You will probably see a lot of photos from Death Valley around April. It is a short period between extreme cold and extreme heat. Perhaps even desert flowers bloom. The weather ranges anywhere from the low 50s to low 100s (Fahrenheit). On this visit it didn’t get much lower than 56° or much higher than 86°. Wind played a role, but not on the first day of this three-day trip.
A landscape photographer’s day starts very early. Quality light is shortly after sunrise and a few hours before sunset. Somehow that quality light is shorter in the morning. Either that or I’m not awake enough to be so observant.
My first day started at sunrise at Zabriskie Point – a place with breathtaking views over this huge valley.
Two cameras with two targets
I pre-visualized shooting the scene toward the south. Dramatic shadows are cast across the landscape features when your perspective is at a 90-degree angle to the light source.
I brought two cameras – one for wide angle, one for tight. Mine Canon EOS R was set for wide angles with the Canon RF 24-105mm f/4L IS USM lens. This was perfect for this angle because there is such a thing as too wide. Mine EF 17-40mm would have had so much in the frame that Zabriskie Point would have been overwhelming.
Another reason for bringing two cameras was that I expected wind. The last thing I wanted was sensor dust from changing lenses in the field.
Telephoto for tight compositions
I also brought mine Canon EOS RP with a custom Canon EF 70-200mm f/4L USM for those tighter compositions. This worked really well because I had the 30-megapixel EOS R ready for the Plan A shots, while the 26-megapixel EOS RP was available for opportunistic shots.
Landscape doesn’t necessarily require wide angles. A telephoto can frame a photo in creative ways and add value beyond bringing the subject closer. For several shots of Zabriskie Point, I chose to omit the sky altogether. This is when having a quality telephoto lens absolutely shines.