Lightshow at Badwater Basin

Lightshow #1
Lightshow #1 by I Nancy, on Flickr – Southern View

In breaking with tradition, or just to show that I have better time management this weekend, I am posting on Saturday afternoon instead of late night “I really should already be sleeping” Sunday. Today, two images from a spectacular sunset at Badwater Basin in Death Valley in January 2011.

It is difficult for frequent visitors of Death Valley to believe me when I tell them that Badwater Basin was filled with water while we were there, but here is the proof. With all this water, and just the right sprinkling of clouds, we were treated to a wonderful lightshow our second night. While searching out the perfect-spot, we came upon a group of photographers from Stephen Johnson’s (a Canon Explorer of Light) Death Valley workshop. He was so gracious, and although there were already a dozen or so photographers lined up on a little spit of land that allowed both a northern and southern view of Badwater, he was welcoming and open.

Occasionally, he would announce something for us to think about: “Look at the cloud formations, don’t be afraid to make those your composition”, “While you are concentrating on the southern view, don’t forget to look at the subtle scene unfolding in the north”, “Check your histogram, make sure you are not blowing out the red channel”.

Although I knew I wanted images that contained both the shoreline at my feet and the sky, I was fascinated by the salty shore textures, his prompting gave me just that one extra thing to think about as I composed and exposed. Both of these images were created from 3-exposure brackets using a combination of automated HDR processing and hand blending. I will admit, that they are somewhat more vivid that “real life” but they capture the feeling of the night. It certainly felt this vivid as we watched the scene unfold. The lower image required a low tripod position and wide angle, while the upper is a tighter shot using the clouds themselves, as Steve suggested, as the main compositional element.

Lightshow #2
Lightshow #2 by I Nancy, on Flickr – Northern View

2 thoughts on “Lightshow at Badwater Basin

  1. Mark Garbowski February 3, 2011 / 8:46 am

    Amazing work Nancy. These are print-worthy, both of them. I think I like the one on the top just a smidge more, but both are stunninng.

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