I have to admit that I’m a bit proud of myself for not going on an absolute lunacy-driven spell after spending a week without virtually any cell signal. Fortunately, I’m pleased to say that the photo workshop led by me and my good bud, James Brandon, went very well! We took our students to a variety of locations within Death Valley National Park and guided them through photo experiences such as watching the sun rise over the Mesquite Sand Dunes, light-painting a dense forest of Joshua Trees, and seeing the last light fall upon the sailing stones of the Racetrack Playa, in addition to a bunch of other ones. All in all, it was a great time with some great people.

The day after the workshop was wide open for James and me, so we decided to do a more rigorous scout around Cottonball Basin. James had a particular area that he had been hunting for and we decided to give it one last try to find. The weather was very unusual for the area with a socked-in sky and cooler temps. Still, after much perseverance and even more walking, we did find the area that we dubbed “Goldmine.” A very small area of brown earth comprised of densely packed pockets of white salt. At first glance, you would swear that you were standing on another planet. Relieved and excited, James marked the Goldmine waypoint on his GPS device and we now had our location for sunset.

When it was time to depart the lodge and make the hike back to this location, the sky was still just as socked-in as before. For a minute, both of us actually considered tossing it in for the day and relax. But, we knew that we’d truly kick ourselves if something happened last minute. So, we laced up, drove out, and hiked in. We made it to our location quicker than we had imagined… I guess scouting really is helpful! With about 40 minutes until sunset, James and I recorded some videos for each other and found our locations while taking great care to minimize our footprints in the area.

And then it happened.

First, the mountain range behind us exploded in this wonderful-but-brief alpenglow. It was gone almost as quickly as it appeared. Then the real show started. Right before our eyes, layer upon layer of grey clouds began erupting in this crazy display of orange and yellow. It truly was a fire in the sky. James and I went into concentration mode and began performing that special ballet of two photographers maximizing different compositions within the tiny window of time that we had. It really was a most excellent experience.

After about 90 seconds or so, the color began to die. What little ambient light we had was quickly fading but we were beaming. It was time to hike back to our vehicle. That was as good of an ending to our week-long stay in Death Valley as we could have ever asked for.

Camera: Sony a7R with the Sony FE 16-35mm f/4 lens
Filter: N/A
Tripod: Really Right Stuff TVC-34L/BH-55
Stylization: Lightroom 5.7