A Look Back – Death Valley Workshop March 2017

Posted on March 14, 2017

I’ve been lucky enough to have spent the better part of the last two weeks in Death Valley. A little more than the first week was for my annual Night Photography Workshop in Death Valley. I’m pretty sure this is the last year I will be running this trip in the spring. I am thinking about switching to the autumn season and moving the focus to more of the milky way and although it is still fairly hot, September is the best time of year for that in 2018.


Participants photographing the super bloom during DV Workshop 2016

Last year this workshop fell on the tail end of the largest super bloom Death Valley has seen in decades. This year we ended up with nights that clouded up early on us and violent sandstorms. Never fear though, there is always a way to harness the powers of photography! Were there is dynamic weather, there are dynamic images.


An Image taken from Dante’s View on the first night before the clouds totally closed in by MJoyce Images.

We were able to get out and shoot the first couple of nights. The clouds certainly tried their hardest, but we were able to come away with some great images none the less. The image to the right was taken on the first night. I love the symmetry between the clouds above and the salt pan below in a positive/negative or black/white relationship. Normally we head to the charcoal kilns high up in the mountains for the first night, but there was still ice on the last couple miles of road as we arrived in the park. The participant that took this image was able to safely make it to the kilns just a few days later. You can plan for the best likelihood of good weather and conditions but Mother Nature is one thing you can’t really count on to behave as she did before.

Dust storms engulfing the Mesquite Dunes in Death Valley National Park

The last night of shooting we weren’t able to get out at night because of high winds. It’s very difficult to take a sharp image on a tripod in 40-60mph winds. We did however head up in altitude above the sandstorm for sunset to take advantage of this rare spectacle that we were lucky enough to witness. After the daylight faded we headed inside for a class on night photography and a general question and answer session.


3000-5000ft mountain peaks are almost entirely hidden by the violent sandstorm below


Despite the weather not exactly cooperating for a night photography workshop in the way you’d want, everyone was very open to switching game plans on the fly to take advantage of the changing conditions in the park. After all, you aren’t always dealt the hand you want. It’s what you make of it that matters. Below you can see a few more images from the workshop.

Orion hovers over dried cracked mud as it meets the Mesquite Sand Dunes.

Sunset over the cracked mud near Stovepipe Wells in Death Valley National Park

Night over the Mesquite Dunes in Death Valley National Park

Sunset over the Mesquite Sand Dunes

A thin band of the Milky Way stretches over a bush

A workshop participant on top of a sand dune is silhouetted by the ambient light of a city far in the distance on a mostly cloudy night.


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