Dissipating Rain, Cottonwood Mountains

Posted on 18 April 2014 | Comment

Dissipating Rain, Cottonwood Mountains

Dissipating Rain, Cottonwood Mountains

Dissipating Rain, Cottonwood Mountains. Death Valley National Park, California. April 2, 2014. © Copyright 2014 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

The last vestiges of dissipating afternoon rain showers fall over the Cottonwood Mountains, Death Valley National Park

I have written in the past, here and elsewhere, about how I “see”—which is a very complicated subject and one that I sometime struggle to explain. (Here I think of the quote attributed to Ansel Adams: “When words become unclear, I shall focus with photographs. When images become inadequate, I shall be content with silence.” Those who know me may scoff at the possibility of the “silence” part of this, but still…) One aspect of my seeing, and one that I know I share with other photographers, is that I carry around a sort of mental library of visual bits and pieces, light and color and things that I want to see and, in fact, expect to see at some point. I am aware that some of these come from far back in my memory, and I can even associate them with experiences when I was quite young. One category of these “bits and pieces” has to do with curtains of rain falling across mountain ridges. When I was quite young, my family went on a drive to Southern California and on the way we drove across an agricultural valley, and still today the image I saw of rain falling in the mountains we were about to cross is still clear in my mind as is the magical impression that it made on my young mind.

So, in a sense, this is yet another working out of that category of subjects from the mental image library. These are very different mountains from those I saw so many years ago, but the them of semi-transparent sheets of rain falling in front of mountain ridges and obscuring the details is the same. These ridges are in the Cottonwood Mountains, a sub-range of Death Valley National Park’s Panamint Range. The rarely look quite like this, being a very arid, rugged, and austere desert range. But this was a day of rain (and snow!) and late in the day, as we photographed from an elevated location out in Death Valley, the weather began to clear and the clouds dissipated, leaving behind final backlit curtains of falling rain above the mountains.

G Dan Mitchell is a California photographer and visual opportunist whose subjects include the Pacific coast, redwood forests, central California oak/grasslands, the Sierra Nevada, California deserts, urban landscapes, night photography, and more.
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Text, photographs, and other media are © Copyright G Dan Mitchell (or others when indicated) and are not in the public domain and may not be used on websites, blogs, or in other media without advance permission from G Dan Mitchell.

Clearing Storm, Panamint Mountains

Posted on 17 April 2014 | Comment

Clearing Storm, Panamint Mountains

Clearing Storm, Panamint Mountains

Clearing Storm, Panamint Mountains. Death Valley National Park, California. April 2, 2014. © Copyright 2014 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

The remnant clouds of a spring storm clear over the snow-dusted peaks of the Panamint Mountains, Death Valley National Park

This was one of the most interesting and varied days I’ve spent in Death Valley, in terms of everything from the weather to photographic subjects. (It probably wasn’t the most varied day—that might be a story for another post sometime.) As is typical, the day began well before dawn with an early wake-up call and a long drive in the dark. In this case, the objective was to be at a high place with a panoramic view before sunrise. We arrived there in the early pre-dawn light to find that clouds were moving in. There was a brief moment of photographable sunrise light, and then the scene went relatively gray, though still with some interesting possibilities. As we left this spot we saw snow flurries on the peaks around us. We then photographed some old remnants of the mining activities in these mountains as the snow increased, at one point coming down fast enough that we decided to beat a retreat to a lower elevation. Intermittently things would clear a bit, and we took advantage of the soft light to make midday photographs of the abundant spring wildflowers.

Eventually the weather began to break up a bit and we had some sun. By this time in the afternoon what had been more or less universal cloudiness and snow in these mountains had transformed into scattered cells of precipitation, but mostly into beautiful blue sky interrupted by billowing, sunlit clouds, whose shadows raced across the high desert landscape. Here, as we returned from investigating what was at the end of a gravel back-country road and were about to return to the paved highway, we stopped to take one last look back towards the higher peaks of the Panamint Mountains.

G Dan Mitchell is a California photographer and visual opportunist whose subjects include the Pacific coast, redwood forests, central California oak/grasslands, the Sierra Nevada, California deserts, urban landscapes, night photography, and more.
Blog | About | Flickr | Twitter | FacebookGoogle+ | 500px.com | LinkedIn | Email

Text, photographs, and other media are © Copyright G Dan Mitchell (or others when indicated) and are not in the public domain and may not be used on websites, blogs, or in other media without advance permission from G Dan Mitchell.

Desert Mountains, Spring Rain

Posted on 16 April 2014 | Comment

Desert Mountains, Spring Rain

Desert Mountains, Spring Rain

Desert Mountains, Spring Rain. Death Valley National Park, California. April 2, 2014. © Copyright 2014 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

A spring storm moves across the summit of the Cottonwood Mountains, Death Valley National Park

I have long been intrigued by the rising layers of ridges in the Cottonwood Mountains of Death Valley National Park. Not only do they rise dramatically from the floor of the valley, but the view of more distant peaks evokes for me thoughts and memories of more remote places in the park, ranging from well-known locations like the Racetrack Playa to less known canyons and washes. Below the range is an enormous mass of alluvial material washed down from these mountains, and the base of the range is breached by many canyons. It can be challenging to photograph since it is some distance from easy overlooks, making haze an issue, and for other reasons.

This was a day of “interesting” and diverse weather. It began with the arrival of a weather front, scattered high mountain snow flurries that eventually became steady snow in our location, soft light as the snow diminished but clouds remained, and the gradual clearing with scattered weather cells passing by. As we descended from shooting in the Panamint Mountains—where is was largely clear by this time—we looked across the wide valley at the base of the Cottonwood Mountains to see that dramatic clouds filled the sky above the range as snow and rain showers pass across its peaks and valleys.

G Dan Mitchell is a California photographer and visual opportunist whose subjects include the Pacific coast, redwood forests, central California oak/grasslands, the Sierra Nevada, California deserts, urban landscapes, night photography, and more.
Blog | About | Flickr | Twitter | FacebookGoogle+ | 500px.com | LinkedIn | Email

Text, photographs, and other media are © Copyright G Dan Mitchell (or others when indicated) and are not in the public domain and may not be used on websites, blogs, or in other media without advance permission from G Dan Mitchell.

Desert Mallow Buds

Posted on 15 April 2014 | 2 comments

Desert Mallow Buds

Desert Mallow Buds

Desert Mallow Buds. Death Valley National Park, California. April 2, 2014. © Copyright 2014 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

Desert Mallow buds in the Panamint Mountains, Death Valley National Park

We found these flowers high in the Panamint Mountains not far from Death Valley National Park’s Emigrant Pass, though you can find them all over the park if you are there during the spring bloom. I’ve seen several names given to them: Desert Mallow, Orange Mallow, Globe Mallow. The fully developed flower opens into a goblet shape, but here we see some buds that are yet to open along with a few flowers than are just blooming.

I recently wrote that this turned out to be a pretty good wildflower year in Death Valley, perhaps to the surprise of many in the current drought-plagued period. Desert wildflowers seem to be very opportunistic, waiting if there is no water but bursting forth suddenly when it rains. Near the end of March and the beginning of April there was significant precipitation, especially in the higher elevation areas such as the Panamint Mountains. As we drove into the park we were somewhat surprised to see a lot of extensive wildflower displays, especially as we crossed Towne Pass. While there were not that many flowers on the valley floor, up high they were abundant. On this day we traveled up into the Panamints very early in the morning and then spent time wandering around and photographing various things. At one point we stopped alongside a section of the road where we spotted some large cactus plants, and we soon saw that the area was covered with all sorts of wildflowers.

G Dan Mitchell is a California photographer and visual opportunist whose subjects include the Pacific coast, redwood forests, central California oak/grasslands, the Sierra Nevada, California deserts, urban landscapes, night photography, and more.
Blog | About | Flickr | Twitter | FacebookGoogle+ | 500px.com | LinkedIn | Email

Text, photographs, and other media are © Copyright G Dan Mitchell (or others when indicated) and are not in the public domain and may not be used on websites, blogs, or in other media without advance permission from G Dan Mitchell.

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