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5 Quick Photo Observations From My Recent Death Valley Trip

Hey everyone. I’m on my flight heading back to the East coast from my recent Death Valley photography trip. As I was flying I was thinking of the trip and came up with 5 quick photography-related observations about my trip:

An Unexpected Lens Choice
I borrowed a Nikon 24mm f/1.4 lens to try out for this trip. I put it on while shooting my first sunrise last Friday and expected I would change out lenses pretty quickly because of it’s lack of zoom. You know what? I ended up keeping the lens on nearly all morning and only took it off when I wanted to put my longer 70-200 lens on. Then, for sunset, I again kept it on the whole time. I totally didn’t expect that and I’ll write more later this week on my blog ( why I think it happened.

There Should Be An Alarm On My Camera
There SOOOO should be an alarm you can set on your DSLR that beeps when you turn your camera on if certain settings are changed (like ISO or bracketing). If you’ve ever shot at night or in low light with a high ISO of say, 3200, and then the next time you use your camera is in the morning for a sunrise shoot then you know what I mean. Just sayin’.

No Matter How Early You “Think” You’re Arriving To Your Sunrise/Sunset Shoot, It’ Not Early Enough
No matter how early you think you’re getting somewhere it’s not early enough and you always find yourself rushing. On our last morning there I went with +Amy Heiden to a location we'd already been to a couple days before. I’d swear we had plenty of time for sunrise (we arrived a half hour earlier then we had any other day). But after scouting for a location, setting up, etc… I still found myself rushing to catch the good light.

I Don’t Like The Sun
This one is weird. Looking through my favorite 10 photos from the weekend, I’d have to say that 7 of them are before sunrise or after sunset – mostly twilight or blue hour. I guess I just don’t like the sun 

Coming Back With A Different Shot Then You Thought You’d Get
I learned this lesson years ago and it continues to be true. You have to be open to seeing things differently than you thought. Several times this weekend, I came back with a favorite photo from a location that wasn’t what I thought it would be. Like I said, I’ve known this for years, but I’m still always amazed at how often it happens.

As always, there's more on my blog over at
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The alarm (notification) on start makes a lot of sense.Warn if ISO is above 400 (user settable) or or bracketing turned on. Or maybe give a setting for the start state for things like ISO - i.e. always start at ISO 200, aperture at 5.6, auto white balance, and no bracketing.
Did you pull out your Macro Lens? If so...sun would not bother you too much. 

Nice textures. Repeating Textures are everywhere in Death Valley and wide angle lens up close can do wonder for a photographer. 
Thanks Matt! I am headed there in February for 5 days.
I loved Death Valley !!! I went a couple years ago and it was totally not what I expected to find.   There are tons of stuff to see and do there.  Can't wait to go back
Awesome shot Matt!  Did you guys try to hit the Racetrack?  I'm curious about road conditions.
Good tips +Matt Kloskowski. You're right about never being early enough :-) This is a gorgeous unexpected shot though.

Great hanging out this weekend! Looking forward to seeing all your other art. 
Thanks for sharing and for your tip. Awesome shot.
Strong comp! Love that texture and leading line. 
This is my observation: I must go there!!
A good read and awesome picture!!
I'll be going in March, so I appreciate these tips!  I don't have a 24mm, but I'll be sure to try out my 35mm.  I guess I will plan on sleeping at midday, too!
Great that you had an opportunity to get such a broad scene here without footprints!
+Matt Kloskowski awesome shot I find the same thing with me as well my favorite shot is almost different especially after post. 
As an old photographer from the days of film, I think the idea of an alarm on digital cameras is a great idea, it is so easy to change the iso to suit the subject these days that you need something to remind you that you have changed settings from your usual ones, I keep doing it all the time, I did say I was old though. Nice shot by the way.
agree with the alarm.   I went on 3 day fall drive around Colorado this last fall.   I slept in my tent both nights.  My main goal was to capture fall colors.   The stars were amazing that night and had to be photographed.   Set my iso to 3200 and had fun with the camp fire shooting away.  Woke up the next morning.  Drove about a  1/4 way up Kebler Pass and about 20 or so pictures later realized my iso was stil cranked up.    Man I was pissed.  I even knew something wasn't right with my settings.   So at this point, do I turn around or call it a waste.... I kept going.
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