which there was very little, even by desert standards. In spite of the lack of access to large parts of the park, however, there was still not enough time to spend there.

Evening Light Kissing Sand Dune Ridges and Tips

Evening Light Kissing Sand Dune Ridges and Tips

Death Valley is a photographer’s paradise. The landscapes very from parched and dried up soil, to large, snow-covered mountains, salt and mineral flats, moon-like surfaces and rock formations, and rolling sand dunes. Throw in a few abandoned mines and towns, and you have a microcosm of so many other locations in the US and abroad. If you visit, make sure you go in the winter. Summers are extremely hot and dangerous, with temperatures recorded as high as 135°F. The park also marks the lowest point in the Western Hemisphere at 282 feet below sea level.

Alabama Hills: Giant Alien Skull?

Alabama Hills/ Giant Alien Skull?

There are other places of interest within reasonable driving distance from Death Valley. Our small group spent a couple of days in the Alabama Hills, which are in the vicinity of Mt. Whitney, the tallest mountain in the lower 48. Also nearby are Joshua Tree National Park and Mono Lake. These are among the many places that will draw me back to this area.

Sand Dune Ridge or Ocean Wave?

Sand Dune Ridge or Ocean Wave?

What a month I’ve had, going from glaciers to the desert. Later this year, Niki and I also will travel to Israel to visit family and friends, where I will complete the circle, as we have arranged to photograph parts of the Dead Sea, the lowest point on earth. So how low can I go? The Dead Sea is 1,388 feet below sea level at its lowest point!

Top photo: Mountains Bathed in Early Morning Light and Shadows

All photos by Gary J. Kohn

Click here to view the rest of his photos of Death Valley.