My first time in Death Valley was during the heightened summer month of August and I did not know what to expect. The night before, I had reached my camp spot a few miles from the Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes and the heat was, at the time, bearable.
Being a Virginia native I've grown accustomed to high humidity heat but I seriously under estimated the desert and what it had in store for me. I woke up around 430am, packed up camp and headed towards the dunes. I knew it would be hot but I was not prepared for the blazing, oven-like heat when the sun breached the horizon.
This 5 frame stitched panorama was taken right as the sun creeped over the surrounding mountainside instantly propelling the temperature from a respectable 90deg F to over 100 in a matter of minutes. For the reason of me not being prepared, ie. not bringing any water with me whilst I was out hiking the dunes because I thought I would be ok, my time in these majestic and iconic sand dunes was limited.
What initially caught my eye about this scene was the awe-inspiring, almost mountainous peaks and ridges. The amount of layers in between these peaks and ridges was almost hypnotic because they were so plentiful. I'd initially composed this scene with a wide angle lens but the long sweeping shadows that had grabbed my attention, seemed so small and minute, so I decided to use my 70-200. With the long lens, I was able to really capture what caught my attention from the distance. The curvaceous shadows gave incredible contrast to the lit portions and as I took this image, just for a brief moment, I didn't feel any ounce of heat whatsoever.
Now having experienced Death Valley, I had made a promise to myself that when I return I will be better prepared. Better prepared for the conditions of the hot summer desert heat. I know that when I return, this scene will most likely not exist because of the nature of sand and how easily the dunes can change even from day to day. This image will always have a special place within me along with the very hard lesson learned on preparedness during my short time in, the Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes.
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Dimitri Vasileiou • Editor