A Photograph Exposed: Two Rocks, Morning, Racetrack Playa

(“A Photograph Exposed” is a series of posts looking more closely at the background of some of my photographs.)

Two Rocks, Morning, Racetrack Playa - Black and white photograph of two "moving rocks" on the Racetrack Playa at Death Valley National Park. Morning light with unusual clouds, and the Grandstand in the distance.

Black and white photograph of two “moving rocks” on the Racetrack Playa at Death Valley National Park. Morning light with unusual clouds, and the Grandstand in the distance.

Two Rocks, Morning, Racetrack Playa. Death Valley National Park, California. April 3, 2006. © Copyright 2006. G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

Moving rocks, lenticular clouds — morning on the Racetrack Playa.

This photograph from Death Valley’s Racetrack Playa is one of the first I made when I began photographing this landscape seriously, and it may still be my favorite photograph from the park — yet it also carries a flaw that I’ll mention below.

My first visit to Death Valley National Park had been perhaps seven years earlier at the very end of the previous millennium, when I was one of several adults accompanying a group of middle school and high school students on a visit that was to include a short backpack trip in the Cottonwood Canyon area. The story of that trip deserves its own article. That article would describe snow, near-hypothermia, winds that blew down tents, a retreat from the pack trip, an attempt to hike down the upper portion of Death Valley, water shortages, a dust storm, a dangerous situation with a bus, and more.

I’ll never forget my first view of this great valley. We had arrived in the park after dark, stopping between Towne Pass and Stovepipe Wells at a small campground a few thousand feet above the valley floor, where we set up in the darkness and went to sleep. Having never seen the Valley before, the next morning I unzipped my tent and stepped outside to see the stupendous “oh wow!” landscape of the valley and the mountains on the far side in the beautiful morning light. I was hooked, and I’ve been going back annually for more than fifteen years.  Continue reading

Alps, Berechtesgaden National Park

Alps, Berchtesgaden National Park

A trail passes through the Bavarian Alps of Berchtesgaden National Park, Germany

Alps, Berchtesgaden National Park. Berchtesgaden, Germany. July 18, 2013. © Copyright 2013 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

A trail passes through the Bavarian Alps of Berchtesgaden National Park, Germany

This was a special day on our three-week 2013 trip to England, Germany and a bit of Austria. Most of the trip, not surprisingly, was a rather urban experience. (I like those, too!) Particularly in London, the least urbanized part of the experience were brief visits to urban parks. Heidelberg perhaps had a less intensely urban feeling, though it still is very definitely a town/city environment for the most part. When we got off the train in Salzburg we were most certainly in another urbanized place, and even the beautiful area where we stayed in a Bavarian farmhouse was quite civilized — a town was a short distance away and we could walk to bakeries and even a restaurant. From the yard of the farmhouse we could look up to the alpine heights of the Watzmann, a truly alpine peak and the second highest in Germany, but it was something to look towards rather than a place to be.

This day started in a similar civilized manner: a drive to a large parking lot, purchasing tickets, and then getting on the Jennerbahn tram. The tram ride was, of course, spectacular as it took us up to a mountaintop lodge. But when we stepped out of that lodge and onto a system of trails that took us across a high ridge with views of spectacular alpine terrain and then dropped us into the top of a long high valley, this Sierra Nevada guy felt the familiar pull of 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.

A Photograph Exposed: San Francisco Skyline, Winter Fog and Haze

(“A Photograph Exposed” is a series of posts looking more closely at the background of some of my photographs.)

San Francisco Skyline, Winter Fog and Haze

San Francisco Skyline, Winter Fog and Haze

San Francisco Skyline, Winter Fog and Haze. San Francisco, California. December 18, 2009. © Copyright 2009 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

Fog and haze obscure the winter skyline of downtown San Francisco, California.

It is unlikely that any view of San Francisco will be entirely unique, but I haven’t seen many other photographs of the City’s skyline that look quite like this one. It isn’t unusual for people who see the photograph (especially as a print) to ask, “Is that real?” It is as real as a photograph gets, and the conditions actually occurred — the only time I have seen them quite like this, with quite this soft and subtle atmosphere and light. (The post-processing on this photograph was relatively minimal, and a lot of it was about controlling the brightness of that bright cloud high in the sky.)

Living in the San Francisco Bay Area, I frequently drive north over the Golden Gate Bridge to photograph in the redwoods, along the coast, or at Point Reyes National Seashore. This usually means leaving home well before the sun rises, and depending on where I’m headed, I usually cross the bridge right around dawn. The plan is to pause and look at the scene in the early light and decide if something really interesting might happen — and it that seems probable I’ll photograph here for a while before moving on.

The light and atmosphere on this winter morning were special enough to get me to pause. Continue reading

Brick Walls, Bear Gardens

Brick Walls, Bear Gardens

Brick buildings along narrow streets, Bear Gardens, Southwark, London

Brick Walls, Bear Gardens. London, England. July 5, 2013. © Copyright 2013 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

Brick buildings along narrow streets, Bear Gardens, Southwark, London

Yes, another London photograph. We had a bit of time between appointments and we ended up wandering around this area for a while in the evening. Here there are very old brick buildings along narrow streets that twist this way and that. This wall lined up almost perfectly with the setting sun, which glanced across its surface, highlighting the texture and catching an edge of the bricks straight on.

I didn’t share this photograph for a long time. I continued to go back and forth between a black and white rendition — which may allow the forms to seem a bit more abstract — and this version with its warmer colors and more subtle gradations of tones. (On an unrelated topic, why do I keep wanting to write “beer gardens” rather than “bear gardens?” ;-)


G Dan Mitchell is a California photographer and visual opportunist. Blog | About | Flickr | Twitter | FacebookGoogle+ | 500px.com | LinkedIn | Email


All media © Copyright G Dan Mitchell or others where indicated. Any use requires advance permission from G Dan Mitchell.

Silver Sandals

Silver Sandals

A person wearing silver sandals walks across wet concrete and stone, Trafalgar Square, London

Silver Sandals. London, England. July 8, 2013. © Copyright 2013 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

A person wearing silver sandals walks across wet concrete and stone, Trafalgar Square, London

We ended up in Trafalgar Square in the late afternoon. If I recall correctly, we were sort of between planned activities, so we just wandered around here a bit without any particular goal in mind —I think the plan was to meet up with others a bit later and head of to do something. Trafalgar is a busy place, surrounded by traffic and filled with tourists and others. This can make provide quite an opportunity for street photography, with the potential for just about anything to happen and for any sort of person to walk by.

Before long a cleaning crew showed up and went to work on a section of the square when lots of people had been congregating, using high pressure water to clean off the accumulated grime. Their method of clearing the area was fascinating. They blocked off a small section and then began spraying, gradually pushing out the boundaries, and spraying enough water to persuade those close by to move away. In the aftermath of some of this spraying, a person wearing silver sandals walked along this linear section of the square, with alternating stone, reflections, and shadows beyond.


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.