Death Valley: Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes Sunset

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 Death Valley Sand Dunes, specifically the Mesquite Flat dunes.

The dunes are easily accessible, just minutes from Stovepipe Wells. They are a very popular spot. It is nearly impossible to find undisturbed ripples anywhere near the parking lot where the tallest dunes are.

The dunes area is vast. I parked a mile away to get this image. The only time the tallest dunes will be without footprints are at sunrise following a very windy evening. Even then you better be the first one up and far away from the lot, or people will be walking in from of you, messing up the shot.

Feature Image Details

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

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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.

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Mike “Mish” Shedlock

Joshua Tree National Park – Barker Dam – Autumn Reflections in December

The Barker Dam, also known as the Big Horn Dam, is a water-storage facility located in Joshua Tree National Park in California. The dam was constructed by early cattlemen, including CO Barker, in 1900. It was raised in 1949 by rancher William F. Keys.

I took this set of images on December 12, 2017. No one was more surprised than me to learn mid-December was the peak of Autumn. The willow trees were all glowing orange and yellow about a half-hour before sunset.

We got there late in the afternoon and it was a scramble to take as many different angles as I could in about 1/2 hour of time.

Feature Image Details

Additional Images

All of the images were taken with the same 24-105mm lens. The focal lengths of the images ranged from 24 to 98mm.

Nowhere else in the park has such beautiful deciduous trees.

Equipment

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 10, Westfjords, Kelp on Rocky Shore Near Ísafjörður

The drive in the fjords to Ísafjörður was very scenic. We stopped many times along the way to photograph kelp glowing in the sun. This image was just before sunset.

Feature Image Details: Canon 16-35MM F4 L Lens at 17MM, F/16 for 1/8 second at ISO 100.

Positioning the sun right along the edge of a mountain or just behind, but peeking out of any object makes of a diffraction star, and the Canon 16-MM F4 lens does an excellent job. Best effect is when stopped down. Typically I use F16. F22 is not as sharp.

To get this image right, I manually blended several exposures using layers and layer masks in Photoshop. I await a version of Aurora-HDR for Windows to do this in a more automated fashion.

The easiest way to take multiple exposures with a Canon EOS 6D or other similar camera is to setup a custom function for taking multiple images. I take three images, at +0, -2, and +2. If I need another image or two I typically bracket in one direction.

Once again it was very late in the evening and we still had quite a bit to go to get to our hotel in Ísafjörður.

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Up Next: Town of Ísafjörður

Mike “Mish” Shedlock

Iceland in 16 Days: Day 8, North Iceland, Husavik Moonset

After watching whales put on a magnificent display, we returned to harbor. I did not have a tripod handy, so I balanced my camera on a railing by the pier.

Feature Shot Details: Canon 24-105MM F4 L Lens at 105MM. ISO 200, F/13, 1/30th of a second.

This is an image of a moonset over the harbor, right at sunset, shortly after midnight. 1/30th of a second is really pushing things for hand-held photography at 105MM, but I am very steady. I also balanced on a railing and turned image stabilization on.

Without stabilization, the rule of thumb is 1/focal length. In other words, I needed to shoot at 1/100th of a second not 1/30th for a sharp image.

I believe the rule of thumb is too generous. 1/200th would be my standard. Stabilization would bring that down to 1/100th or perhaps 1/50th of a second. The rail helped. This is a sharp image.

99% of the time, if not more, I have stabilization off.  I always have stabilization off when I am on a tripod. Stabilization can ruin long exposures because the camera is hunting for induced movement that isn’t present.

After returning from whale watching, all the restaurants were closed. Normally they wait for the returning boats, but all the operators stayed out long because the wales were extremely active, breaching (jumping) all over the place.

One restaurant was still serving spaghetti. It was the only item they had left. It was the worst spaghetti I ever had, covered in some sort of yellow clam sauce. I deemed it inedible after tasting a bite. My wife Liz did not even try. We went to a gas station for some snacks and a slice of pizza.

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Up Next: Akureyri

Mike “Mish” Shedlock