The Gift of the Desert

I wish I could express in words or images how I feel when I go to the desert. I wish I could describe Death Valley. It starts with space. And distance. And more space. Massive space. It continues with topography. Topography like you’ve never seen. Topography like crazy. All of this leads me to intense feelings of freedom. Freedom of the mind, freedom of the spirit, just the freedom to be. Death Valley has enough space and distance and topography for everyone to have the freedom to be themselves.

It takes a while to realize the gift that Death Valley offers. I’ll be the first to admit that it is not for everyone. Space and distance and topography can be a little unnerving if you’re not used to it. Fortunately, it works really well for me. This is why I return there over and over again.

Yesterday after sunrise on the dunes (where else?), I found myself with an unplanned afternoon, so on a whim I headed to a remote gravel road on the west side of the valley in search of some salt patterns that my friends Jennifer and David had told me about. I arrived there about 11:00 am. I didn’t find anything otherworldly, but a few spots offered what I thought might work as a foreground for sunset. The only problem was that sunset was over four hours away. I thought about it for a second, then decided to stay. I had all the food and water I needed, so I set up a time lapse on my iPhone to capture the racing clouds (why not?) and made some lunch while the phone did all the work. I set up my chair in the shade of my SUV and enjoyed some lentils and rice at 250 feet below sea level. That was about the time I noticed a nail in my left front tire. That explains why the air slowly leaked from that tire since I picked up the rental. Nice to know that in the middle of Death Valley at 250 feet below sea level.

After the time lapse was complete, I reviewed the result and decided it was time to break out my grown-up camera and get a real time lapse. So I set up the camera and went back to my chair in the shade. Someone had to do it. Mind you, none of this was planned. I was just winging it. And I guess that is what I like the most about Death Valley…completely winging it in more space than I know what to do with. Infinite possibilities in infinite spaces. What’s not to love about that?

My next goal is to maintain and recall that Death Valley sense of freedom back in my real world. Inevitably, that euphoria will fade and give way to the day-to-day realities of day-to-day living. Which leads me to question where my reality is, but that is a story for a different day.

For now, I want to share some images from this trip. I used my iPhone to record and process these images. Later, I’ll work on the images from my grown-up camera. Given all this talk of space and distance, it might seem odd to share images of intimate scenes. Images like this were a goal of mine for this trip, so I wanted to get your thoughts on them. Feel free to share! I use my iPhone to scout scenes like this, then I get out my grown-up camera when I find something I like. The only challenge is that I often can’t reproduce what I got on my iPhone on my grown-up camera. Hmmm…




  1. Very nice phone pictures! I often get more evocative pictures from my iPhone 8+ because, I think, I’ve got fewer buttons and dials to deal with and I can really home in on composition and light angles. Plus it’s always at hand. I have a tripod iPhone mount that works very well and – coupled with a small tripod – does not weigh much or overfill a coat pocket. I can tune up my iPhone shots on the free app Photoshop Express, and I’m in business! Keep up the good work!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for leaving a message, Tom! The small cameras are so easy to maneuver, aren’t they? I have a small tripod that I use also. I wish the phone sensors did better in low light conditions.


  2. Thanks for sharing, Stevie! I love pattern images and Death Valley so these make my heart go pitter-pat. You expressed the allure of Death Valley quite well, dear friend. I’m yearning to get back there a well. Cheers!

    Liked by 1 person

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