Death Valley is a place of extremes. One of the extremes I experienced on this trip was wind. The National Park Service states that this is common in the spring and, oh yeah, I can confirm. The hope was to get to Artists Palette then Badwater Basin. I knew I would be photographing Artists Palette in a wind storm.

Dust storm kicked up by high winds

The wind got serious

A dust storm was visible from the road to Artists Palette. Debbie and I initially planned on avoiding the wind, but the story unfolding around us was compelling. I turned around at the first opportunity and chased that storm to where the dust kicked up dramatically.

Getting the photograph meant being down low while shielded by the car. Right about this time I was wondering if this was worth it. Believe it or not, the wind actually increased through the day.

G Dan Mitchell, a photographer and friend who I admire has had lots to say about photographing Death Valley in the wind. His thoughts on the matter played a large part in my decision making.

Artists Palette

There’s an overlook early on the road to Artists Palette. Incredibly the wind got even more intense. During the short hike up the slope the wind nearly knocked me off my feet. Common sense was telling me to go back but my sense of adventure wouldn’t hear of it. Leaning into the wind I slogged up the hill and took shelter behind a large boulder.

Debbie and I found ourselves advising families with young children that this isn’t worth the misery. One family agreed while the other found out for themselves. Winds had increased to around 40mph and the debris whipping around was no joke.

A favorite from the relative safety of a large boulder

Brilliant colors

The road from here is one way so turning back wasn’t an option. You’ve probably seen photographs of this landscape before and thought the brilliant colors were applied in Photoshop. This needs no enhancement. The colors included red, pink, blue, orange, yellow and green.

I hiked a short distance into the scene even with the wind. Another park visitor passed by when the wind kicked up a small rock that struck him in the head. He was alright, but the moment served as an example of seriously considering staying out of this wind.

If it looks good, shoot it

It looked good

Nearly exiting Artists Drive Scenic Loop I saw exceptional light caressing the dramatic hills. The wind was howling even more now and I seriously thought about driving on. A quote inspired me to reverse and once again angle the car as a shield against the wind storm.

“If it looks good, shoot it. If it looks better later, shoot it again.”

Galen Rowell

When I realized what the light was doing I knew exactly how to develop the scene. We didn’t stay long, but yes it did look better, so I shot it again.

It looked better so I shot it again