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Dunes, Stovepipe Wells, Death Valley

Posted by
Gary Hart (California, United States) on 11 July 2010 in Landscape & Rural and Portfolio.

There’s nothing quite like the day’s first or last rays for bringing out the exquisite curves and lines of Death Valley's Mesquite Flat Dunes near Stovepipe Wells. Usually photographers trudge 20 minutes or more, up and down increasingly steep sandy undulations, to photograph from the heart of the dunes, but I’ve often thought there were great possibilities from the road.

After an afternoon of scouting locations and light for last January's Death Valley workshop, I arrived at Stovepipe Wells a little late for the trek out to the dunes. But drawn by the dynamic combination of clouds and light, I pulled over at a wide spot in the road and quickly set up beside the car. What grabbed me immediately was the parallel layers of independent elements: the side-lit dunes, shadowed mountains, snowy peaks, and saturated clouds. I went with a wide lens on my full frame body and a telephoto on my 1.6 crop body. With both cameras on a tripod, I was able to move between both bodies, refining compositions and firing frames with a simple click of a dangling remote.

In this frame the 180mm focal length and 1.6 crop compress the distance separating the dunes and distant Cottonwood Mountains. I exposed to ensure no clipping of the highlights, allowing the shadows to go dark, which helped emphasize the graceful curves of the dunes.

Visit my website for information on my next Death Valley workshop, coming in January 2011.

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Thanks for visiting. Even if I don't respond, your comments are always read and appreciated.

Marie LC from France

Beautiful composition which mixes mountain and desert in a single image

11 Jul 2010 7:40am

Didier DE ZAN from somewhere, France

Great landscape

11 Jul 2010 9:53am

Tamara from Aarschot, Belgium

I really like how the sun shines on the sand of the foreground, so special with the snow at the background !!! Great capture Gary !

11 Jul 2010 3:10pm

Judy aka Ladybug from Brooksville, Florida, United States

Beautiful light, Gary ... and shadows!

11 Jul 2010 5:43pm

@Look from Nivelles, Belgium

Wonderful landscape, a best of !!!

11 Jul 2010 6:01pm

Cosmin from Bucharest, Romania

good piece of work !

11 Jul 2010 7:23pm

Denny Jump Photo from Easton, PA, United States

Hi Gary - This is wonderful - I just love how the dunes provide that distinct shadow when the sun hits them just right - with the background peaks and sky, the scene here is very reminiscent of nearby Alamosa, CO and the Great Sand Dunes NP with Blanca Peak in the background (I lived there when I was VERY young). This image is really majestic sir, Thank You..All the Best - Denny

11 Jul 2010 9:09pm

studio17a from California, United States

Great shot, beautiful color and composition.

12 Jul 2010 1:56am

Julie from Easton, United States

Desert and snow all in one! What an amazing shot!

12 Jul 2010 3:08am

DarkElf from Perth, Australia

wow! stunning composition! you used the layered terrain as well as interplay of light and shadows to perfection in this scene! the way it all builds up to the sky makes for intriguing viewing - amazing work!

12 Jul 2010 3:48am

steve loos from hollister, United States

What a great shot; I love the long lense perspective on this. The mix of textures and light is beautiful.

12 Jul 2010 4:45am

Tracy from La Selva Beach, United States

Oh! The light on the dunes grabs my attention first- what drama! An amazing image!

12 Jul 2010 3:17pm

Julie Brown from Indianapolis, United States

Beautiful tones, and I love the shadows on the dunes. This image has depth. I take it from your description that the camera handled the contrast range without using a GND. Also, given that people walk up these dunes, I see no footprints. Was there anyone around to get into your frame?

12 Jul 2010 4:03pm

@Julie Brown: Thanks, Julie. I may have used a 3-stop soft GND, but I don't think so. One of the reasons I schedule my Death Valley workshop for January (besides the great weather) is that it's before the crowds start showing up, so there weren't too many people on the dunes. There had also been a bit of wind, which erases footprints.

Dulcie from Danville, CA, United States

Just a stunning contrast of textures, color, and light between the undulations at the bottom of the frame and the jagged mountain range at the top !!!

12 Jul 2010 5:13pm

MJ Hubbard from Wesley Chapel, United States

Gary, great shot. What lens did you use?

13 Jul 2010 11:02am

@MJ Hubbard: Thanks, MJ. I used my 100-400 for this.

Jim Mahan-Soto from Glendale, CA, United States

Amazing image! I'll have to be more observant for a "road view" on my next trip to DV!

13 Jul 2010 5:12pm

Wilson of Waterbury from Waterbury, Connecticut, United States

Surreal. Well done.

14 Jul 2010 1:57am

George from Northern California, United States

Gary, great shot. Is this one of the things I can look forward to seeing in January?

14 Jul 2010 3:08am

@George: Thanks, George--I'll certainly do my best. :)

Vitor Martins from Lisboa, Portugal

Superb image, and amaizing layers that start with someting that looks a desert in the foreground and ends with a mountain with snow in the background.

15 Jul 2010 10:35am

Vaido from Võrumaa, Estonia

This is really excellent combination of warm lighted dynes and cold snowy mountains. Great variety of nature textures!

16 Jul 2010 7:37am