Badwater basin was among the most iconic of the locations we visited on our California roadtrip - but how to photograph it differently from the numerous images I've seen? In the end I gave up trying to be too original and plumped for a fairly obvious composition featuring one of the characteristic salt-crystal formations that line the valley floor at 300 or so feet below sea level. We'd arrived at Badwater about 20 minutes before the stated sunrise time, and walked about a kilometer into the basis as the salt-structures are not visible from the car park. At this time of year (just after Spring-break) we were among only 4 or 5 people there to photograph the sunrise so there was plenty of space for everyone. I ended up pointing the camera to the southwest rather than the north-west, as I'd expected, in part because the direction of the sun was illuminating the distant ridge, whereas looking to the north west the effect was not quite as impressive.
Despite it being tee-shirt weather during the day, at this time of the morning it was freezing in the shade. This was about 30 minutes after sun up, and while the morning sun had gradually illuminated the ridgeline in the distance the basin floor still was still in the shade, hence the blue tint - a reflection of the ambient light. I was very conscious of the delicacy of the salt structures as we were trying to photograph them - the ridges really are quite fragile and scattered about us was the evidence of less careful feet. I wondered whether one day the National Park service will prohibit walking out into the basin, or maybe extend the wooden walkway from the carpark. That would be a pity, but thousands of people visit Badwater basin each week and the damage of the footfall is evident as soon as you leave the carpark and head out into the basin.
I took this shot with my Canon 5D MkII, my 24mm TSE II lens, and a 2 stop ND grad filter to darken down the sky which was about 4 stops brighter than the floor of the basin.