The first rays of the sun melting the crest of the Panamint Range at Zabriskie Point in California’s Death Valley make for the purest of eye candy. A clutch of photographers can be reliably found there at dawn jockeying for slots on the mound overlooking the badlands. It is easy to be seduced by this iconic location and overlook other photographic opportunities right next door. On this morning, I explored compositions figuring the borate-laden hills lined up along the highway near Zabriskie Point. With an assist from the early morning light the warm yellow hills cut a crisp picture.

Death Valley, California

Borate-laden hills in Death Valley, California
5D Mark II, 24-105L

 

The black & white interpretation of the above image also makes for a compelling image.

Death Valley, California

Death Valley, California
5D Mark II, 24-105L

 
 
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  • Arun - May 5, 2010 - 5:21 am

    This could easily set off rumors of cities of gold 🙂

    Did you consider cropping out some of the foreground that is in shadow, so that the hills are one-third of the frame from the bottom?ReplyCancel

Moonrise over the Trona Pinnacles.

Moonrise at Trona Pinnacles

Moonrise at Trona Pinnacles
5D Mark II, 70-200L f/2.8 IS II

 
 

After my first magical evening, I made two more jaunts to the Trona Pinnacles later that same week hoping to frame other perspectives especially from the far south end of the lake bed. Unfortunately, on both these occasions the light was nothing to feel good about. Furthermore the intensity of the wind gusts made setting up of the tripod very difficult so I walked around and explored handheld compositions with the 300mm telephoto.

Lunarscape at Trona Pinnacles

Lunarscape at Trona Pinnacles
5D Mark II, 300L f/4 IS

 
 
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  • Rani Thompson - May 3, 2010 - 10:33 am

    Well…tired of watching this black beauty…please post some colors here….I really enjoyed your pictures from VaranasiReplyCancel

  • thaths - April 21, 2010 - 6:24 am

    Rajan,

    One trick I learned about photographing moonrises is that it is best to photograph it a couple of days before the full moon. On full moon day the moon rises right as the sun is setting. A couple of days before, the moon rises while the sun still has a few minutes to set. This gives you an ideal scene where the moon is coming up from the horizon while the golden rays of the setting sun paint your scenery.ReplyCancel

  • Arun - April 21, 2010 - 3:01 am

    The first one has almost unearthly splendor 🙂ReplyCancel

  • jc - April 20, 2010 - 8:26 pm

    Good Lord! Rajan,

    What are you doing 20+ miles from the nearest anywhere?

    beautiful shots.

    jcReplyCancel

During a recent visit to Death Valley in California‘s Mojave Desert, I overnighted in the desert town of Ridgecrest to photograph the nearby Trona Pinnacles. This atmospheric locale has served as a setting for several well-known sci-fi movies and commercials. The basin with its Trona Pinnacles, the adjacent Searles Lake salt pan serviced by an unlikely railroad, and flanked by the Slate Range to the east and the Argus Mountains to the west, evokes an ambience that is at once enchanting, eerie, and alien.

From: Death Valley and the Northern Mojave by William C. Tweed and Lauren Davis (Cachuma Press, 2003)

As dawn approaches, the Trona Pinnacles emerge like a dream landscape from the parched bed of Searles Lake. The silhouettes of over 500 strangely shaped towers cluster together against a vast plain rimmed with distant hills. Old-timers call it Cathedral City, an apt name for such a mysterious looking place.

Although it may be hard to imagine, the Trona Pinnacles once protruded from the bottom of a deep lake. During the ice ages that occurred between 10,000 and 100,000 years ago, runoff from the Sierra Nevada periodically coursed into Searles Lake…The pinnacles consist of an unusual “rock” called tufa. It resembles limestone and forms entirely underwater…

…From a distance Searles Lake looks like any other Mojave Desert salt pan. But this playa is different: its deep lakebed sediments contain 98 of the approximately 112 elements.

 

When I got to the Trona Pinnacles about an hour before sunset, I was dismayed to see both the eastern and western horizons plastered with a ribbon of clouds. With only two nights shy of the full moon, I had timed my visit to capture the moonrise over the Slate Mountains. Now it appeared I would be hit with a double whammy – denied both the magic hour sunlight and the rising of the moon. Adding to the irony – it was a pleasant, still, wind-free evening (my next two forays later that week were met by strong wind gusts).

Resigned to my karma, I set up shop on the ridge next to the Trona railroad and went about my business. And then something totally unexpected happened. The sun dipped below the Argus Mountains behind me and the Pinnacles suddenly came alive, awash in sweet light. I could scarcely conceal my excitement at the unfolding scene. I will let the photographs below tell the story.

Trona Pinnacles

Setting up for the Trona Pinnacles shoot: the thin strip of white is the salt pan
5D Mark II, 24-105L

 
 
Trona Pinnacles

Trona Pinnacles: sun behind the clouds when I first arrived
5D Mark II, 24-105L

 
 
Trona Pinnacles

Trona Pinnacles: awash in sweet light moments before sundown
5D Mark II, 24-105L

 
 
Trona Pinnacles

Trona Pinnacles: lengthening shadows
5D Mark II, 70-200L f/2.8 IS II

 
 
Trona Pinnacles

Trona Pinnacles: shadow play
5D Mark II, 24-105L

 
 
Trona Pinnacles

Trona Pinnacles: light and shadow
5D Mark II, 70-200L f/2.8 IS II

 
 
Trona Pinnacles

Trona Pinnacles: the lone beacon
5D Mark II, 70-200L f/2.8 IS II

 
 
Trona Pinnacles

Trona Pinnacles
5D Mark II, 24-105L

 
 
Trona Pinnacles

Trona Pinnacles: moonrise
5D Mark II, 70-200L f/2.8 IS II

 
 
Trona Pinnacles

Moon over Trona Pinnacles
5D Mark II, 70-200L f/2.8 IS II

 
 
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  • […] 2010 I experienced an enchanting evening at the Trona Pinnacles. On my visit in December 2012, I was witness to another equally engrossing […]ReplyCancel

  • Manuel Tavares - April 20, 2010 - 1:58 pm

    Hi Rahan,
    These Pictures are truly spectacular. Thanks for sharing them with us.

    Regards….Manuel ( Eddie ) Tavares.ReplyCancel

  • […] my first magical evening, I made two more jaunts to the Trona Pinnacles later that same week hoping to frame other […]ReplyCancel

  • Arun - April 19, 2010 - 6:19 am

    Great shots!

    The last two are my favorites.ReplyCancel

  • Shree Datye - April 18, 2010 - 3:12 pm

    Dear Rajan,

    Really fantastic pictures ! Enjoyed each and every of them.

    ShreeReplyCancel

  • Salus Correia - April 17, 2010 - 6:55 pm

    Hello Rajan,

    That is just superb! You have the ‘gift’ mate, of simpling adding to the beauty of mother nature’s beauty!!!

    A great job, very well done, congratulations!

    SalusReplyCancel

My photo essay Varanasi – India’s Holy City is now up and running at The Huffington Post. It should be featured in its Religion section today.

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When Afonso de Albuquerque first tried to claim Goa in 1510, his men encountered fierce resistance from Adil Shah’s forces from their vantage point atop a hillock in Old Goa. Stunned by the intensity of the opposition Albuquerque was forced to retreat. But he was to return in a few months and dislodge Adil Shah. Albuquerque did not forget the high ground from where he had been barraged. After his triumph, he erected a hermitage on the hillock in honour of Mary which later morphed into a chapel known to us now as the Chapel of Our Lady of the Mount. This was originally the site of an old Hindu temple. Albuquerque was known to have sought cooperation of the Hindus in his fight against the Muslims.

From its perch there are sweeping vistas to be enjoyed. The island of Divar to the north across River Mandovi is a picture of serenity, and to the west are the monuments of Old Goa. The chapel recently underwent restoration with funding from Fundação Oriente.

I dig this locale for its vistas and for the solitude it provides for quiet contemplation. But it won’t remain that way for long. The adjacent forest at the foot of the hillock has been depleted and is being primed for construction. Shame on Goans!

The final image in this series is a photograph of a photograph from the archives collection of Central Library in Panjim.

Chapel of Mount Mary at Old Goa, Goa

Chapel of Mount Mary at Old Goa, Goa
5D Mark III, 70-200L f/2.8 IS II

 
 
Chapel of Our Lady of the Mount in the monsoon

Chapel of Our Lady of the Mount during the monsoon
5D, 24-105L

 
 
Chapel of Our Lady of the Mount

Chapel of Our Lady of the Mount after the monsoon
5D II, 24-105L

 
 
Chapel of Our Lady of the Mount

Chapel of Our Lady of the Mount c. 1925 (© Souza and Paul)

 
 
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  • […] second image below was taken from the hill at the Chapel of Mount Mary overlooking the Mandovi river. To the left of the frame is the Church of St Francis of Assisi. […]ReplyCancel

  • nagraj chari - September 5, 2010 - 1:47 pm

    rajan sir

    i would like to add 1 more thing to ur discussion, i am from divar and i have many evidence which clearly says portuguese have distroyed our temples,i can show u n numbers of proofs to those who still dont agree or believe to it.

    also i would like to mention the Maharashtran and north indians are our brothers and these protuguse are outsiders.who distroyed hindu culture because of which still we r suffering. still some people in my village they speak Portuguese language and feel shy in speaking hindi……….. shame to all those peopleReplyCancel

  • impotenta - April 15, 2010 - 6:37 am

    interesting photos… i like the colors very much 🙂ReplyCancel

  • ganganeli pereira - March 31, 2010 - 3:23 pm

    Naqueles tempos era vulgar o vencedor destruir os deuses dos vencidos e a guerra era feita em nome da religião.Já no império romano era assim e depois no feudalismo para cristianização dos pagãos na Europa procedeu-se da mesma maneira, destruindo os ídolos ou convertendo-os em santas ou santos cristãos. Eram tempos da mentalidade feudal. Criticar hoje o passado é perda do tempo, um erro, pois o passado nos serve para não repetirmos os erros e sermos melhores cidadãos do mundo ou do país. Hoje vivemos num mundo globalizado e consideramos o mundo como uma aldeia porque as comunicações são tão rapidas que pudemos-nos viajar dum sítio para o outro em questão de horas. Hoje devemos respeitar o homem e a natureza,conservar o património natural e o património criado, manter a harmonia entre todos as religiões e aceitarmos uns aos outros sem imposições forçadas. Gosto do seu blog porque realmente é isso que está defender e chamar a atenção dos interessados para defender a herança recebida dos antecessores, sejam hindus, budistas, muçulmanos e finalmente, os cristãos. Hoje devemos reconhecer que o Estado Portugues da Índia, apesar dos seus erros, fez muitas coisas boas: os limites actuais de Goa foram feitos com o sangue, suor e lágrimas das suas gerações, bem como as nossas cidades, Velha Goa, Pangim, Margão, Vasco de Gama, Bardez, etc..e tantas obras de arquitectura e jardins dignas de grande mérito e, sobretudo, o bom planeamneto urbanistico sem prejudicar o meio ambiente…bem como os trabalhos em defesa da promoção da agricultura e transplantação das árvores de fruta dum continente para o outro, feita pelos descobridores e jesuítas, ligados ao Estado da India Portuguesa.ReplyCancel

  • […] Chapel on the Hill » Photo Blog by Rajan Parrikar […]ReplyCancel

  • Arun - March 28, 2010 - 5:54 pm

    This is a photography blog, with a connection to history because of the subject matter and because Rajan has also retrieved old historical photographs – which lends an additional dimension to this blog.

    There is a history to the site of this photograph that exists, accept it or deny it, or seek to “mitigate” it like jc did. The only useful lesson of history is that we must defend the worthwhile things that we create – there are too many forces out there that will happily destroy them.ReplyCancel

  • soter - March 28, 2010 - 9:44 am

    Dear Rajan,
    Please stand corrected. Portuguese did not seek help of Hindus. It was the Hindus who approached the Portuguese to over throw the muslims. There still exist some Hindus who are inviting Maharashtrians and North Indians into Goa to decimate christian influence. It was not the christians who brought the Portuguese but fellow Hindus who exposed their own bretheren to trouble.

    -SoterReplyCancel

  • jc - March 28, 2010 - 3:09 am

    Dear Rajan-bab,

    Thanks for the courtesy of your reply.

    If one understands ‘religion’ in the context of power and control, the way I do, one will come to the same conclusion as I have personally reached i.e. those in quest of power will destroy any symbol or centre which does not submit to it. Those that submit are absorbed within the power structure, albeit at varying levels on the power-ladder.

    This would not be a novel idea. And no one people has been immune from this effect of power + land grab.

    As far as the magnitude of the problem, it is possible for it to be debatable. Personally, I am not sure if ALL the events were recorded, and that too recorded in a non-partisan fashion. For, those who record history, tend to glorify their own and demonify the other side.

    So, one has to fall back on a reasonable explanation as to why the Buddhist shrines almost disappeared from the subcontinent; that too, before the arrival of the Muslims.

    Accordingly, I disagree with you but I accept that the past is what one learns from – so that one does not repeat the evils of our forebears.

    good wishes

    jcReplyCancel

  • Rajan P. Parrikar - March 27, 2010 - 12:01 pm

    Dear JC-bab,

    Very briefly (since this is a photography blog) –
    There is NO symmetry in the business of destroying religious places of worship. The number of Hindu places of worship destroyed by the Muslims and Portuguese is so large that it is meaningless to even compare them with Hindus destroying other peoples’ places of worship. Furthermore, there is a BIG difference: the Portuguese and Muslims destroyed Hindu temples because Hindus were idolators, because Hindus worshipped a ‘false God’, because they wanted to convert Hindus to their Book. The relatively insignificant instances of Hindu kings destroying other places of worship were almost always in warfare, where mosque or temple destruction might have been collateral damage and not targeted/deliberate religious desecration.

    Warm regards,

    RajanReplyCancel

  • jc - March 27, 2010 - 11:17 am

    Dear Rajan

    Thanks for the photograph and the amendment of the script. There is no need to give undue credit (in this case, discredit) to the Portuguese.

    The business of Hindus destroying mosques and Muslims destroying temples was well afoot in Goa (Old Goa) during the era of the various Hindu v Muslim regimes which fought over this important port on the West Coast of the subcontinent.

    It might be worth asking: Was Goa never under the Buddhists (as in Ashoka)? Did they never construct places of worship? What happened to them?ReplyCancel