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Death Valley comes alive

Cory Fisher

“We are the children of our landscape; it dictates behavior and even thought in the measure to which we are responsive to it.”

– Lawrence Durrell

Photographers Ansel Adams and Edward Weston must have seen it too – each moment that passes in Death Valley is a spectacular show of light and scenery, never to be duplicated again.

“Every time you go there it’s different,” said Nicoletta Florio. “It’s surreal – it’s got all the perfect elements for photography.”

Florio was one of roughly 13 Lake Tahoe Community College students to participate in Landscape Photography, a four-day workshop

offered every spring in Death Valley.

“No two students shoot the same picture, ever. We’ve been offering this class for over 10 years – Death Valley is a paradise for photographers,” said longtime instructor Pat Leonard-Heffner, who came up with the idea. “The valley has attracted many major landscape photographers. It’s easy for students to see shapes, textures and designs of the land – the contrast and lighting is incredible.”

But this year there was a bonus, said student Tony Harper, who has taken the course for the past five years.

“El Nino brought on incredible wildflowers,” Harper said. “But each year I find endless lighting possibilities, colors, shapes and formations. This class was the whole reason I got into photography.” Harper is now a full-time photographer at the Tahoe Daily Tribune.

Over the years, Leonard-Heffner has figured out key times of the day for optimum lighting.

The most spectacular time is sunrise, Florio said, which requires students to set up their shoots by 4:30 a.m.

“Once you’re out there, it’s worth it,” Florio said. “There are so many color contrasts.”

But the end of the day can be equally as magical, Florio said, as photography students of all levels gather around a campfire to talk about their craft.

“Part of the experience is getting to know the group,” Florio said. “By the last day we’re grungy and dirty, but we’ve all had this great experience – and we all have a love for photography. Everyone has something valuable to share.”

Tahoe Daily Tribune E-mail: tribune@tahoe.com

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