I came back from my photography trip to CA coast, Carmel, Yosemite and Death Valley on Sunday. I must thank my Swedish Knight-in-Shining Armor for escorting me down the Dante's View after my car ran low on gas. I was so ungracious that I forgot to ask the name of my Swedish KISA. If you come across this message, contact me at email@example.com. I can send you some of photos I took at DV at places where you probably didn't have time to explore during your short one-day trip from Las Vegas. I'm the female photographer you ran into.
DV is a photographer's dream. It's so stark that I love the B&W shots even more. The light and shadow, the wind-blown patterns and all the curves of the sand dunes make for breathtaking shots. Here are some tips for photographers who make the first trip to the DV:
1. If you'd like to shoot a full moon over the desert, get there a couple days before the full moon. Full moon is way too bright to capture. I got the best full moon shot the night before on the way to DV. Better yet, capture a fading moon in the morning after sunrise is even better.
2. The sun drops below the mountains at least a half hour before forecasted sunset time. I only spent 1 and 1/2 days at DV and the only sunset I had, I missed it because of this. The sun set at the sand dune area by 4:15 PM, before I could get in position. The forecasted time was 4:45 PM.
3. Visitors' footprints are all over the sand dune area. Sun-rise is a better time to shoot the sand dunes after the wind sweeps away some of the footprints. Plus, the closer to the tallest sand dunes in the center, the less footprints. It takes at least a half-hour of walking through sand dunes after sand dunes to get to the center. So give yourself an hour before sunrise or sunset to get in position.
4. Bring a flash light if you plan to wait for the moon in the sand dune area. I didn't. Good thing another photographer did.
5. Wildlife seems to come out after dark and before sunrise. I heard "zzzzzzz" sound from bushes in front of me when I went into the sand dune area before sunrise. I took a detour. I suggest you do the same.
6. Hiking boots were my choice of footware. Not many sand got in my boots and I got very sterdy footware.
7. Zabriski Point could be shot at both sunrise and sunset. At the sunrise, the sun would come out from your back and sunset would face you. It's a very short drive from Furnice Creek and it doesn't take much time to get into position on the lookout ridge. You can get there closer to the sunrise or sunset time.
8. Bring plenty cleaser or cleaning cloth to clean your lenses/filters. Getting the sand on either isn't fun. Wear a photographer's vest or some sort of tool apron with plenty of pockets. I never had enought pockets for various filters, cleaning cloth etc. and I dropped one filter in the sand at one point. Yuck.
9. Bring a scarf or hankerchief to cover your nose/mouth while shooting in the sand dune area. The sand and gust irritated my airway and I had dry coughs for two days afterward. Don't forget sunscreen and a hat. Even in November with sunscreen all over, I still got a slight burn on my face.
10. Dante's View is a sunset shoot location. (Make sure you have at least half a tank of gas before you drive anywhere in DV!) I found the Artist Drive more interesting from the photo shoot point of view than say Masoic Canyon. Lighting doesn't get into the canyons until mid day and by then, it's way too bright. Badwater is an interesting subject especially the reflection in the water. But you'll need to walk a long way from the parking area to get to the patterns that haven't been flattened by visitors.
11. Drive a SUV if you'd like to get into any of the canyons and need to drive on unpaved roads. If you plan to see Racetrack, you need a SUV with tires for offroad driving. Those rocks are lethal for the tires.
12. Bring warming, polarizer and ND filters. Try B&W.
Furnice Creek Inn's room is very comfortable and its staff is very friendly and helpful. Unfortunately, I didn't spend time to explore its gardens.
P. S. Thanks, Friscoroadrunner, for all the advices you gave me before the trip. I hope these tips will be helpful to others.