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Panic At The Disco

Published April 12th, 2012

I really REALLY wanted a Dunes image from Death Valley. Especially after my travel buddy Steve ran over the tarantula that I was going to use as my FG comp. Ok... in fairness I took us on a road that was so bad, 3 off-road motorcycles in front of us turned around. Well thanks to my navigational failures, we missed The Racetrack, so I guess we are even. I just knew that without getting a sunrise shot of a Dune, I would go away from Death Valley empty handed.

So we selected our respective Dunes and waited for sunrise. When dawn broke, it became obvious that this was going to be a special morning in the desert. An EPIC sunrise unfolded; pinks, oranges, reds, and purples were just ripping across the sky. I settled into my shot... and realized I was facing completely the wrong way. I scurried forward about 50 yards to find a comp where the lines went into the sun, and quickly realized that it was worse, so I went back to my camera. It then dawned on me that I had just stomped footprints through my comp. Sigh. So I began to run. Up dunes, down dunes, through dunes, trying desperately to find a good comp that faced the exploding sky and was devoid of foot prints. Steve Turner was perched high atop some dune, completely unmoving. I knew I was in trouble. Finally as the sun was rising, I just turned and started shooting a worthless series of shots that I knew I would trash.

Absolutely devastated and exhausted, with lenses, bags, and my water bottle all in varies sections of Death Valley, I retreated in defeat. Then I happened to turn around and saw this. I grabbed my camera and scrambled up a ridge... realized I had the wrong lens and scrambled down the ridge. Got my 24-70 and scrambled back up the ridge. Gasped for breath and fired off a few frames. I don't know who this guy was, but I appreciate him climbing that dune for me.

As for Steve, I thoroughly ruined every single image he shot, which made me quite pleased. Of the 100+ images he captured, I was in a different spot in the frame for every single one of them. You're welcome.

Death Valley is a pretty neat place, and one that requires much more exploring. At the time, It was also is a place where you better learn how to make a collect call, because payphones are the only method of communication. I dialed 0 and hoped for the best.

Panic At The Disco

There is a new spot for stories, so I guess I'm supposed to move the story behind the image to here.

  • Canon EOS 5D Mark II
  • 70mm / f/16 / 1/250 sec

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Daniel Pivnick  almost 4 years ago

That line is one of the best lead ins I've seen in these dunes. I think it was beneficial to include your friend Steve in the image, even if it was at his expense.

Vladimir Koss  almost 5 years ago

Great story, man! No pain - no gain :)

Luís Ribeiro  about 5 years ago

Amazing shot and story!!

Robert Bulten  over 5 years ago

Hi Miles, thx for the workshop on YT B&H! Learned a lot. This one is magnificent.

Vikas Garg  over 5 years ago

Beautiful image, love everything about this shot and a great story.
I am travelling to Death Valley for a day in October and hoping to get some of these amazing sunrise and sunset shots!

Thomas Born  over 5 years ago

well what can I say... a amazing picture, a very entertaining story. Did you ever make it to the race track Miles?
Hi from BC.. t:)

Bernard West  almost 6 years ago

Haha! Fantastic story. And image. I love the concept of a stranger just appearing on top of a dune in the middle of nowhere(?). I'd expect this to be a scene in one of those fictional tv shows that explore some strange and/or profound event.

Well done!

Jordan Ek  almost 6 years ago

beautiful image. I enjoyed the story very much. I have found that it is useless for me to try to plan a dune shot because no matter what I always end up running like a crazy person to find a new comp. I think that is what makes dunes so fun to shoot.

Marco Gentili  almost 6 years ago


Graeme Gordon  almost 6 years ago

Mate I think we have all had these moments and it is amazing how with desperation there is rewards

Awesome Account
GenussFotograf  almost 6 years ago

Funny story and fantastic shot Miles!

Awesome Account
John Pedersen  about 6 years ago

Oh heck yea!!!! the curves are just awesome in this comp, as well as the oranges and yellows. Cracking shot Miles!

Þórunn Sigþórsdóttir (inactive)  about 6 years ago

This is so AMAZING my friend :):)
Always such a pleasure to read your stories LOL ;o)

David Martín  about 6 years ago

Fantastic story. So funny.... and so stressing picturing you in such a mess! Great capture, I really think your anonimous guest is what makes this beautiful image speak up for the greatness of Nature.

Christie King  about 6 years ago

Great story. Funny thing is I can relate to your sense of panic and indecisiveness... it happens to the best of us in the worst possible moments when we should be ready to aim and fire. At any rate, me thinks you captured a terrific scene here. My eye floats back and forth thru the image and the color is outstanding.

Awesome Account
Massimo Squillace  about 6 years ago

Steve must be a real good buddy - treasure his friendship! Great shot, by the way. I've been to Death Valley twice and wasn't lucky (or skillful) enough to get a decent dune image.

Anne Marie FOX  about 6 years ago

Well done...

Vangelis Feleris  about 6 years ago

Funny story! Beautiful image!!

Scott Allan  about 6 years ago

haha, great story!!!

Kristina Wilson  about 6 years ago

All I can picture is you running around Dunes like a mad man (a little chevy chase desert ramble). I have a similar story involving sand and running but I end up slicing my foot. Go figure! Another stunning photo CB. :)