“Cottonball Basin – Death Valley N.P.”

Canon Mark II 1DS f4 17-40mm zoom f13@ 1/15th ISO 100 Bogen Neotech Tripod: Cottonball Basin Death Valley N.P.

This entry was written by Craig , posted on Friday September 28 2012at 09:09 am , filed under Black and White, Desert, Landscape and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink . Post a comment below or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.

6 Responses to ““Cottonball Basin – Death Valley N.P.””

  • tonebytone says:

    When I look at this fairly low perspective, I find myself wondering how far I still have to walk to get to those hills in the distance! I also wonder how hot are those clay pans that crackle from here to there. I’m glad this is not in color, because then I’d feel ever hotter, lol. Just the name “Cottonball” helps make my mouth seem dry.

    So, Craig, it is really as bad as my imagination wants to make it?


  • Craig says:

    Hey Flo

    Thank you for being here and thank you for the questions. The northern end of the Panamint Mountain range is in this shot and the Panamints look deceptively close because of the outrageously dramatic elevation change represented by this view. I believe the mountains are about 6 miles away from where I was standing to take this shot.

    I have only been to Death Valley once in the summer. In 1988 I was there in July and the high for the day in the valley was 123 degrees F. Never felt anything like that before or since. Ever since 1988 I have always been in the park in either November, December, January or February (I learned my lesson!). In the winter months, with the exception of an occasional windstorm, its a weather paradise…. 70′s during the day and 40′s at night.

    Cottonball basin is my favorite place in the park that is easily accessible. Unlike the salt pan at Badwater where a big area of the pan is physically the same for many square miles (thick salt with a classic evaporation pattern) the salt pan at Cottonball basin is extremely varied with areas of thick salt, other areas of thick mud, and then every possible imaginable variation in between. Because of how close the ground is to the water table at Cottonball basin there is a lot of water – a lot more than at Badwater. And the water along with the evaporation patterns of minerals and mud creates the craziest patchwork of lines and shapes I have ever seen anywhere.

    Cottonball definitely evokes heat and dry mouth but the name is actually geological. Cottonballs are fibrous nodules of ulexite and proberite (sodium and calcium borate minerals) that form on the surface of some of Death Valley’s salt pans. Cottonball basin was the site of Death Valley’s first borax production.

    Hope this finds you and everybody else having a great Friday….Craig

  • wnor says:

    How nice this is in black and white, Craig. I really like the layers of light and dark as you go from the foreground to background. With a crazy imagination, I can envision the rounded area as an echo of the mountains. What in the world is making that bright area in the background?


  • Craig says:

    Hey Wes,

    Thank you for being here. Creating an implied circle from near to far was the idea behind this composition. I took this image just after sunrise shooting almost due west. It was very cloudy in the east. That band of bright on the Panamint Mountains is the sun peaking over the Amargosa Mountains to the east and through a small opening in the clouds. The color images I made are spectacular in terms of the drama of the light but I love the abstraction of black and white for Death Valley because to me its a place that is surreal to begin with…. Craig

  • stevek1006 says:

    But it’s a dry heat, Craig ;-). When I was young, growing up in L.A., I went to Death Valley quite often at all times of year. The summers are pretty extraordinary. It was difficult to just carry enough water let alone do anything. I hadn’t been there in about 40 years, but was back there last February to take pictures. I think it and the Alabama Hills might be my favorite place for photography.

    Beautiful image. I love the texture and the big c-curve in the foreground that is echoed throughout the image. I didn’t make it to Cottonball Basin, but will add it to my list of places to explore.

  • Craig says:

    Hey Steve

    Thank you for being here and thank you for the kind words about this shot.
    If you are back in the park a great place to access Cottonball Basin is at the 106 mile marker on 190. You just park and walk due west. From hiking their a lot I have found that area of the basin to be one of the most dynamic places in terms of how much it changes and how much water is slowly flowing across the surface of the valley floor…. Craig

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