Blooming Death Valley, California, USA by Brenda Tharp

Picture Story

Many people think that a desert is a 'wasteland' where nothing grows. But just as many realize that there is more there than meets the eye, and photographers who explore the deserts know that there are many things that are worthy of photographing in the desert! In Spring, if the rains have been not only substantial, but also at the right time of year, Death Valley can burst into bloom. I had been waiting for this, having missed one super-bloom a long time ago while teaching in Yellowstone in February. I wasn't going to miss this one, and I kept in touch with ranger friends and other friends and wildflower hotlines to track the progress of the bloom. When it hit near peak, the park was so crowded with hundreds of cars lining the sides of the road as people hopped out and stood amidst the flowers to take selfies and other photographs.

Fortunately, early mornings were typically quiet with only a very few people out and about, but after I made several nice images of the carpets of blooms, I wanted to go further away from that and explore an area that had a lot of volcanic rock, as I thought the contrast of the black rocks against the brilliant yellow flowers would be wonderful. I drove south, for some distance, then took a side dirt road and drove a bit more, then parked and hiked. At the top of this low hill, I found this scene. Because it was an area that didn't receive as much rain as other parts of the park, the bloom was more sparse. Plants in the desert have adapted to keep a certain distance in order to obtain the water they need to grow, and these plants were doing a nature 'social distancing' amongst the black rocks. I found this fascinating, and also starkly beautiful. Since it was not a sunrise or sunset location, I was grateful that the light had softened, allowing me to capture a more even range of light. That spring was a memorable one for me in Death Valley, and I look forward to the next opportunity to celebrate life in the desert.

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