Some days are strange. It is though nature is revealing its auspices and one must be nimble to catch the signs. I often travel with several cameras, and though I can set up my 4×5 fairly quickly, I will also have either a medium format or 35mm camera ready. This means I sometimes take multiple shots at the same scene, a good reference point later, but often find each is different or magical in its own right.
The day we arrived in Death Valley was one such strange day. Driving across Darwin Plateau I pulled over because of an odd cloud formation in the distance as we began our descent into Panamint Valley.
Not far along from this first stop, the views at Rainbow Canyon were immense and breathtaking. Ready for everything I had loaded Velvia 50 into my Olympus OM2, as well as having TMax 100 and Provia 100F loaded for large format. The difference in mood is quite striking between these colour films, and being less nimble than I had wished, I managed to destroy a sheet of Provia at this place.
Arriving several hours later than we expected at Furnace Creek, after a series of photo breaks, we caught up with the ESC4P (Eastern Sierra Centre for Photography) large format meet-up group. The agenda for the afternoon was to head out to Badwater, “-282 feet below sea level”, to take advantage of shadows on the pans in light afternoon light. Check-in at Furnace Creek Ranch would need to wait until we got back.
The day before leaving Australia, I had managed to injure the foot on my good leg. It was excruciatingly painful most of the time, so I dosed up with ibuprofen, and carried on regardless. I wasn’t going to be dancing, and who thought I could anyway.
By the the time we got to Badwater, it was becoming overcast, and less contrasty.
In the distance light was falling between the clouds on the Panamint Range, so I quickly moved and changed lenses on my Chamonix 045F1 view camera to catch its brief illumination of the ridges across the valley.
Looking across the valley in fading light the surface of Badwater Basin appears like a choppy lake frozen in time. In Death Valley the water is bad, high above Dante has a view, and when the sun went down on this evening, it was as though the gates of the inferno were slowly opened.
This is not purgatory, that comes later when I have locked the keys in the rental car with all our luggage at Badwater Basin, and am in my own version of hell.
Out of the inferno flames dance across the sky – so you really think you can dance?