The reality was the scale of the valley was mesmerizing. When you are in the forest, everything is at a personal scale. When you are in the desert, you see at a regional scale. It is such a dichotomy that I have never gotten used to it. I can appreciate it, but after years of camping in the desert I still am fascinated by it.
I should have practiced taking pictures of the night sky because the stars were the most amazing feature of the trip. No obstructions, no light pollution; every constellation, easily identifiable. You could almost see by the light of the stars and I was awoken by the brightness of the moon.
Everyone seemed to be in Badwater Basin for sunset. But I was most impressed by the old guys on stools watching their cameras on tripods, staring off into space. They seemed to take forever to lumber out and, when all the tourists were leaving, they were just setting up. I soon found out the reason. The tourists left as the sun set over the mountains; the old photographers sat and waited. And, 1/2 hour after the sun disappeared, the colors came out. The photographers were there waiting at the lowest elevation in the continental US for that very moment. The tourists had moved on never knowing what they missed.
While I learned a lesson about patience at sunset (since I quickly moved on but was passing back through when the sky colored), I was able to utilize the new skill at sunrise. In a primitive camp site high up on the west side of the valley, I had the perfect view of the entire valley. As I was making coffee, I could see the cars racing to catch the sunrise from Badwater. I don’t know what they saw from the base of the mountains but I had the view that I hoped for. The camera was on the tripod and I waited because the right moment was so fleeting that after a sip of coffee and I realized that it was over. I packed up and drove down the valley to explore the other moments that needed to be experienced.