Dunes and Balls of Fire

Dante's Flare - A sunset sun Flare taken from Dante's Peak as the sun sets over Death Valley, CA - Copyright 2015 Martyn Phillips, M4Photo.

Dante’s Flare – A sunset sun Flare taken from Dante’s Peak as the sun sets over Death Valley, CA – Copyright 2015 Martyn Phillips, M4Photo.

Friday 15th – The morning began with a drive over to the sand dunes in Death Valley.

We initially headed over to the Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes but the location was busy and Paul had his eye on another set of dunes further along the valley. We travelled through some great scenery that included and area of rock that had been thrown up when the area was volcanically active, vast flat plains and of course the dunes, but Death Valley’s geology changes constantly as you drive through it.

Unfortunately the second set of dunes were some miles off the main road and along a washboard track that we were not comfortable driving down and we turned back for the dunes at Mesquite Flat. The journey was not totally wasted because we saw some tremendous scenery and my first coyote up close to the car.

The drive back to the earlier set of dunes was punctuated by a roadside stop to capture some amazing skies as a storm blew through.

Arriving at the dunes we strapped out camera kit to our backs and Paul told me to tighten my tripod straps as tight as possible. When walking they can come loose and a moving tripod on your backpack can make a tough walk much tougher. Heading into the dunes we clambered up and slithered down several dunes before being presented with another wonderful cloud formation. A short stop was taken to capture a few shots and then we headed further into the dunes to a spot that we had noted from the car park.

Infinity - Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes, Death Valley, CA - Copyright 2015 Martyn Phillips, M4Photo.

Infinity – Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes, Death Valley, CA – Copyright 2015 Martyn Phillips, M4Photo.

Arriving at our desired location, we were rewarded by two scenes. One was of a typical crescent shaped dune but someone had walked the dune and spoilt the sides and ridge. However, off to our left and unseen from the car park, was an even better view which we also caught.

With the dune shots in the bag we trudged back to the car and headed over to Dante’s Peak. This would be out sunset shot for the evening. It is a ridge high above the valley floor with views along its length and width and with the salt flats offering a marble type of texture to the valley floor. The sun would set behind the mountains on the other side of the valley and it was that which we were after.

Paul and Mark set up towards the top of the ridge and I wandered down a little lower to a spot that I had found. This proved to be both a good idea as I got some lovely shots along the valley but also a problem.  This was my first time of shooting with stacked filters. I would be using the grad to balance the shot but with the darker rock showing too dark, Paul explained how to use a second filter to gain a gradient in the sky and to get a much better image.  However, shooting into the sun with stacked filters resulted in bad lens flare across my images. I don’t particularly like the flare and I might use one of the images to develop my Photoshop skills, but it is part of this sort of photography and some people like the effect. I’ll give this one more thought on my return home.

With the sunset shots completed and darkness falling, we headed back to the car and the long drive back to our hotel at Furnace Creek.

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