Desert Mountain Valley

Desert Mountain Valley
Desert Mountain Valley

Desert Mountain Valley. Death Valley National Park, California. April 4, 2013. © Copyright 2013 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

A dry and rocky little valley high in the Amargosa Mountains, Death Valley National Park

I have photographed in Death Valley for some time now, and I enjoy the place immensely. I try to spend a week or so photographing there each year, and sometimes get there more than once. With my familiarity with the place in mind, on my early 2013 visit I started to think about a different way to try to photograph this landscape. I’m not sure quite where this will lead just yet, but this is among a few photographs that mark my foray down this slightly different path.

Photographs never provide the viewer with a complete view of the objective reality of the subject. I like to say that “All photographs lie.” In the nicest way, of course. ;-) What I mean is that a photograph will diverge from the real in two basic ways. First, there are non-visual aspects of the real experience of being in such a place that the photograph, while possibly suggesting them, cannot “capture” – the heat, the feeling of an early morning breeze in a desert canyon, dust, and more. Second, the photographer necessarily imposes his or her way of seeing the place on the photograph – realistically, this cannot be avoided. We choose when to be there and make the photograph, we wait for “just the right light,” we decide how to juxtapose and frame the elements of the scene, we determine what you don’t see, and so forth. If you only saw photographs of Death Valley, even the most beautiful and compelling work, you would see only a small subset of what the place consists of, with emphasis on certain “spectacular” landscapes and types of light. I started thinking that the appeal of the place is not limited to just those experiences in the familiar photographs and that, as hard as it is to make a photograph of such things, a simple desert canyon winding toward a rocky ridge is an appealing thing when you are there – so it should be possible to make a photograph that somehow conveys that. This is one such place; basically an anonymous bit of canyon and hillside in morning light high in the Amargosa Range.

(By the way, on the day I’m posting this to the queue at my blog – June 30, 2013 – we are in the middle of a record-breaking heat wave here in California. I’m sure that this would be a particularly unpleasant place to be today!)

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.

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