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Valley of Fire is one of my favorite places in the American Southwest for landscape photography. It is full of arches, washes and colorful sandstone formations, many with delicately finned rock. It is easily accessible by a regular car, only an hour north of Las Vegas. You don't need to compete for a permit to visit as you do at The Wave and Coyote Buttes South in the Vermillion Cliffs. Unlike many other locations that photographers are drawn to, here there are only a few recognizable features, presenting a challenge that keen landscape photographers can relish for creating original and compelling compositions, both grand and intimate.
I am always amazed at the kaleidoscope of colors present in the sandstone in this area. It is much more varied than at famous locations like the Wave. The sand is also much more orange than at Death Valley or Great Sand Dunes national parks. What drew me to this scene was the tenacity of this small shrub to cling to life in an extreme desert environment. Even while much of it has died off, some live branches remain. Its twisted form looks like a miniature bristlecone pine to me.
The park has a campground, and lodging is available in nearby Overton. Valley of Fire SP closes at sundown, but in my experience the rangers are tolerant of photographers and allow for a bit of dusk photography. Please be careful around the delicate finned formations. I’ve seen a lot of them damaged by careless visitors.
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Dimitri Vasileiou • Editor