Return to Photograph Death Valley

As we continue our photography adventures in the Southwest, we made a last-minute trip to take amazing pictures of Death Valley after the record-setting rains in Southern California in December.  We had a harrowing drive through flooded roads and pounding rain, but were delighted to see practically the entire valley flooded for 20 miles and there was a large and deep pool in Badwater Basin (at 282 feet below sea level, it’s the lowest place on the continent).  As we traipsed through the muck and acidic salts to get to the salt pan, we were like kids.  In addition to our serious nature photographs, we spent a few minutes having fun trying to capture each other “walking on water” (I have confirmed it, yes, Peter does walk on water).  The reflections in the water gave us many opportunities to make creative and unique abstract photographs.  We shot at both sunrise and sunset to get different light angles in our Badwater pictures.  We also had a chance to make sunrise pictures at Zabriskie Point, again capturing different perspectives.  The conditions in Badwater were perfect for black and white pictures or various toning and color techniques.

This is the original photo I made of the Panamint Mountains and the sky reflected in the water in the Badwater.  It is interesting, but the blueish color is monotonous and “cold”.  I liked the subject and composition and wanted to see what i could do to warm up the color or make it a black and white.

#1 Original Image

Here is the black and white version.  There is not a wide variation in the tonal range, so removing the color made it even more monotonous.

#2 Black and White Version

After trying both, I really liked the final picture below.  This abstract water reflection at Badwater is the final image.  A complimentary color was used to counterbalance the cool tones and create visual tension.  Using the Duplex filter in Nik Color Effects Pro made it easy to find the right complimentary color.  As you can also see, with a little help from processing software, I took out the distracting black rock in the foreground.  Our processing “code of conduct” is to take out distracting objects, and especially artificial ones (like telephone poles), but we never add anything in.  We will definitely blog about the ethics of photo processing in the future.

#3 Color Version

Ultimately its a matter of personal preference.  Tell us which one you prefer1, 2, or 3.

Stay tuned for our next post where will explore and include additional ideas, tips, and techniques for photographing reflections.  To see more of our photographs, go to

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