Tag Archive: death valley

Review: Death Valley Nocturnes Workshop, November 2008

In November 2008, a little over a month ago, I attended a workshop held by The Nocturnes, a group of photographers that specialize essentially in night-time photography.  They generally go without any or very little truck by moonlightartificial light such as street lights, cars, etc, though a Nocturne will use flashlights and other tools to add to an image in some cases.  There are lots of examples of ultra-long exposure shots (4 hours is the longest I’ve seen, 1 hour is the longest I’ve done).  They have a flickr group as well, and a pretty useful discussion forum.  Nocturnes tend to be pretty intense – many shoot only this type of photography, and they have developed calculators for correcting for these long exposures, etc.  Many shoot enough to just know how long to expose for, just based on experience.

The workshop I attended was from November 8-10, when the moon was getting to full (76% when we arrived, 92% when we finished).  We were at the Furnace Creek Ranch, one of only two real places to stay in Death Valley, the whole time, they though we worked several locations, including the Furnace Creek Inn, Zabriskie Point, Badwater Basin, andthe abandoned town of Rhyolite just over the border in Nevada in addition to the ranch itself. The workshop was led by Tim Baskerville, a Nocturne veteran (one of the first) and a great guy.

Overall, I give this workshop an experience a very positive score.  It was a small group – 6 of us – and we shared some good tips and comraderie.  Not as much as I would hope among all 6, but, in addition to the one good friend and one acquaintance I already knew, I can think of at least one other person with whom I spoke and interacted quite a bit.  So that’s not bad.  And I did get a lot out of it.  Working with the light, understanding how working in just moonlight vs. a mixed lighting situation vs. daylight was very different, and I became more comfortable with the uncertainty of this type of photography.  But also the wonders of the results.

The full flickr set of my photos is online.  I will admit that I messed up a lot of the color exposures, though the black and white turned out better.

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From Badwater Basin to Electrode City

Two evenings ago, around 1AM, I was 2 miles out from the viewing platform at Badwater Basin in Death Valley, the lowest point in North America.  I was in the middle of the valley, under an almost-full moon (86% waxing gibbous), taking an hour-long photograph (yes, 1 shot for a full hour) of the trails in the salt created by thousands of footsteps as tourists before me have wandered around.  The paths they had created were white and glowing from the moonlight, while the rest of the area was dark, the 6″ tall ridges of salt covered in dirt and hard as rock.

It was absolutely silent.  I am not sure if I have ever been in a quieter setting.  The only sound were those of the salt crunching under my feet as I wandered around during that hour, gazing at the clear sky and watching Orion slowly rotate around Polaris, the North Star.

Right now, having already gone through waking up before dawn, driving 8 hours back home to shave and change my shirt and running off to a half-day of work, I find myself sitting in the lobby of the business school where I am studying for my MBA, Blackberry on my belt, MacBook on my lap, downloading the Second Life viewer so that I can work on my avatar that has lain dormant for a couple of years now.  I have my bluetooth headset in my pocket – the one that can connect to my Blackberry and my other phone, which I use for my side job.

Tomorrow night, I will be at a Sleep Disorders Center, electrodes glued all over my body, probably sitting in a chair before going to bed so that I can utilize the free wireless to do work before I find out how bad my sleep apnea is.

Yes, they have wireless at the Sleep Center.

It’s amazing that one can go from one extreme to the other with an 8 hour drive and over such a short period of time.  Completely disconnected to not just wired but wireless and in a completely backwards way.  I’m all wired for my sleep.  And completely wireless for my computer.  And just a few days removed from Badwater Basin…