Epilogue: Visionary Death Valley

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Visionary Death Valley – Thank you!

Guy Tal and I concluded last week our second sold out Visionary Death Valley workshop of 2012.  It is always our great pleasure to work with such fine people and photographers, and we sincerely THANK Robert, Steve, Carol, Hoa, Andy, Dan, Joe, Bennett, Kurt, and Huibo for making this one a success. We really enjoyed your company and camaraderie.

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Burn baby, burn. An incredible pre-sunrise glow over Zabriskie Point and the Panamint Mountains.

December and January are my favorite times to be in Death Valley. Whether a personal outing, group workshop, or private tour, I get to spend many days in the Park during these months, and this is when winter’s weather is most likely to decorate the skies with color and the higher peaks with snow. This Visionary Death Valley workshop was no different, and we were in fact blessed with incredible light and color every morning and evening! What a show we were blessed to enjoy.

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Windstorm on the Racetrack

We were witness to spectacular atmospheric events, which included a sudden windstorm that overtook our group while we were on the Racetrack. Although direct light never hit the playa while we there, what was occurring all around us was an incredible sight to behold. The Grandstand would disappear in a cloud of dust from time to time, and unfortunately so would some of our group! A lesson for all desert photographers: Pin down whatever you’re not currently using, and never take your eyes off your tripod. High winds tried the patience of our group at times – a couple of cameras went down – yet bitter weather produced remarkable and unforgettable results.

Sunrise over Badwater Basin

Sunrise over Badwater Basin

We were fortunate to experience an absolutely ridiculous sunrise over Badwater. Ridiculous? Photographers who spend enough time outside inevitably witness numerous beautiful sunrises/sunsets. So many that they can become cliche and easy to take for granted. I consider a sunrise/set ridiculous when it outright trumps your memories of any of the previous 100. That’s what we had at Badwater.

Glory light over Death Valley

Glory light over Death Valley

The above sunrise photograph is straight out of the camera. I moved NO sliders, added nothing, took nothing away. I only resized for this post and converted the file to the Adobe sRGB color space. Trust me – you would have called this sunrise ridiculous if you had been there with us.

Visionary Death Valley concluded my group workshops for 2012, but the 2013 season starts right up in early January. There is ONE spot remaining in my January 9-14 workshop with Andy Biggs, and a few spots remain in the February 2013 Visionary Death Valley workshop. Please don’t delay as these are expected to sell out. There is still availability in Feb and March 2013 for my private Death Valley photo tours.

Photographer on the dunes

Photographer on the dunes

THANKS again to Robert, Steve, Carol, Hoa, Andy, Dan, Joe, Bennett, Kurt, and Huibo for joining us in Death Valley and making the workshop a success!

You are visiting the blog of fine art landscape photographer Michael E. Gordon. For additional photos and information, please visit his official website. You can also find Michael on TwitterFacebook, and Google+.

Visionary Death Valley Photography Workshop Epilogue

Visionary Death Valley Photography Workshop, February 2012

Guy Tal and I concluded our February 2012 Visionary Death Valley (VDV) photography workshop last Wednesday on Death Valley NP’s Eureka Dunes, and to summarize our workshop with just one word: INCREDIBLE. We had a most wonderful group of participants who were engaged and inspired. We feel incredibly fortunate to be able to share our passion for creative photography and Death Valley National Park with a select group of individuals who are eager to move forward on their creative journeys.

Our workshop explored and photographed some of Death Valley’s most well known features – the vast Dante’s View; the surreal Badwater; the cosmic Racetrack; the sensual Mesquite Sand Dunes – as well as lesser known but no less extraordinary locations that are exclusive to Visionary Death Valley. VDV blends the perfect mixture of field photography, field classes, and a post-production classroom session (with laptops and projection) along with inspirational and philosophical discussions designed to challenge photographers to rethink the way they work and photograph. There are many photography workshops and instruction manuals that teach craft and technique; we’ve designed Visionary Death Valley to lead photographers towards the heart of their art.

A few workshop highlights: A brief but intense sunrise at Dante’s View; a downright ridiculous flaming sunset on our last night out with the Eureka Dunes extension group (see image at left); investigating incredible marine fossils and petroglyphs; the largest engulfing dust storm I’ve ever experienced in Death Valley (this occurred during preparations a few days before we first met our group); and F18 fighter jets screaming over Eureka Dunes at low elevations (it’s a violation of the wilderness experience, yet hard not to be awed by).

Guy and I would like to sincerely thank Anil, Annette, Bob, Don, Jon, Michael, Paige, Ron, Stephanie, and Tina for being part of the first of our Visionary workshop series and for being wonderful students and humans. We truly enjoyed your company and learning about each of you over those tiring but exciting days. We wish you well on your creative photographic journeys!

Our next Visionary Death Valley workshop is scheduled for November 29 – December 4, 2012 and you are all invited. We are also currently in the planning stages of Visionary Capitol Reef (Utah) in 2013. Please stay tuned for more information.

You are visiting the blog of fine art landscape photographer Michael E. Gordon. For additional photos and information, please visit his official website.

The Cracktrack: Confessions of a Drug Runner

Some years back, my good friend Steve told me about finding old aircraft tracks on Death Valley National Park’s famous Racetrack playa (where the stones “mysteriously” move). In 2004, author Michel Digonnet released a wonderful adventurers guide to the Park, and he too, mentioned the aircraft tracks: “…a few decades ago the Racetrack was used by drug smugglers as a landing field.”

Steve, Scott, and I were at the Racetrack again in December 2010, and we found the aircraft tracks on the playa after walking across it while aiming towards one of the old mines east of the playa (photo at right).

Finally, just last week, the Los Angeles Times published a Framework multimedia piece by Don Bartletti entitled “Flight of a Drug Cartel Smuggler“. Within the first two minutes of this video, you’ll see images of Death Valley and hear drug smuggler/pilot John Ward detail how he used to land at night on the Racetrack, carrying upwards of one ton of marijuana or cocaine. Unless there was more than one smuggler using the Racetrack as a landing strip, I assume that the tracks seen in the photo at right belong to none other than John Ward.

The mystery of the Racetrack’s aircraft tracks is no more.

You are visiting the blog of fine art landscape photographer Michael E. Gordon. For additional photos and information, please visit his official website.