The otherworldly oddness of Death Valley on film

Death Valley ... on very old film.

Death Valley … on very old film.

It happens to everyone. You wake up on the morning of a big adventure and realize you’ve forgotten to charge your camera battery. Guh. Sure, you have your iPhone, but your first trip to Death Valley National Park demands more. It demands real attention; it demands a real camera; it demands … film?

That was my hope as Tovin and I hustled out the door loaded down with water bottles and sweat-wicking layers for a visit to Death Valley. Just two hours outside of Las Vegas, it’s actually a totally manageable day-trip. Leave early, grab gas in Pahrump, BYO-sandwiches (and beers), and you can see the sites and be back in town in time for a late dinner (or in my case, in time for the debut of Snoop Dogg’s Snoopadelic Cabaret at Tao. Oh, Vegas.).

We spent our time in Death Valley taking is as much as we could. We bounded across the Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes, kicking up clouds of fine, enveloping sand; stopped for lunch and wildflower photos along Emigrant Pass; ducked into abandoned charcoal kilns in the Panamint Springs area; took a quick hike up Wildrose Peak; and ended the day with a sunset stroll over the salt flats of Badwater Basin, the lowest point in North America. And of course, I took pictures. Film pictures using Tov’s old Nikon.

The problem with busting out your old film camera after it’s spent years in a box? Well, the film’s spent years in a box, too, in who knows what conditions and temperatures. When I got the film developed, half a roll of black and white had come out fine, but our color roll was a bit the worse for wear—orange and grainy, with an odd, almost photocopied effect.

Still now that I’ve give the shots another look or two, their weirdness is growing on me. With a sort of apocalyptic glow, they make Death Valley look like a stark, strange, alien landscape. Which, I suppose, isn’t too different from the real thing.

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Wildflowers along Emigrant Pass in Death Valley National Park.

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The Death Valley landscape, climbing out of the valley.

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Strolling out onto the salt flats at Badwater Basin, more than 200 feet below sea level.

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Floating on the sand dunes at midday.

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Me, in the hot, hot heat.

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On the run.

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2 thoughts on “The otherworldly oddness of Death Valley on film

  1. Pingback: A five-second photo tour of spring | Sarah Feldberg

  2. I was wondering if you ever considered changing the structure of your blog?
    Its very well written; I love what youve got to say.
    But maybe you could a little more in the way of content so people could connect with it better.
    Youve got an awful lot of text for only having 1 or 2 pictures.
    Maybe you could space it out better?

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