3 days of Death Valley

Discussion in 'Travel' started by mark_ng, Jun 26, 2010.

  1. Hi guys,
    I'm thinking of going to death valley in december for 3 days for a bit of fun and picture taking. December is a time of short days, so I need to time things very well in order to fit in as much as possible. Aside from the photography, I would also like to do a bit of hiking. Does anyone have a good itinerary to outline my trip so that I can make the most of my 3 days? Also, please comment if 3 days is too much/too short.
    Thanks in advance for your answers
  2. This website - http://www.desertusa.com/ - might help in your planning.
  3. If you are interested in hiking, you should get the book Hiking Death Valley by Michel Digonnet, which is also a very useful guidebook even for those who don't plan a lot of hiking. Death Valley is quite vast and varied, so three days is certainly not too much--if you like desert hiking you could spend three weeks or more. Your choice of itinerary will depend a great deal on your abilities...your ability to get to remote locations (i.e., the type of vehicle you have and your experience in driving off road) and your ability as a hiker. If you have limited experience in the desert, it is probably best to stick with the more popular locations (generally reachable on paved or maintained gravel roads). The Death Valley National Park website has a wealth of information on both the popular locations and many of the backcountry locations.
    For a first time photographic visitor, I think a visit should probably include the dunes near Stovepipe Wells at dawn, Zabriskie Point at dawn and the salt flats at Badwater either at dawn or dusk.
  4. What was second prize? Four days in Death Valley?
    Seriously, I was just looking again at an Ansel Adams book, Examples: The Making of 40 Photographs. In one of the examples, he discusses some special issues of desert and dune photography. It's only a few pages, but it might be useful. I would love to be there. Maybe when the dog dies.
  5. Yes, the days are short but the angle of the sun will be at its lowest. You will have more hours of good to great light, both a.m. and p.m., and you won't need to get up at ungodly hours to catch it in the morning.
    Three days is too short- try a month or two! ;-) Seriously, the more days you can spend there the better. On the other hand, you can also use some of your available time in Owens Valley and the east side of the Sierra which will also be spectacular.
    I was in Death Valley in late December last year, but after just one evening and one morning had to leave due to an infection. I'll be trying again this December or January.
  6. Thanks for the responses so far.
    I'm thinking of shooting 6x6s and bringing out the digital point and shoot to take some quick shots for uploads and the such, just to save me some time for facebook and the sorts.
    I found out that the sun rises at 650 and sets at 1630, but as Bill has said, the angle will be at its lowest, so I should be able to get some cool shots. There is also a half moon (would be better full, but still not half bad), so I think I'll walk out to the dunes and go up to Dante's view for some nice night sights, although I do not have wide enough glass to do anything spectacular.
    Check out this interim itinerary
    day 1 (arrive at around 9-10)
    Visitor centre, badwater, Devil's golf course, golden canyon/zabriskie point
    Day 2 (wake up early)
    sand dunes, death valley buttes, charcoal kilns, mosaic canyon, dante's view at night
    Day 3 (another early day)
    titus canyon drive, fall canyon, scotty's castle, ubehebe crater.
    You guys think I should add/subtract anything? I would like to head to racetrack, but the car probably wont handle it. I heard the titus canyon drive is a bit easier on the car, so it might work out there.
  7. Dante's view would be better in the morning, you are looking west over the valley, at night you would be looking at a sun set. Same deal for zabriskie point. Personally i didn't find Scott's castle all that interesting. The salt flats near bad water are intersting, worth walking around for a few hours. I strongly recommend going out onto the dunes after sunset, 1-2 am if the sky is clear. Past 2 years i have spent the last week of Dec. in the valley, its a lot of fun.
  8. Give this a look. http://www.gdanmitchell.com/2010/01/20/photographing-death-valley-part-1
    You might also pop over to the very active Fredmiranda landscape forums. A search for DV will reveal a number of helpful threads.
  9. Some of the locations are very dependent on having early morning or late afternoon light. The locations you mentioned that are less dependent on low angle of the sun (not saying that they don't benefit from good light) include Mosaic Canyon, Titus Canyon, Charcoal Kilns and Fall Canyon. Badwater salt flats are best IMO before sunrise or after sunset. Zabriskie Point can be good morning or evening depending on which direction the camera is pointing.
    The drive through Titus Canyon is great...there is a section at the top which may or may not require a high clearance vehicle depending on road conditions. The first few miles of Fall Canyon are not as interesting as Titus Canyon (although it is a very nice hike). The upper sections of Fall Canyon require some scrambling and/or rock climbing ability (read the Digonnet book). With limited daylight, a better alternative might be to do some hiking in the side canyons of Titus during the drive down.
    If you drive to the Charcoal Kilns, consider stopping at the Eureka townsite (ghost mining site). From there it is a short drive to Aguerreberry Point which has nice views particularly in late afternoon.
    An alternative day hike that I enjoy is the walk to Darwin Falls which offers a lot of attractive opportunities for photographing interesting rocks and vegetation (not grand vistas) and is a good mid-day activity. It also gives you the chance to drive over the Panamint Range and through Panamint Valley.
    Scotty's Castle can be a pleasant place to have a picnic lunch on the lawn but IMO is not a great photo destination.
  10. Thanks for the replies guys.
    I must tell you that I will be going with my girlfriend, who is not going to get the best pictures, but rather just to have a good time, so some locations are based on good hikes and the like, rather than picture taking.
    @ David - what about up to Dante's view at night, as in the dark in moonlight? I also intend to visit the dunes in the night as well
    @ Greg - great link. Thanks a lot
    @ John - Thanks for those tips. Your suggestions are not in common death valley guides. I'll be sure to check some of those out.

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