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NEXT:  Page 4   San Luis Reservoir/Pacheco Pass SP
2016 Trip Chronicles:    Contents

Death Valley NP 2/14
Death Valley NP 2/15
Death Valley NP 2/16
Page 2 Death Valley NP 2/12 1of2

2016 Trip Chronicles:  Page 3

Death Valley National Park 2of2

Saturday night was uneventful except for a mosquito bite on my wrist probably from a breeze carried refugee from a swampy spot in the Amargosa River basin, Saratoga Springs, several miles to the south. The itchy red spot lasted for two days or much longer than typical bites from tiny snow mosquitoes abundant during early Sierra Nevada summers. These over-wintering desert species are larger and more potent. Sunday morning February 14 dawn rose. I got up more slowly this morning and instead of driving off to the Jubilee Pass flowers since air was near calm, explored the wash I was parked in for close-up subjects still in shade before sun rose over the Black Mountains. There were far more good situations than I would allow time for as the wash had a list of species. I worked a less common yellow hued variant versus more common white petal plant brown-eyed evening primrose, that is on the previous page camissonia claviformis. Another yellow petal evening primrose of similar size corolla, gold cups, has more deeply saturated yellow petals.

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Some emerging primrose had especially red leaves looking like a related species, bottle brush. I came upon the above situation that made an ideal subject with background sand close enough to also come into focus. Next was a top down perpendicular view of a flower head of usually forever bobbing desertgold sunflowers, displayed lower on this page...geraea canescens. Note a few black beetles munching on its sweet sticky pollens.

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Within the tangled branches of a creosote bush at the side of the wash was a notch-leaf phacelia, phacelia crenulata, plant where weather worn dead wood could complement a group of adjacent flowers. I am always looking for plants closely against objects like rock in order to capture both in sharp focus given less depth of field required. Found a brown-eyed evening primrose, up against an orange hued Paleozoic boulder, displayed on the previous page...camissonia claviformis.

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PC02876-81  5000x3000 pixels  1 frame 6 image focus stack blend   A6000 30mm
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Wishing to stay longer in my enchanting wash but with larger landscape prey to bring down, I drove down the dirt road and back to the Jubilee Pass area. However it was a bit breezy. Less so than Saturday but still too much for unblurred in registration foregrounds though I worked a couple spots nonetheless I was unlikely to have another chance for. To be more productive I went down into the deepest wash in the area that afforded wind protection. It was a wonderful wash with many shady absolutely vertical mud brown hued walls over 10 feet tall. Up a side ravine at 10:45am was a situation for image above capturing back lit flowers up in the sky above. At frame mid ground are the shadowed vertical walls of the wash ravine with the Owlshead Mountains in the background. The purple flowers are caltha-leaf phacelia, phacelia calthafolia, that were abundant about the Paleozoic slope bedrock though don't tend to stand out well against dark rock.

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PC02907-02938-5x1v  15600x6000 pixels  5 frame 5 column 1 row 32 image focus stack stitch blend   A6000 60mm
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As time passed, I noticed it was oddly calm down in the ravine? So maybe winds above on the plain had also balanced and calmed? I climbed out with some effort up a steep loose slope and indeed the breeze was near calm so at 11:15am quickly went to work at a subject with the best combination of sandverbena and desertgold I'd come across in this zone. Interestingly there were absolutely no footprints anywhere in the sandy area even though it was just a quarter mile from the paved road! Few people much less serious photographers, bother to explore away from near road sides in our parks. The light now at late morning was somewhat harsh though muted by high clouds thus off axis somewhat back lit directions were situations I looked for. The above image looks towards Jubilee Pass, mostly back lit that tends to increase the flower saturation versus front lit situations.

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PC02939-02970-5x1v  15500x6000 pixels  5 frame 5 column 1 row 32 image focus stack stitch blend  A6000 60mm
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The next image above, shows a sandy concave slope foreground dominated by sandverbena, abronia villosa, with rusty geology of the Paleozoic Era Black Mountains in the background. I liked the edge on view of the desertgold plain that makes for a dense yellow line. The steep slopes at right was a pinch point on the plain for east winds from Jubilee Pass about 4 miles to the right. Accordingly blowing sand has built up on this lee side more than at other areas in this zone and that is why the sand loving verbena were also abundant here providing a better balance of pinks and yellow hues.

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Continuing up a large complex of washes northeast at the blocked end of the Jubilee Pass Road, I rounded a ridge and found an abundance of gold cups aka golden evening primrose, camissonia brevipes, that were uncommon in areas just lower in elevation. Looking for an aesthetic specimen, chose the subject above that was conveniently beside the edge of the vertical sided wash at waist height that I was able to work while standing in the wash. Notice the small red dots at the center of the petals. The light twig at frame upper left is somewhat distracting. Many photographers might pick it up, however the way I play the game, I never adjust subject elements unless they are in front of a subject blocking a lens view. In coming weeks as desertgold wane, dense swaths of gold cups in some areas will succeed into prominence.

Using focus stack blending allowed capturing the full plant and background rocks all in sharp focus. That was possible because the plant elements are not so close to my lens that parallax issues would be significant. When one focuses on a background say behind the yellow petals, the petals themselves will not be at critical focus and instead have blurry unfocused edges. Thus combining two images, one focused on the petals and one on elements behind will show haloes because on the background focused image, the area of sharp background focus does not actually extend to the edge of the petals and instead there will be blurred haloes at those edges. By moving further back from the subject, haloes can thus be reduced. Also by using a smaller aperture with greater depth of field for the background capture, haloes will be reduced. Accordingly there are limitations to what is possible with focus stack blending so a neophyte using that technique will go through a period of learning what works and what does not work in real field situations.

Another abundant wildflower in the wash I captured displayed lower on this page was a yellow hued lesser mohavea aka golden desert-snapdragon, mohavea breviflora. Note at frame upper left are the white flowers of cryptantha, a small plant that is actually the most common wildflower about the Jubilee Pass Road wildflower plains, probably a few dozen times as many plants as the much larger and showy desertgold. In rocky areas where the big sunflowers are sparse thus not hiding the little plants, cryptantha is often dense enough to make such areas rather white.

dave-wash

On my return leg to the Subaru, I sat down on a convenient round red boulder embedded in the gravely wash to take a couple timer self portraits. Note all discoloring on Levi 501s and boots is not dirt but the result of accumulated sticky pollen from rambling 3 days through flower fields. By nature pollen has evolved to be sticky and sweet to attract insects and be carried off when they leave. Most of that is from brown-eyed evening primrose that readily releases pollen at boot to shin level. Higher up on my pant legs is mostly desertgold.

The dark items at my lower left side in the image at bottom are the black circular nylon cases for a collapsible 32 inch diameter diffuser and a reflector that I make considerable use of during wildflower close-up work. Around my neck hangs the cord of a remote infrared shutter release in my left hand that I usually use to prevent camera vibration and if not will use the 2 or 10 second shutter timer. For years I have worn those cheap Home Depot black foam kneepads most everywhere out in the field including during my summer backpacking trips. Note the green Everest waist pack with 3 pockets I always wear in front that contains many small items. The most often used item inside is a small micro fiber cleaning cloth I constantly clean off my lens surfaces with. And related are lens caps that I usually bother to install if I am not likely to be shooting soon. And note clear protective filters are on my lenses because field work is a harsh environment with particulates everywhere. The old orange Black Diamond L40 Stone narrow width climber's daypack has about 2000 cubic inches of space and most gear is just tossed in loosely. My lenses are however in soft nylon zippered cases. I am not a fan of dedicated photo backpacks with their heavy protective padding and little room for other non-photo gear. As a senior citizen now long years with usual presbyopia, I put reading glasses everywhere in my world and when out in the field that means right at hand around my neck. My A6000 camera itself is almost always hand carried, mounted on the Induro tripod without any protection. If I am going to ramble a long ways across terrain without shooting, it will go inside my day pack, with the tripod strapped to the back of the pack. I will add as someone that lugged about heavy 4x5 view camera gear many years, my digital gear is relatively so much lighter that it will put years more life into my passion.

The rest of the afternoon breezes continued and skies to the west were hazy murky though less than on Saturday so I decided to go back and loaf the rest of the day at my camp area. Below another murky muted sunset image just feet from my camp showing a small sandy wash through aesthetic bed rock. The level sandy wash areas afford an abundance of tenting choices. Another benefit of camping during late winter in our deserts is there are few insects out and about so one also has the option of sleeping out under the stars tentless.

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My last day in the southern bloom areas of Death Valley would be Monday. At night I will occasionally do a finger out the window check for breezes since that is of considerable concern with wildflower work that causes image capture blurring and with multi image blending, mis-registration. During the evening breezes had calmed nicely. My expectation was that the trough that moved into the northwest Great Basin Friday filled that region on Saturday causing peak breezes at basin boundaries and as it pushed east over the Rockies Sunday a high pressure northerly flow moved west taking its place over the area. When such a high finally centers over a region, winds will be minimal so my expectation was Monday morning had the best chance for winds to null. However on any day as land areas heat up from the sun, thermal imbalances between valleys and mountains may also generate winds. Then too in the evening there are a few hours where heat during a day and cooling areas at night may create breezes that are apt to decline by the wee hours.

calm morning on the Jubilee Pass Road

As dawn skies rose at my basecamp on February 15 that was also Washington's Birthday, I was glad to see air clarity was now much better. That would improve sharpness of landscape elements at long distance of which the park has many. Without wasting time I broke camp and drove off to the Jubilee Pass Road end. But first spent maybe a half hour before sun reached down to the plains working a couple important close-up subjects I had not yet captured. There were in fact many close-ups for species I had simply not made time for while breezes were calm in order to instead work landscapes. Time when breezes were light or nulled were limited so one has to make choices. My first subject below were these two nicely saturated side by side sandverbena, abronia villosa, that are also rather fragrant but not as strongly as desertgold. The colorful parts are not actually corolla petals but rather calyx sepals.

When creating focus stack sets, I use the A6000 spot autofocus function where a small cursor is moved around the electronic viewfinder screen to set a focus point. However there are times when the spot area on cameras is too wide to fit through narrow spaces between frame elements to reliably focus and if so will switch to manual focus, an operation sequence I've minimized with camera options. With the below subject note the long flower tubes between sepals that are down inside the corolla ball. I manually set focus for one shot of the set on those tubes and another manual spot on a sepal poking out at the edge from the back side of the ball.

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PC03137-42  4000x2500 pixels  1 frame 6 image focus stack blend   A6000 60mm
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Generally the sandverbena in the zone on sunnier aspects including those in images above were already showing signs of sun bleaching, drying, and wilting. Given the considerable aesthetic importance of their different hues to complement the otherwise dominating yellow hue desertgold, the timing for my visit was optimal. Additionally the brown-eyed evening primrose that were the first species to bloom, were also showing those same signs and would go next. My suspicion was anyone visiting the bloom areas beyond a week from my visit would increasingly find less aesthetic color and conditions. The desertgold on the other hand would last well into March with vast fields of yellow color. Although few desertgold plants were showing wilted gone to seed flower heads during my visit, in a mere week there were many that would increasingly show wilted flowers on their large stems. So for broad aesthetic wildflower landscapes it was rather obvious I had nailed the peak though there would increasingly be other less dense in landscape species especially at higher elevations that would be making appearances that subsequent photographers could work with.

Since it was not quite dead calm, I found a desertgold flower with bud subject I was able to set up my Benbo Trekker tripod beneath by scrunching down in a small wash in order to capture an image up against the sky that is on the previous page...geraea canescens.

This is one of my favorite close-up styles evident in my body of work. However putting a camera low to the ground pointng up at a subject against the sky is not an easy task both in finding a subject where that is possible, setting such up, and then laying on the ground low enough that one can set focus points looking into an EVF or LCD. When sun comes out for such subjects my technique is to block the sun with a diffuser or reflector then use my in camera flash in fill flash mode. For the above, I set my aperture at F14 as a compromise between adequate depth of field and the beginning of diffraction limitations. With more time and absolute dead calm for exact multi image registration, I could have set up a focus stack set using flash while increasing aperture size. With the very slight breeze that was not an option. The resulting images show exquisite detail and blue skies provide a wonderful back drop. Look at the enlarged vertical slice view.

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Without much delay I put the A6000 back on the Induro tripod then quickly rambled out a quarter mile to the very best landscape subject I'd surveyed in the flower zones during my trip. The early morning air at 8:52am was now dead calm, air clarity was exceptional, and the scene was glorious. Photographers that expect such a scene might be better with warm near sunrise light are simply inexperienced critically looking at natural light. Through my 60mm lens made 50 images as my infrared shutter release went into warp drive over a 16 minute period of selective focus stacking with the downsized for web display image at...page top. Look at how sharp the image is with the enlarged vertical slice view from the foreground edge at frame bottom far into the distance at frame top.

Centered in the background is the smooth dark rounded form of Shoreline Butte 4 miles distant with the southern end of the Panamint Range 16 miles distant while the northern end of the Owlshead Mountains shows at left frame edge. In front of Shoreline Butte is the Amargosa River channel that had been flowing during the October floods but had long since gone dry and is below sea level. In glacial periods Lake Manly 25 miles beyond the right frame edge and centered at Badwater, extended up the valley and beyond this frame to the left. Thus volcanic Shoreline Butte shows evidence of those ancient shorelines. The orange triangular Paleozoic Era outcrop at right adds a fine graphic I had maneuvered about the bajada to just poke up a bit into the sky and then looked about for a nice patch of dense flowers.

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PC03207-03270-6x2v  18700x9000 pixels  12 frame 6 column 2 row 64 image focus stack stitch blend  A6000 60mm
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My second image up above was the largest of the trip, a 6 column 2 row 18700 by 9000 pixel stitch blend set. The foreground enlarged view shows sandverbena, desertgold, brown-eyed evening primrose, plus a dense patch of cryptantha. Note in the center slice on slopes of the peak, the uniquely steep sand slope in a ravine covered with sandverbena attests to the considerable wind borne sand in this Jubilee Pass zone on days with high winds. Consider that most of the year about the only living vegetation on these slopes are the creosote bush and desert holly with all the rock and sand soils directly exposed to wind and sun. Each projectile grain of sand is a bullet striking other rock, grinding away the landscape slowly through centuries and millennia. Thus blowing sands in this windy pass zone move directly against that steep vertical face only to be captured slowly filling in what was a ravine. Also notice in the left slice the vague purple tints against the orange peak rock that are caltha-leaf phacelia.

The angle of view of my 30mm lens in its vertical orientation is also 30 degrees and 44 degrees in the horizontal that is a normal lens view. For my 60mm lens it is exactly half those thus 15 degrees and 22.6 degrees. For panoramic work using a vertical orientation dominates. A two column stitch of two 30mm lens vertical orientation shots results in a 50 degree wide by 44 degree high angle of view image that is nicely near square. For the 60mm lens, four such adjacent views would be 4x15=60 degrees. However stitch blending post processing blending algorithms reliably need at least roughly 1/3 overlaps between adjacent column frames so the actual nominal field of view for 4 vertical frames is 45 degrees horizontally or similar to that of a normal 35 SLR lens horizontal orientation. ((1+2(N-1)/3)AOV) In like manner the lens horizontal orientation is 22.6 degrees so for 2 rows that provides 37.67 degrees vertically. A manual panoramic head will have an axis of rotation for the horizontal above the tripod head and another for the vertical on a perpendicular arm. The marks on my panoramic head are conviently at 5 degree intervals thus in vertical lens orientation I use most often, each stitch blend position rotates the pano head 15*2/3= 10 degrees or 2 pano vernier lines. Using the 30mm lens is exactly twice that or 20 degrees that is 4 lines. Once a top corner of a frame is adjusted with the head spirit bubble level balanced at center, moving to subsequent positions simply requires rotating the head to the next line increments without needing to make any visual checks through a camera.

For the image at page top, a 4 column 2 row photo, I started from a 0 degree position on my pano head for the top left corner frame position, tightened all the tripod and head controls, took several focus stack shots, then rotated the horizontal axis 2 lines clockwise or 10 degrees, took more focus stack shots, rotated another 2 lines likewise, then another 2 lines likewise. At that point of 10+10+10 degrees clockwise I was at the other side of the intended frame at the 30 degree position. On the Ninja, every 30 degrees of vernier lines is labeled. As noted above the 60mm lens has a horizontal angle of view of 22.6 degrees. 22.6*2/3= 15 degrees or 3 vernier lines. So I then rotated the vertical axis 3 lines, took shots, and then rotated the horizontal axis 2 lines counterclockwise each of 3 times till I was back at 0 degrees.

Because all this takes time, if a sky has moving clouds, they are sure not to line up after all the required time between shots has elapsed. But there are tricks a creative person may figure out for different moving element situations. As an example, after I am say back at the 0 position, I could rotate the vertical axis 3 lines back to the top row starting position. Would manually set focus for the distant mountains. And then would take 4 final shots in rapid sequence in a few seconds manually moving the head 2 lines clockwise between each shot. But as with focus stack blending, there are limitations with stitch blending a neophyte will learn to avoid. Besides mis-registration due to element movements, changing light luminance on landscapes for instance due to passing clouds can be impossible.

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PC03271-03327-5x2v  15500x9200 pixels  10 frame 5 column 2 row 57 image focus stack stitch blend  A6000 60mm
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This third image above is similar to the previous view but with a more interesting sandverbena foreground. Looking at the enlarged view peak areas besides noted phacelia are light green plants. Those are perrenial saltbush aka desert holly, atriplex hymenelytra, very common in all areas of the park and the Mojave Desert. At this winter time of year its light green leaves are wonderfully soft. I hurried to make a fourth image at 9:40am then rambled back quickly to my car as I wanted to catch the Copper Canyon bajada in best light.

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And that I did with the offset light mid February at 10:30am absolutely perfect. And one can now understand above why I did not dally down south despite many more strong subjects than the four I worked. I carefully lined up graphical elements especially the cracked alkali playa patterns. Such an outstanding subject of complex elements that photographers could set up their tripods at in several spots. But one would have to do for this person, a style I picked up from years of 4x5 view camera work where each exposure is a lengthy tedious process so enthusiasts learn to set up on a single carefully chosen subject a single time and take a single exposure getting it right the first time, the only time. A very different mindset than the other extreme of some DSLR users that fire away machine gun style.

During a storm, water and soils entered the playa from the very rocky bajada at the edge of creosote bush slopes. At peak there was a flow delineated by the graceful curve of orange soil mid frame against the white alkali salts. A depth of that flow passed between that orange line and the hummock of pickleweed aka iodinebush, allenrolfea occidentalis, foreground center, evidenced by the fine dark particles at the left edge of the damming pickelweed and a scoured area between the two. Most of the year this would be a fine subject for photographers however during this brief once in a decade display with yellows of desertgold sunflowers, it becomes exceptional for color photographers. Also with clear air replacing overnight what had been 3 days of murky often dusty with wind picked up clouds of dust, the valley shows a glorious clean pure sky blue as good as it gets. That I have lived during an age when some of we humans might experience such glorious places as this at such times is a blessing beyond words.

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The gravel rocks of the Copper Canyon bajada are also quite a joy to walk on. The broken rock fragments themselves are a highly contrasting mix of black, white, and rusty hues. Everywhere are hundreds of small tiny white hued rock daisies between their towering desertgold neighbors. Unlike the Jubilee sand plains, there is a limit to how densely desertgold can colonize these slopes because much of the surface are rock fragments. Particularly colorful are the scree fans mid frame center above. With the first intermittent morning breeze beginning, I put on my 30mm lens to more quickly capture the subject before it picked up. Of note Copper Canyon that is between the scree fans and orange ridge at upper left is a verbotten to travel into canyon though there are occasional special tours. The ban is the result of necessary protection for paleontology and fossil sites that one can be certain a usual small number of inconsiderate cretins would otherwise desecrate and or destroy.

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Before departing looked for a Mojave desert star aka rock daisy, monoptilon belloides, belly flower close-up subject and settled on the above though with more time could have spent hours finding many strong subjects. Only a minor number of these plants have petals with light violet hues so I had looked about for a group with both hues.

When I work close-up plant subjects in sun like this, I almost always filter the direct sunlight with my collapsible 32 inch diameter diffuser providing even illumination without harshness. Lacking a diffuser one can always simply cast a body shadow over a subject, however the result is more likely to have a blue sky color cast while diffuser's filtered sunlight will otherwise tend to dominate a skylight cast.

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PC03526-32  5600x4000 pixels  1 frame 7 image focus stack blend  A6000 60mm diffuser
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Further north on the Badwater Road stopped to drive up the Natural Bridge spur dirt road for a landscape I had noticed Friday but that did not turn out interesting and a strong breeze had suddenly arrived that would end my morning work. Instead for a consolation prize using my diffuser and reflector as a wind block worked the above purple mat, nama demissum, belly flower subject that more correctly has a rose pink hue. I did not see any purple mat in the southern bloom areas while it is rather common in sandy areas along roads to the north. On the way north made a side trip around Artist Drive noting a nice flower wash area to work Tuesday morning if breezes were calm and then drove to the Gower Gulch bajada where I explored the flat gravel areas for usable foregrounds to use on Tuesday morning that would be my final images of the road trip. I drove on to the SR190 junction then drove east to quickly survey possible subjects along the road. There were lots of gold cups and purple mat as well as the species I had found down south that had I had the time might have spent a day about these areas.

Back to what is civilization in Death Valley National Park at Furnace Creek, I topped off gas again, bought lunch items including a large tuna fish sandwich and full pint of neopolitan ice cream at the understandably expensive Furnace Creek Ranch market, then spent a couple hours at the Visitor Center under parking lot awnings, the only shade for vehicles I'd found in the park, eating that lunch and planning out the rest of my limited time. I went into the Visitor Center and talked some with a couple people at the counter including the noted senior manager about the deep rose desert five spot I'd located. The Furnace Creek NPS campgrounds do not have showers. But take note any of you pilgrim grubby campers, returning to the Furnace Creek Ranch, at their office bought a one day RFID card that allows one to use their swimming pool showers that this person sorely needed after 4 days of desert ramblings in flower land plus access to the adjacent resort swimming pool! And note the holiday was the warmest day of trip with late afternoon temps of 88F.

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But that would have to wait till later as I decided to work a couple subjects along Artist Drive. The first resulted in a 2 mile out and back ramble to what ended up being rather flat light boring and only succeeded at leaving me weary. Well the famous icon of Artist Palette ought to be interesting so I drove on and according to some guides I'd read pre-trip, waited till latest afternoon before the sun dropped behind the tall Panamint Range. Well I took 2 sets of shots, one a half hour before sunset and the other right at sunset and both of them came out as boring as they looked standing there live. Simply put, warm light does not always work well on colorful rock though myriad photographers may talk such up as something aesthetic. Two decades before I'd noted that same wisdom about Utah sandstone country in areas that have colorful rock. Instead the warm light muddied the natural rock colors and the sun direction mid winter provided little shading thus light was flat. Yuck, I could see better light would play mid to late morning just like at Copper Canyon as they have similar orientations and for serious work as an icon that has seen myriad camera lenses, would not even bother unless the area received some rare rain that would increase color saturation naturally without needing to manipulate with Photoshop sliders.

Back at Furnace Creek Ranch near sunset with temperature lowering to 82F, I enjoyed a soapy visit to the pool showers. Bring your own towel, soap, and flip flops. And then floated and paddled about leisurely like a sea otter in their fine desert swimming pool until semi waterlogged. With numbers of exceptional images successfully captured I was feeling mighty well that evening splashing about remembering images captured as a warm dusk receded over the Panamints. In any case, I had to admit without this single day with a reasonably calm morning period, results would not have been as glowing. In that sense it reflects trips to another notoriously windy wildflower hot spot, Antelope Valley poppy fields. One's chances of success increase considerably by simply allocating more days in such places and then being efficiently productive when fleeting optimal conditions allow. Another stop at the ranch store for a couple drinks so by time I drove off to spend the night inside my Forester at the Sunset Campground, stars had changed to dark starry skies. As a senior with a parks pass, the $15 normal campground fee was reduced to a piddly $6. I was impressed with the automated robot-sized credit card machine for making the payment. We live in quite a new age. I parked way out in the overflow lot well away from the army of RVs and other vehicles. But not at all quiet like the wonderful camp spot I'd enjoyed the previous 3 nights.

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northern Black Mountains

At 5am Tuesday February 16 quickly rose and made an exit up SR190 to famous Zabriskie Point where several other vehicles were already parked and the first photographers with tripods were walking up to the viewpoint. Are these the same people I watched along the Jubilee Pass Road with tripods that never left roadsides? In a few minutes I joined the gathering group setting up for dawn and sunrise images. It was rather windy at the point enough so looking through my telephoto lens was sure to show shaking. I decided to climb down a use trail below the viewpoint where I exposed the above 2 column by 1 row image with my Sigma 19mm F2.8 DN. However I noticed a black aberration on an image I expected was something on my sensor filter plate. With my Eagletac MX25L3 super flashlight beaming 2000+ lumens obliquely on the plate, my Pocket Rocket was not able to budge the black speck. I wondered if it had just landed when I changed my lens at the point in the windy conditions? Was there now a scratch below that crow turd blob, my growing worry? With sunrise minutes away I hurried back down to my car at sweating speed then dug out my Eclipse fluid and swab kit. In quick time the sensor filter plate was absolutely clean and nada scratch. I made a test exposure of the sky at F20 that was quite clean then hurried back to the point where I made some modest images that didn't impress this person. By time sunlight reached the various lower badlands formations it all looked too harsh. In any case a useful nugget of wisdom so I won't waste time in that zone in the future unless conditions are usable. I imagined cloud underlit sunrise light being the ticket to an unusually superior image from Zabriskie Point.

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PC03628-34  6000x4000 pixels  1 frame 7 image focus stack blend  A6000 30mm
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I drove off to Artist Drive to work the small wash of flowers I'd noted Monday. Back lit desertgold, caltha-leaf phacelia, and brown-eyed evening primrose provided a nice view from low tripod positions, contrasting strongly against the dark rock ground. The variable breeze tended to regularly wane to near calm so I worked at a few shots about 9am as I needed to burn some time before working the Gower area.

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PC03697-03754-4x2v  12000x8700 pixels  8 frame 4 column 2 row 48 image focus stack stitch blend  A6000 60mm
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Back along the vast openness of the Gower Gulch bajada zone, parked then walked out and set up the above foreground of colorful stone wash debris towards Red Cathedral that included the multi brown hued crenulated erosion formation just north of the Gower Gulch entrance. Directly behind Red Cathedral is hugely popular Golden Canyon and I had set my left frame edge up not to include the many cars parked at the canyon entrance. The bajadas west of these lake sediment deposits interestingly have little vegetation. I suspected that is in part because during heavy storms the whole surface is awash with coarse sandy flows that tend to bury any herbs and wash away seeds. The stones on the bajada have a considerable range of colors that reflect the colorful geology that is the same as that of Artist Pallette just south. Endless vehicles speed south and north past this Gower bajada but rarely will any stop despite the fact these erosion hills are among the most aesthetic in the park. Generally unless people actually see a scenic pull-out sign, they are not likely to bother taking notice. Well actually as soon as someone like this person lugging a tripod is in view then others may too and indeed 3 friendly Mojave region gals on their way to the flower fields down south did stop then wandered the hundred yards or so out to stoneland where I was working. Yeah stones can be cool too bro. Well even a modest education in geology goes a long ways in making stones more intersting.

PC03755-03819_4x2v

PC03755-03819_4x2v  12000x8700 pixels  8 frame 4 column 2 row 65 image focus stack stitch blend  A6000 60mm
enlarged vertical slice view

Next I moved north a ways then set up a foreground in this Gower Gulch wash dried cracked mud flat I'd sized up the previous afternoon. On the side of the wash was an abrupt 2 to 3 foot vertical wall embankment. Without having to worry about the rocks or mud cracks bobbing about in the breeze, I set up my 60mm lens on the pano head to capture a 4 column 2 row stitch set able to make a nicely large image. There are many washes that have such vertical sides of gravel layers and the dry matrix is usually as hard as if it were concrete. But add a bit of loosening juice otherwise known as H2O plus powerful mud flows full of battering debris and the result cuts through such areas like a saw.

After climbing up on the top of the badlands rib just south of Red Cathedral and taking a mug shot set of that feature at 11am, the last image of my trip, I drove north to Furnace Creek, topped off with gas, and by 11:15am began my marathon road trip home that would take nearly 9 hours and included some minor diversions different than my route in.

An issue with focus stack and multi column row stitch blending is unlike single shot images taken with digital cameras, one is not instantly able to review images. In that sense it is somewhat like traditional film work where photographers wonder what their work really captured while in the interim waiting days or weeks for film to be processed. Many hours of post processing work was now queued up for the next phase. Although much would be boring and repetitive, as each set of images is built into their finished compound state, I would be excited to move through that work then see for the first time completed composite images. And not all images turn out as expected and such was the case for this trip as I ended up deleting a few sets of close-up pictures because my focus points did not adequately capture all the necessary subject distances to bring a compound subject fully into sharp focus. Thus some soft oof areas that were unacceptable. And a couple multi stitch landscapes were tossed that I didn't expect to be successful because wind was causing flowers to bob about that would be impossible to stitch. But was curious what running them through the software would show.

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2016 Trip Chronicles:    Contents

Death Valley NP 2/14
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   David Senesac
   email: info@davidsenesac.com

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