Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Nevada’s Valley of Fire

with 26 comments

Four years ago today we spent hours at Nevada’s scenic Valley of Fire State Park. The day was overcast and at times we had rain, but at least the subdued light reduced the desert’s normally harsh shadows

In the second and third pictures, note the tafoni in the rocks.

As dusk approached, the sun sank for a short while beneath the level of the clouds.

The setting sun’s warm light made the reddish earth and rocks seem even redder, as in the last two pictures.

And here’s a thought for today: “On n’a guère de défauts qui ne soient plus pardonnables que les moyens dont on se sert pour les cacher.” “Almost all our faults are more forgivable than the means we use to hide them.” — François de la Rochefoucauld.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

October 24, 2020 at 4:43 AM

26 Responses

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  1. so dramatic –


    October 24, 2020 at 5:15 AM

  2. Well captured. Cloudy skies are easier to work with.


    October 24, 2020 at 5:52 AM

  3. Love the dramatic red rocks, especially the final photo, Steve. Your thought for today reminded me how bedeviling French certain constructions can be for translation, especially when there are negatives and impersonal formulations used. (It is really clumsy in English to be really literal and say something like “One has hardly any faults that are not more forgivable than the means that one uses to hide them.” I like your version better, which is much easier to understand in colloquial English.)

    Mike Powell

    October 24, 2020 at 6:14 AM

    • In the short period between the moment the sun re-appeared below the clouds and the moment it dropped out of sight for good that day, I scampered about taking pictures of whatever things I could while they were lit up with that magical light. A little later we unexpectedly got colorful sunset clouds, and I took another hurried round of pictures.

      Let’s hear it for colloquial English! Well, at least some of the time. Negatives in language, like certain isotopes in physics, are unstable. It’s often not clear what’s within the scope of the negation and what’s not. Casual English sometimes puts the negative in the wrong place, logically speaking. “All that glitters isn’t gold” technically conveys the false message that not a single glittering thing is gold. I always say “Not everything that glitters is gold.”

      Steve Schwartzman

      October 24, 2020 at 8:43 AM

      • I’m definitely in favor of clarity. As for negatives, each language has its own peculiarities. I remember having to think a moment when a Russian commented to me that I spoke Russian “very not badly,” which is actually a compliment. 🙂

        Mike Powell

        October 24, 2020 at 9:29 AM

        • And speaking of peculiarities, French is way up there, first in developing two-part negatives, and then in having the negation migrate away from the etymologically negative part, ne, and onto the part that hadn’t originally been negative at all, e.g. pas ‘a step,’ rien ‘a thing.’

          Steve Schwartzman

          October 24, 2020 at 10:08 AM

      • Tolkien came closer to your way of putting things with his famous lines:

        “All that is gold does not glitter,
        Not all those who wander are lost;
        The old that is strong does not wither,
        Deep roots are not reached by the frost.

        From the ashes a fire shall be woken,
        A light from the shadows shall spring;
        Renewed shall be blade that was broken,
        The crownless again shall be king.”

        Of course, the second line may be one of the most mis-quoted in the world. The world’s filled with tee-shirts and mugs that proclaim, “Not all who wander are lost.” So much for ‘those.’


        October 25, 2020 at 2:10 PM

        • I object to Tolkien’s phrasing in that first line: taken literally, it means that no gold glitters, which is as incorrect as saying that no glittering thing is gold. As for the second line, I’m with you in not understanding why so many people drop “those” from the wording. It would take very little effort to retain it and thereby be true to the original. Oh well, we line in the world of the Internet, which is to say in a world where inexactitude exaggeration, and falsity often go unchecked.

          Steve Schwartzman

          October 25, 2020 at 7:22 PM

  4. Working under a cloudy sky has its advantages, especially if you wish to add a tad of drama to your images, as your amazing photos clearly show.

    Peter Klopp

    October 24, 2020 at 9:20 AM

    • The cloudy sky did have its advantages, even if part-way through our stay we spent an hour in the visitor center waiting out the accompanying rain. Of drama we had at least a tad and a half.

      Steve Schwartzman

      October 24, 2020 at 9:28 AM

  5. I love those rock formations!


    October 25, 2020 at 9:10 AM

  6. The second photo looks like the Sphinx had a second thought, and decided to check out what was coming up from behind. My favorite is the third, because of the combination of the sharply jagged, more vertical rocks at the top of the image, and the smoother, horizontal lines of the bottom half.

    The golden light in the last two reminded me of the Presidio in Goliad. I’d not realized what sunset light could do to old rocks until then. One evening, they took on the golden hue in the last photo, and became as beautiful as these.


    October 25, 2020 at 2:02 PM

    • That’s a funny interpretation of the second photograph as the Sphinx having a second thought and looking back. I’m pleased that the third picture got to you, and that you know why.

      Nature photographers us the term “golden hour” to refer to both the hour after sunrise and the hour before sunset. In this case the heavy cloud cover reduced the last hour of daylight to a matter of minutes, and I sure took advantage of those minutes. The rock formation in the last photograph also appeared in the final picture of a post two years ago, and in that one you could already see the shadow creeping up from below as the sun began to sink out of sight:


      Steve Schwartzman

      October 25, 2020 at 7:14 PM

  7. Some of those fantastic rock formations look positively organic. What a place!


    October 25, 2020 at 3:13 PM

  8. Stunning. We stopped here on our way back to Las Vegas for our flight home after touring S Utah. I remember it being so baking hot I could hardly walk! I’d have preferred your weather.

    • As well you know, then, Utah is home to some great scenery. I hadn’t realized that it continues down into Nevada, but I was very happy to find it out. We initially passed Valley of Fire on our way down to Las Vegas, then went back the next morning.

      Steve Schwartzman

      October 26, 2020 at 7:41 AM

  9. Once again, I’m traveling backward in time, in your blog, and maybe in thoughts, too. There it is – Valley of Fire. You had a nice day, with the clouds. Great photos!


    October 28, 2020 at 2:06 PM

  10. […] we continued north from the Three Rivers Petroglyph Site. As enchanted as I’d been by the Valley of Fire State Park during our 2016 visit to Nevada, how could I not stop at New Mexico’s Valley of Fires […]

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