Death Valley, Racetrack Playa
Landscapes,  National Parks,  Travel

Photographing Death Valley National Park’s Other Worldly Landscapes – Part 2

This is part two of my blog on photographing Death Valley National Park.  In this second post of the Death Valley series, I’ll continue with the discussion photo destinations within the Death Valley National Park and also talk about equipment and tips for photographing the park. In part one, I described several of the most popular photo destinations in Death Valley National Park and how to photograph them.

Mesquite Flat Dunes

Artistic photos can be made while walking the Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes.  Look for curves in the dunes, textures, and shadows.  There are also mud flats that can be used in your compositions.  The further out and to the left you walk the less footprints there seem to be.  The bad news is that these dunes are not necessarily easy to walk on.

Death Valley Mesquite Flat Dunes

Mesquite Flat Dunes

Racetrack Playa

The Racetrack Playa has received a lot of publicity for the sailing rocks that mysteriously move along the playa and leave tracks. It was very interesting to see and photograph the playa and the black rock island called the Grandstand.

It’s a 27 mile drive on a bumpy rock and dirt road to get to the Racetrack Playa.  It is recommended only for SUVs and other vehicles with a high clearance.  Overall, it was worth the effort to get there in order to photograph the rocks and trails in the afternoon light.  Sunset is also nice at the Racetrack to photograph the mountains and Grandstand in the warm afternoon light.  Panoramas also work here, but watch your shadow.  It is a long drive out at night though.

Racetrack Playa Sailing Rocks Trail Death Valley

Racetrack Playa Sailing Rock Trail

Ubehebe Crater

We only stopped at the Ubehebe Crater for a few moments on our way to the Racetrack Playa.  I mention it because it could make a nice landscape photo in the late afternoon light.  The crater is black rock with light tan bushes that should pop in the soft light afternoon light. There is also a trail to walk around the entire crater.   Maybe next trip.

Golden Valley

The Golden Valley has some beautiful rock formations that should be nice in the afternoon light.  We drove past the Golden Canyon several times and never seemed to hit the right light.  With the right light, these finger like mountain formations would make a beautiful landscape photograph.

Mosaic Canyon

Mosaic Canyon is a small slot canyon.  Compositions can be made of the flow down through the canyon.  There are also patterns in the rock walls that can be composed into abstract photos.   A medium telephoto, macro lens, polarizer and a diffuser are useful gear for photographing the Mosaic Canyon.

Mosaic Canyon Pattern Death Valley

Mosaic Canyon Pattern

Equipment for Photographing Death Valley

I brought two Canon DSLR camera bodies on the trip.  It’s good to have a back up as there are no camera stores close by.  I also brought my Canon 24-105mm,  Canon 17-40mm, Canon 100mm Macro, and Canon 70-200 f2.8.  I used each of these lenses during my stay in the park.  A polarizer, and 3 Stop Graduated ND filter are also useful.  A remote shutter release is also handy for low light shots from a tripod and for night photography.  There are absolutely tons of stars in the sky at Death Valley National Park.  Even if you don’t photograph them, it’s worth getting away from the lights and seeing the night sky.

Other Tips

We visited Death Valley in December.  The days are shorter but the light is less harsh and them temperatures are lower.  Death Valley has the hottest recorded temperature on the planet at 134 degrees fahrenheit.  Dress in layers in the park as the temperatures can vary widely depending on the altitude and time of day.

Also drink a lot of water at Death Valley.  It’s hot and dry so it is good to stay hydrated.  Bring along a water bottle or reuse a small water bottle to carry.  Water is only sold in gallon jugs in Death Valley National Park.

So, don’t let the name scare you away.  Head to Death Valley to photograph this magnificent, other worldly park.

Related Blog Posts
A View of Death Valley with Panorama Photos from the iPhone 5
Yosemite National Park – Nature at its Best
Photographing Yellowstone – Landscapes

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  • A Jacobs

    Thanks for the information which I used on my trip there last month. I have to go back in an SUV and get to the racetrack. Also, I would recommend Dante's Peak, which I thought had a really great view in the early morning light the one time I made it up there.
    Happy travels.

    • Martin Belan

      Thank you for leaving the comment. I’m glad the blog helped with your trip. Thanks for the tip on Dante’s Point. I looked it up and it looks like a great view. I’ll have to make it up there next time.

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