Photographer Scott R. Kline’s road trip photos – a black and white perspective

by Scott R. Kline on April 26, 2020

The stay-at-home order for the Covid-19 epidemic really has me missing the road. So I brought home all my hard drives and started going through road trip photos from the past decade-plus, starting from the time I became a professional photographer in 2009 and began dragging my large image DSLR cameras with me on my trips. It was a good balm for missing the open road, National Parks and coastline that many of us take for granted. With a day trip from my home base in the Bay Area I can see almost any kind of geography or landmark I want.

I looked through the photos at a more deliberate pace than I had in the past. Some deadline was always rushing me before. I noticed a lot of photos that I had not thought remarkable previously, looked really great in black and white. I saw the patterns and shadow that my brain had responded to when I originally snapped the photo. These traits are enhanced in black and white without the distraction of the color. Some photos can look good in either black and white or color, but I found most really look best in one or the other. So I started looking through all my trips for photos I could convert.

One of my favorite trips for these images was Death Valley. I had been there in 2010. But didn’t spend a lot of time there. Most of my time was spent in the dunes right in the middle of the park. The best photos were in the late part of the day with the shadows spreading across the shapes. Also, there weren’t as many people out then, so I had large vistas without humans in them. The mountains in the background gave a nice contrast to the smooth, shifting sand in the foreground.

In 2018 I decided to return again but stay a lot longer. I rented a tent cabin at Panamint Springs on the West side of the park as you enter on Highway 190. I loved waking up in the early morning to coyotes howling. There is also a serviceable restaurant there to get you started in the morning and tuck you in with a full stomach at night.

One shot from this trip that really jumped out in black and white was taken on the highway leaving Panamint and heading over a pass into Death Valley. Once I converted it to back and white I played with the exposure and contrast in each part of the photo. This brought out the texture in the sky and the mountains. A couple of vehicles on the highway give the photo scale.

One day I decided to make the trip to the “Racetrack” — a dry lakebed that can only be accessed with a thirty mile drive starting at the North end of the park and proceeding on a very bumpy dirt road. I had heard horror stories about this trip — broken axels, flat-tires and more. But my trip was pretty comfortable in my two-wheel drive pickup due to recent road grading. The pay-off was impressive. The reason the lake is called the Racetrack is because large rocks have scooted across the perfectly cracked lakebed over the years — leaving mysterious tracks. I was able to get some dramatic photos of the rocks and their trails. The photo here worked best in black and white.

Another day I made it to Zabriskie Point. It’s hard to take a bad picture here. The biggest challenge is finding a view without people in it. Ridge after ridge falls away from view. Each has different textures and color. In black and white, the texture of the earth really pops.

During the stay-at-home, I have made black and white photos of this trip and more. I posted a few on my instagram and got an immediate positive reaction. Some people even said they would like to buy prints for their home.

So I decided to create a site of my many trips featuring this type of photography available for purchase. I named it SRK Road Trips. The photos feature Salton Sea in the South to Crescent City in the North. The coastline and Yosemite are also featured. There are even a few bridge photos. I hope you enjoy. If you want to purchase, use code INMENLO for 20% off.

Photos of various Death Valley scenes by Scott R. Kline (c) 2020; Scott has been an InMenlo contributing photographer since 2011.


Marrianne Scotten April 26, 2020 at 1:54 pm

So impressive. I hold make a great “picture book”. Thanks

Marcela Del Alcazar April 27, 2020 at 5:36 pm

Amazing photography! Thank you for displaying it.

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