Photographing Sunrise at Zabriskie Point, Death Valley, CA

Zabriskie Point Panorama

Zabriskie Point Panorama

Zabriskie Point is the most popular spot in Death Valley for good reason.  Besides the spectacular view, it is easy to get to; has a large parking lot; it is a very short walk; it has a large viewing platform, and is near the Furnace Creek resort.  It is also an easy sunrise shoot, if you plan for it.  Here’s how:

We have photographed Zabriskie Point at least a half dozen times, both at sunrise and sunset.  Though late afternoon can be pretty, I would not recommend ZP for sunset.  However, this is the most spectacular sunrise location in the Park and maybe in all of the desert southwest.

Afternoon light on the Red Cathedral

Afternoon light on the Red Cathedral

Because it is so popular you will need to be prepared for a large crowd and you will want to stake out your position.  I like to get there 60 minutes before sunrise (though Mary thinks 30 is enough).  I know that sounds like a lot, but there are really only ten great positions on the mound beneath the viewing platform.  If you are on a workshop and with friends, perhaps you can squeeze 15 people down there with interlocking tripod legs.

Set up on the mound beneath the viewing platform.  The left side is better than the right.

Set up on the mound beneath the viewing platform. The left side is better than the right.

Even without moving about, there is a lot to shoot – try a panoramic; the Red Cathedral on the right; Manly Beacon with the Red Cathedral; Manley beacon alone; Manely Beacon with the riverbed; the river bed; the river bed and Elephant’s Feet; the Elephant’s feet.  There are an infinite number of compositions.  Make sure to go wide and use a telephoto.

Go wide with a pano

Go wide with a pano

Finally, the light changes quite a bit and the scene will go from flat pre-dawn light to bright sunshine that throws shadows.  At some point the shadows start to fade and you will know  times up.

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See our popular blog about all of the Death Valley locations.

To see more of our photographs, please go to www.pamphotography.com.

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4 thoughts on “Photographing Sunrise at Zabriskie Point, Death Valley, CA

  1. Pingback: Peter’s Favorite 15 Photos from 2013 | pamphotography

  2. Pingback: Sunrise at Death Valley | Half the Story (My Travelogue)

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