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Mount Whitney Mountaineers Route

Adventure travel stock photography - View from tent to Mount Whitney, California

View from my tent at Iceberg Lake, about 12,600 feet, towards the east face of Mount Whitney (and my smelly socks).

Sort of at the last minute I decided to make a quick trip up Whitney this past weekend before all the snow melted and before I leave California again (somewhat soon).  Weather was sunny the whole time but the winds were quite strong.  I’d estimate it reached 60+ mph on Sunday when I was on the summit.  I didn’t even bother bringing the camera out as there was so much snow flying around.  On the way up, whenever a big gust would come up, I would just have to lean into the mountain as I received a battery of snow and ice and rock for a minute or two, then climb on again. Good fun.

Mountain landscape photography - East face of Mount Whitney sunrise


Mount Whitney Mountaineers Route – Images by Cody Duncan

Mojave Road 4WD trail

Dual sport motorcycle rides through desert along Mojave trail road, California

Last week my brother talked me into heading back out into the desert to join a group of people driving the old Mojave road.  The road is a 130 mile 4wd dirt road with follows an old Native American trading route and later route of Spanish missionaries through California’s Mojave desert to the shores of the Colorado river on the California – Nevada border.

Dual sport motorcycle in pickup truck, Mojave road, California

Train traveling through Mojave Desert, California

off road 4wd trucks and dust on mojave trail road, Mojave preserve, California

burnt tree, Mojave desert

Abandoned bus Mojave desert california

Salton Sea

photo of old dock in water, Salton Sea, California

I was amazed out how far the water has dropped in the 5 years since I was last at the Salton Sea.  I drove to this location in the darkness of morning, remembering it to be a cool place that I last visited when I was shooting B&W film on a Hasselblad and spending hours and hour in a darkroom instead of hours and hours on a computer as I do now.  How things have changed.  There used to be cool set of the old docks that were on the edge of the water.  Now they are landlocked hundreds of feet from the current shore of the sea.  I also remember this little dock in the picture above could only be accessed by wading through knee deep water.  Now one can drive to only a few feet away.  Change is constant.

Salton Sea sunrise, California

Salton Sea – Bombay Beach

Bombay Beach, Salton Sea, California panoramic stock travel photography

Bombay Beach, Salton Sea, California.

Bombay Beach, Salton Sea, California stock travel image

Bombay Beach, Salton Sea, California stock travel photos

Badwater Dawn – Death Valley

Badwater basin, Death Valley national park, Californai

Winter sunrise over Badwater basin and Panamint mountains, Death Valley national park, California.

This light lasted 3 minutes before the color faded into a washed out and overcast day.  At 6am I counted 19 other photographers within sight.  Quite the popular place to be on that morning.  The next morning however, I only saw 3 other photographers.  Though it was raining so maybe that scared all the others away…

Alabama Hills – California

Mobius arch at Alabama Hills, near Lone Pine, California

Mobius arch, Alabama Hills, Owen’s Valley, California

I think one of the coolest things about the Alabama Hills is that no matter how many times one has been there, there is always something new to photograph.  Be it exploring some new area, different weather, or different time of year. The hills and mountains are always changing.  One of the reasons it is one of my favorite places to go.

Granite rock formations of Alabama Hills with Lone Pine peak and Sierra Nevada mountains in background, California

Granite rock formations of Alabama Hills Sierra Nevada mountains in background, California

Mount Whitney Sunrise

Mt. Whitney and Sierra Nevada mountains, California panoramic landscape photo

Winter sunrise over mount Whitney and the Sierra Nevada mountains as seen from the Alabama Hills, California.

This is a location that is better photographed in winter/early spring.  Besides it not being 110˚ F as it can be in summer.  The main reason is that the winter sun rises further towards the south, which creates better patterns of shadow and light on the mountain ridges than occur in summer.  And then there’s always something nice about the day’s first light on freshly fallen snow.  I find in summer this scene can also appear slightly ‘tired’ and dry, for lack of a better description.

Racetrack Playa – Death Valley

rare winter water fill dry lakebed of devils racetrack playa - death valley, california

Winter rains flood the playa at the southern end of the Devil’s Racetrack, Death Valley, California.  February 25-25, 2010

Prior to this recent trip I’d only twice been to Death Valley national park.  And on those two previous trips I was only in the ‘valley’ itself and not any of the more wild areas only accessible by dirt roads.  Based upon my prior trips, I had a total lack of understanding of the true size of the park, which in fact the largest US national park outside of Alaska.  Somehow looking at distance numbers on a map, 17 miles here, 27 miles there, doesn’t always properly translate to the true length of the journey.  Especially when it is on some of the most bone jarring, bolt loosening, tire shredding, knocking-cooler-over-and-spilling-water-all-over-my-bed, wash-boarded dirt roads I have ever driven.  You know the roads, the ones that are so full of stutter bumps that you have two choices:  Drive 5mph and arrive sometime in the next millennium or drive 50mph to ‘skim’ over the bumps while totally destroying your tires.   I really don’t know what is worse those though.  Being subjected to endless bumps for hours on end, but knowing that it’s not as bad as it feels and you should eventually arrive.  As opposed to just going for it to get it over with in a shorter amount of time with the constant clatter of rocks flying loose inside the wheel wells and then just holding your breath as you see some large washout appear that there is no way to slowdown for.   So driving nearly 70 miles of this in one day from the Eureka dunes in the far north of the park down to the Racetrack playa was a long day that I don’t look forward to repeating anytime soon, or at least not with my truck.  If someone else wants to drive, I’d be happy go along.

rare winter water fill dry lakebed of devils racetrack playa - death valley, california. February 2010

Normally the lake bed playa is totally bone dry, but some years in winter, a small lake will appear towards the southern end.  This is also the location of the moving rocks for which the Racetrack is most famous for.  Unfortunately the water and mud meant I couldn’t get near them, so I guess I do have to go back again.  Though I think it was interesting to see this somewhat rare event.

Dry mud patterns in devils racetrack playa dry lakebed, death valley, California

landscape photography, devils racetrack playa, death valley, california

Dry mud patterns in devils racetrack playa dry lakebed, death valley, California

travel and landscape photographer Cody Duncan stands on dry lake bed at Racetrack playa, Death Valley, California

Footprints Everywhere! Wanderings Among the Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes – Death Valley

Panoramic landscape photo - Mesquite flat sand dunes, Death Valley, California

Mesquite Flat sand dunes, Death Valley national park, California.

It was a frustrating exercise in futility wandering among the dunes, in search of the Dune that I had in my mind.  The Dune with that perfectly sculpted ridge, gently rounded and allowing the late afternoon shadows to gently fall across.  The untouched patterns of a thousand years of wind blown into the sand, like a sea of snakes racing into the distance.  The Dune, rising alone into the sky above all others, casting ever growing shadows as the sun determines the day has been long enough.

Judging by the amount of footprints, half the world must also be searching for that perfect dune.  I wandered for miles and hours.  In straight lines, circles, and zigzags.  To the tops of the highest dunes and into the lowest valleys.  North, south, east, west, and at one point, clear across the whole of the dunes.  My water bottle empty, mouth dry, I still wandered.  And everywhere, footprints!

It’s mostly my fault though.  The Mesquite dunes are right on the side of the road in a fairly popular national park, so what should I expect other than that lots of people walk among them. If  I was in some middle of nowhere place in north Africa and experienced the same, then I would be a bit more frustrated.  And winter is the best time in Death Valley as the temperatures are tolerable.  This year especially, with higher than average rain has probably drawn more people to the park to see the normally dry lakes not dry.

California landscape photography - Mesquite flat sand dunes, Death Valley national park

Panoramic landscape photo - Mesquite flat sand dunes, Death Valley, California

California travel photographer Cody Duncan - Self portrait on sand dunes in Death Valley

Santa Barbara – Shipwrecks

Santa Barbara, California - Beached sailboat after el nino winter storm, January 2010

After nearly one week the storms have finally departed as Saturday started off with a perfectly blue sky (probably the nicest day I’ve had since I left California in September).  Santa Barbara’s East beach was littered with numerous beached boats which were torn loose from mooring just off the coast; where the sea is normally calm and placid.  Some of the boats might be salvageable while others seem to be a complete loss, unfortunately.

Santa Barbara, California - Beached sailboat after el nino winter storm, January 2010

Santa Barbara, California - Beached sailboat after el nino winter storm, January 2010

Santa Barbara, California - Beached sailboat after el nino winter storm, January 2010