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.
* Website: Eloquent Images
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