Against the Traffic: Death Valley – Dante’s Peak and Zabriske Point


It’s 4:30 AM and a few hearty photographers are starting to set up their tripods and await the dawn. It is quiet, very quiet. It is windy and cold. I struggle to keep the tripod steady. I’m already dreaming of my first cup of hot coffee. I attach my headlamp to see the way. I’m fearful that my lens or camera has seized up. Without my gloves this would be a fool’s errand. I panic, return to my car and reset. I do not want to miss the sunrise. It comes and goes so fast. Maybe 30 minutes tops, then it is over. This can be said for both Dante’s View and Zabriske Point, though Dante’s Point was much colder. I shoot them on consecutive days, but will discuss them each in today’s Post. They are both magnificent and should not be missed.

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Dante’s Peak, Death Valley is a viewpoint terrace at 1,669 m (5,475 feet) height, on the north side of Coffin Peak, along the crest of the Black Mountains, overlooking Death Valley. Dante’s View is about 25 km (15 miles) south of Furnace Creek in Death Valley National Park. This spectacular view is named from Dante Alighieri, who wrote the Divina Commedia (Divine Comedy), in which there are described the nine circles of Hell, the seven terraces of Purgatory and the nine spheres of Paradise. For those of you who might be Star Wars junkies, it is a filming location in Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope.

Zabriskie Point is a part of Amargosa Range located in eastern Death Valley Valley and noted for its erosional landscape. It is composed of sediments from  which dried up 5 million years ago, long before Death Valley came into existence. This location was used to represent the surface of Mars in the film Robinson Crusoe on Mars.

The photographers line up on their selected vantage points and wait. An occasional test shot to see where the light is. Then it sneaks up slowly and BANG!!!! The cameras jump to life, like a bunch of fishermen waiting for a strike. And here it is. Have everything ready to go. No room for mistakes. The slowly awakening sun kisses the landscape, rises, and the majesty soon disappears, hidden for another day.

That’s it! Off to find some coffee and breakfast. I have a couple of afternoon locations in mind, so stick around.

Happy Shooting!

Rich Smukler

http://www.richsmuklerphoto.com