The Alabama Hills and Death Valley

Ubehebe Crater, Death Valley National Park

Last April I made a road trip to Los Angeles that theoretically included a stop in Death Valley. While the trip overall was great, the Death Valley portion didn’t go so well, and I wasn’t able to make any tintypes while I was there.

This is not how I planned to leave Death Valley.
This is not how I planned to leave Death Valley.

For my next trip to Los Angeles I decided to try Death Valley again, as well as follow a tip from a friend to visit the Alabama Hills area of California.

The LA portion of the trip was mostly work and few photographs. From there I drove north and camped at Lava Falls. The next morning I drove on to the Alabama Hills area, outside of Lone Pine, California, on the eastern slopes of the Sierra Nevada.

I realized I had passed by the turnoff several times in my previous travels, and had no idea that this amazing area even existed.

I found what I thought was a great campsite, but unfortunately discovered the hard way that what I thought was a pullout for camping was actually a loop road, if you had a high-clearance 4×4 to get through it, as several people did between midnight and 2am…

The Alabama Hills are another of these areas where I felt like having a small cart to get my tintype gear further from my car, so I spent my time there hiking and exploring, and making photos with my new iPhone and its spiffy dual-lens camera. (And my old Canon DSLR too, of course.)

Somebody beat me to sunrise at the Mobius Arch in California’s Alabama Hills.
I think the arch above is called the Eye of Alabama. Can't quite see why.
I think the arch above is called the Eye of Alabama. Can’t quite see why.
The view that the Eye of Alabama takes in is pretty great, too.
Not sure what this thing is called, but it looks cool.
Not sure what this thing is called, but it looks cool.

After leaving the Alabama Hills I met up with a relative in Ridgecrest for some brunch, then finally made it back into Death Valley. Actually ended up driving over a pass and down the same road that my car died on during the previous trip.

I set up camp at one of the main sites, which was a huge mistake. The nicer part of the campground was completely full, so I got a spot in the gravel parking lot that passes for a campground on the hillside above. There was about 4 feet between my tent and the roaring campfire at the spot next to me.

At one point I was holding up one of the park maps to flip it over, and caught the sun shining through, which inspired a few photographs:

Death Valley Map #1
Death Valley Map #2
Death Valley Map #3

After I claimed my spot I went location scouting for the next day’s tintyping. Thought I’d try Badwater Basin, but it wasn’t exactly how I remembered it from a trip 10 years ago, and I wasn’t inspired to set up my gear.

There was, however, a little girl with sneakers that had purple lights on the soles, so that was fun to play around with photographically.

The next morning I headed up to Ubehebe Crater and set up shop in the parking lot on the crater’s lip. In the end I really only made one composition (the first photo above). Spent a lot of time talking to people instead of making tintypes, which was rewarding in its own way.

I didn’t really want to pay for camping at all, and certainly not in the campground I had been in, so I headed out of the park and up onto BLM land near Rhyolite, Nevada.

Humps in the ground are all that remain, on the surface at least.

Found a wonderful simple place to pull off and set up camp – much better than the night before!

After a great night’s sleep I checked out the ghost town of Rhyolite, which I had seen before, and its cemetery, which was new to me.