Death Valley: Dante’s View Sunrise

Death Valley National Park is a phenomenal study of erosion, weather, geology, sand dunes, salt formations, and huge spring wildflower blooms on rare occasions.

This post covers Dante’s View at an elevation of 5,475 feet (1669 meters). It’s an easy paved road to the top, weather permitting. In the winter, the park service may close the road because of snow.

Feature Image Details

This a primarily a pre-dawn shot. As soon as the sun hits the opposite peaks there is enormous contrast. In the afternoon, you will be shooting into very harsh light, if not straight into the sun.

Even more so than Zabriskie Point, do not be late for Dante’s View. Plan to be at the top no later than 30 minutes before sunrise.

You do not need clouds for the image to work. Frequently you can catch the Belts of Venus, pink bands of light just above the horizon as I have in the feature image, but with some clouds.

Salt

That’s not snow on the ground. It’s salt. Dante’s View is a sweeping panorama of Badwater Basin, over a mile below.

Foreground Subject

One of the difficulties photographing Dante’s View is lack of a foreground subject. I took the feature image very close to the parking lot. There are trails, and I scouted them out, but the views do not improve much.

Second Pre-Dawn Image 

If you arrive early, watch the light behind you. The above two shots were not taken on the same day.

Those interested in my equipment and recommendations can find it here: Mish’s Equipment List.

Zabriskie Point

If you missed it, please check out my previous article Death Valley: Zabriskie Point Sunrise, Manly Beacon.

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Mike “Mish” Shedlock

Death Valley: Zabriskie Point Sunrise, Manly Beacon

Death Valley National Park is a phenomenal study of erosion, weather, geology, sand dunes, salt formations, and huge spring wildflower blooms on rare occasions.

One of the “must see” areas is Zabriskie Point.

Manly Beacon is the high triangular-shaped outcrop on the right. Manly Beacon was named in honor of William L. Manly, who along with John Rogers, guided members of the ill-fated Forty-niners out of Death Valley during the gold rush of 1849.

Get to this spot well before sunrise. As soon as the sunrise light hits the Panamint Mountain Range on the opposite side of the valley, the shot will soon be over.

Also, you need clouds for the shot to work. If there are no clouds, try another location. The sand dunes and Dante’s View (both coming up) are better choices if the light is not dramatic.

Feature Image Details

I consider this light to be good quality and the air was clear. I would have preferred better clouds over the Panamint Range across the valley, but the clouds worked nicely as a panorama.

Manly Beacon

That is one of the images in the panorama.

By the time light hits Manly Beacon, the best images were long ago in your camera.

Do not be late for this spot, or for that matter, any spot in Death Valley. Morning light is very fleeting.

Pre-Dawn Image 

In the above image, you can see the light coming up to the SouthEast (Winter). The contrast was intense. I blended two images together in Photoshop.

The advantage of staying high (at the top of the photography area) is that you can shoot in several directions. It may be better to be a bit lower for Manly Beacon but this shot vanishes.

Those interested in my equipment and recommendations can find it here: Mish’s Equipment List.

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Mike “Mish” Shedlock

Badlands National Park Yellow Mounds Overlook, Big Badlands Overlook

These images are from a trip to Badlands National Park in September of 2017.

We went to the Yellow Mounds Overlook area on two occasions. After Pinnacles, it is my next favorite overlook. There are opportunities on both sides of the road if you wander around a bit.

Feature Image Details

This image and two that follow are stacked images. That means I took multiple images, each focused on a different spot. I used Lightroom to adjust the exposures and color, the same for each image in the stack. Then I manually blended them in Photoshop using layer masks.

With four images, I blend two images. Then blend the next. Then the next. I find starting with the foreground the easiest.

Here are more Yellow Mounds images.

The final image above was not focus stacked. It was taken at 28mm with a Canon 24-105MM F4 L Lens

There was little need to stack. Everything was in focus because this was a distant shot. When you are very close to the subject and want every part of the image, you need to focus stack.

Big Badlands Overlook

Big Badlands Overlook is an excellent location at sunrise. At sunrise, it’s my favorite overlook.

I went to this overlook five times at sunrise and had good clouds only once. The best light was before sunrise. Compare the above two images. I prefer the first. It was 10 minutes or so before sunrise.

Big Badlands Panorama Stitch

That’s a crop from an even wider sequence of five images stitched together. I took that sequence one morning when there was decent light but no clouds.

Lightroom usually does a good job of stitching automatically as was the case here. I use Photoshop merge on occasion, but Lightroom is easier to work with.

Equipment

Those interested in my equipment and recommendations can find it here: Mish’s Equipment List.

Additional Badlands Articles

  1. Badlands National Park Pinnacles Overlook: Sunset, Panorama, and Milky Way Images
  2. Badlands National Park – Double Rainbow at Pinnacles Overlook
  3. Badlands National Park – Castle Trail and Notch Trail Images

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I will wrap up the Badlands in my next article. It has an image of me reflected in a Meadowlark’s eye.  Stay tuned!

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Mike “Mish” Shedlock

Badlands National Park – Double Rainbow at Pinnacles Overlook

These images are from a trip to Badlands National Park in September of 2017. As is typically the case, sunrise and sunset images provide the best light, but there are exceptions.

Feature Image Details

The feature image and the next three images that follow were taken minutes before sunset.

There are at least six cars in the parking lot that I can make out in the feature images. At least another six left within ten minutes of these images.

It was raining hard the sky was 99.5% overcast. No one else got out of their car.

If one was not down at the canyon edge, there was no shot except for the parking lot and road.

The image immediately above was taken right at sunset. You can see the sliver of a hole the sun hit to create the rainbow. When I got out of the car, the only hole was way to the right. The gap lengthened horizontally just as I arrived at the above location. I did not expect this to happen, nor did anyone else, but I took a chance, and I got wet.

Just as the sun hit the sliver of a hole, it stopped raining on me but it did keep raining in the distance. That’s what it takes to make a rainbow. You do not see rainbows looking towards the sun. The apex of the rainbow is 180 degrees from the sun.

Decision Time

I walked down to the location with a Canon 16-35MM F4 L Lens on my camera. It was not wide enough to catch that complete rainbow. When the sun hit the hold, I did not know if I had 10 seconds, 30 seconds, or two minutes, but I knew I did not have longer than that.

I  wanted that full rainbow image badly, so I took a chance and changed lenses. Taking an extra 15 seconds to change lenses in fleeting light is a huge gamble but it paid off.  I grabbed two quick shots, changed lenses back again, and rushed over to the ledge where I took the second rainbow image.

Note the foreground. Imagine the image without the railing. Extreme wide angle lenses must have a strong foreground. I used the railing because it was all that was available on the left side of the frame. I hopped over the railing to take this image.

Seconds later the light faded. I estimate I had about 90 seconds to photograph the rainbow. Had one been in their car, it would have taken most of that time to get down to the location where I was.

I had more time for the third image, as in several minutes. The rainbow was gone but the clouds in the West started glowing. It’s hard to tell from these images, but it really was 99.5% socked-in gray. That little hole provided the magic.

The third image is an exposure composite, one of the foreground, the other of the sky.

More Badlands Images

This is my second in a series on the Badlands. Please also check out Badlands National Park – Castle Trail and Notch Trail Images.

Equipment

Those interested in my equipment and recommendations can find it here: Mish’s Equipment List.

Please Share!

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Mike “Mish” Shedlock