Category Archives: Photographs: Nature

Sierra Crest, Reflections, Morning

Sierra Crest, Reflections, Morning
Morning light on peaks reflecting in an eastern Sierra lake.

Sierra Crest, Reflections, Morning. Eastern Sierra Nevada, California. July 4, 2006. © Copyright 2006 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

Morning light on peaks reflecting in an eastern Sierra lake.

Almost a decade ago I met my brother Richard and his family for a backpacking trip into the eastern Sierra in the area between about the Minarets and Thousand Island Lake. It is almost hard to recall a time when the Sierra was this wet and this green at this point in the season — let’s hope for a turn-around in the weather and a season or two like this one.

The weather during this trip was in the wet phase of a common Sierra summer pattern, where days of “perfect” (perfectly boring!) blue sky weather eventually lead to a build-up of clouds and a few days of thunderstorms. We had some precipitation on most days, including at least one when we were caught by surprise on a day hike to a nearby lake — we began in sun, we arrived at the lake in sun… and then all of a sudden we could see that rain was about to arrive. We high-tailed it back to camp, but got caught by rain before we arrived. This photograph was made the next morning, as the first light was just touching the peaks of Mounts Ritter and Banner above Ediza Lake, and already to moisture was visible in the clouds that were forming even at dawn.


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.

A Photograph Exposed: “Shoreline Reflections, Trees and Rocks”

(“A Photograph Exposed”  is a series exploring some of my photographs in greater detail.)

Shoreline Reflections, Trees and Rocks
Shoreline Reflections, Trees and Rocks

Shoreline Reflections, Trees and Rocks. Yosemite National Park, California. June 30, 2010. © Copyright G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

Black and white photograph of silhouetted trees and boulders and their reflections lining a flooded section of the shoreline of Tenaya Lake.

This photograph is a personal favorite for a bunch of reasons related to how the photograph came about, the experience of making the photograph, associations with the place, and a print that pleases me a great deal.

I maintain the no photographer’s work is wholly original. What comes closest to being truly original is the personal vision of the artist — that particular way of seeing that the photographer develops. That vision is actually unique, but it is built from experiences and exposure to a visual world that includes the ways of seeing of other photographers and painters and more. I acknowledge and am grateful to a wide range of photographers whose work informs my way of seeing the world.

Continue reading A Photograph Exposed: “Shoreline Reflections, Trees and Rocks”

Dawn, Eastern Sierra, Mono Lake

Dawn, Eastern Sierra, Mono Lake
Dawn light comes to the eastern escarpment of the Sierra Nevada and Mono Lake.

Dawn, Eastern Sierra, Mono Lake. Sierra Nevada, California. July 3, 2007.© Copyright 2007 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

Dawn light comes to the eastern escarpment of the Sierra Nevada and Mono Lake.

Some years back I visited Mono Lake very early one morning with my brother, Richard, who is also a dedicated landscape photographer. My recollection is that we had arrived separately in the eastern Sierra and somehow ended up meeting here near the town of Lee Vining and heading out to this familiar spot before dawn to make photographs.

I never know exactly what will turn up here. Yes, I can always photograph those tufa towers, but I’m usually often interested in special atmospheric effects: haze, clouds, broken dawn light, the glow on the peaks of the eastern Sierra, reflections in the morning-smooth water. We began by photographing fairly conventional photographs of the tufa towers before the light arrived. It was a cloudy morning, though the deck of clouds was broken, allowing some light to make it through the gaps and a momentary band of light to strike the mountains as the sun came up beneath the far edge of the clouds in the east. I must have made this photograph fairly close to that moment. Most of the scene is in shadow, but bands of light appear on the peaks, and a bit of softer light illuminates the foreground tufa.


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.

Lake, Rocks, and Clouds

Lake, Rocks, and Clouds
Evening clouds reflected in the surface of an alpine lake with a cluster of rocks

Lake, Rocks, and Clouds. Yosemite National Park, California. July 2, 2007. © Copyright 2007 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

Evening clouds reflected in the surface of an alpine lake with a cluster of rocks

I recently revisited this older photograph, one that I had shared in a color rendition in the past, and this time I felt like I wanted to see it in monochrome. This is a sort of scene probably familiar to anyone who has spent much time in the high country of the Sierra Nevada, that region where lakes, large sub-alpine meadows, sparse trees, and surrounding peaks come together to produce a landscape like no other.

This is a lake I visit frequently, typically several times each season. I visit it for several reasons, ranging from practical to aesthetic. The lake is not too far from roadways, and it is common that I find that I have enough time available on a late afternoon to park my car, load up my pack, and do the short but steep hike up and over a nearby ridge to get to this alpine world. In fact, it is one of the places where I can arrive at that world rather quickly. Once there I tend to explore the familiar landscape, often revisiting lakes, rocks, streams, and trees that I have visited many times before. As the evening wears on, I know that I should head back to my car before dark, but I am never able to leave quite quickly enough, and I end up lingering through sunset and into early dusk, often ending up on the that ridge between me and the road as darkness comes on, and arriving at my car after dark.


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.

A Photograph Exposed: “Two Rocks, Morning, Racetrack Playa”

(“A Photograph Exposed”  is a series exploring some of my photographs in greater detail.)

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 A Photograph Exposed: “Two Rocks, Morning, Racetrack Playa”

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.

Death Valley, Evening

Death Valley, Evening
Evening light on the playa of Death Valley, with lower slopes of the Panamint Mountains rising beyond

Death Valley, Evening. Death Valley National Park, California. March 30, 2015. © Copyright 2015 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

Evening light on the playa of Death Valley, with lower slopes of the Panamint Mountains rising beyond

Since I’ve been traveling to and around Death Valley National Park for more than 15 years now, I’ve seen a lot of the park — but I most certainly have not see all of it, nor have I completely learned how to see everything in it. This is a huge place, varying greatly by location, terrain, season, weather and more. Frankly, the experience of coming to know such a place over time is one of the things I value most about such locations. While I love to “discover” a place that is completely new to me (and Death Valley was that place in the late 1990s for me), the longer process of learning the place and its rhythms more deeply is also, I think, more rewarding. It is wonderful to see a desert gully in evening light for the first time, but it may be even more beautiful to come back to it and recognize an old and familiar friend.

Along these lines, a few years ago, as I continued to push out my own boundaries of experience and knowledge in Death Valley, I began to think more about how to make photographs of things that I might have not thought worthy of a photograph before. I realized that many of these things that don’t scream “photograph me!” are otherwise a core part of the experience of this place: a vast and quiet “empty” landscape, midday sun, haze obscuring great distances, the edge between the last vegetation and a barren playa, a beam of light slanting across an alluvial fan. And if they are central to the sense of the place, it seems that there must be a way to photograph them. And that is a new challenge for me in my Death Valley photography.


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.