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05.30.2011

Eye Scene: Photographer, Ryuichi Oshimoto Travels with Sigma Camera & Lenses

On the northwest side of Death Valley National Park in California, a dried up lake called the Racetrack is found. Called ‘the Racetrack’ for the slow moving rocks leaving a trail, but nobody has ever seen the rocks move. Camera: DP1x, Exposure mode: Manual, ISO: 100, White balance: daylight, Shutter speed: 1/250 sec, Aperture: f8.0, Focal length:16.6mm

Staying at Lone Pine located by Highway 395, I left the motel as the sun rose. Driving south for a short distance on Highway 395, I enter Highway 136 and drive for a while. The road merged onto Highway 190 toward Death Valley and I continued east toward the sunrise.

Looking back on Highway 136, the snow covered Sierra Nevada twinkled in the sunrise and I noticed my shadow elongated. Camera: DP1x, Exposure mode: Manual, ISO: 100, White balance: daylight, Shutter speed: 1/200 sec, Aperture: f8.0, Focal length:16.6mm

Heading east toward Death Valley, the strong sunrise directly hit. Hiding behind the road sign, the built-in flash was used to photograph. Camera: SD15 Lens: 17-50mm F2.8 EX DC OS HSM, Exposure mode: Manual, ISO: 200, White balance: daylight, Shutter speed: 1/200 sec, Aperture: f16.0, Focal length: 17mm

Highway 190 became an uphill slope and I arrive at Father Crowley Point overlooking, Panamint Valley where it could be mistaken for Death Valley. A few years ago during the spring season, there was a great deal of visitors resting here, but this morning the place was empty. I drove to a dead end on the dirt road leading from the paved parking lot. I could see the path ahead of me very clearly and I felt that I was assimilating into the landscape soon. Driving slowly down the winding slope, Highway 190 became a straight path, stretching across the large valley.

The fence-free dirt road in the valley creates an adventurous feel. Getting out of the car, I photographed this from the bumpy dirt road. Camera: SD15 Lens: 70-300mm F4-5.6 DG OS,Exposure mode: Manual, ISO: 100, White balance:daylight, Shutter speed: 1/500 sec, Aperture: f5.6,Focal length: 100mm

On a map, it was within the Death Valley National Park, but the area to overlook the valley is Panamint Valley. The area was a great place to view the road and the landscape. Unable to capture the vastness of the land, I just pressed the shutter. Camera: SD15 Lens: 17-50mm F2.8 EX DC OS HSM, Exposure mode: Manual, ISO: 200, White balance: daylight, Shutter speed: 1/500 sec, Aperture: f8.0, Focal length: 33mm

The downhill road becomes a single straight path across the valley and eventually curves around the mountain. Parking on the shoulder and standing in the middle of the road, I used the compact telephoto zoom to swiftly capture the moment. It was a hazy morning. Increasing the contrast, the road ahead was portrayed in a dreamy atmosphere. Camera: SD15 Lens: 70-300mm F4-5.6 DG OS, Exposure mode: Manual, ISO: 100, White balance: daylight, Shutter speed: 1/500 sec, Aperture: f5.6, Focal length: 200mm

Speeding through the single path in the valley, the next challenge was to go up the colossal mountain. The road descended again. I arrived at Stovepipe Wells Village, a town that seemed like an entrance to Death Valley National Park and paid the entrance fee. There were places to stay overnight, but there were no vacancies that night. If I kept going on Highway 190, it would only lead to the middle of Death Valley National Park, so I headed north on Scotty Castle Road.

After driving 33 miles from Highway 190, I enter a road leading to Ubehebe Crater and I notice a hiker walking on blackened land. Walking over to an area where I can see the crater from above, there were three small buses parked there. On this day, many people visited the crater and I noticed that the hiker I just saw was walking in the windy crater. At the base of the crater, a group of people and a tour guide type of person can be seen. Instead of quickly observing the crater, I decided to walk down to the bottom.

Several years ago when I stood in the same place, the gusting wind blew strong and since I came from the south of Death Valley I was trembling. The cold wind was blowing just as strong this day, but when I walked to the bottom it was so warm that I wanted to take my jacket off. Once called the large rock basket by the Timbisha Tribe, the bottom of the crater was windless and tranquil.

I felt this area is a special place where it was guarded from evil energy. Largely consuming the dry air as I stood on the bottom of the crater, I felt my existence was small and powerless.

Facing the southern sky as the background, I see a silhouetted hiker on the dark land. Probable effects from the volcano, the crater was covered in black color. The photograph was represented as a black world. Camera: SD15 Lens: 70-300mm F4-5.6 DG OS, Exposure mode: Manual, ISO: 100, White balance: daylight, Shutter speed: 1/800 sec,Aperture: f5.6, Focal length: 120mm

People walk around the 3280 ft wide crater. The winds were so forceful that one might blow away. Camera: SD15 Lens: 70-300mm F4-5.6 DG OS,Exposure mode: Manual, ISO: 100, White balance:daylight, Shutter speed: 1/500 sec, Aperture: f5.6,Focal length: 200mm

Depth of approximately 600 feet, the crater was formed 2000 to 7000 years ago. After sliding down like a child from a vacant area, my shoes ended up full of small pebbles. Camera: DP1x, Exposure mode: Manual, ISO: 100, White balance: daylight, Shutter speed: 1/160 sec, Aperture:f8.0, Focal length: 16.6mm

Climbing up the pathless gravel slopes was strenuous. Sitting down from exhaustion, a wilted plant inhabited the land. Photographing the scene, the crater was also in the photograph. Lowering the saturation, a colorless winter scene was represented. Camera: DP2s, Exposure mode: Manual, ISO: 100,White balance: daylight, Shutter speed: 1/80 sec,Aperture: f8.0, Focal length: 24.2mm

After clambering up from the bottom of the crater, I enter Racetrack Valley Road where four-wheel drive automobiles are recommended. The beginning was a rather bumpy ride and I can only move forward at a pace of about 12 miles per hour. I once rode through the 2.5 mile ride to the dehydrated lake, the Racetrack, and flying through while creating a sand storm, so this was not something I remember. However after driving for ten minutes, the bumpiness lessened and I was able to increase to 20 miles per hour. My memories were revived vividly.

Driving on a dirt road, north of Death Valley. Looking at the photo snapped from the compact camera hung around my neck, I could almost hear the sound of the running car. Camera: DP1x, Exposure mode: Manual, ISO: 100, White balance: daylight, Shutter speed: 1/125 sec, Aperture: f11.0, Focal length:16.6mm

Driving 2 miles from the crater, I arrive at Teakettle Junction where the road splits. Just as I pointed the camera at the numerous teakettles hanging on a wooden sign, a foursome riding off-road motorcycles came by. They stopped in front of the sign to discuss their destination and they headed toward the same direction as me.

The sign was placed where the road splits in two. Many teakettles hung from the sign. Camera: SD15 Lens: 17-50mm F2.8 EX DC OS HSM, Exposure mode: Manual, ISO: 100, White balance: daylight, Shutter speed: 1/640 sec, Aperture: f5.6, Focal length: 17mm

The motorcycle’s sputtering engine sound could be heard from far away. Because each driver kept a distance between each other, I didn’t think they were a group. Camera: SD15 Lens: 70-300mm F4-5.6 DG OS, Exposure mode: Manual, ISO: 100, White balance: daylight, Shutter speed: 1/500 sec,Aperture: f5.6, Focal length: 70mm

Appearing briskly, the four riders left the area immediately. Decreasing the saturation, the contrast was increased to emphasize the arid air. Camera: SD15 Lens: 8-16mm F4.5-5.6 DC HSM, Exposure mode: Manual, ISO: 100, White balance: daylight, Shutter speed: 1/250 sec,Aperture: f11.0, Focal length: 8mm

Driving 5 miles from the junction point, I arrive at the Racetrack, the dried, cracked lake. Parking in the lot that looked as though it was an expanded dirt road, I walk on the Playa. The sun reflecting on the cracked surface is bright. 3714 ft above sea level, besides the large boulders on the northern side of the Playa, the Playa can’t hide anything.

The 73 ft high black rocks called the Grandstand had a strong presence against the bright sunlight reflecting on the Playa. Facing the mysterious landscape, with the large-aperture standard lens on the camera, I pressed the shutter to faithfully capture the landscape in front of me. Camera: SD15 Lens: 30mm F1.4 EX DC HSM, Exposure mode: Manual, ISO: 100, White balance: daylight, Shutter speed: 1/500 sec,Aperture: f8.0, Focal length: 30mm

I wonder what the two climbing up the Grandstand were looking at. Standing on the dry plain, I held the large aperture telephoto zoom lens firmly to photograph the scene. I felt like I was on top of the rock with them. Camera: SD15 Lens: APO 120-300mm F2.8 EX DG HSM, Exposure mode: Manual, ISO: 100, White balance: daylight, Shutter speed: 1/500 sec, Aperture: f5.6, Focal length: 247mm

Wandering around the large rock, the appearance of the Playa changed as the sunlight hit it in different direction. Decreasing the contrast and the contrast was increased to give the illusion of visiting a foreign planet. Camera: DP1x, Exposure mode: Manual, ISO: 100, White balance: daylight, Shutter speed: 1/250 sec, Aperture: f8.0, Focal length:16.6mm

There was little difference in elevation on this flat 2.8 mile long and 1.2 mile wide dry flatland. With barely any wind, it was a comfortable afternoon. Camera: SD15 Lens: 8-16mm F4.5-5.6 DC HSM, Exposure mode: Manual, ISO: 100, White balance: daylight, Shutter speed: 1/250 sec,Aperture: f11.0, Focal length: 8mm

It is said that the rocks move and I was able to see the impression left behind. There are theories that when rain fell, the ground became slippery and the strong winds shifted the stones, but nobody has ever seen it. Camera: DP2s, Exposure mode: Manual, ISO: 100, White balance: daylight, Shutter speed: 1/250 sec, Aperture:f11.0, Focal length: 24.2mm

The dried up lake looked even more mysterious from afar. The saturation was lowered and the contrast and X3 Fill Light was increased to highlight the dried up lake and to accentuate the surrounding landscape. Camera: SD15 Lens: 17-50mm F2.8 EX DC OS HSM,Exposure mode: Manual, ISO: 100, White balance:daylight, Shutter speed: 1/200 sec, Aperture: f8.0,Focal length: 35mm

Turning around from the Playa to the dirt road, as I returned to the Ubehebe Crater, the temperature decreased and the wind speed picked up.
I went back to the well-paved Scotty Castle Road that ran through the vast Death Valley and the drive south to Highway 190 was pleasant.

During the Gold Rush, horse carriages journeyed through the unpaved wildnerness. The evidence still remains. For the people who struggled with the wilderness during the 19th century, it was probably unimaginable to speed through this land at 60 miles per hour. Camera: DP2s, Exposure mode: Manual, ISO: 100, White balance: daylight, Shutter speed: 1/100 sec, Aperture:f8.0, Focal length: 24.2mm

I circled west back to Highway 190 and when I saw the sand dunes, dusk was imminent. The vast Death Valley encompasses the sheer size of nature and the mysteriousness in the landscape. On this day, I stepped into Death Valley without setting any sleeping arrangements and I was planning to leave before the sun set. However, seeing many people walking around the sand dunes, I felt like walking around. As one of the hottest places on earth, walking around during the winter at dusk was comfortable.

Endearing plants flourished in the desert. The soft evening sunlight enveloped the desert Camera: SD15 Lens: 85mm F1.4 EX DG HSM, Exposure mode: Manual, ISO: 100, White balance: daylight, Shutter speed: 1/160 sec,Aperture: f4.5, Focal length: 85mm

Walking along the Mesquite Sandunes, the sunlight no longer extended to the dunes. At the end of this day, the last bit of the sun colored the eastern mountains red. Camera: DP2s, Exposure mode: Manual, ISO: 100, White balance: daylight, Shutter speed: 1/125 sec, Aperture: f4.0, Focal length:24.2mm

Coming back from the dunes, the sun set and the valley became very dark.
As I scrambled up the western mountain in the dark, I thought of bringing a tent and staying for a few days in the future.

All artwork on this page was processed from RAW data (X3F) with Sigma PhotoPro software. After processing, some selected images were imported into retouching software to remove dust. This photo essay is currently running on Sigma Japan’s site and it is published here two months later.

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