QT Luong • Photographing Death Valley

Death Valley is utterly iconic, and much photographed. What are the best ways to get to every depth and peak? QT Luong’s guide to the highlights of this extraordinary location will let you in on every secret

Death Valley is the hottest place in the world, with 134°F recorded in the shade. It is also the driest place in North America, with an average of 1.96 inches of rain per year. Badwater Basin is the lowest location in the western hemisphere at 282 feet below sea level. Those extreme conditions have contributed to the creation of a land that is uniquely desolate and surreal. The valley at first appears vast, barren and unremarkable. However, a closer examination uncovers impressive views and numerous geological wonders that are revealed by the absence of vegetation, such as vast sand dunes, one of the largest salt pans on earth and rocks that move mysteriously on a dry lake bed. Despite its forbidding name, in the winter Death Valley is a pleasant and relatively convenient destination.

Having grown up in Europe and moved to California in 1993, when I first visited Death Valley in November of that year it was my first experience of the desert – the place mesmerized me. After seeing Yosemite and Denali, it was Death Valley that made me realize how much diversity was seen in America’s national parks, which prompted me to embark on my project to photograph them all. Back in the 1930s, Edward Weston was one of the first to depict the grandeur and beauty of Death Valley, and his vision encouraged Ansel Adams to go there and photograph it. With judicious use of light, you will be able to ...

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About Author


QT Luong is known for being the first to photograph all America’s 59 National Parks – in large format. Ken Burns and Dayton Duncan featured him in The National Parks: America's Best Idea. His photographs are extensively published and have been the subject of four large-format books including Treasured Lands (winner of 6 national book awards), several magazine and newspaper profiles, solo gallery and museum exhibits across the U.S.

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