Death Valley covers three million acres. In the six years I’ve lived in California, I’ve criss-crossed the desert on an (almost) annual basis. I’m not much of a desert-dweller, but I’m impressed by the sunsets, and the adaptations flora and fauna have made to survive.
Mostly, I go to Death Valley to be smacked over the head by the sheer magnitude of the place, and to accept my own insignificance in the face of it. My trusty sedan and I have tread back-and-forth across the stretches of paved freeway. I’ve found hidden waterfalls, marveled at the stars from the sand dunes, and tasted the salt deposited by an ancient lakebed. I’ve slept in the mountains, in my car, and atop a gravel parking lot. I’ve photographed strangers, and myself. I’ve relearned the geology every. Single. Year.
When people ask me what’s so special about Death Valley, I never feel satisfied with my answer. Maybe it’s because my first trip there coincided with a super bloom. Or maybe it’s because I can remember sitting at the intensely-named Hells Gate watching the sun set over the valley, so quiet I could hear my own heart beating. Or maybe it’s that when I was on a hike through a slot canyon, I rounded the bend to see a rushing stream and hundreds of butterflies. Those are things I can describe to you, but I know that words won’t do them justice.
Growing up in the Midwest, I never really understood deserts. Or rather, I never understood the fascination with them. I think that’s part of the allure––you have to experience it to understand it.
I kept pushing this year’s trip (life and chaos kept getting in the way), but finally decided to go for it, 30 mph winds be damned! To challenge myself, I grabbed my dad’s old 35mm Minolta camera and decided to shoot the trip on film. Three days into the trip, the aging camera gave up. I may have left Death Valley with a broken camera, but at least I have these photographs.