Death Valley Wildflowers 2017

Desert Gold 2017
I’ve photographed over two dozen wildflower species in Death Valley National Park so far this month.  April should bring even more acreage and species on line, to deliver a well above average year in the park for wildflowers.

TBDThe quantity and diversity of wildflowers may not be the most interesting aspect however.  Last year’s superbloom delivered a bumper crop of seeds, which multiplied the rodent population, and that has resulted in more sidewinder rattlesnakes than I’ve seen in the park before.  I followed a couple of the tracks, but was not able to catch up with any of the snakes.

If you visit the park this spring, watch where you step!

 See more of my wildflower photos from Death Valley in my Album 3/21/17.

Death Valley Wildflowers 2017

Star Trails Over Desert Sunflowers

Share This:

2017 Death Valley Photography Workshops

Death Valley Super Bloom Sunrise
So far I’m planning two Death Valley trips for spring wildflowers, two more in the fall:

Mar 1 – 5 – Death Valley Spring Landscapes & Night Photography – enroll: $1195
We’ll have all the normal wonders of Death Valley, plus the 2017 bloom.  I’ve been watching the rainfall pattern and I’m visiting the park in January and February to confirm where the wildflowers will be growing best at this time.  The travel day will be February 28, then we’ll shoot March 1 – 5.  There will be some moonlight in the evenings, and Milky Way available before dawn.

Afternoon Light at Mesquite Flat

Mar 22 – 26 – Death Valley Spring Landscapes & Night Photography – $1195
Like the early March session, we’ll have exotic landscapes plus wildflowers, and the Milky Way will be up in the morning if you want to capture it!  The wildflowers will be blooming in different areas for this visit.

Gold Desert of Desert Gold

Nov 16 – 19 – Death Valley Landscape & Night Photography – Leonid Meteor Shower
I’ve been chasing photos of meteor showers for ages.  Come see how it’s done!  This is a landscape photography workshop, with the bonus of a sky show at night.  More details coming soon.

Charcoal Kilns at Night

Dec 9 – 13 – Death Valley Landscape & Night Photography – Geminid Meteor Shower
In my opinion, Death Valley is the best place to catch the year’s most active meteor shower.  Join me for a landscape photography workshop with flying burning rocks at night! Details coming soon.

Perseid Meteor Shower 2015

Here’s my Death Valley workshop overview page:

I live 3 hours from the park, and I’ve been exploring Death Valley several times per year for eleven years! If you can’t join me but want to explore the park, my 320-page guidebook “Photographing California Vol. 2 – South” includes 40+ locations in Death Valley.

#deathvalley #photographyworkshops

Share This:

Joshua Trees at Sunset

I don't usually think of Joshua trees as a "cloud forest" species, but in the winter when they get most of their moisture, a lot of them live up where they are in the clouds of oncoming storms. Although they are clearly a desert species, it's high desert, and much of the moisture falls as snow. This lengthens the time when the moisture can soak into the soil.

Joshua trees are an indicator species for the Mojave Desert ecosystem. They have been declining in geographical extent for thousands of years. One contributing factor may be the extinction of the giant ground sloth, which spread Joshua tree seeds, but disappeared around the time that humans arrived on the continent. As climate change shortens winters and raises snow levels, that may accelerate their decline.
#joshuatrees #landscapephotography #DeathValley #MojaveDesert


Share This:

More Photos from Death Valley in April

Natural Bridge

You may have noticed that I’m obsessed with death. Death Valley National Park, that is! I grew up in New England, just about as far from the desert as you can get in America, so in my current quest to explore the largest national park in the Lower 48 States, I must be making up for lost time.

Windy Day on Mesquite Flat DunesFortunately, currently living in the nearby Eastern Sierra region, I’m only 3-4 hours from a couple of park entrances, so I can indulge in my desert yearnings frequently. I usually visit once or twice in the Thanksgiving to New Year’s Day time period, then again in February and March as the wildflowers start to bloom. But as spring continues and Death Valley starts to really warm up, I like looking for storms and bouts of cooler weather, in case I can slip one or two more visits in before it gets too hot.

In April 2016 I could see a storm front approaching in the weather forecast. Daytime high temperatures would drop into the 80s.  I’m currently working on a detailed photographer’s travel guide to the park to be offered in the +SNAPP Guides app, so I threw my camera and camping gear into the car, and headed to the park with a list of the sites I wanted to explore or revisit next.

I hiked to a natural bridge, and enjoyed great views with sunlight streaming through clouds. I explored stone-walled buildings at an old mining town site, and found wildflowers thriving at higher elevations than on past visits this year.

I met a Subaru coming out the wrong way from Titus Canyon, apparently deciding that “high clearance” meant higher then they had. The worst part of the road is about halfway through the 24-mile loop, so drivers that wait that long have a lot of wrong-way driving to do. Sometimes they’re in a hurry to get out, so they come flying around blind turns!

On the edge of a canyon, two jets saw me with my camera, so they took two passes each direction up the canyon, turning and shooting up sharply right in front of me, so I was able to get some great shots. They were very fast, very close, and very loud!

In Salt Creek, the water was slightly higher than normal, so the pupfish were exploring down to the parking lot, feeding in the flooded margins before low water forced them back into their normal cramped habitat space. Normally they’re a little skittish, but their quest for food prevailed, so when I held my iPhone out over the water, one came over and posed for a portrait.

On one evening, I caught a sandstorm over Mesquite Flat Dunes, back-lit with golden sunlight by the setting sun.

On the way home, sunset light was lighting up rain showers at Mono Lake. It was an eventful and productive trip. I can’t wait to return!  In the meantime, I’ve uploaded the latest batch of photos to the Death Valley 2016 photo album on my +Death Valley Workshops page on Google+.

If you might like to join me in Death Valley sometime, my spring 2016 workshops are done for the season, but I can add a session in mid-December if there’s sufficient interest: Death Valley Photography Workshops.

Jellyfish Cloud
Sunset rain showers over Mono Lake

Share This:

Sunset Dust Storm Over Mesquite Flat Dunes

Sunday evening in Death Valley National Park, California. It was interesting trying to cook dinner over a fire in that wind!

#deathvalley #nationalpark #landscapephotography
+Death Valley Workshops


Share This:

Death Valley Wildflower Updates Mid-March

A few photos from last week to compare with early March conditions shown here:

#deathvalley #superbloom #california #landscapephotography


In Album Death Valley Spring Photography Workshops

Share This:

Death Valley's Other Superbloom: Insects

The "super bloom" of flowers in Death Valley has created a corresponding rise in insect life as well! I've added a few insect macro photos to the front of my iPhone 6S+ album.

#macrophotography #iphone6splus #iphoneography #deathvalley #olloclip


Share This:

Top 10 Death Valley Wildflower Super Bloom Sites

Matching recent photos to the recommended places:

#deathvalley #wildflowers #superbloom2016 #landscapephotography #visitcalifornia


Share This:

Death Valley Wildflower “Super Bloom” Sites 2016

Death Valley Super Bloom Sunrise
Last week I repeated and expanded the complete south to north traverse of Death Valley National Park that I had scouted in February.  How were the wildflowers holding up?  What were the best locations?  The Park has been issuing detailed reports, so let’s use the March 2 and February 24 reports as a baseline. I’ll illustrate current conditions with my photos and some commentary at the end.

March 2, 2016 Report, Death Valley National Park

Sand Verbena at Golden hourThe bloom is definitely moving north and higher in altitude. Although there are still expansive fields of Desert Gold (Geraea canescens) along the Badwater Road, as well as carpets of Sand Verbena (Abronia villosa) from Mile Marker 42 to the end of the road, many of the other flowers in this area are past their peak.

My pick of the week is Highway 190. Look for the cheerful Easter egg colors of bright yellow Golden Evening Primrose (Camissonia brevipes) and purple Notchleaf Phacelia (Phacelia crenulata) from Furnace Creek to the East Park Entrance. There are pink carpets of Purple Mat (Nama demissum) in some sections. (I think this flower was misnamed!) The ethereal, floating blossoms of Gravel Ghost (Atrichoseris platyphylla) are growing thicker in this area than I’ve ever seen them before. Northwest of the Visitor Center, you will find the expansive fields of Desert Gold that Death Valley is famous for. All along the road, get out and look closer for more variety.

So Many Wildflowers, So Little Time...A nice little loop drive is to go up the Beatty Cutoff Road and down Mud Canyon, then back to Furnace Creek along Highway 190. Mud Canyon is looking fantastic, but the flowers are growing so thick there that there is nowhere to pull over. Use the wide shoulders on the Beatty Cutoff and wander a wash to look for variety.

You will find Phacelia, Golden Evening Primrose, Mohavea (Mohavea breviflora), Acton Encelia (Encelia actoni), and Broad-Flowered Gilia (Gilia latiflora) on the Scotty’s Castle Road. Although there are a few flowers on the approaches to Towne Pass and in the Panamint Valley, those areas are not yet worth a special trip.

If you have a high clearance vehicle, do a little botanizing in the mid-elevations of the Greenwater Valley to increase your species count. There are not a lot of flowers blooming here yet, but there are a lot of different species, flowers you will not find in the lower elevations.

Golden Evening Primrose Up the CanyonBest backcountry dirt road drives this week would be the Hole in the Wall Road and Echo Canyon Road. Color and diversity in both these places is fantastic. Titus Canyon has some Paintbrush (Castilleja augustifolia) and Lupine (Lupinus sp.) in the mid-elevations, and flowers are blooming in the lower reaches of the canyon, but it will still be a few weeks before the bloom really gets going here.

For hikers, Fall Canyon and Monarch Canyon are good bets.

Happy flower hunting!

February 24, 2016 Report, Death Valley National Park

Super bloom

Furnace Creek Wash

The bloom is moving North! Check out the great color combo of Golden Evening Primrose (Camissonia brevipes) and Notchleaf Phacelia (Phacelia crenulata) decorating Furnace Creek Wash from the East Entrance to the Furnace Creek Inn. Keep your eyes open in that stretch for expanses of Purple Mat (Nama demissum) and the rounded humps of Turtleback (Psathyrotes ramosissima). Get out of your car and take a stroll in the wash, and you may be amazed at the diversity. I was able to identify over a dozen species in a ten minute walk!

superbloom 2016

Spring wildflowers in Death Valley February 2016

Along Highway 190 north from the Visitor Center to the Scotty’s Castle Road, fields of Desert Gold (Geraea canescens) are starting to fill in the blanks. One new hotspot is the Beatty Cut-Off Road. The diversity in some places is nothing short of amazing. Try walking a wash between Mile Markers 2 and 4 to taste a bit of that diversity.If you are traveling to Ubehebe Crater or the Racetrack, the Scotty’s Castle Road is adorned with the same gold and purple color scheme as the Furnace Creek Wash. Although there is not enough yet to warrant a special trip, look for expanses of Mohavia (Mohavea breviflora) , blooming Acton Encelia (Encelia actoni), and Broad Flowered Gilia (Gilia latiflora) in this stretch. Phacelia and Golden Evening Primrose are also brightening up the approaches on both sides of Towne Pass.

Desert gold wildflowers

Mile marker 30, looking back at 25

The Badwater Road is still the go-to destination for those huge expanses of endless flowers. The Brown-Eyed Evening Primroses (Camissonia claviformis) are starting to bolt due to hot temperatures and lack of rain, but the Desert Gold is still going strong, and the Gravel Ghost Atrichoseis platyphylla), Pebble Pincushion (Chaenactis carphoclinia), and Broad-Leaved Gilia (Aliciella latifolia) are just getting started. If you want those lower elevation flowers, though, you may want to come soon. I am amazed at how quickly the Phacelia and Desert Five Spot ( Erimalche rotundifolia) are working their way up their stems.

Along Harry Wade Road

Harry Wade Road has some really nice things going on near the Amargosa River Crossing. As usual, get out of your car and walk a wash to see more varieties. Echo Canyon and Hole in the Wall should have some nice flowers. Check out the rock walls and see if you can find Death Valley Monkeyflower (Mimulus rupicola).

Greenwater Valley is REALLY green. Some flowers are starting to bloom there –I saw Fremont Phacelia (Phacelia Fremontii), Desert Dandelion (Malicothrix californica glabrata), Desert Gold Poppy (Eschscholtzia glyptosperma), Checker Fiddleneck (Amsinckia tessellate) , Blazing Star (Mentzelia sp.) and Globemallow ((Sphaeralcea ambigua) –but they are VERY few and far between still. In 2 weeks, this road will really pop.

For hikers, canyons are best for diversity. Fall Canyon is looking great, or try Willow and Sidewinder Canyons, or just wander up a likely wash.

Happy Flower Hunting!


Along Lower Warm Springs Canyon Road

Along Lower Warm Springs Canyon Road

Overall the suggestions were great: accurate and with greater/longer relevance than most visitors may suspect.  By last week the intensity of the bloom had clearly declined down near Ashford Mill from my previous trip in February, but it was 1000X better than a normal year before, so if it had declined to “only” 900X as good, who cares? The opportunities were still tremendous, and well above average for Death Valley.

There’s been a lot said about wind last Saturday night damaging the flowers, but again, I suspect that’s relative to the mid-February conditions. We’re just spoiled this year. I expect that there are plenty of wildflowers left compared to normal, and there will be plenty of exceptional pockets less affected by wind.

Also, I bet that certain species such as sand verbena are designed to withstand wind (how the dunes they live in are formed). As I recall, the wind was coming from the south in the evening on Saturday, then from the north the next morning, so many canyons oriented east-west would be protected from that.

Super Bloom 2016

Zig zag of desert gold

Anyone with a little experience with desert wildflowers and Death Valley should be able to successfully decode the puzzle and find the locations and species best under whatever conditions present themselves.  Then again, with so many miles of wildflowers blooming, it’s hard to go wrong, and you’re bound to do well just driving through the areas highlighted on the Park’s wildflower map.  I found the scene above by the side of the road, simply driving from Furnace Creek to Beatty Junction. So get out to Death Valley and find whatever compositions catch your eye and imagination!

For more photos, I’ve started a Death Valley 2016 album on my +Death Valley Workshops page, and a Death Valley iPhone 6S+ Photos album as well.

Between Ashford Mill and Jubilee Pass

Between Ashford Mill and Jubilee Pass

#superbloom2016 #deathvalley #landscapephotography #wildflowers

Share This:

Death Valley Last Week

Had a great workshop during the "super bloom" in Death Valley last week! I've started a new Death Valley album for 2016 photos, over on my +Death Valley Workshops page. The album is up to 55 photos so far, heavily weighted towards the current wildflower conditions of course, and I'll add more as I get them processed. I'll also get a trip report up on my blog, to discuss specific locations.

#deathvalley #superbloom2016 #landscapephotography #California

Originally shared by +Death Valley Workshops

New Death Valley 2016 Album
I'll start this album off with a few photos captured from my landscape photography workshop during Death Valley's "super bloom" last week, then add photos from my February wildflower preview trip as well.
#deathvalley #landscapephotography #photographyworkshop #superbloom2016


In Album Death Valley 2016

Share This: