Photograph of the Week: Badwater

Checking in at 232 feet below sea level, Badwater is the lowest spot in the United States, and a great location to photograph!
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Photograph of the Week: Badwater



Arriving at Death Valley

Driving to Death Valley National Park in the early morning – pre-dawn hours – is really interesting. The road twists and turns as you pass from Nevada to California, and the sides of the hills seemingly appear out of the darkness to remind you to slow down!

Arriving at Death Valley at 4:30am, I was able to catch sunrise at the famous Zabriskie Point.  Although there were little clouds to be found, the sunlight lighting up Zabriskie Point was worth the visit. Of course, there were a fair number of photographers present, as this is a famous location for photography. If you move around and get away from the crowd you will find some great spots for photographs.

Moving on to other locations around the park, I visited Mesquite Dunes, Gold Canyon, Artists Palette. At the end of the day I ended up at Badwater.

Badwater is a salt flat. A mostly dry lake bed surrounded by mountains on three sides.  Coming in at 232 feet below sea level, it is the lowest point in the continental United States.

If you park at the public parking lot, you will find yourself surrounded by hundreds of tourist who come to this location to see the salt flats.  It is difficult to get away from all the people, they are literally everywhere!

Continuing down the road past the parking lot to the first bend you will find a place to park. From there you can walk out on the flats. And most likely, you will find yourself alone. Or nearly alone. There was one other photographer who was nearby, but other than him, I was alone.

The salt flat is bigger than it looks, and as always looks are very deceiving.  I walked out about good mile to this location, spending a significant amount of time looking for the ‘right’ location to get this shot. I was looking for some lines of the salt ridges to use as foreground, as the mountains and the clouds were doing a great job at providing some background.

Suggestions for this Artwork

The predominate colors of this photograph cover both cooler as well a warmer colors – blues and grays as well as yellows, oranges and reds. This print would look great against a white or cream color wall of an office space. It would also look wonderful against a light blue wall as well.

If you like crisp detail, this print has that in spades. The salt crystals look crunchy (and they are crunchy as you walk on them!), so if you love detail, this print is for you.


Photographer’s Notes

This photograph was shot on a Canon 5DS R with my Tamron 24-70mm f/2.8 SP lens at a focal length of 35mm.  The exposure settings are f/16 at 1/20 second shutter at ISO of 100.  I stopped down to f/16 in order to get focus all the way through the photograph, and the camera giving me 51MP to work with adds to the crisp details that are found in this print.

As stated above, I used the lines of the crystal patterns in the salt to provide visual interest leading the eye into the photograph to the beautiful sunset clouds in the background. The print gives a sense of going on for nearly forever, with the patterns moving into the photograph.

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Sunset at Badwater in Death Valley National Park. Badwater is the lowest place in the United States, coming in a 282 feet below sea level.



Sunset at Badwater in Death Valley National Park. Badwater is the lowest place in the United States, coming in a 282 feet below sea level.

Additional information


Fine Art Print, Canvas Gallery Wrap, Metal (Satin Finish), Metal (Glossy Finish)

Size (in inches)

8.5×11, 11×14, 20×26, 20×30, 24×36

David's Artist Statement

My earliest memories of photography was high school, where I took black and white photographs for the yearbook. I remember the hours spent with chemicals, tanks and trays and the wonderful enlarger that could take you places you didn’t know existed. It was fun, at least for a teenager!

My next encounter with photography was with a Canon AE-1 fitted with a niffty 50mm f/1.4 lens that I used to take slides (yea, Ektachrome 64 to be exact, and yes I also did film, Velvia 50 which I loved for the richness of the colors). Thousands of slides later, I still have that camera. Many of my photographs from my time in Spain, Italy and Greece still survive as Ektachrome 64 slides that I will someday scan into digital.

All photography is about light. All photographers state that they “paint” with light. I look for more than just light, I look for textures, tones and colors. I find that the quality of light at the moment I click the shutter will bring out or reveal a color, tone or texture that wasn’t obvious just minutes before and will disappear minutes after. I revel in the glorious world around me, and sometimes I feel like a kid in awe of the simple beauty that I see before me.

I now capture and print images digitally – the same eye that I developed as a younger man but hopefully a wiser eye, bringing out the subtle or bold colors depending on how I have envisioned the photograph, incredible papers each designed to bring out special qualities of the photographs that I see. Each photograph is the work of my own hands. I do all my own printing and framing, and I do it to archival standards, which means my photographs will look like new for many years. You will pass these photographs on to your children and hopefully to your grandchildren when their time comes.

However, none of this is important if the photographs don’t engage you, don’t grab you, don’t claim you. Each one is an invitation to participate in a story. I just don’t take photographs, I make photographs – ‘memories’ of places and scenes that I share and pass on to you.


Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ's)

OK, let’s put this most asked question to bed. Are these photographs enhanced?

Short answer – Yes. Unapologetically!

Long answer – ALL PHOTOGRAPHY requires that there is processing of some kind. Development process (film), Lens corrections, color correction, sharpening, setting black and white points – these are just a few basic processing actions required. Sometimes I apply various filters (at capture and in post processing), I dodge and burn (both digital and film), I crop, etc. to get the photograph I envisioned when I did my capture.

My basic philosophy of photography is that I work to capture an impression of a location. Sometimes a photograph doesn’t need much work and sometimes it does. I am not interested in simply documenting a location, otherwise I’d be a photojournalist, which I am not.

Ansel Adams once said that we don’t take photographs, we make them. This is my attempt at making photographs, which in turn is making art.

Are these photographs or is this art?

Huh?  Seriously, art is in the eyes of the beholder, art is what you make of it. For me, my work is art. For you, who knows but you!

As for photography being art, that question has been settled for almost a hundred years. Yes it is, pure, plain and simple as that.

What kind of cameras do you use?

I use a variety of digital and film cameras. Most notably Canon 5D Mark II, Canon 5DS r, Canon 5D Mark IV, Canon AE-1 (film), Canon EOS A2 (film), Sony A7rII and Sony A7rIII. My current camera for those who are interested is the Sony A7rIII.

Have you been to all these places? (Yes, people do ask me this!)

Ahhhhh . . . yes!  Sometimes many times over several years! I often find myself going back again and again to try to get the photograph’s I know I can get at any particular location. As always, we are limited to weather and the sunlight cooperating to get the best images. That is why I return – frequently!

How come my pictures don’t look like these?

To quote Ansel again, I don’t take photographs. . . I make photographs. That means sometimes waiting around for hours for the right moment, it means composing the scene, it means making lens decisions, it means determining my aperture or my ISO setting, it means some serious time spent in post processing (color corrections, dodging and burning, cropping, etc) and good print processes.


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