2016 Death Valley Photo Workshop Recap

photographers at sunrise at overlook of desert badlands

We like to put the Work into workshop. This isn’t one of those nambly pambly trips where we all ride around in an air-conditioned bus with reclining seats and only get out to take a couple of snapshots from the side of the road. Heck no! On this trip we put in the effort, hiking all over Death Valley in all kinds of weather, clocking 8-10 miles per day of salt flats, canyons, sand dunes, gravel, muck, and more. And the result is that we end up in breathtaking locations with no one else around* when the light is good and the conditions are great.

On 2016’s trip we kicked off our Thursday night with a gorgeous sunset at the stream channels of Cottonball Basin before having a relaxing (read: calm before the storm) night in Furnace Creek. That really started the workshop off on a high note! The next morning at our secret spot near Badwater Basin the salt formations were cranking and the light once again went off. A ferocious wind picked up as well that kept us pretty chilly until the sun finally made its way to us across the salt flats.

Next we hoofed a mile of Golden Canyon to an off-the-beaten-path berm which provides exceptional views of the Golden Canyon Badlands. And even though the morning clouds had burned off at this point, the direct sun was creating some incredible patterns and reflected light in the twisted earth around us. On Friday afternoon we walked deeper into the Cottonball Basin to find the incredible mud patterns and salt circles that give the area its name. And this year the formations were about the best I’ve ever seen. If you’re a person who loves patterns, this place is paradise. After the sunset and a quick dinner we made our way up into Natural Bridge Canyon to photograph the archway under starlight. Check out the time lapse video below to see what goes into one of our night shoots.

Saturday morning we kicked off by exploring a vast expanse of cracked mud tiles left behind by 2015’s floods. If you never thought you’d see 10 people so excited by mud then you should join a group of photographers. Everyone was going nuts exploring the jigsaw patterns of the area, both in wide angle and more intimate scenes. In the afternoon we wandered deep into the Mesquite sand dunes to a place where every footprint except our own vanished and enjoyed photographing the lines and curves of sun and shade. After sunset we hiked back to the cars and waited for true darkness. Then we set up another night shoot with the Milky Way blazing brightly above a twisted snag of mesquite.

On Sunday morning we wrapped things up with a final shoot at Zabriskie Point. And even though I’ve never seen as many photographers there as on that morning, I like to think that our group got the best shots of the day. We’ve been there so many times that we know what to expect and had the crew anticipating the best moments throughout the morning. Afterwards we headed back to Furnace Creek for a celebratory breakfast buffet before saying goodbye to the group.

A HUUUUUGE thanks to our fantastic and fun group, Yevette, Jim, Cindy, Eloise, Lynn, Bob, Lee, and Eric. You guys were fantastic and made the weekend a ton of fun for us as well. Be sure to check out everyone’s photos down below as well as some BTS photos from us.

Until we see you next time, have fun and happy shooting!

*Except Zabriskie Point of course. That place is getting insanely busy and popular!

Participants Gallery

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