Death Valley National Park
Another wonderful piece of history to visit are the Charcoal Kilns. Leaving west from Stovepipe Wells on hwy. 190 drive to Emigrant Canyon Road, maybe 15 minutes. From here you wind your way up the Panamint mountains to nearly 9,000 feet altitude on a fairly good very windy paved road. Nearing the end you find yourself on the worst dirt road you think you have ever seen and the four miles to the Kilns you swear you will never again travel. Once you round the last corner and see these conical domes of rock and mortar all in a row you quickly forget your arduous journey as you begin staring at their wonder. As you can see in my imagery the ground around the kilns is fairly flat and most hard. You will encounter soft sandy areas so be aware they are there. The biggest obstacle you will encounter is a berm that is at the edge of the dirt road. When we we there the berm was about two to three feet tall which takes you from road level to the area surrounding the Kilns. There were a couple of spots that many others had traveled across and smoothed the path some, but you may need a helper to get you up and over this berm, this by far is the worst obstacle to overcome. Once you are inside the area where the kilns are you can pretty much go as you please. I was able to go up to the doorway of several of the kilns but was only able to enter one of them due to the soil erosion at the doorways, but in the desert that condition is always changing. For me these are a photographers dream. Sunset, sunrise, nightscape, star trails and light painting, are all on the menu and if you are there after first snow even better. If the skies are clear, Polaris is perfectly located to the kilns and if you are like me and enjoy photographing star trails under the full moon these kilns light up like daylight adding nice detailed foreground elements to the composition. If you think I sound excited about this place I am! I will be here on every visit to the park and, I will plan my visit around either no moon, full moon, fresh snow or cloudy weather. Our last visit was in late November when the temperatures were in the low 80′s in the valley, but at 9,000 feet expect the temperature to drop 30-40 degrees once the sun disappears.
This shot of star trails was taken during the Full Moon that occurred in late February 2013 on a perfectly clear and otherwise cold night. I used my Canon 5D MkII with a TS-E 24mm f/3.5 II L lens on a Really Right Stuff BH-55 Ball Head mounted to a RRS TVC-23 carbon fiber tripod. My exposures were 120 seconds with an aperture of f/8 and an ISO of 200. Even at 24mm I chose f/8 to ensure me of the depth-of-field I need to keep this image sharp. In total 40 images were take totaling 80 minutes of star trails, but for this final image I chose 17 images to provide me with just the right amount of star trails for the composition. After stacking the 17 images I began brushing in the six images of the light painted Kilns we had done prior to the star trails to give an idea of what it must have been like. I found it interesting as I was putting together this page to find that both images are at nearly the same perspective, even though I took them over a year apart.