Category Archives: Commentary

Man in Subway Car

Man in Subway Car
A man stands near the doorway between two cars of a historic New York subway car

Man in Subway Car. New York City. December 27, 2015. © Copyright 2015 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

A man stands near the doorway between two cars of a historic New York subway car

This is another of my historic subway photographs from late December 2015 in New York City. During the holiday season, on one day the system trots out the old rolling stock and folks can ride the old trains over a section of the modern subway system under Manhattan. We got there early and caught the first run of the train heading uptown, then caught it again for the trip back.

The experience is remarkable. Some of these subway cars are very old, and while they still look like subway cars there are aspects of the experience that are quite different. They are very noisy! Sometimes the lights switch off for a moment, presumably as the train rolls over un-powered sections. The passageways between cars are entirely open — the ends of the cars bounce up and down relative to one another and the wind streams past. This photographs looks through that inter-car passage and toward the connected car, where a man stands in the aisle.


G Dan Mitchell is a California photographer and visual opportunist. His book, “California’s Fall Color: A Photographer’s Guide to Autumn in the Sierra” is available from Heyday Books and Amazon.
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2015 Favorite Photographs

Every December I review the past year’s work, revisit twelve months of photographs and experiences, and share a set of my favorite images. I select a set that includes a variety of my photographs: The Sierra Nevada, Central Valley, and desert landscapes; seascapes; wildlife; a bit of night photography and some urban and street photography. Thanks for taking a moment to look at the photographs.

Enjoy!

G Dan Mitchell
December 30, 2015

Favorites from past years: 2015 Favorites | 2014 Favorites | 2013 Favorites | 2012 Favorites | 2011 Favorites | 2010 Favorites | 2009 Favorites | 2008 Favorites | 2007 Favorites | 2006 Favorites

Click on any of the following 2015 Favorite Photographs to produce a larger view, then click through the photographs in series.


G Dan Mitchell is a California photographer and visual opportunist. His book, “California’s Fall Color: A Photographer’s Guide to Autumn in the Sierra” is available from Heyday Books and Amazon.
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All media © Copyright G Dan Mitchell and others as indicated. Any use requires advance permission from G Dan Mitchell.

Photographer, Wetlands

Photographer, Wetlands
Water reflects clouds above photographer David Hoffman as he works from a levee in San Joaquin Valley wetlands.

Photographer, Wetlands. San Joaquin Valley, California. December 6, 2015. © Copyright 2015 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

Water reflects clouds above photographer David Hoffman as he works from a levee in San Joaquin Valley wetlands.

Passing through California’s Great Central Valley by car, you could be forgiven for thinking that there isn’t much there besides fast food, gas stations, freeway, and other stuff alongside the road. Get off the freeway, get out of the car, and slow down a bit, especially during the colder half of the year, and you may find a very different place. This little post is not the place to share the whole story, but for me the place is partly defined by its agricultural roots, partly by the sense that it is located between the coast ranges and the great Sierra Nevada, and partly by the sense I often get there of space and immense sky.

We had spent the morning photographing migratory birds and the somewhat hazy landscape. We broke for lunch in a nearby town and then returned for more photography in the mid afternoon. While we were at lunch the conditions changed — the light fog dissipated and high clouds from a Pacific weather front drifted across the sky. As we headed out toward a spot where we hoped to find birds for evening photography we paused along the levee and photographed the sky, its reflection in the wetlands pond, and the spare winter landscape. My friend and photographer David Hoffman is photographing the same pond from the far bank.


G Dan Mitchell is a California photographer and visual opportunist. His book, “California’s Fall Color: A Photographer’s Guide to Autumn in the Sierra” is available from Heyday Books and Amazon.
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All media © Copyright G Dan Mitchell and others as indicated. Any use requires advance permission from G Dan Mitchell.

Wetlands, Early Light

Wetlands, Early Light
Morning light and fog along a San Joaquin Valley levee.

Wetlands, Early Light. San Joaquin Valley, California. December 6, 2015. © Copyright 2015 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

Morning light and fog along a San Joaquin Valley levee.

I seem to have developed a ritual for photographing this favorite San Joaquin Valley location. Almost invariably I arrive very early in the morning, in the half hour before dawn. Often I meet photographer friends who have arrived from other places. We stop at an area near the entrance and greet one another, engage in a bit of small talk, marvel (again!) at the sound of tens of thousands of migratory birds just beyond out sight. We get in our vehicles and we start a circuit of the wetlands, first looking for a place to photograph the dawn. By now, after photographing there for a few years in variable conditions, we all have our favorite spots — this place if there is heavy fog, that spot if the birds are close by, another if it looks like we may have a clear view of sunrise.

On this morning I moved quickly past the first ponds to round a corner on the perimeter road and then stopped near a junction of several levees, at a spot that has often proved fruitful for my photography. There was a thin fog in the air and high, broken clouds were above the Sierra far to the east. Depending on which direction I chose to point that camera I found a range of subjects. Birds were nearby, the Sierra were in the distance, and in between was that flooded wetlands. As the first thin sunlight from the rising sun came through the fog I swung my camera back in the direction from which I had arrived and photographed along the levee route, past trees and brush to a long grove of old cottonwoods lying along the boundary.


G Dan Mitchell is a California photographer and visual opportunist. His book, “California’s Fall Color: A Photographer’s Guide to Autumn in the Sierra” is available from Heyday Books and Amazon.
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All media © Copyright G Dan Mitchell and others as indicated. Any use requires advance permission from G Dan Mitchell.

Forest Edge, Mountain Slopes, Evening

Forest Edge, Mountain Slopes, Evening
Forest edge in evening light with forest sloping upwards toward Sierra crest peaks

Forest Edge, Mountain Slopes, Evening. Yosemite National Park, California. July 13, 2015. © Copyright 2015 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

Forest edge in evening light with forest sloping upwards toward Sierra crest peaks

This is most certainly not an iconic view, but I’m sure that many fellow Yosemite high country aficionados have been to this spot and gazed at this and the surrounding view. (Part of one Yosemite high country icon does appear in this photograph, but it is the bottom part.)

Earlier on this visit to the park I had walked out into this landscape to photograph in the meadow, on low hills, among trees, and alongside a river. As I passed by here again on this early evening I stopped and was entranced by the warm evening light on the trees at the edge of the meadow and by the further forest-covered slopes rising into the alpine zone and eventually above tree line to the elevations where there is little but rock and tundra plants. While the landscape often seems rather static during the day, at moments like this near the beginning and ending of the day the landscape changes dynamically as light shifts and highlights and then shadows subjects.  I had only a brief moment to make this photograph (and a couple of others) before the light lifted from the trees and left them in shadow.


G Dan Mitchell is a California photographer and visual opportunist. His book, “California’s Fall Color: A Photographer’s Guide to Autumn in the Sierra” is available from Heyday Books and Amazon.
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All media © Copyright G Dan Mitchell and others as indicated. Any use requires advance permission from G Dan Mitchell.

Closing Time, Sunnyland Produce

Closing Time, Sunnyland Produce
Closing time at shops in San Francisco’s Chinatown district.

Closing Time, Sunnyland Produce. San Francisco, California. July 25, 2015. © Copyright 2015 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

Closing time at shops in San Francisco’s Chinatown district.

In late July I met up with a group of fellow night/street photographers in San Francisco. The group’s explorations ranged between the commercial hub of Union Square and the old neighborhood of North Beach. (The rest of the group got there before I did and they began with dinner in the latter district.) I finally connected with the group along Stockton Street, the less touristy portion of Chinatown.

I frequently walk though here but often don’t make too many photographs. I love the Stockton Street area, with its vibrant shops and busy morning crowds, but sometimes I feel a bit too intrusive making photographers there and then. But on this evening things were quieting down, shops were closing, and there were fewer people.


G Dan Mitchell is a California photographer and visual opportunist. His book, “California’s Fall Color: A Photographer’s Guide to Autumn in the Sierra” is available from Heyday Books and Amazon.
Blog | About | Flickr | Twitter | FacebookGoogle+ | 500px.com | LinkedIn | Email


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

Gray Areas

This post derives from something I wrote elsewhere in a discussion about a photograph that included something that wasn’t originally in the scene, a discussion that became rather polarized. 


“Not everybody trusts paintings but people believe photographs.” 
― Ansel Adams

Imaginary Landscape - Death Valley
An imaginary landscape derived from subjects photographed in Death Valley National Park.

All photographs lie. But all photographs carry a burden of reality.

Except for photographers who overtly and obviously manipulate reality in major ways as a central concept of their work — see Jerry Uelsmann, for example, or some work by John Paul Caponigro, among others — viewers come to photographs believing that the images had their genesis in the real. Photographers can respond to this basic presumption in photography in a number of ways, and perhaps in landscape photography the response has even more implications.

Let’s say you are Caponigro or Uelsmann and a major point of your photography is to produce visual art that derives from and references the landscape but then combines it with non-landscape elements or takes those elements and fundamentally rearranges them so that they intentionally no longer can be taken to represent the real landscape. These photographers openly embrace and build their work on creating imaginary fantastical worlds out of materials derived from the real landscape, creating what I refer to as “imaginary landscapes.” The photographer and the viewer are on exactly the same page here – both accept and embrace the fantasy and the sometimes more ambiguous line between the real and the imagined. This work seems completely honest and genuine.

On the other hand, let’s say you are a photographer who builds and bases a reputation not on the creation of visual fantasies — things we all know are not and cannot be real — but instead on going to great lengths to travel to “special places,” often telling stories of finding special places and special conditions that less focused and dedicated photographers do not find. Continue reading Gray Areas