Death Valley and the Mojave National Preserve

Lone coyote sitting on ground with mountains in background in Death Valley National Park

For those of you keeping track, I just returned from a trip out west. And though the Wedding and Portrait Photographers International (WPPI) annual conference in Las Vegas was ostensibly my reason for traveling, my real desire to get up and go was to visit Death Valley National Park and the Mojave National Preserve. Come along with me and check out my travel photos.

Sunset over mountains in Mojave National PreserveIf you haven’t been to Death Valley National Park, get ready for a land completely barren of trees. For those of us on the east coast, this is a new world. The area strikes me as akin to a lunar landscape, and is completely different from what I am used to back home. This, of course, is part of the appeal.

The trip started out with a two hour-drive from Las Vegas. I made sure to visit an Albertson’s grocery store on the way there. Picking up a jug of wine and beef jerky were life savers, by the way. Also, the best thing I did the entire trip was to rent a jeep with a high-wheel clearance. In my past trips, I have cheaped out and rented a Toyota Camry, or the like. Having a car that could handle the rough roads of both parks was a tremendous help.

Male tourist taking photos of rock formations in the Devil's Golf Course in Death Valley National Park
Tourist at Devil’s Golf Course, Death Valley National Park

My first day in Death Valley, I visited the Devil’s Golf Course and Badwater. I should note that I previously visited Death Valley about four years ago. The salt formation on the ground at the Devil’s Golf Course seemed a bit less jagged than I remember, and in talking to another visitor, we both came to the conclusion that this might be due to weather changes. In any case, while I enjoy taking landscapes, my real love is photos of people. As such, I made sure to document my fellow tourists. This guy in particular kept walking right in front of me. (To his credit, I was crouched on the ground trying to get a low perspective of the area so he might not have noticed me.) Walk in front of a photographer, and expect to get your photo taken. His wife was equally photogenic.

The hotel I stayed in the first night was the Amargosa Opera House. It is a quirky oasis in the desert. I loved the hotel, but sadly, the proprietor – a former dancer – had passed away a few days prior. When I arrived, the entire hotel was in the midst of a memorial service. It made for an awkward entry into the hotel.

As you can see from the photos, visiting Death Valley in February affords a visitor the luxury of odd weather. While normally sunny and not a cloud in the sky, I encountered instead a bit of rain and crazy clouds that made for some magnificent photos. I really couldn’t complain. With the clouds overhead, this cut down on the highlights from the sun, and made for some magnificent fog. In comparison, I had less cloud cover in the Mojave National Preserve starting on my second day, and this made for a sunny, boring sky.

Black and white photo of coyote sitting on ground in Death Valley National Park

A note about my little friend here: a coyote who appeared out of nowhere. I stopped to photograph the landscape and then happened to look down at this little pup. He (?) was as docile as a dog, but never approached too closely. This was near Panamint Springs, and I can only assume he was looking for scraps. In any case, he came in handy for a perfect set of photos.

I spent two days in Death Valley and two days in Mojave, and honestly, that was enough time. The area was beautiful, and in addition to rejuvenating my creative drive, it has also spurred me to strive for another big trip this year. I am leaning towards Vietnam, Cambodia, and Thailand. Have any travel tips for me? Get in touch and let me know what you would recommend. The planning starts now.

If you would like to see more images from my travel photography portfolio, then please visit my website – Kelly-Williams.com.

Road leading to mountains in Death Valley National ParkMale tourist taking photos of rock formations in the Devil's Golf Course in Death Valley National Park Female tourist looking at rock formations in the Devil's Golf Course in Death Valley National Park

Tourists walking along boardwalk in Badwater in Death Valley National Park
Badwater, Death Valley National Park

Female tourist looking at lake in Badwater in Death Valley National ParkLone tourist against mountains in Death Valley National Park Tourists taking photos in Badwater in Death Valley National Park Black and white photo of branch in sand dune in Death Valley National Park Entrance to Amargosa Opera House at night with moon overhead

Lone tourist on top of Dante's Peak in Death Valley National Park
Dante’s View, Death Valley National Park

Mountains in mist in Death Valley National Park Creek running through mountains in Death Valley National Park

Small window shining light on rocks inside the Charcoal Kilns, Death Valley National Park
Inside the Charcoal Kilns, Death Valley National Park

Light shining through clouds with mobile home in Death Valley National Park

Abandoned house near the Amargosa Opera House
Abandoned house near the Amargosa Opera House
A-frame Catholic church in Shoshone, California
Catholic church in Shoshone, California

Light shining through clouds with mountains in Mojave National Preserve Pink sunset over Mojave National Preserve

Sunrise shining through desert plants near Lake Mojave
Sunrise near Lake Mojave

Sun rays across desert landscape in Mojave National Preserve House on edge of mountain with full moon overhead during the day in Mojave National PreserveRoad with reflection of road behind in car rearview mirror

Black and white photo of backlit Joshua Tree cactus
Joshua tree

Close up on desert flowers in Mojave National Preserve

Gate on Ivanpah Road, Mojave National Preserve
Gate on Ivanpah Road, Mojave National Preserve

End of pavement on road in Mojave National Preserve

Selfie of travel photographer Kelly Williams in Death Valley National Park
No trip would be complete without a selfie. Yes, I was looking lovely.

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