Many Faces of Death Valley

I wanted to get together one post to have all the diverse landscapes of Death Valley. These are the many faces of Death Valley.

Alcázar of Segovia

Call it indoctrination of Disney, or just childhood fairy tales, but castles are yet another obsession of mine, that I just wasn't used to while growing up. Seeing castles up front is major treat and often it feels like when kids see their superheros in real-life for the first time. Supposedly the Cinderella Castle in Disneyland was inspired by the Alcázar Castle in Segovia and Castle Neuschwanstein in Bavaria, but I think most castles would like to claim that credit. 

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The interior of this castle is just as gorgeous and luxurious. I can only imagine what it was like to live in one of these castles in its heyday.

Orange Overload - Antelope Canyon

Antelope Canyon is not like anything you've ever seen before. Antelope Canyon was formed by erosion of Navajo Sandstone primarily due to flash flooding and secondarily due to other sub-aerial processes. Rainwater, especially during monsoon season, runs into the extensive basin above the slot canyon sections, picking up speed and sand as it rushes into the narrow passageways. Over time the passageways are eroded away, making the corridors deeper and smoothing hard edges in such a way as to form characteristic 'flowing' shapes in the rock.

Mars on Earth - Antelope Canyon

Antelope Canyon
Antelope Canyon

Antelope Canyon is not like anything you've ever seen before. Antelope Canyon was formed by erosion of Navajo Sandstone primarily due to flash flooding and secondarily due to other sub-aerial processes. Rainwater, especially during monsoon season, runs into the extensive basin above the slot canyon sections, picking up speed and sand as it rushes into the narrow passageways. Over time the passageways are eroded away, making the corridors deeper and smoothing hard edges in such a way as to form characteristic 'flowing' shapes in the rock.

I found it very daunting to photograph Antelope Canyon. Before I went, these are shapes and textures that I've never seen before and other than pictures seen on the web, I didn't really have any pre-conceptions of what I wanted to get. This was good, it seems, and I am pleasantly surprised at the pictures I got, and is a rare set of pictures (of mine) that I actually like.

The thing that gets you here is the color - hence the title. There is very little vegetation, and tons of sand and rock. The orange is overwhelming, and it makes for amazing pictures. Its easy to get lost in the color, and you could lose the silky smooth flowing textures. This is why I chose to make this picture black and white, before I posted a few more of these with mind-blowing colors.

Napa Valley From Above

My foray in to the west coast of US has been very little. I've heard plenty of stories about the lifestyle of the west coast, which is supposed to be much more easy and carefree compared to the life in the east coast. With the pacific coast, the warm weather and the sunny disposition, its easy to imagine why one would think that. Places like Napa Valley I guess seals that deal. Maybe because it was a vacation but everything that has been romanticized about Napa Valley seemed true to me. The winemaking culture in itself is a very romantic lifestyle (hard work as it is) and everything that surrounds it supports that perception - from the food, to the places that supply that food, to the little neighborhood stores that carry the food, its a very idealistic life. To top it off, if you add a ride on a hot air balloon, well - then that just takes the cake.

It was a good thing California time is 3 hours behind NY - that was the only way I could wake up for the ride. But once you get on the ride, you know why it has to be in the morning. The sunrise over the Napa Valley vineyards was breathtaking. Our balloon company, Napa Valley Balloons was top-notch. They had the morning planned out perfectly. First it was a meet-n-greet session with coffee and juices, then the flight, and then a post-flight breakfast with champagne at the Domain Chandon's etoile restaurant. The lifestyle of Napa Valley was on full display from above, and I captured it as well as I could.

Mesquite Sand Dunes and the Fear of Snakes

Death Valley is a prime venue for snakes. I loath snakes. I purposely chose to go the dunes in the evening, so that I wouldn't have to encounter them.

A Zabriskie Point Morning in Death Valley

A Zabriskie Point Morning
A Zabriskie Point Morning

Death Valley is something else. From the time you enter to the moment you leave, the scenery is nothing like you'll find anywhere else. As such, a million photographers go to Death Valley every year, and one of the most popular locations is Zabriskie Point. Zabriskie Point was also the location of a 1970 movie with the same name, and made infamous for being one of the worst movies of all time. However, the location got a lot of exposure, and became very popular thereafter. It's a favorite because its a very easy location to get to. Its very close to the Furnace Creek Resort, and the location is right off the main street. A few short steps, and you are here.

As with so many of the locations I visited during this road trip, this was daunting as ever to photograph. Part of photographing is trying to be better, and the other part is to be original and create something nobody else has created. Its the dilemma that I faced in this trip many times. At some point I had to abandon this thought process, because it wasn't any fun. I got to Zabriskie Point on the third morning after being in Death Valley, and I was tired and hot. I had left it for last since it was the easiest to get to, and realized that was the right decision. There is a ton of wind on the top of the viewpoint here at Zabriskie Point, and in the early morning, it actually felt cooler (relatively speaking, of course). So in the cooler wind, while everybody else was photographing the Panamint Mountain Ranges, I decided to turn to the Elephant Feet. There were much less people photographing this frame, and so I got to go down from the viewpoint a little bit and get this shot.

Outside

Outside
Outside

This was taken at around 5am At the Mono Lake in Mono County, in the Eastern Sierra region of California. This lake is instantly recognizable by its 'Tufa Towers'; Tufa is essentially common limestone. What is uncommon about this limestone is the way it forms. Typically, underwater springs rich in calcium (the stuff in your bones) mix with lakewater rich in carbonates (the stuff in baking soda). As the calcium comes in contact with carbonates in the lake, a chemical reaction occurs resulting in calcium carbonate--limestone. The calcium carbonate precipitates (settles out of solution as a solid) around the spring, and over the course of decades to centuries, a tufa tower will grow. Tufa towers grow exclusively underwater, and some grow to heights of over 30 feet. The reason visitors see so much tufa around Mono Lake today is because the lake level fell dramatically after water diversions began in 1941.

This lake is an extremely popular tourist attraction, and is highly photographed by photographers. Usually the pictures you will see of the Mono Lake is rich colors and a lot of dynamic contrasts, most times, an HDR. Not wanting to make a cliche photograph decided to give this a b&w treatment. This place is really surreal, and the colors of the lake and the tufa towers gives a feeling that you are not on earth anymore. Giving it a b&w I think seals the deal, and really makes it look like something else outside of our realm.