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Death Valley: Silence, Solitude and Surreal Beauty

by Editor Rob Darby
Published the 5th of June 2020


'The Dark Side' by Javier de la Torre


“I have always loved the desert. You sit down on a sand dune. You see nothing. You hear nothing. And yet something shines, something sings in that silence…”
Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, The Little Prince


'Silence' by Phillip Chang



'Moonset at Death Valley' by Hua Zhu



'On the Road with the Thunder Gods' by Yvette Depaepe


I am, and have always been, fascinated by the desert. I spent part of my childhood in Nevada, only 150 miles from Death Valley, so I grew up wandering through sagebrush, exploring dry stream beds, and in awe of the night sky.  I remember my 10 year old self staring at the Milky Way and trying to understand the concept of infinity. To this day, I remember feeling curious and humbled by how small the world seemed when looking up at the canopy of stars overhead. I hope to never lose that feeling.


'Zabriskie Sunset' by Carlos F. Turienzo



'Badwater Sunset' by Benio



'Death Valley' by Juan Pablo de Miguel


What I learned at an early age was that the desert hides its life in camouflage, and that the brittleness and monochrome of the landscape is a cover-up, a rouse. If one is patient and observant, the desert reveals a complex ecosystem and a hardy, colorful beauty that is nothing short of breathtaking.


'Badwater Under The Night Sky' by Michael Zheng



'Viento de Arena' by INIGO CIA



'Hell on Earth' by Carlos F. Turienzo


Death Valley National Park is situated in a remote area of southeastern California. It is nearly 8000 sq km in size and it is a land of extremes both geographically and climatologically. It is one of the hottest places on the planet. The Earth’s highest temperature of 134 degrees F was recorded at Furnace Creek, and summertime temperatures routinely reach 125 degrees during the day. Furnace Creek, an oasis of civilization and First World amenities (including the “Devil’s Golf Course”) is aptly named. But this is only half the story...winters in Death Valley can be cold and snow is common on the peaks that surround the valley.


'Rising from Underworld' by Marek Boguszak



'Broken Tales' by Andreas Agazzi



'Desert Morning' by John J. Chen


Away from Furnace Creek, Death Valley reveals itself.  There are breathtaking vistas, abstract dunes, colorful rock strata (formed by millennia of Death Valley being the floor of a prehistoric lakes) and minimalistic landscapes that have a rare and subtle beauty. The colors in the sedimentary rocks of Death Valley come from the minerals in the area: borax, quartz, iron, pyrite, and copper. Death Valley was a place of abundant mining for silver, gold, and borax which thankfully ended when the area became protected.


'Death Valley' by Judy Tseng



'Death Valley Vista' by Rob Darby



'Candy land' by Matt Anderson


From the heat-dried salt pans of Badwater, the lowest point in the United States at -282 feet below sea level, to the abstract and every-changing sand dunes of Panamint, Mesquite, and Eureka, to the towering mountains that encircle the valleys and stretch 3100 meters into a crackling sky, to the Kodachrome hills on Artist’s Palette drive, and to the sun-charred, chaotic geometry of Zabriskie Point, there is something for every type of photographer in Death Valley.


'Webbing' by Marek Boguszak



'Flow' by Lydia Jacobs



'Alone' by Mirko Vecernik


For those willing to adventure a bit, there is excellent hiking for all levels of fitness. Hiking into the less-visited Panamint Dunes, for example, is a reasonably challenging 4-5 km with unspoiled dunes as your reward. Mesquite and Eureka Dunes are more accessible and certainly impressive in their own right, so one need not hike through a harsh and hot landscape to find amazing sand dunes in the Valley. I also recommend the hike from Zabriskie Point down into the hidden valleys and washes below.  Here you will find unique compositions of this oft-photographed vista.


'Race Track_01' by Vlado Bača, QEP



'Racetrack to Milky Way' by Michael Zheng



'Track of Time' by Phillip Chang


“The Racetrack” is a mysterious and dry lake bed that is a grueling drive into a remote basin called “La Playa.” The road is rough and flat tires are more the rule than the exception. Once there, however, one finds a unique place where rocks move across the sun-cracked lake bed leaving trails that defied a satisfying scientific explanation...until recently. Observations reveal the rocks move as the result of an unexpected vector, at least in an area that receives less than 2 inches of rain per year...water and ice. Water in the playa will sometime freeze overnight. The subsequent thawing of the ice, coupled with persistent winds, push rocks across the playa which form tracks that photographers seem perfectly willing to sacrifice a flat tire (or two) to capture.


'Planet X' by John Fan



'Alien World' by John Fan



'Death Valley' by Ali Erturk

And finally, it should be noted that Death Valley is a designated Dark Sky Park, so photographers who are looking for that epic shot of the Milky Way arcing over a cracked salt pan or rising up from rolling sand dunes, or if you just enjoy looking up and seeing the improbable number of stars in a pristine sky (or maybe you are trying to comprehend infinity, maybe?) well, this is about as good a place as any to do it.


Below 280' by Andreas Agazzi



'VALLE DELLA MORTE' by Vinicio Triglia



'Sunset' by Bingo Z


Death Valley, like any desert, demands self-reflection. The poets, artists, and photographers who come to this unique place carry back with them the images of a world stripped bare of pretense and layered with complexity.


'My way...' by Gennady Shatov



'Mesquite Dune' by Rob Darby



'Badwater IV' by Vieri Bottazzini



'Mesquite Dune' by Bill Devlin



Absolutly fabulous images. Congratulations to all the photographers for capturing this amazing place. I have to return myself sometime when all this is over. Made my day looking this marvalous collection of images.
Gorgeous presentation and your image is wonderful. Well done Yvette.
Thanks for your compliment, dear Jeff! I'm grateful to Rob to have chosen this image for this fine article. Cheers, Yvette
Thanks dear Yvette and Rob for the great article, I am happy to be part of it. Have a great weekend!
I'm glad Rob has chosen one of your images for the gallery of this outstanding article, Lydia. Have a nice week ahead, dear friend!
Breathtaking set of glorious images every one. So well put together in a slide show of wonder. Pure magic congratulations all involved Five star.. ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
What a delightful article and mesmerizing images. Nature is undoubtedly the greats source of art. The photographers participating made it a fantastic collection of nature wonderful textures, patterns, and tones. My compliments to Rob for this excellent article and images.
Fine article and wonderful selection of images, Rob. Perfect quote out of 'The Little Prince' from St Exupéry. Congratulations to all the authors of the fantastic images taken in Death Valley. I wish you all a great weekend ahead... Cheers, Yvette