Category Archives: Photographs: Southern California

Morning, Mountains, Desert Canyons

Morning, Mountains, Desert Canyons
Cloud-filled sky at first light above desert mountains and canyon, Death Valley National Park

Morning, Mountains, Desert Canyons. Death Valley National Park, California. March 28, 2016. © Copyright 2016 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

Cloud-filled sky at first light above desert mountains and canyon, Death Valley National Park

As I post this photograph on the summer solstice, this location is perhaps not a place you would want to be right now. I understand that temperatures in Death Valley National Park have been in the 120 degree range already this summer. But back on this March morning the scene was a lot different — clouds from a passing Pacific weather front obscured the dawn light, and there was a pleasantly cool wind at this location high in the Panamint range as the morning light arrived.

This view looks down through one of the many gigantic canyons of the Panamint Range, a sight that reminds us of just how important the flow of water has been in the creation of this remarkable landscape. In the middle distance the salt flats of Death Valley are visible at the base of the Black Mountains, and above that the demarcations between mountains and clouds and sky and light are hard to see, and the terrain of the rugged Death Valley landscape almost merges with the ephemeral terrain of this sky.


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.

Canyon Narrows

Canyon Narrows
Twisting narrows in a desert canyon, Death Valley

Canyon Narrows. Death Valley National Park, California. April 30, 2016. © Copyright 2016 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

Twisting narrows in a desert canyon, Death Valley

On a late spring day of wind and sand storms in Death Valley National Park — and after several days of such conditions — we retreated to one of the deep and narrow desert canyons for an afternoon. After a short walk across the upper edges of a giant alluvial fan, we dropped into the lower reaches of the canyon and headed uphill. Soon the path entered the base of the range and the walls began to narrow, and the wide open world of the desert floor was invisible to us.

The canyons of Death Valley are in some ways similar to the more famous slot canyons of the Southwest. Both are formed by water coursing down narrow canyons, sometimes at high rates that rearrange the geography of the canyons significantly. But there are differences. Here the canyons are most often dry — a year round water supply in such Death Valley places is not typical. And the rock is not the familiar red sandstone of the Southwest, but here a more contorted and broken and often less colorful rock. But sections are very beautiful, and there is something very magical about this section of this canyon, as it narrows and passed between inward curving walls.


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.

Buildings, Venice Beach

Buildings, Venice Beach
Venice Beach buildings in midday sun

Buildings, Venice Beach. Venice Beach, California. April 1, 2016. © Copyright 2016 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

Venice Beach buildings in midday sun

Finally. A photograph that is not Death Valley. Don’t worry, there are still more Death Valley photographs, and this one did come from the same trip. On our return from Death Valley we swung through the LA Basin to visit our daughter and son-in-law, replacing natural pleasures with the distinctly urban experiences of Los Angeles. On April 1 we went to Venice Beach to visit the G2 Gallery, where photographer friends exhibit from time to time. (We enjoyed the gallery quite a bit — some lovely photographs by Clyde Butcher and Jack Dykinga were featured that week.)

Out of the gallery and on the street I had an opportunity to play with a new camera, my Fujifilm X-Pro2, which had arrived shortly before we left for Death Valley. The street being the perfect place for such a camera, I pulled it out and made a few photographs. Initially I expected that this would be a color photograph, but as I worked on it in post I began to feel that it had potential in black and white.


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.

Funeral No Parking

Funeral No Parking
Street signs stored next to a funeral parlor doorway, New York City

Funeral No Parking. New York City. December 24. 2015. © Copyright 2015 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

Street signs stored next to a funeral parlor doorway, New York City

I can state with certainty that this is the only time I have made night photographs of funeral homes in Manhattan on Christmas Eve. Go ahead! Prove me wrong! ;-)

So, how did this happen? As many street/urban photographs happen. I have a camera with me wherever I go, day and night, in places like this, and when I see something that catches my eye I make a photograph. We had started the evening by briefly joining the throng up on 5th Avenue where there are tons of holiday lights and displays. After leaving that madhouse we headed down toward Chinatown to find a place where we have had dinner a few times before — but we arrived to find that it had apparently become very popular since our last visit. We were told that the wait might be two hours. So we set out to find something less crowded nearly. We eventually found a nice quite Vietnamese restaurant but first we passed this side street with the doors and glowing windows of this funeral parlor.


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.

Hollywood

Hollywood
The Hollywood sign and antennas

Hollywood. Los Angeles, California. November 28, 2015. © Copyright 2015 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

The Hollywood sign and antennas

Yes. That sign. I suppose that everyone (probably) needs a photograph of the thing and, believe it or not, this is my first. There I was. There the sign was. The light was attractive. I photographed it. ;-)

During a four-day visit to Southern California we ended up making a drive up north to central Los Angeles to visit a museum, and since I had never been to the Griffith Observatory before — really! — we decided to correct that. In the late afternoon we headed to Griffith Park with, or so it seemed, about half of the population of the Los Angeles basin. We eventually caught a shuttle and soon found ourselves among the crowd at the observatory. Crowds aside, it is quite a place… and there, off to the right, was the famous sign. As something of an iconophobe, I have to admit that I did not realize that it would be visible from here!


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.

Observation Deck, Griffith Observatory

Observation Deck, Griffith Observatory
Visitors to Griffith Observatory overlook Los Angeles twilight.

Observation Deck, Griffith Observatory. Los Angeles, California. November 28, 2015. © Copyright 2015 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

Visitors to Griffith Observatory overlook Los Angeles twilight.

We were in Southern California over the Thanksgiving holiday, visiting our daughter and son-in-law. On the weekend we decided to head up to Los Angeles for various things, including a visit to the Frans Lanting show at the Annenberg Space for Photography. We finished up there, headed out for food (of course!) and then decided to head to Griffith Park.

We were apparently among approximately 350,000 people with the same idea! I’m not sure what a typical crowd looks like here, but this one was huge. We finally abandoned our rental car well below the observatory and found a shuttle bus that went up the hill. We arrived a bit before sunset and found that hordes were already there. But I can see why — it is a spectacular location. Although I was only carrying my “little camera,” I decided to see what I could come up with. Eventually I photographed the actual sunset, but first I turned the camera towards the people crowded onto the walkways around the observatory and standing in the beautiful light watching the evening develop.


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.

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.
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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.