Death Valley 2016: Monochromatic
I had the opportunity to visit the largest National Park in the United States earlier this year as the hype of the Super Bloom was building. Major blooms in Death Valley are rare, happening every decade or so, and even though it will happen again, I may not be able to make it there for the next one. It’s not exactly a convenient place to get to! I’ll discuss this more in a future post but first, I want to share a little of what I learned in Death Valley along with a few images. I shot only 35mm slide film during my few days there and the images here were scanned (low-res) and converted to B&W.
Perception is a funny thing. We may view these distant snow-capped mountains as not overly tall but to the best of my knowledge, the north side of Mount Rainier is the only other place in the Lower 48 that mountains rise 11,500 ft above the adjacent landscape. That’s over 2 vertical miles! Our eyes don’t tell us this accurately but maybe a camera can help. It certainly can’t show how massive this place is. As I’ve probably mentioned before though, cameras and eyes don’t see the same way so I use a camera to show something else. My hope is that you can see it too:)
There’s a hidden beauty in Death Valley that isn’t obvious at first glance. It takes time and effort to find it but is there for anyone willing to seek it out. It may be in the way the colors in the sky transition in subtle ways, the juxtaposition of life and death, of light and shadow, or in the simplicity of open space. With this in mind, Death Valley no longer seems like a giant area of nothingness but more like a landscape of infinite possibilities. It’s simply a matter of perspective.
Death Valley is millions of years in the making and constantly changing on a scale of time that is beyond our comprehension. Sometimes these changes are so slow we perceive the landscape to be motionless. Other times, it changes before our very eyes. In October 2015, portions of Death Valley had 3+ inches of rain in 5 hours, destroying roads and buildings while transforming this arid land into an oasis. Then it evaporated. Other times, the motion of the landscape is on a much smaller scale. The wind in Death Valley can be brutal, as I found out on my first day here, and is responsible for the creation of massive sand dunes that stretch for miles. With winds in excess of 50 mph, I decided to pass on shooting that day since I didn’t feel like getting sandblasted. I waited until conditions calmed a bit and photographed the aftermath instead. The result of this intense windstorm was beauty that took my breath away. All signs of human presence had been erased and replaced with Nature’s art. I was in paradise.
I’ll share more images soon from the dunes and eventually, the wildflower Super Bloom. Spending a few days here in the 75 degree February sun was the perfect way to kick off Spring and I’m already looking forward to next year here!
Thanks for reading and following along,
What colors do you imagine?