By many accounts this is a super bloom year in Death Valley. And in my opinion, it was super no matter whether the media/park service called it that or not! It was spectacular to witness the landscape bathed in bright cheerful yellow. You would step out of your car and be greeted with not only the cheerfulness of the flowers, but the softly pungent/sweet fragrance of them, too. It’s not over, but the showy desert gold flowers have gone past their peak, about a week ago, as I was leaving, and that’s what shows up the most in the big landscape.
Yet no matter how great it looked, it was at times challenging to capture. When you were driving around, looking at the vast scenes, you’d think that the desert floor was choked with flowers. But get out of your car, and you realize that each plant has space around it in all directions, and for good reason: water rights. They each need a certain amount of water and the space allows them that, essentially. “Ah, but that’s just the side of the road”, you think to yourself, looking deeper into the landscape at swaths of yellow carpeting the alluvial fans. “It looks like they are more dense further in.” So you walk in – well I didnt, but so many did, hoping to get to “that area over there that looks so great!” I knew from the last superbloom I experienced there that you never get to that place of dense flowers, because it’s all an optical illusion! I have to admit I chuckled a few times as I watched people deep into a field trying to get closer to that elusive great patch of flowers.
In the end, the compression of the scene is what made for more interesting photographs for me. I used my Tamron 150-600mm and my Canon 70-200mm a lot more than I had expected. I looked for stories, the way the desert gold flowed down an alluvial fan, as that was where the most moisture flowed in the rains. I found flowers in the volcanic rocks, backlit and looking like a ski slope the way they trickled down the erosional gullies on the hill. And I loved how the splash of color accented the mountains of ochre, brown, and beige.
And when I had my fill of the larger landscape (which was never), I found the intimate scene just as special, because beneath all those showy yellow flowers, tiny plants were flowering everywhere, too.
The desert heat was getting to the flowers, and getting to me!! Hotter than usual for this time of year, and an unforgiving sky meant you had only a little time in the morning or late afternoon to create images of this natural spectacle. In between? You went for the shade of the Tamarisk trees near Furnace creek to download, chart batteries, and, um, nap…!
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