Tag Archives: deserts

Stories in Death Valley

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Did you know that billions of seeds lie in wait (for years) in the desert for enough rain to germinate and grow? And of those billions, not all will get that chance. Wind, bird/animal droppings all play a part in where seeds come to rest, and if they are lucky it’s a place where there will be enough water to allow them to burst into life.

I come from a background of storytelling with my photography, having worked for magazines. So I’m naturally drawn to stories that show up in my nature work. As I was coming back from an early landscape photo session, I spotted this group of phacelia blooming in a depression alongside the road. I had driven the road twice at this point, but missed this one because it was in full sun, until this morning. To me, it expresses the story of life in the desert – how rainwater collects, and there those seeds will germinate and grow, pushing up through the cracks of the now-drying puddle. But there was enough water to let those plants grow, and that to me expresses how persistent life is! Not to mention patient.

Thanks for visiting!

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Death Valley Spring

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By many accounts this is a super bloom year in Death Valley. And in my opinion, it was super no matter whether the media/park service called it that or not! It was spectacular to witness the landscape bathed in bright cheerful yellow. You would step out of your car and be greeted with not only the cheerfulness of the flowers, but the softly pungent/sweet fragrance of them, too. It’s not over, but the showy desert gold flowers have gone past their peak, about a week ago, as I was leaving, and that’s what shows up the most in the big landscape.

Yet no matter how great it looked, it was at times challenging to capture. When you were driving around, looking at the vast scenes, you’d think that the desert floor was choked with flowers. But get out of your car, and you realize that each plant has space around it in all directions, and for good reason: water rights. They each need a certain amount of water and the space allows them that, essentially. “Ah, but that’s just the side of the road”, you think to yourself, looking deeper into the landscape at swaths of yellow carpeting the alluvial fans. “It looks like they are more dense further in.” So you walk in – well I didnt, but so many did, hoping to get to “that area over there that looks so great!” I knew from the last superbloom I experienced there that you never get to that place of dense flowers, because it’s all an optical illusion! I have to admit I chuckled a few times as I watched people deep into a field trying to get closer to that elusive great patch of flowers.

 

In theTharp_20160226-5815 end, the compression of the scene is what made for more interesting photographs for me. I used my Tamron 150-600mm and my Canon 70-200mm a lot more than I had expected. I looked for stories, the way the desert gold flowed down an alluvial fan, as that was where the most moisture flowed in the rains. I found flowers in the volcanic rocks, backlit and looking like a ski slope the way they trickled down the erosional gullies on the hill. And I loved how the splash of color accented the mountains of ochre, brown, and beige.

And when I had my fill of the larger landscape (which was never), I found the intimate scene just as special, because beneath all those showy yellow flowers, tiny plants were flowering everywhere, too.

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The desert heat was getting to the flowers, and getting to me!! Hotter than usual for this time of year, and an unforgiving sky meant you had only a little time in the morning or late afternoon to create images of this natural spectacle. In between? You went for the shade of the Tamarisk trees near Furnace creek to download, chart batteries, and, um, nap…!

Thanks for visiting, and don’t forget to share with your friends, please.

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Touring Namibia

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We’re having a grand time in Namibia! Today, we photographed all day at Kolmanskop, the old mining town that is being buried by sand. What an amazing place. There is such an aura there, of lives lived. I challenged everyone to capture the essence of place in there pictures, to tell the story of abandonment, faded glory, etc. It wasn’t hard! Everywhere you looked there were photographs. I loved how elegant this bannister was on this staircase. At one time, this place was beautiful and new. Now, it’s beautiful and old. My only complaint is that we are now moving on to Sossusvlei Dunes – but it will be another incredible location!

Enjoy,

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The Racetrack in Death Valley

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I’ll bet you were expecting one of those infamous rocks that moves across the playa. Well, we found those, too, although it’s increasingly difficult to pick out the real ones versus the ones people have pushed around. And so many have been taken, it’s pretty sad, really.

 

It’s still an incredibly surreal place to visit, and we found a few dead bushes and branches that had blown onto the playa here and there, and used those to make our landscapes of this strange place, as much as we photographed the rocks and their tracks. We got lucky – all afternoon it looked like the sun was going into thick clouds, and yet by the time we arrived, those had melted and we had sun – mixed with clouds, but enough moments of sunlight to capture the texture of the playa, and bring out the pattern of the geometric shapes. The low angle of the sun brought out the long fun shadow of the bush. And the clouds in the background stuck around long enough to add so much to the picture! We got lucky, that’s for sure, but we endured the bumpy ride out so it was fitting to have good light as our reward for getting there!

I lowered my tripod and angled my camera dow to bring out the foreground. I used my new Canon 16-35mm f2.8 II lens. I’m loving having a bright wide-angle zoom again.

Thanks for visiting. Comments are always welcome!

 

 

 

 

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