Zabriskie Point Wash

On April 6, 2014, in California, by admin
Death Valley Wash

Zabriskie Point Washes, Death Valley National Park (click to enlarge)

During a quick trip to Death Valley I stopped by Zabriskie Point on the way out of the park.    I still had a long drive ahead of me, but wanted to check out Zabriskie Point for future trips.  Of course, it was midday and the light was just awful for photography.  Normally sunset is the time to be at Zabriskie Point.  The washes have bands of color that just pop in late afternoon sun.  During the midday sun, not so much color.

So, if color is not important to the image, convert to black and white!  If you are shooting during midday, look for strong compositions, these convert very well to black and white.  As a matter of fact, I recently learned a good tip that I plan to use during my next trip.  Jennifer Wu did a YouTube video for Nik Software.  During the video Jennifer suggested that you set your camera mode to black and white.  That way your monitor shows black and white, but if you shoot RAW you still have all of the color information.  Jennifer suggests that this will help you focus on your composition.  I have already set up my camera in this manner for a trip to the Outer Banks next week.

Back to the image above.  By taking out what color there was, I place the focus on the repeating patterns of the washes, the slight S curve of the dry creek bed, and overall texture contained in the image.

Zabriskie Point: N36 25 12.12 W116 48 94.09


Color or Black and White?

On February 13, 2011, in California, by admin

Death Vally Sand Dunes – Original and Black and White

For Christmas my son gave me the book Ansel Adams in the National Parks. Two of my favorite things in one book!  Having traveled to many of our national parks, I was somewhat surprised that I had images similar to several of those in the Adams book.  The major difference is that mine are color while the entire Adams book is black and white.

This got me to thinking how my images would look in black and white.  The image above is similar to one Adams did in 1948 (Sand Dunes, Death Valley National Park).  On the left is my original image, on the right is a black and white rendering of the same image.  Photoshop and other stand alone applications make converting and image from color to black and white easy.  Many digital cameras  allow you to do black and white in the camera.

The black and white image is a significant improvement over the original.  I think the black and white really accentuates the waves in the sand and highlights the dune edges.  This greatly increases the impact of the image.

Some might say that altering the image in Photoshop is “cheating”.  The book describes the process Adams followed to print each copy of the Mount McKinley and Wonder Lake image.  The text says that each of these prints required seven minutes of dodging and burning.  Photoshop and other such applications allow one to do many of these same techniques in a fraction of the time without the chemicals.

The most interesting line I read in the book was that “Ansel found photographing in Hawaii difficult”.  Oh no, I have a trip to Maui planned for the spring…

This is a great book for photography ideas when you travel to many of our National Parks.  I will use this book as a reference whenever I plan a trip to any of the parks mentioned in the book.

Sand Dune Sunrise, Death Valley National Park

What do you do when you are going on vacation and want to maximize your photography opportunities?  Obviously, do your research before leaving home and you will not be disappointed.  One of my favorite sources for out of town photography are the newsletters put out by Robert Hitchman at Photograph America.  Robert has put together 115 of these newsletter (and counting) that cover most everywhere you would want to take a photography vacation within the United States.  I have used these for several trips and have never been disappointed.

I took the above image at sunrise in the sand dunes in Death Valley National Park during a two day, one night trip to that park. To capture this image, I left my hotel room at 2:30 AM (I was on a business trip and had the weekend off).   I drove 2.5 hours to the park, hiked almost a mile into/around the dunes (mostly in the dark!), and set up my camera for sunrise.  I then spent the next two days photographing other areas of the park.  While I did not have time to hit all of the recommended locations at the right time of day, I did get the key shots I wanted.  More importantly, I did not waste time trying to figure out where I should be.  After reading the Death Valley newsletter I knew where I wanted to be every part of the day.