My visit to Death Valley started as a workshop that I was pretty excited about attending. Workshops are great for engaging with like-minded people, sharing ideas and getting insights about a topic or place in which maybe you don’t have a lot of exposure (see what I did there?).

I hadn’t spent any time in Death Valley for years, so this workshop was an opportunity to relax a bit. Time to think less about destinations and more about responding to what was in front of me. Somebody else set the itinerary and I got to just follow along and maybe disengage if I felt the need. Morning at Zabriskie Point was glorious. But what could I do with lousy light in the middle of the day in a place like Death Valley?

Let’s call this snapshot “research”

Dirt roads and making my own light

The group headed down a dirt road to roughly the middle of the valley. By 10 a.m. the quality of light was pretty poor. This area has a stripe of light colored mineral deposits with potential for an interesting scene but not in this light. Opportunities are all around and identifying them is an outstanding exercise. I chose to look for details with a macro lens while using my reflectors to make my own light.

There was a 10-by-10 foot area right in front of me filled with fascinating details. Was it my best work of the trip? No, not remotely. But it wasn’t the worst stuff I ever made, either.

I went to work making proverbial lemonade out of lemons. If nothing else this was research for a future visit. One thing I couldn’t bring myself to do was step far out into the flats. The old Boy Scout in me just couldn’t live with the idea of damaging this environment regardless of how hardy everybody says it is.

The trip mishap

A trip with me wouldn’t be an adventure without the nearly guaranteed mishap. I had been dealing with what looked like a faulty tire pressure sensor for most of the trip but it always checked out OK.

There was one last rock that I rolled over on that dirt road and I heard “ka-ping!” The idiot light came back on and I thought maybe this time it wasn’t from a bad sensor. We got to a parking lot a few miles away where Debbie, my cousin and adventure partner, noticed the rear passenger tire was going flat. Nice.

Best thing possible?

Was this a disaster or was it the best thing possible? I’ve learned to be more of a “glass is half full” kind of guy so I chose to look at this as a positive thing. The tire was going flat in a small parking lot rather than on a dirt road in the middle of Death Valley. Awesome! I had the time, the tools and the space needed to get the spare installed. Sunlight at noon is nearly unusable for landscape photography anyway.

Solving the flat tire problem was a lot more complicated because I drive a Subaru Forester. One ruined tire means replacing all of the tires. Here I was about half way into Death Valley and now I needed to locate a set of new tires. Does it seem like I’m leading up to a next installment? You bet I am, and I hope you’ll read it. 

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