You probably see a lot of photographs from Death Valley around April. It’s a brief period between extreme cold and extreme heat. Desert flowers may even be blooming. The weather ranges somewhere from the low 50s to low 100s (Fahrenheit). During this visit it didn’t get much below 56° or much higher than 86°. Wind was a factor, but not on the first day of this 3-day trip.
A landscape photographer’s day starts very early. Quality light is shortly after sunrise then a few hours before sunset. Somehow that quality light is more brief in the morning. Either that or I’m not awake enough to be that perceptive yet.
My first day started during sunrise at Zabriskie Point — a place of stunning views across this massive valley.
Two cameras with two purposes
I pre-visualized photographing the scene toward the south. Dramatic shadows are cast across the features of the landscape when your perspective is at angles 90 degrees to the light source.
I brought two cameras with me — one for wide angles, one for tight. My Canon EOS R was set up for wide angles with the Canon RF 24-105mm f/4L IS USM Lens. This was perfect for this angle because there’s such a thing as too wide. My EF 17-40mm would have had so much in the frame that Zabriskie Point would have been overwhelming.
Another reason for bringing two cameras was because I was expecting wind. The last thing I wanted was sensor dust from switching lenses in the field.
Telephoto for tight compositions
I also brought my Canon EOS RP with an adapted Canon EF 70-200mm f/4L USM for those tighter compositions. This worked very well because I had the 30-megapixel EOS R ready and waiting for the Plan A photograph,s while the 26 megapixel EOS RP was available for opportunistic photographs.
Landscape doesn’t necessarily require wide angles. A telephoto can frame a photograph in creative ways and add value beyond bringing the subject closer. For several photographs of Zabriskie Point I chose to omit the sky entirely. This is when having a quality telephoto lens absolutely shines.