First, a short history lesson. Aguereberry Point is named after Jean Pierre “Pete” Aguereberry who worked the nearby Eureka Mine and lived at Aguereberry Camp from 1905 to his death in 1945.
Pete, born in France in 1874, began reading about the gold discoveries in California around age twelve and begged his father to let him go to the United States to make his fortune. At age 16, his father gave in and Pete sailed for America in 1890. He studied hard to learn a new language (English) and took on a multitute of jobs, including sheepherder, cattle driver, milk truck driver, ranch hand, and stagecoach driver. He arrived in Death Valley in 1905 and almost died trying to cross the desert in the summer heat. Fortunately, a caretaker for the Greenland Ranch found and nursed him back to health.
Just one month later he again headed west towards Ballarat, where rumors that gold had been found. He met up and partnered with like-minded Shorty Harris, a crusty and colorful prospector. Along their journey Pete discovered a ledge that looked promising; and indeed it did contain “free gold.” Pete filed claims for himself on the north side of the hill while Shorty filed claims on the south side. Pete Aguereberry made camp near the Eureka Mine and Cashier Mill and later took visitors on tours of his mine and up to what is now Augereberry Point, a place he called The Great View of Death Valley. (the above is from the National Park Service with a little literally license taken by yours truly)
In November of last year, I participated in an extraordinary workshop entitled “Visionary Death Valley” organized and run by two knowledgeable and experienced instructors, Michael Gordon and Guy Tal. Both are passionate about their photography and providing a remarkable experience. This was not just another photography workshop. Both in the field and the classroom, we were encouraged to think outside the box and spend time “seeing” before every looking through the our camera’s viewfinder. We visited remote locations virtually void of other photographers or tourists as well as popular viewpoints. We hiked off the grid to find scenes we never would have found on our own.
“Guy’s talks on visualization, visual perception and composition and Michael’s intimate first hand knowledge of Death Valley led to a very rich and rewarding experience Michael offered a number of helpful technical suggestions in the field. Through Guy’s insightful and information-packed presentations, he gave us a road map for going beyond representational images to using photography as a means of self-expression.” This quote from previous participate, Cindy Stephenson.
Now, getting to Augereberry Point is not filled with the danger and peril that Pete and Shorty endured, but for many of us soft city dwellers, still an adventure. It is about 50 miles from Furnace Creek and 25 miles from Stovepipe Wells. For the last 6 or 7 miles you travel on a very narrow (almost one lane) and, at times, steep, dirt road. The elevation marker at the parking lot reads 6,433 feet. To reach the rocky promontory, our group climbed another 1,000 feet (with camera gear on our backs) to reach the highest vista point and was rewarded with spectacular 360 degree views. I spent the first 10 to 15 minutes quietly drinking in one incredible view after another. Then I pulled out my camera and just couldn’t stop. So many different compositions: giant boulders and huge outcroppings, the Panamint Mountains, the green oasis of Furnace Creek and even the white salt flats of Badwater Basin where the annual 135-mile Badwater Ultra Marathon is held annually beginning at Badwater Basin and culminating at Whitney Portal traversing from 282 feet below sea level to 8,298 feet above sea level.
The image at the top was taken facing east shortly before sunset. You can see the salt flats just this side of the range in the distance.
To capture the image below, I did a 180 degree turn around to face west in order to catch this awesome sunset.
Then I quickly turned back 180 degrees and adjusted the settings on my camera, just in time for the full moon to made it’s debut.
Time flew by and before I knew it, sunset had come and gone, the full moon had risen and we all started heading down to our cars and back to Stovepipe Wells and DINNER. A wonderful, exciting and exhilarating photo shoot.
Once again, a big thank you to Michael Gordon and Guy Tal for their guidance and encouragement . If you’re interested in their Visionary Death Valley Workshop, check out their website at http://michael-gordon.com or http://guytal.com.
While this blog is focused on the Augereberry Point photo shoot in particular, future blogs will center on other stunning locations we photographed in Death Valley. Stay tuned! In the mean time, remember to get out and explore the nature around you and SEE THE EXTRAORDINARY IN THE ORDINARY.