Sunset over Badwater Basin (Death Valley National Park)

Taken early last year at the lowest point in North America on my last night in Death Valley. During the day I spent about five hours searching for an area where the salt flats made smooth, visually appealing patterns and marked each location with my GPS so that I’d be able to find them (and more importantly find my car) when the sun was setting. Badwater Basin covers approximately 200 square miles so finding smooth, undisturbed salt flats isn’t an easy task.

Even with the GPS coordinates it was still a struggle to find my car – I knew where it was of course – but there are not any ‘trails’ in the dessert to follow back and the dessert isn’t all smooth salt flats like you see in this picture. Littered throughout the area are large salt crystal formations that stretch for quite a distance that will saw your legs up if you try to pass through them. Thus, you have to find a way out without walking through any of the spiky salt formations, think of it as a giant natural maze. I walked about nine miles (largely in circles) seeking a place to setup for sunset and so just following my GPS created ‘trail’ was not an option. All-in-all my car was only about a mile away from where I took this picture but it took me a little over an hour to get there because of all the backtracking I had to do.

Sunset over Badwater Basin (Death Valley National Park)

Sunset over Death Valley (Death Valley National Park)

In this photo I tried to really minimize the size of the mountains (they are actually pretty large) and did that by using a really wide angle lens to make them seem very tiny in the distance. I also wanted to convey a sense of just how wide and vast the landscape was.

Long day tomorrow with a 7 AM flight and 7:45 PM return flight so I probably won’t be posting anything on Thursday.


12 thoughts on “Sunset over Badwater Basin (Death Valley National Park)

  1. great work and thanks for posting.
    this is the shot i hoped to take a couple of weeks ago but the patterns near the car park are nothing special. i will hold on to you tip about taking hours to cover a bigger distance. were you off the unmade road the other side of the flats? this was my first trip but i will definitely return

    • Yeah I agree – the patterns near the car park were not special at all. I did have to walk a far distance to find anything worth shooting which I’ve read is pretty typical. The GPS is an absolute must given the terrain is so similar all around. There aren’t any natural markers to find your way so if you don’t have a GPS I’d definitely recommend one and mark those photo worthy locations because they aren’t that big. This little patch of land might have only been twenty feet by twenty feet wide whereas all the other flats were cracked and uninteresting.

    • Thanks – its a weird place because for the most part it is so wide open (no trees or anything like that) but yet so challenging to navigate because there are not any natural ‘marking points’ like you get when hiking out in say Rocky Mountain National Park or something like that. As a result you really have to trust the GPS – and I had just purchased it for this trip so I was kind of flying blind a lot of the time.

    • It’s a great landscape for sure and very unique from what you see in most other parts of the US and probably the world – hence why it is so popular. Hope things are going well with you Denise.

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