Death Valley: Badwater, Salt Polygons, Devil’s Golf Course

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 the Badwater Basin Salt Flats.

Badwater is the lowest point in the US, 282 feet below sea level.

The salt flats in Badwater Basin cover nearly 200 square miles, among the largest protected salt flats in the world. Salt flats are too harsh for most plants and animals to survive, yet are quite fragile. Delicate crystals are easily crushed and the relatively thin upper crust of salt can break through to the mud layer below, leaving tire tracks and even footprints. For this reason, vehicles are prohibited off established roads in Death Valley.

Feature Image Details

Badwater, shown below is the popular stopping spot. You can explore salt polygons at Badwater, but they are trampled flat. To find good salt polygons, you need to park a mile or more away and walk out over some uneven but walkable terrain.

Badwater Sunrise

Badwater typically has a small pool of obviously undrinkable water. The white on the ground is salt. The white in the mountains is snow.

Devil’s Golf Course

Imagine trying to play golf on that surface. The salt is razor sharp. If you fall you will get cut with salt injected straight into the cut.

The above image is the Devil’s Golf Course at sunset with a Canon 14MM F2.8 L Lens. I now recommend the Canon 11-24 F4.0 L lens as a new replacement for the 14MM lens. It is the best wide angle zoom lens in the world. Period. Yes, it is very expensive. It is sharp in the corners, little or no astigmatism, or other common zoom lens flaws. At 11-24 MM it is the widest zoom lens around and it is sharp.

These images were all taken at sunrise or sunset, in the Badwater Basin area.

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

If you missed them, please check out my previous articles.

  1. Death Valley: Zabriskie Point Sunrise, Manly Beacon
  2. Death Valley: Dante’s View Sunrise
  3. Death Valley: Artist’s Palette
  4. Death Valley: Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes Sunset

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Mike “Mish” Shedlock

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

Iceland in 16 Days: Day 16, Reykjavik Sun Voyager Statue

This was our final day in Iceland. We were out past midnight at the Brúarfoss Waterfall on the Golden Circle, the day before our 10:30AM flight back to the US.

On the way back to the hotel, we passed the Sun Voyager statue. When we passed the statue, the sky was gray, but there were interesting clouds. There was also a hole on the horizon. This was a perfect setup.

No better conditions exist than a break in the clouds on the horizon, with lots of clouds above. There was no guarantee the sun would hit a hole on the horizon. The clouds may have dissipated, moved, or completely blocked up.

As tired as I was, and despite a morning flight, I had to pull over and wait. The wait was worth it.

Feature Image Details:Canon 16-35MM F4 L Lens at 20MM, F/11, ISO 100 for 1/5 second

I took other angles but liked the angle of the sun reflecting off the Sun Voyager statue the best. Here is a Sun Voyager slideshow. Click on any image to play.

Notice the break in the clouds on the horizon. The sky was gray but I noticed the break and pulled over hoping the break would last and it did. After finishing these shots, it was 3:30 AM, and we had a 10:30 AM flight.

Off to bed? Perish the thought. There’s still time left.

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Next Up: Reykavik Harpa Concert Hall Sunrise

Mike “Mish” Shedlock

Iceland in 16 Days: Day 11, Westfjords, Ísafjörður Sunrise

I took the feature image right from the parking lot at the Hotel Edda in Ísafjörður at about 3:30AM, shortly after sunrise.

I was extremely tired but there was no way I could pass up a shot like this.

Image Details: Canon 24-105MM F4 L Lens at 28MM, F/10, 1/15th second at ISO 100

The only key to this image was to be up at 3:30 AM instead of being in bed.

It was a long winding travel in the Westfjords to get to this location. We would only get a few hours sleep before having to move on.

Also see …

  1. Iceland in 16 Days: Day 10, Westfjords, Kelp on Rocky Shore Near Ísafjörður
  2. Iceland in 16 Days: Day 10, Westfjords, Hólmavík

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Next Up: Puffins at the Látrabjarg Bird Cliffs in Breiðavík.

Mike “Mish” Shedlock

Iceland in 16 Days: Day 10, North Iceland, Sauðárkrókur

On our way back from Hofsós to our hotel in Sauðárkrókur, we stopped to photograph these scenes just outside of town, right at sunrise.

Feature Image Details: Canon 24-105MM F4 L Lens at 58MM, F/16, 1/13th of a second at ISO 125

About the only thing I would do different on this shot is bump up the ISO to 400, in order to better freeze the small water bird.

skagafjordur-north-iceland-399

Above Image Details: Canon 24-105MM L lens at 55MM, F/16, 1/10th of a second at ISO 125

Most of my images on the trip were shot between 10:00PM and 4:00AM with images of the same place shot just before and just after midnight. I labeled these images day 10, but I could just as easily called them day 9 as we had not yet gone to bed for the evening.

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Up Next: West Fjords

Mike “Mish” Shedlock