Feb 25th 2018


Disruption at Sunrise - Death Valley!

This image is from 2014, and one of my first trips back to Death Valley in nearly 15 years. I was full of anticipation and excitement! I had this vision in my head that I was going to wake up predawn, hike out on the Mesquite Dunes and find these beautiful layers of harsh light flowing over the curves and textures of the dunes.

After checking the weather and tracking west to the east directional front, I felt confident it was going hang just north of the valley, and I would get the high-contrast morning light I was looking forward to.

As my headlamp bobbed up and down, and my shoes filled with sand, I felt a cold breeze flowing across my face, I noticed wisp of sand blowing off the peaks of the dunes. I turned my light off and realized there were no stars. Well crap, it was completely overcast! If there is one thing I’ve learned over the years, landscape photography, is genuinely unpredictable, and you have to be prepared to adapt to the circumstances presented, especially the weather.

So here I am two to three miles out on the dunes, the eastern sky is beginning to lighten revealing what now looks to be an approaching thunderstorm. Can you believe it?! I’m in one of the driest places on Earth, and it’s going to f*&%$# rain on me. So much for the beautiful layers of direct morning light flowing over the texture and soft curves of the dunes. No Shadows today! This is one of those times when you have to adapt, understand the circumstances and start looking into controlling the new variables. Changing light always presents new opportunities.

 As I look over the dunes and the overall scene, I soon could see the beautiful soft contrast and transition of light in the frame from front to back and top to bottom; it had depth and flow. The scene had lovely subtle light tones with textured ripples across the dunes in the foreground and dark, dense layers of water filled clouds above. In the distance and to the east, the rising sun was adding a soft glow to the right side of the frame and highlighting the morning haze against the distant mountains.

When just the right elements and variables are right there in front of me, (not from anything I’ve done) a big fat smile just magically appears on my face. BAM there it is right in front of you! All I have to do is be there. In these moments I realize why I do what I do. There is a sense of fulfillment and gratitude that I just can’t find anywhere else. Yes, we all have lovely personal events throughout our lives that are exceptional and fulfilling, some planned, others not, but our planet and the natural world can provide these experiences every day! You just have to get out there be present and explore.

Hope you enjoy the image.

Technical Information:

May 5th 2014

Canon 5D Mark II

24-105MM lens – shot at 47mm

1/15th Sec  - f11

Time – Sunrise

Location – Death Valley National Park – Mesquite Dunes

Park south of the dunes onside of the road and walk-in.


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Copyright Jack Curran 2018