Sunday, April 18, 2010

Photo Mission Feb. 2008

Alabama Hills, California

Death Valley, California

Death Valley, California

My wife Lorie, was out of town visiting family in California so I decided to grab the camera, the dog and go for a photo trip. I took my sleeping bag in case we weren’t coming back that night.

My intention was to go to Flagstaff, which is about two and half hours away but I impulsively decided to go to Death Valley, California instead. I started the trip late in the afternoon so the dog and I ended up sleeping in the car at a truck stop north of Las Vegas. We woke up early in the morning to find Cody's water dish frozen solid. We had a quick breakfast and continued to Death Valley.

We weren’t far from the park, so I was thinking lets start by going to Zabriskie Point. I remembered Ansel Adams made a famous picture of the area that I would love to have made myself. It’s early light everything is looking really cool. I read all the signs, payed the park entry fee and I'm very close. I arrive, but to my surprise I’m a little aprehensive. Is this the place, I thought? There is a huge parking lot with tour buses and what seems to be hundreds of people. I parked and walked about twenty feet with Cody and there's a huge sign saying “NO DOGS” not even a leashed dog was permissible. I apologized to Cody and put him back into the car. Fortunately, it was winter so he was fine with the windows cracked. I fallowed the blacktop walkway which is the size of a small road for a couple hundred yards to the vista point. OMG! This is the place were Ansel Adams made his picture. I took it all in and looked out into Death Valley. Then, I began to look around to see the hundreds of people with happy snap camera’s clicking away like it’s a spring brake bikini contest.

As my chest began to pound, I asked myself do I or don’t I. I think for a moment and I make my decision! There's know way in hell I’m hauling an 8 X 10 inch view camera up here and setting it up in front of all these tourist. I swung my digital camera from around my neck and took a few happy snaps. I stayed there for about 10 minutes, then walked back to my car grumbling as more tour buses arrived.

I drove around for a while and went to another vista point called Dantes View to find even more people. After leaving there, I found a dirt road that went into an area called Twenty Mule Train Canyon. I spent most of the day in that area with Cody taking pictures. It was a beautiful day but it was like being on Mars. One of the strangest places I'd ever seen.

Once I left Death Valley, I decide to go to Lone Pine, California which is even further from home. I was chasing yet another Ansel Adams iconic landscape. The Alabama Hills with Mt. Whitney in the background. On the eastern slope of the Sierra Mountains the landscape is littered with hug boulders. It’s an oddly haunting landscape.

Hoping for less people and better photographic access Cody and I got a cheap room in a local motel. The next morning we got up early and turned the corner from the motel to a magnificent view of the Sierra’s. WOW! This is totally cool. I made a few turns and there’s no one anywhere. It seemed we had the entire place to ourselves. I found some cool spots and we spent most of the morning shooting and exploring. My only regret was there were no clouds. Clear blue sky. I wish, I had the storm clouds that so many other photographers have had but that's luck and it wasn’t with me on this trip. Maybe someday, I'll be able to return and spend a little more time in the area.

We left Lone Pine around 1pm and drove straight home. Cody and I got home around 10pm.

What did I learn? It seems to me that Ansel Adams didn’t wonder to far off the beaten path to make his iconic images and when visiting these parks it's amazing how many people are there.

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