Photographing Sunset at Badwater Basin, Death Valley, CA

7 minutes after sunset
7 minutes after sunset

Badwater is the lowest point in North America at 262 feet below sea level.  It is one of the iconic spots of the dessert southwest.  Because Death Valley gets very little rain, about two inches a year, there are very few times when the basin is actually flooded.  Most of the time the salt crystals form hexagonal honeycomb shapes from repeated freeze–thaw and evaporation cycles that gradually push the thin salt crust up making these iconic shapes.  We have made good photos here at sunrise and sunset. Here is what we saw on our last trip.

30 minutes hour before sunset
30 minutes before sunset

As always, I like to get there early.  The best place to shoot is NOT near the parking area, but abut a half mile south.  As the road rises, there is ample room to park on the side of the road and walk down to the flats.

1304_MFA_Death Valley Infrared_0010-Edit

Remember to check sunset time and know that the sun sets behind the Panamint Mountains about 20 minutes earlier than sunset time.  Finally, the best light happens about  10 minutes after sunset.  The stated sunset time on this day was 7:15 PM.  The cover photo was made at 7:23 and it was all over by 7:30.

1304_MFA_Death Valley_0025-Edit

This is the first of three blogs about our Death Valley trip.  Next week sunrise at Zabiskie Point and the week after sunrise at the Mesquite Dunes at Stovepipe Wells.

See our popular blog, A Weekend in Death Valley.

To see more fo our photos, please go to


  1. motoguzzimomma

    Thank you for your generosity in sharing these really helpful tips. Visiting from the UK, we don’t have a lot of time or opportunity to spend time in these besutiful places so it is a huge help.

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