The Borax Museum is located in Furnace Creek, Death Valley National Park. Behind the museum are remnants of the era when borax mining was a major trade in the area. In the yard is some of the equipment they used to haul borax, including the famous 20-Mule wagons. But, what is most noticeable is a steam locomotive, DVRR No. 2, from the Death Valley Railroad. The railroad replaced the mule-drawn wagons in transporting the borax to Mojave. When I first saw the engine, I knew I wanted to include it in an image. I just wasn’t sure how.
Dark Windy Night
My main reason for going to Death Valley was the dark skies and the chance to shoot the stars. My son, on the other hand, wanted to do some hiking and sightseeing during the day. I didn’t plan for much sleep on this trip. So, we did both. Since I was anxious to shoot, we went to Harmony Borax Works the very first night. It was very windy, and it was DARK! Honestly, it wasn’t a very pleasant time. But, the stars were AMAZING! That was night number one, and I had planned to go out every night. Sometimes things don’t always go as planned.
Wake Up Sleepy Head
After eating dinner on night number two, we were at the hotel resting from a day of hiking. I was tired, but I was waiting for it to get dark. To pass the time, I was editing some photos. My son was apparently wiped out from the day’s activities. I looked over, and he was on the bed in a deep sleep. So, I let him sleep. By the time he woke up from his ‘nap’, it was late. Now, I was too tired to go out. No shooting that night, and we had one more night in Death Valley.
Star Trails On My Mind
On the last day, we visited the sights that we hadn’t seen yet. One of them was the Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes. The plan was to come back there at night, because it was listed as one of the three best locations for shooting the stars. All the while shooting the train was in the back of my mind. I still hadn’t done that. I knew I wanted to shoot star trails. So, I decided to use the locomotive as the foreground subject.
We drove out to the Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes. It was a 30 minute drive in complete darkness. At the dunes, the skies were clear and filled with more stars than I’ve seen in my life. After doing some shooting there, we went back to Harmony Borax Works. We finished up there, and headed back to our room at The Ranch at Death Valley and the Borax Museum (which is on the same property).
I dropped my son off at the hotel building and headed to the Borax Museum. On the rear of the building, there were some yellow flood lights that were casting throughout the exhibit yard. They were of concern, because I didn’t want that light in my images. But, this was my last night. Light or no, I was shooting. It turned out okay. Since I had that light, I didn’t have to do any light painting to light the train. Soon after deciding on my composition I set up my tripod, configured my Pluto Trigger, and started shooting. Shooting from two different angles, I was able to create two separate compositions. For my first time shooting star trails, I was pleased with my images.