After poor planning cancelled a trip to Utah, Willie and I decided to head down to Death Valley instead. We brought along my friend Zack and were pretty excited to explore and get some great photos. Unfortunately, one of us must have really upset Mamma Nature because we got skunked for pretty much every photo we tried to take.
We took off Saturday morning and drove to the Eastern Sierras where Willie and I had seen numerous photos of an ancient petroglyph formation that faced snow covered mountains. Willie had done some amazing research and was able to find the location, on his own. This place is kept secret by the local tribe because they dont want people defacing it or it becoming super popular. If youre lucky enough to make friends with a local, you might just be given the location. I will not tell you where this is and Im not going to post any information on how to find it. If you do figure it out, please respect the place — take off your shoes and dont walk on the petroglyphs if you can help it.
After finding the parking spot, going on a nasty little hike, and doing some bouldering we finally arrived at the petroglyphs. What an amazing site These petroglphys, which are one of the only ones that face the sky (thus giving its name) sits on top of a block of volcanic rock and dozens of petroglyphs are carved into the rock, perhaps by ancestors of the Paiute (or Shoshone-Paiute) people. Its about 15 or 20 feet tall, somewhat bowl shaped, and slightly steep, perhaps about a 40 degree slope (which made standing for photos difficult).
Around 3pm another set of (professional) photographers showed up and we had to squeeze in so that all 5 of us could get photos. It was pretty amusing, with one guy pretty much dangling off the rock With our tripods setup we waited for sunset.
Mamma Nature had not been nice to us during the trip but the 2 other photographers had been lucky all week, getting great skies the entire time, and we hoped their luck would turn our fortunes. Unfortunately, Mamma hated us more than ever and brought in some awful big clouds that blocked the sky from lighting up and we went home empty handed.
After eating dinner we looked back at the skies and saw it had cleared up and thought hey, lets go back and do star trails So off we go, with a whole lot of extra clothing, back up the nasty little hike and to the petroglphys. Willie brought some yellow tissue paper to diffuse a LED flashlight and we light painted the rock and then took a 30 minute exposure for the startrails. Yet again, Mamma Nature tried to stop us and rolled in a bunch of clouds just as we started the 30 minute exposure It ended up creating a neat little effect, with the startrails being intermixed with clouds. I thought it made the startrails look like little silvery strands of hair
After the shot, we packed up and finally got to bed at about 12:30am. Being as crazy as we are, we woke up again at 5am, hiked back to petroglyphs for a 3rd time and tried for a nice sunrise (again, a failure). At least we got this shot and we had an amazing trip regardless
Nikon D700 w/Nikkor 17-35mm f/2.8 ED-IF AF-S:
17mm, f/7.1, 30 min, ISO 200