Photographers love the east side of the Sierra Nevada Range. From Death Valley, through the strange formations across the Alabama Hills, to the Devil’s Postpile and, farther north, along Highway 395, into the groves of aspen that cover much of the landscape with California’s best autumn color.
Highway 395 crosses the Nevada border at Topaz Lake then meets Highway 50 at Carson City. A few miles east on Highway 50 is Nevada State Route 341 which climbs several thousand feet to Virginia City, the site of the richest gold and silver mines in the World and the most colorful Victorian-era/Old West town (with working steam locomotives) you will ever photograph.
Many strange red sandstone formations cover a landscape called Little Finland, also known as Hobgoblins’ Playground or Devil’s Fire. These little-known formations are located fourteen miles east of the eastern entrance into Nevada’s Valley of Fire State Park on the other side of Lake Mead in a remote part of the Nevada desert. The nearest large town is Mesquite, Nevada. Four-wheel-drive is recommended but a high-clearance vehicle will take you there. If you love photographing the deserts of the Southwest, you must add this place to your list.
A day with broken clouds will give you a variety of lighting conditions. A clear blue sky is boring and contrasty and a solid overcast sky means flat and dull lighting on the formations. Bring a sleeping bag to be ready for early morning and late afternoon explorations giving you warm colors and long, dramatic shadows. Avoid the months of August and September. They bring monsoon rains up from the Gulf of Mexico and flash floods down desert washes. Since much of the route follows a dry wash, do not attempt this trip on a rainy day. Winds over 15 mph will blow sand into your camera gear and high summer temperatures can be unhealthy. Late autumn and early spring will give you the best weather for this kind of desert travel.
Notes and images from Bob Hitchman.