Color Washed and Cold Nights: New Years in Death Valley

Over the years, I’ve developed a bit of a phobia for being social during celebrated holidays. It’s not an anti-social behavior because I enjoy the company of friends. It’s the waves of party-goers, long lines, and crowded parties that pushes me out to the vast landscapes. Since moving to Los Angeles, this has only been heightened. I cannot sit inside this plane of tarmac, so my go-to escape during said events has been the wilderness. This year, Halloween, Christmas, and New Years were spent car camping. You know that thing where you can bring a bunch of shit that you normally can’t tow during bicycle camping outings. Now, I know this is a cycling blog and I’m a cyclist but I’ve learned in my years of riding non-stop all year that time off the bike is great for both your mind, body, and chamois contact spot. Everyone needs a couple of days off, so why not spend them hiking, and enjoying the outdoors?

Load'em up!

These past few trips, I’ve enjoyed the company of my friend Cari, a photo stylist, and sign painter. She shares my love of the outdoors, also has a Tacoma, and is inseparable from her buddy Max. We’ve spent time in the Mojave together before and so when I mentioned going to Death Valley for New Years, the reaction was what I expected.

Last splash of light and color.

Now, the colors in the desert this time of year are amazing. The best on Earth, ATMO. December light cascades across the multi-dimensional surfaces and are heightened by the power of nature’s funkiest fungi. If you get what I mean… Needless to say, we spent the days enjoying natural chemicals, hiking, shooting (a lot) of photos, and snacking from our day packs. All while obsessing over textures and colors.

We were, uh.. frosty in the 15º weather.

The nights however… Well, we froze our asses off in the back of Cari’s Tacoma, awaking each morning to an in chrysalis ice cave of a camper shell. With lows of 15º and highs of 50º, Death Valley, even in the winter is not a destination for the weather-weak.

Last light

Four days, three nights, 5gb of photos later, and we were both sated. I had a few ideas for future rides in Death Valley and a new found respect for the vastness that is the Mojave.

Enjoy this gallery of warmth, colors, and fun, brought to you by mother nature.


  • ZianStudios

    This makes me really want to go camp in the desert, photos look amazing.
    What kind of camera(s) did you shoot on?

    • Usually I shoot film on these trips but I ran out of 220 film for my Mamiya 7ii and had to order 120 film (which did not show up in time) so I shot these with my Canon 1DX and either a 35mm prime or 70-200 telephoto.

      • fizzle

        that 35mm prime is awesome judging from the van pic

        • so good!

          • professorvelo

            It’s weird how the flat light makes it look like a museum diorama! Just needs some taxidermied beasts

  • I was really looking forward to seeing this set, and it did not disappoint!

  • So many great ones in here, but #41 kills!

    • that’s one of my favs!

      • But #11. Moon over Tacoma.

        • Chris Valente

          Seriously. If I worked for Toyota marketing I would be licensing that photo from Prolly!

  • Also, I don’t know if I’d be able to walk after sleeping in a shortbox Tacoma with two other animals. And you’ve got a couple inches on me!

    • This bed is 6’4″ – I can just squeeze in there. The dog sleeps in the cab. :-)

  • barry mcwilliams

    Sign painter? Awesome.

  • The last night I spent in Death Valley featured winds so strong that they literally lifted my tent with me in it off the ground and rains that moved my trailer a handful of feet… wouldn’t trade that experience for anything. Same thing for the day it hit 125 degrees.

  • Søren Nejmann

    Denmark is such a f**cking boring country. I’m so jealous of this!

  • This is by far my favorite post of yours. As a desert rat myself and been to Death Valley, this is like a slide show of home. Thanks again!

  • Nils-Erik Hilliard

    The desert is beautifully amazing. thanks for this

  • Jonathan Raspa

    Mojave is also beautiful in the spring, especially after the rain. You wouldn’t think it, but some incredibly colorful flowers; spent a few spring weekends every year out there during college. Great photos John!

  • stefanrohner

    beautiful place.

  • Brecon Thomas Welton

    Headed to Death Valley on Valentine’s Day/prez weekend with my chick for the exact same reasons: social holiday phobia. Got Titus canyon/artists palette/dunes/race track on this list, got anywhere else you’d recommend? Without spoiling secret spots of course

    • Darwin Falls. A waterfall in the driest place in America. Dante’s View to see the entire Valley and if you’re lucky the highest and lowest points in the contiguous states. Wild Rose for the kilns and former work camp.

  • Lemontime

    A+ for nature tripping. Next time you’re in Sydney holla <3

  • Alyx_xylA

    It’s good to see others appreciate the desert and all it gives. Great Photos!