I know this place in Death Valley is often photographed (maybe to death, excuse the pun), but let me tell you it is a really fun place to shoot. While driving the 28 mile dirt road to the playa the anticipation was unbearable, so much so that when we got there I just grabbed my camera bag without going through it first, grabbed my tripod, and took off walking across the dry lake bed to the far end where the sailing stones are (1-1/2 miles according to Wikipedia). When I took my bag off my back I noticed it was a little light - like one camera body light. When I unzipped it my heart sank. No camera, lots of lenses. DOOOOOHHHHH!!!! The light was starting to fade, and the SUV looked like a tiny dot back at the parking area. I can't run because of a bad knee, so I walked as fast as I could. So I yelled to my companion for the car keys and huffed it the 3 miles to the SUV to get my D800 and back to where I left my tripod. While I didn't get as much time as I could have with the sailing rocks I am glad I finally got out there to the Racetrack.
Nikon D800 (yanked from goldbricking in the back seat of the SUV) Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8 Gitzo GT3541LS RRS BH-40
Very nice Ernesto! I think number two is my favorite because the rock is more prominent and I love the silhouette of the mountains in the background. For me it seems that in number one the rock and the mountains compete for my attention. In number two the rock is clearly the star of the show and the mountains in silhouette compliment but do not compete for my attention. How far away from the rock were you and where did you focus? I am guessing a little past the rock. These would make great prints to hang on the wall and they would be sure to invite much conversation with the unusual subject matter. Thanks for posting. I really enjoyed looking at these. Tom
Thanks so much! It looks like #2 seems to be the favorite of everybody here. If I recall on this shot I splayed out my tripod legs a little to get down really low. The lens front was probably less than two feet from the front of the stone. I don't recall at what distance I focused, I use a variation of hyperfocus. I hold down the DOF button on the D800 while focusing the image near and far. I'll adjust for both until I have an acceptably sharp image at all distances. This technique is not working for me that well anymore when shooting in dim light since my eyes are getting well past 50 now. In this case it was still bright enough to get a good focus point.
Thanks Charlie. Definitely plan on staying overnight. We did some astrophography/light painting on the way back to the lodge using the Joshua trees along the road. It was a lot of fun. I think you could make some really great images of the stones and Milky Way or star trails in the sky. I would love to see how the sunrise light would be in this area.
Thanks Rick! While I was a little embarrassed when it happened I thought I should tell my story here so others might remember to keep their minds on task and not forget their cameras before tearing off onto the trail.
Page 187 of Galen Rowell's book: "Since 1971 I have spent more than thirty nights sleeping in the same area, hoping for a repeat performance of light that has never arrived". On Buttermilk Road, pages 188-189.
I think if you never get back to that spot, you should be very proud.
The composition on the second photo is excellent and the contrast with the warm light of the sky is superb. The main subject of this photo clearly is the rock in the foreground. The rock path leads us towards the brightest part of the photo, i.e. sunset, which is fantastic from a composition point of view. Finally, your use of a very close rock with such a perspective truly created depth in the photo.
Very well done! One of the nicest photos of this classical area.
Q1: did you use a grad ND filter? Q2: did you have a wider angle lens ? (with you, not in the SUV )
As I'll go there in mid-March with the Nikonians workshop, any specific advice about gears?
Actually, I shot multiple images on this one as I initially was going to make an HDR. I really didn't like how the HDR turned out so I took the one with the best colors in the sky and then just lightened up the foreground a little in Adobe ACR. I then made a few final adjustments in Photoshop. The dynamic range of the D800 is truly impressive.
I shot these with a Nikkor 24-70 mm and the second one was shot at 40 mm.
Any standard camera kit for landscape photography is what I recommend you take. To me that means focal lengths from wide angle to up to 200 mm, with either a 1.4 or 1.7 teleconverter (optional). Take a polarizer and some ND Grads and you should be set. On this trip I took my 16-35 mm, 24-70 mm, 70-200, and my 28 mm and 35 mm PC-Nikkor shift lenses. Although I did see a coyote trot by my room one morning as I was waiting for the rest of the group to pick me up I didn't see much wildlife. I understand there are mule deer and desert bighorn sheep but we didn't see any.
Hope this helps and thanks for the very kind comments. I hope you have a great time Death Valley is incredible.
I also prefer # 1. Although I like the lower angle of # 1, the background in # 2 has more interest as you follow the leading line into the image. You can also see other random stones in the distance undoubtedly leaving their own trails. Good story......just an affirmation we're all human.
Sun 03-Feb-13 05:32 PM | edited Sun 03-Feb-13 05:36 PM by esantos
Thanks for the thoughtful comments. What I particularly liked about #1 was that if you look closely at the immediate foreground the cracked lake bed shows just a touch of the warm evening light that you see in the background. I was pleasantly surprised to see that when I looked at it on my big screen here at home. Also, #1 gives you a good idea of how far some of these stones move. The stone in the foreground and the one at the beginning of the track are about the same size - about the size of a large loaf of bread. The perspective gives an indication of the distance.
> What I particularly liked >about #1 was that if you look closely at the immediate >foreground the cracked lake bed shows just a touch of the warm >evening light that you see in the background. I was pleasantly >surprised to see that when I looked at it on my big screen >here at home.
This is one element I immediately noticed and would have made me vote for #1, but...
>Also, #1 gives you a good idea of how far some >of these stones move. The stone in the foreground and the one >at the beginning of the track are about the same size - about >the size of a large loaf of bread. The perspective gives an >indication of the distance.
... this latter point, although being exact, also creates two elements of interest in the photo. Personnally, my eyes keep moving between the front rock to the far away rocks/background. On the other hand, in photo #2, my eyes clearly go directly to one point of interest (i.e. the rock in the foreground). The final feeling in #2 is a feeling of calm, a sense of beeing there and being one with the scene. The feeling I get from the first one is more "documentary".
I truly like both as they are well made and very nice. However, the impact "on me" of photo #2 is richer and lasts longer.
I hope I'll get the chance to make as well when I go there!
I like #1 as well, when direct sun hits a horizon in DV, the contrasts are spectacular.
The side light "glow" on the lake bed polygons, plus as Barry notes, the distant other rocks, in my mind makes a much more interesting shot for gauging the (overused word) vastness that one is overwhelmed by at just about any point of reference in the park.
Hard to choose which I prefer.. I like the connecting points with the two stones in the first shot and the detail in the stone in the second. And that dry lake bed looks like a giant rattlesnake skin stretched out to dry. Great patterns.
Thanks for the kind comments Ramon. Yes, memory (the cerebral kind), is probably one of our more overlooked or under appreciated abilities. We take it for granted - to such an extreme that when it does fail on us we have no other reaction other than to blush and feel embarrassed, and then laugh about it.