Wilson WEST Photography & Adventures: Blog https://www.wilsonwestphotoadventures.com/blog en-us (C) Wilson WEST Photography & Adventures [email protected] (Wilson WEST Photography & Adventures) Mon, 16 Mar 2020 06:37:00 GMT Mon, 16 Mar 2020 06:37:00 GMT https://www.wilsonwestphotoadventures.com/img/s/v-12/u814687290-o406672512-50.jpg Wilson WEST Photography & Adventures: Blog https://www.wilsonwestphotoadventures.com/blog 120 99 Amargosa Opera House https://www.wilsonwestphotoadventures.com/blog/2014/4/amargosa-opera-house How many of you on your way from Pahrump to Death Valley have passed by the Amargosa Opera House and wondered about its history? I had read about it and narrated its history on my tours, but last Saturday I finally had a chance to tour the inside.


The building was built in the 1920's as a recreation hall for a company town built by the Pacific Coast Borax Company. It was abandoned when in 1967 Marta Becket and her husband stopped in Death Valley Junction to fix a flat tire. Marta Becket was a classically trained ballerina who was looking for a way to continue her work as a dancer. She felt an instant connection to the building. She looked in the window. "As I peered through the tiny hole, I had the distinct feeling that I was looking at the other half of myself," Becket wrote. "The building seemed to be saying 'Take me...Do something with me...I offer you life". And thus  her life long passion for dance and painting continued here in Death Valley Junction.

She opened the Amargosa Opera House in 1967. Sometimes, her only audience were her cats. So she decided to paint an audience around the three walls. Then she painted the ceiling! OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA


She used what was available for the theater - like these coffee cans around the lights.


Marta Becket performed her ballet shows into her 80's. When her hips prevented her from toe dancing, she developed "The Sitting Down Show". While her official last performance was in February 2012, our guide told us she occasionally still shows up and does a little show. She still lives in Death Valley Junction and will be 90 this fall.


So, next time you are on your way to Death Valley, stop at the lobby of the Amargosa Hotel and ask for a tour. The cost is nominal. Or, you can spend the night - but be warned..."It's a very different kind of place". No televisions, no phones in the rooms and no cell-phone service. And some say it's haunted.

Marta Becket's Biography To Dance on Sands: The Life and Art of Death Valley's Marta Becket was published in 2007. The Emmy Award winning video Amargosa made in 1999 is very enjoyable to watch.

[email protected] (Wilson WEST Photography & Adventures) https://www.wilsonwestphotoadventures.com/blog/2014/4/amargosa-opera-house Tue, 01 Apr 2014 23:38:25 GMT
Lake Mead Wildflowers https://www.wilsonwestphotoadventures.com/blog/2014/4/lake-mead-wildflowers A few days ago I went to Death Valley in search of wildflowers, there basically were none to be found. Luckily I live in an area with a variety of habitats and elevations! On March 19th I went for a drive on the North Shore Drive in Lake Mead National Recreation Area, Nevada. There was a nice variety of wildflowers on the drive between the Valley of Fire on the north end and Lake Mead Parkway on the south end of the drive.

My favorite flowers this time of the year are the Sunrays. These large sunflowers are close relatives to the Panamint Daisy found only in the Panamint Mountains of Death Valley. In rainy years, the flowers can get up to 6" across. This year they were a bit smaller. SunraySunrayOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA


As you can see, various insects like the Sunrays.

Sunray and BeeSunray and BeeOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Sunray and Painted LadySunray and Painted LadyOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Sunray and LadybugSunray and LadybugOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

We also found a few of the very rare Bear-Paw Poppies. It is only found on harsh alkaline, gypsum soils in the Lake Mead/Las Vegas area.


The magenta flowers of the Beavertail Cactus are so bright, they are tricky to photograph. They appear oversaturated no matter what you do.

Beavertail CactusBeavertail CactusOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Beavertail CactusBeavertail CactusOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Here are some Mojave Asters.


And "cheerful" Phacelia.


Sand Blazing Star.

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Brittlebush - a favorite of the desert bighorn sheep.

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So never give up on wildflowers! If you don't find them on your first try, keep exploring! All in an easy days drive from Las Vegas, NV.



[email protected] (Wilson WEST Photography & Adventures) https://www.wilsonwestphotoadventures.com/blog/2014/4/lake-mead-wildflowers Tue, 01 Apr 2014 20:34:56 GMT
Grand Canyon West https://www.wilsonwestphotoadventures.com/blog/2014/3/grand-canyon-west On March 17th I traveled to the West Rim of the Grand Canyon. I hadn't been out there for over 5 years and was amazed by the changes. The most dramatic was the condition of the Diamond Bar Road.  When I drove this road for Pink Jeep tours, it demanded a high clearance vehicle for 14 miles. Now part of it was paved and the rest soon will be. It will also by-pass the Grand Canyon West Ranch, a "bump" in the old road. Grand Canyon West is on the Hualapai Indian Nation. They own 108 miles of the south rim of the Grand Canyon

When we arrived at the new Check-In/Ticketing Center - it too had changed - to the other side of the airport and was many times larger. The shuttle buses came frequently and we didn't encounter long lines for the next bus. I think there are usually two routes, but since it was very slow, the only route went to all three stops - first to the Hualapai Ranch - a re-created old west town. We did not get off here but stayed on until the next stop at Eagle Point.

This is the location of the Grand Canyon Skywalk. I had never been on it before since I'd never really had the desire to pay the over $35 dollars to go out on it, but it was included for the group I was with, so out I went. They have free lockers to put ALL your belongings into. You are not allowed to take anything (cameras, cell phones, etc.) onto the Skywalk. You must put little booties over your shoes. They will take your photo on the walk - for $30.... I am not crazy about heights so I stayed on the frosted glass edge and moved around and off as quickly as I could. Glad I hadn't paid for it! The Skywalk is on a side canyon and you can get nearly the same view from the cliff edge beside it.

Your alternate activity at Eagle Point is the Native American Village. This is a collection of Native American dwellings. So far, the Visitor Center is not finished inside. There is a snack bar at Eagle Point. The point is named for a rock formation across the canyon that looks like an eagle with its wings spread out.

After Eagle Point we got back on the bus to Guano Point. If you haven't eaten, this is where they have the buffet meal for sale. We opted to hike down to the remnants of a historic tram that was used to bring bat guano across the canyon to be processed into nitrates.

While waiting for the bus back, there is a Native American market selling handicrafts/jewelry. View from Guano Point down to the Colorado River, near the mouth of the Grand Canyon where it enters Lake Mead.

For the shuttle bus, Skywalk and lunch, you'll pay $71.00. There are add ons for Horseback rides and Helicopter Tours.

Given a choice, I would still spend my time and money and go to the National Park on the South Rim.

[email protected] (Wilson WEST Photography & Adventures) https://www.wilsonwestphotoadventures.com/blog/2014/3/grand-canyon-west Tue, 01 Apr 2014 04:08:56 GMT
Gold Butte https://www.wilsonwestphotoadventures.com/blog/2014/3/gold-butte OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA On Saturday, March 8, I journeyed to the Gold Butte region. This region is north of Las Vegas, and south of Mesquite. To get there you must have a high clearance vehicle. For your first visit I recommend going with someone who knows the way, or have a really good GPS and detailed maps as none of the road junctions are signed. The ultimate destination for photographers is known by several names: Little Finland, Devil's Fire, and Hobgoblins Playground among others. You can wander through this area for hours and come back several times and never see the same thing twice.

The best time to visit would be in late afternoon as the area faces west. Sunsets can be gorgeous but if you plan a trip for sunset, I would recommend staying overnight (must dry camp) as finding your way out in the dark can be tricky. Plus by spending the night, you could do some light painting and star photography.

On this visit, I was with a hiking group and not a photography group so we were there in mid-day for only two hours and there was not a cloud in the sky. I bracketed everything and used HDR to bring out the details in the wide range of contrast I encountered.

After wandering around for a couple of hours, the group moved to the "Falling Man" trail. Again, you need someone to show you the way as the road to the trailhead is not marked. The trail is not for the faint of heart but not overly strenuous. The reward is an abundance of petroglyphs.

See more photos in the Gold Butte gallery.

[email protected] (Wilson WEST Photography & Adventures) https://www.wilsonwestphotoadventures.com/blog/2014/3/gold-butte Tue, 11 Mar 2014 19:52:36 GMT