My last day in Death Valley was a mix of spectacular, dramatic light and a wind storm that kept intensifying. After my stop at Artists Palette I headed south to Badwater Basin. The National Park Service placed a sign here saying that it’s the lowest point in North America. What’s really freaky is looking high up at the marker for sea level. You’ve undoubtedly seen photographs of hexigon-shaped formations in the salt flats.

Hiking into the Badwater Basin salt flat

I probably hiked a mile to find a composition that I liked. The light and clouds were getting dramatic while I searched for a foreground to anchor the photograph. Some anxiety can creep in when the clock is ticking.

More challenging than anything else was the wind. You might recall that the wind storm was significant at Artists Palette. By the time I found a composition that was truly compelling that wind had to be over 40 mph. While setting up my tripod my hat was blown off. As it tumbled across the salt flat I said a quiet apology for the unintentional litter.

I’m pretty sure my hat is still tumbling around out there

Compose the frame, hold down the tripod, shield the camera from the howling wind, trigger the shutter then repeat for some insurance. It was a good thing I made a few exposures because the wind affected focus significantly in a few frames.

The hike back was no picnic. Don’t get me wrong, I love an adventure but it was definitely time to go. A mile back, half walking, half jogging while leaning into the wind makes for a pretty good story. Ask me about that over a beer some time. Maybe I’ll share the video later.

Heading home and a chapel on a hill

The idiot lights on the car dashboard stayed off for the whole trip home. Yes, I’m getting the bad tire pressure sensor replaced tomorrow morning. I chose a route that would take me through Paso Robles because there’s an absurdly photogenic chapel that was built on top of a pretty little hill.

To be totally honest. writing about this spot worries me because it’s got potential to be “loved to death.” Serra Chapel has been a favorite spot of mine for a few years. Photographing it in quality light with an interesting sky was something I just couldn’t pass up. If you plan to visit this site then please treat it kindly.