The Lowest and Highest Place In The Contiguous United States

Over the last month I’ve dealt with fog so thick you can stir it, cold that would make Jack Frost shiver,

and enough rain to make Noah start building another Ark.

Bad conditions can drain even the most seasoned photographers. It‘s important during these times to force yourself to get up in the morning and go exploring for compositions. Sometimes these miserable conditions can produce incredible photographs.

I have been photographing California over the last few weeks, and it has definitely been a struggle! Despite some below freezing temps, high winds, rain, and thick fog, I managed to come away with a good selection of images I am happy with. Our journey started in Death Valley National Park, where we battled strong winds and minor sand storms for 3 days attempting to get a photograph I had been dreaming about for a few years. After hiking aimlessly around the basin following a GPS pin that didn’t seem to know where it was, I managed to locate the place I had scouted on Google Earth by referencing different landmarks and a series of bushes (yes you read that right, bushes; that I viewed from space via Google Earth then found in real time, while hiking in the fading light).


I searched (carefully so as not to damage this incredible landscape) for a little over an hour before I settled on this composition where the mud cracks direct the eye toward the setting sun. As the sun settled over the mountains, the wind finally calmed and I took this image as a moment of pure joy enveloped me. The hike back to the car produced two more images which I had scouted as well, knowing the super moon would rise on our hike back and re-illuminate the scene.

During my time in Death Valley, I visited some other areas of the park that are better known. Zabriskie Point offered a few compositions that I photographed enthusiastically. Artist Palette offered a composition to me, and I even managed an image in driving sand at Ibex Dunes far to the south. Below are the images I captured of these locations.


After Death Valley we headed to the Alabama Hills, where I attempted to photograph Mt. Whitney. The peak was illusive and the only glimpse I got of the mountain was a silhouette as the setting sun went down behind the peak which illuminated the clouds enough to see the outline of Mt. Whitney. It turned out to be a pretty unique image (not what I was going for but hey, when the situation presents itself….).


While I waited in hopes of seeing Mt. Whitney, I explored the surrounding area and captured an image of Mobius Arch, and the Alabama Hills. It’s always smart to utilize your time appropriately if you have a limited amount of time in an area. I spent 3 hours at this location not including sleep time, and came away with five keepers. After capturing the image of the Alabama Hills, I retired to my car to get some sleep.


I spent a fitful night in my car, along with my wife, listening to the wind howling around the vehicle. When morning came, I reluctantly crawled out of my sleeping bag, geared up and stepped out into the howling 30+ mph winds. I quickly realized that Mt. Whitney would not present itself, and instead shifted my focus to Lone Pine Peak. I sat waiting for an hour and even lost feeling in my toes before I captured the image I envisioned. The peak was beautifully wrapped in clouds and made for a gorgeous black and white photo as clouds swirled around the mountain and the morning sun reflected off the snow on the peak.


After I photographed this image, I returned to the car for some coffee and breakfast. It was a long drive back to Salt Lake City knowing that in another week, I would be making the trip back to California in an attempt to photograph Big Sur and Yosemite. Keep an eye out on Wednesday to read that trip report.