One of the great benefits about visiting Death Valley in the winter time is the better probability of rain and intense weather. Now torrential can indeed ruin any chance of photography, but it’s all about the chance for a break in those storms and the opportunity to perhaps capture some dramatic clouds and light!
It had been two days since I had decided to start photographing on my 2019 winter trip to Death Valley and my fifth day overall. I decided to start recording video as well, and I had my plans set for sunrise at Dante’s view.
Danet’s view gives you a spectacular view of the entire furnace creek valley and the Bad Water Basin area. The mountain range looks fantastic and below you the views are as stunning. I had the chance to meet up with fellow photographer and YouTuber Justin Kelley, and we drove from Las Vegas into the park and arrived at about 4am. This gave us plenty of time to scout a location and really take in the scene. I find the more time you have for sunrise, the better. Why? Because most of the time during sunrise, you’re really only going to have 5 or so minutes of “ideal light”.
The storms of the last few days had just barely missed the Death Valley area, but we were still left with the great high clouds towering over our heads. As I approached the location where I set up, the sky towards the east was already burning up!
Panoramic Heaven In Death Valley!
Originally I thought to myself no way i’m going to have enough time to take a 12 image panorama. I just wasn’t going to have enough time, and so I set up my composition to a 16X9 crop, but it wasn't satisfying and I knew I should just take the chance. I recomposed my image and set up for a 12 image panoramic.
Tips For Photographing Panorama Images
A sturdy tripod is key! And if you can invest in an L Bracket, then do it! It just makes life much easier when photographing panoramas. If you find yourself setting in a uneven surface then really take your time to make sure you’re leveled. Test the image from left to right and ensure your leveler within your camera remains in a straight line. Sure, Lightroom can fix most issues but its best practice to achieve this on the field.
The other major lesson i’ve learned when photographing panorama’s is the importance of having a consistent histogram across your entire scene. So once again move your camera from left to right and ensure the highlights and showdown are not drastically varying from left to right. Avoid using filters such as a polarizer or ND Grad. This will only increase the chances of an unbalanced image.
The Rest Of The Story
Luckily the chance I took worked out, and I managed to capture perhaps my favorite image of the trip. I’m glad I went for capturing the entire scene as there were some really particular looking clouds.
As the sun began to over power the clouds and the color began to fade, I noticed that the original composition I had set up at a 16X9 crop could still work. The sun was barely touching the mountain peaks. Sure there was no color in the sky, but it really didn’t matter. Something about the scene looked intriguing to me. There are many dominating colors that are quite neutral in the image. Check it out below.
As I mentioned before, the great thing about photographing Danet’s view during sunrise is even after the light fades. You can still grab the long lens and focus in on more abstract compositions. The salt formations in the valley give you endless possibilities.
At 200 MM, the longest I could go. I noticed a scene where the salt below made a great leading line into the mountains in the background. What made the mountains even more appealing was the lack of harsh light and various textures you could see.
Arriving To Dante’s View For Sunrise
In all honesty you don’t have to hike very far to capture good images in Dante’s view. Whether you’re going for something more intimate or you want to capture the big picture of it all. The park has a great observation point just as you arrive to the parking area. There’s plenty of parking space and RV parking is located not too far from this observation point.
After we packed up our gear and headed back towards the car, we realized that the conditions were still ideal for photography. The high clouds were covering the sun and preventing the harsh light from becoming visible, and so we just could not resist the temptation to photograph another panorama.
This is why I saw that you don’t need to venture very far when photographing at Dante’s View!
Overall we lucked out! We really did. In the time spent in Death Valley, I have only seen light and color like that a handful of times. Here’s the Panoramic shot from the early morning. You can view it in full size by clicking on it. If you’d like to check out the full video, i’ve posted the link below as well.
Happy Photographing! And Please Remember to be mindful of where you go and Leave No Trace.