Zabriske Point Badlands In Black And White


I’ve spent some time in the last few days taking another look at the images we captured on our trip to Death Valley in October 2011.  Originally, I wasn’t too impressed with most of the shots but after a couple of years, and more time/experience in processing images, I’m finding some “new” diamonds in the rough. One of those diamonds is a number of images from our time at Zabriske Point, one of the most iconic areas in Death Valley. Zabriske Point is a beautiful area with lots of textured badlands surrounding the famous rock. We got up to Zabriske Point before sunrise one day and waited for the Sun to come up over the mountains. As the Sun rose the rock and valley below lit up with all kinds of great color. I captured the end of the “blue hour” on Zabriske Point in this image but there were a few other images from that morning that I think I will post over the next few months. One of those is of a small section of badlands that surround the rock outcropping:

Zabriske Point Badlands 1

I used the “kit” Canon EF-S 55-250mm zoom lens (a pretty darn good lens, btw) to capture the late sunrise sun casting some nice shadows in the rock. The original color file looked ok but the colors were a little washed out (probably due to the angle of the sun). Basedon that I thought it looked like a better subject for a black and white conversion. I used Silver Efex Pro to convert the color image. I chose a relatively high contrast image and added a bit of structure to bring out the texture of the rock. Seeing the result in B&W made me wish I had my Rolleicord with me on that trip. I think a “real” B&W image shot on film would look fantastic. I guess that’s a great excuse to go back!

There are a number of other images from that trip (which also included some time in Zion) that I will be taking another look at and probably posting over the next month or two.

The Blue Hour at Zabriskie Point

Back in October, 2011 we took a trip out West to visit Death Valley, Las Vegas and Zion. I know, I know, it’s only been 22 months :-) but I finally got around to seriously looking at a bunch of images from that trip. We saw so many beautiful things during the 10 or so days we were out there that I’ve had a hard time sorting through all the images I shot.

One of the first images that caught my eye was one that I captured during the pre-sunrise “Blue Hour” at Zabriske Point. We got up real early and drove up the Zabriske from the hotel we were staying at in Furnace Creek. Having never been to Zabriske Point before, I wanted to be sure I got there early enough to pick my spot since it is a very popular sunrise shooting location. Sure enough, when we arrived at 5:30 AM (a full ninety minutes before sunrise) the parking lot already had quite a few cars in it. I was still able to stake out what I thought would be the best spot and then began the waiting game…..

Finally, at just after 6:30 AM there was the faintest amount of light just starting to peek over the Eastern horizon (which is at my back). I started snapping off images and the one you see below was one of the better ones I captured:

Mark Sinderson: Landscapes &emdash; Blue Hour at Zabriske Point

This was taken at 6:39 AM, right at the end of the official “Blue Hour” but as you can see in the image, there is definitely a good amount of that beautiful bluish light that makes this time of day so magical. The exposure was 4 seconds at f/8 and ISO 100. The focal length was 55mm. I used the Canon “kit” 18-55mm lens that came with the camera and I’m very happy with the results.

If you want to learn more about when you can use the blue hour to your advantage you can visit the Blue Hour Site  to get an idea of when the Blue Hour will occur at just about anyplace you can find yourself. There are also Apple and Android apps that will help you. If you haven’t yet experimented with shooting at his time of day you owe it to yourself to try it out.

Happy Shooting!


Oasis In The Desert-Darwin Falls in Death Valley National Park

When people think of Death Valley, they think desert, lots and lots of hot, dry, unrelenting desert. While that is mostly true, there is an oasis in the desert, at the far Western edge of the park, and it’s called Darwin Falls:

Darwin Falls-Death Valley National Park

I captured this image on our trip to Death Valley back in October, 2011. We spent a few days there and saw a lot , but not a large percentage, of this huge National Park. To get to Darwin Falls we had to take a pretty rough road for a few bone-jarring miles to the trail head and then hike a ways in. We were the only ones there and it was a  perfect Fall day with temperatures around 80 degrees. I set up the camera and tripod in the marshy area just below the falls and played around with settings and composition until I got the water the way I wanted it. I didn’t have a ND filter so I had to go with a pretty small aperture in order to get the shutter speed long enough to give the water some “flow”.

Death Valley is an awesome place and I will be getting back there as soon as I can to explore more of its beauty. In the meantime, I have lots more images from the trip to work through and share with you.

Mesquite Dunes Near Sunset, Death Valley National Park

Here is an image from our trip to Death Valley in October. This one was from the Mesquite Sand Dunes, which is near Stovepipe Wells, In Death Valley.


Mesquite Dunes Near Sunset, Death Valley National Park

The Mesquite Dunes dominate the area just East of Stovepipe Wells. We stayed at the Hotel in Stovepipe Wells Village on the evening of October 18th. Late in the afternoon, Pam and I drove out to the dunes and hiked about 1/2 mile into them. The Sun was just beginning to set and I wanted to try and get some decent shots if I could. There were a lot of people wandering around on the dunes so it was hard to find a section that was free of either people and/or footprints.

We wandered a little North and West on the dunes until we came upon an area that seemed untouched. The Sun was quickly dropping below the horizon and the shadows were getting pretty long. With this being the 1st time at the dunes I was really trying to find a good shot, one that would really be memorable. I wanted to try and catch the long afternoon shadows on the dunes. I stopped walking and turned around to look at the mountains off to the West of us and I saw this section of dune. The sand had some nice ripples in it and the shadows/setting Sun was starting to cast a slightly golden color to the sand. I st up my tripod and tried to compose the best shot that I could. I finally settled on this one which has some nice lines in the sand leading off to the mountains in the distance. There is some greenery off to the right that seems to keep you focused on following the dunes. There were some nice shadows, and most importantly “NO FOOTPRINTS!

Pam and I sat out there for a little while until it started getting a little too dark for our tastes. We didn’t want to wander around out there in the dark so we headed back to the car, getting there just as the twilight faded. It was a great finish to a fun day in Death Valley. We went to bed after a nice dinner and a couple of Moose Drool’s (a great Craft Beer) hoping to get some good shots on the dunes at the next morning’s sunrise.

Friday Photo Share for October 28, 2011

For this week’s Friday Photo Share I’d like to share an image of a small animal that we encountered while on our trip out West. This little guy was waiting for us in the bathroom when both of us got up in the dark to use the facilities while at the hotel in Stovepipe Wells in Death Valley:


Our Pet Scorpion

Yup, it was a Scorpion. He was sitting (do scorpions sit?) right on the threshold between the room and the bathroom. I was the first to get up and I walked into the bathroom barefooted, used the toilet, and stumbled back to bed, all in the dark and without noticing it. Pam got up after me and she was smart enough to turn on the light, at which point she said “hey, look at what’s sitting on the floor!”

When I saw it I realized that I was very lucky because it was sitting very close to where I walked. If I would have stepped on it I’m sure I would have gotten stung by it. As far as I know I’m not allergic to Scorpions but I’ve never been stung by one. I guess the Scorpions that inhabit Death Valley are not deadly, so that was comforting :-).After I took this picture with our Canon PowerShot S95 I grabbed the ice bucket and scooped him into it. It was only about 1-1.5 inches long and he (I don’t know if it was male or female) was kind of sluggish. It was very easy to get him in the bucket. I took the bucket outside and dumped him in the desert about 50 feet from the door.

That was my first mistaken encounter with a Scorpion and I don’t want another. They are kind of cool animals though and Pam was quick to remind me that her high school  mascot was the Scorpions (she grew up in New Mexico).

I’m hard at work going through all the images I took while out there and I hope to recount our trip over a few posts in the coming week or so. I promise that there are no more Scorpion pictures. Stay tuned…

Happy shooting!