Nice one, James. I love the texture, the shades of luminosity. Using the road as a leading line into the scene works quite well too. I think I see a bit of darkening in the sky and top of the far hills, maybe a graduated ND, or gradient in your processing. I think you could lighten the sky and those mountain tops a bit and have even more impact.
This one looks really good in the larger version, a great one to sit and admire.
It’s interesting how the curved road works so well in this composition because it mimics the curved hills. As mentioned there is a tonal gradient from left to right that’s most obvious in the dark hills in the very back on the left.
The sky issue definitely needs to be reworked. This image was processed several years ago and I’m not sure why the sky was darkened that much. Therefore , I think this image goes to the cutting room floor and I will start fresh.
This doesn’t look like a sunset or sunrise shot and the light quickly goes harsh in Death Valley without a lot of cloud cover so I think converting to a B&W works really well here. The curving road really is a stand out in this image however, it takes you out of the scene. Maybe cloning the bit of road that exits the scene on the right side of the image would help and it would create some mystery as to where the road actually goes making your eye roam the scene. As has already been noted the sky has a gradient in the very top that could easily be reworked. Not sure, as you’ve said, that it should go to the cutting room floor. A few tweaks and you’ve got a pretty nice image James. Would love to see what you come up with.
I love that you’ve gone to monochrome here as it really accentuates the tones and textures that make this image so captivating. Here’s a suggestion that you may want to try for yourself and see if it works for you - cropping from the top as a 16:9 pano. I find if I scroll crop and eliminate the sky, the curving road works better and, to me at least, the image feels more cohesive. Naturally it changes the nature of picture so you’d have to decide for yourself if you wanted to go in that direction.