The road to Death Valley looked like a scene from an old Hollywood Western. Tumbleweeds bounced across the highway, and dust clouds swirled in the distance. They were ideal conditions for an amateur sandstorm chaser.
But as I inched closer to Death Valley on Saturday, something changed. The wind vanished. There wasn’t even a breeze by the time I reached Mesquite Flat. Mildly frustrated, I resisted the urge to turn back to LA. Instead, I decided to wait for the wind — as if it was a forgone conclusion.
While I waited, I hiked towards Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes. As I approached the dunes, a dust cloud appeared on the horizon. It slowly consumed more and more of the valley until I was in the middle of an intense sandstorm. This was it.
All of a sudden, I had new problems. I needed to protect my body and my camera from the sand. With few other options, I created a makeshift sandstorm suit using the hood of my jacket and a pair of $8 sunglasses that I purchased from a gas station in Lancaster. I then used my body to shield my camera from the wind, which proved difficult. The swirling wind seemed to come from every direction.
Despite some of the challenges, I was in heaven. The wind transformed the dunes into a dreamscape. Mesquite Flat seemed to glow as the setting sun illuminated the sand in the air. I fired off hundreds of photographs, and I emerged with a couple of print-worthy photos, including Sandstorm and The Golden Fan.
When the sun finally set, I walked back to my car with a huge smile on my face. It was an unforgettable experience. Little did I know that I picked up an unwanted souvenir from the trip. Beyond the photos, I — inadvertently — brought home about a pound of sand from Mesquite Flat. In fact, I’m still finding sand in my clothes almost a week later.
Death Valley Fine Art Photography for Sale
All of the images on this page are available for sale as limited edition fine art prints. If you’re interested in any these images, please contact Brandon directly using the form on the contact page.