Category Archives: Photographs: Utah

Eroded Ridge and Valley

Eroded Ridge and Valley
Eroded ridge and valley in the Waterpocket Fold area, Utah

Eroded Ridge and Valley. Capitol Reef National Park, Utah. October 22, 2014. © Copyright 2014 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

Eroded ridge and valley in the Waterpocket Fold area, Utah

This landscape could hardly be more different from the landscape in yesterday’s photograph. The earlier photograph was of Drake’s Estero, at the Point Reyes National Seashore, made on a day that was almost entirely foggy until a brief interval of filtered sun illuminated the blue waters of the estuary, a bit of green on a peninsula, and distant sky and water. None of those things are found in this photograph.

This landscape from Capitol Reef National Park is austere, arid, and quite rugged. It has a special beauty, but it is not a beauty with soft edges, misty skies, and water. Here the land is laid bare, seeming from a distance to be devoid of plant life. (Once inside this landscape, it turns out to be a bit more alive than it might seem.) Geology and the effects of time are visible in these places with their colored layers of rock, deeply cut valleys, and rugged erosion forms. Here gullies lie below rocky ridges, and two valleys come together in a flat area laced by stream beds.


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 and others as indicated. Any use requires advance permission from G Dan Mitchell.

Redrock Country, Near Fruita

Redrock Country, Near Fruita
Cliffs and eroded towers near Fruita, Capitol Reef National Park

Redrock Country, Near Fruita. Capitol Reef National Park, Utah. October 20, 2014. © Copyright 2014 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

Cliffs and eroded towers near Fruita, Capitol Reef National Park

I’m a sucker for juxtapositions of mountains and cliffs, and sunlit and shadowed surfaces. (In fact, “juxtaposition” is a word I think about a lot when making photographs.) This part of the world provides these juxtapositions with a vengeance. Everywhere in the red rock country of the Southwest there are sandstone walls, lined up, building one on top of the other, standing in front of and behind each other, layered with eroded rock and soil, standing above valleys and beyond lower ridges.

We had only a brief time to photograph on this first afternoon in Capitol Reef National Park. I had arrived in the middle of the afternoon and then busied myself with setting up a tent and a few other camp chores, plus catching up on the news with my friend Dave. By the time all of these important things had been taken care of the sun was rapidly dropping toward the horizon, so we quickly headed to a nearby area to see what sort of late-day light we could find. Literally within minutes of leaving our campground (which is just to the right of the shadowed trees visible in the lower part of the photograph) we came upon this intense and saturated late-day light, with shadows starting to stretch across the valley and the low foreground ridges.


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 and others as indicated. Any use requires advance permission from G Dan Mitchell.

Sandstone Cliffs, Autumn

Sandstone Cliffs, Autumn
Evening light on the autumn sandstone landscape of Capitol Reef National Park, Utah

Sandstone Cliffs, Autumn. Capitol Reef National Park, Utah. October 20, 2014. © Copyright 2014 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

Evening light on the autumn sandstone landscape of Capitol Reef National Park, Utah

I began this fall season visit to Utah in the far southwest corner of the state, making Kanab my base for the first few days. There I explored various valleys and canyons, mostly improvising an itinerary as the mood struck me. I returned there to a few places I had visited in the past and also visited a few new places. After a few days here I took a back-route up to Capitol Reef where I would meet up with my friend and fellow photographer David Hoffman.

I arrived at Capitol Reef in the afternoon, found Dave’s campsite (he had arrived earlier) and set up my tent. As I recall, we were unable to resist the lure of the nearby place selling home-made pies, and it wasn’t until late in the day that we decided to make a quick run for some sunset light. We found it quickly — the location of our campground is just out of sight to the right around the bend in the road running up this valley. Because the landscape tilts up to the west here, the sunset seems to come a bit earlier than I would expect, and we were barely in time of catch this light before the valley fell into shadow.


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


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Arch and Canyon

Arch and Canyon
A large arch above a Utah sandstone canyon

Arch and Canyon. Utah. October 24, 20114. © Copyright 2015 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

A large arch above a Utah sandstone canyon

I have been down this canyon a couple of times now. The walk begins in what might seem like an inauspicious place in rather plain terrain. Soon the route drops below the level of the plateau and enters the upper portion of a shallow canyon. Continuing to walk into this canyon, the walls soon rise higher and the canyon narrows and twists. Before long the expected sandstone walls appear.

As is usually the case, we followed the course of the creek along the bottom of the canyon, alternately walking in it, walking next to it, or cutting over higher ground between bends in its course. Places like this are full of distractions, and stops are frequently to photograph water seeping over rocks, trees with fall colors, arrangements of rocks and pebbles, reflections and always the sandstone canyon walls. Eventually we reached a familiar personal landmark along the route where we stopped to photograph, eat, and talk. A short distance beyond and the around another bend, and a path led up to a high point, from which there was a view through this arch back into the canyon.


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


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Sculpted Canyon Rock, Plant

Sculpted Canyon Rock, Plant
A lone plant grows in a crack in sculpted Utah canyon sandstone

Sculpted Canyon Rock, Plant. Utah. October 19, 2014. © Copyright 2014 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

A lone plant grows in a crack in sculpted Utah canyon sandstone

These canyons feel isolated from the rest of the outside world. In the narrow sections, the only view of the familiar world may be a small strip of sky directly overhead. The tall canyon walls, which may be only feet apart, block any view of the surrounding terrain, and the focus of my attention narrows down to the section of the canyon where I find myself, the walls where I stand a some short distance ahead before the canyon twists out of sight.

Not only are we visually cut off from the outside, but we are also isolated acoustically. No sound makes it down into the bottoms of the canyons from the above. In the canyon there may be the sounds of quietly flowing water, and perhaps the tinkling sound of water dropping over rocks. A bird may sing. The sound of my footsteps echoes between the walls. In this spot, daytime sunlight high above bounced between the canyon walls, diffusing until a wash of soft red-tinted light reached the canyon bottom. Horizontal layers had eroded at varying rates, a jagged crack cut the canyon wall vertically, and one plant grew in the crack.


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


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Canyon Walls, Plant

Canyon Walls, Plant
A long plant grows from sandstone walls deep within a Utah slot canyon

Canyon Walls, Plant. Utah. October 19, 2014. © Copyright 2014 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

A lone plant grows from sandstone walls deep within a Utah slot canyon

I had the opportunity to spend a significant period of time photographing in Utah back in October of 2014. Although I got a late start with Utah (only photographing there for the first time a few years ago) I have been doing my best to make up for lost time. I’ve spent between a month and a month and a half there in total over the past couple of years. During that time I have come to love autumn in the canyons. Oh, heck, I think I love autumn just about anywhere in Utah!

I walked into this canyon early on last fall’s trip. I had arrived at my first Utah stopover place the night before, looked at a map, and figured I might find something interesting in this general area. (I’m not always a careful advanced planner, preferring to wing it depending on the light and my mood.) The walk began in terrain that was more of a wash than a canyon, but before long the sandstone walls closed in and narrowed and I was walking through slots. The light in such places can be magical at the right moments, usually when the sun rises high enough in the sky to project into the upper reaches of the canyon, where it bounces and diffuses as it fills the canyon below with saturated light.


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 and others as indicated. Any use requires advance permission from G Dan Mitchell.

Canyon and Stream

Canyon and Stream
Canyon and Stream

Canyon and Stream. Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Utah. October 24, 2014. © Copyright 2014 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

A small rock-filled stream wanders along the bottom of a deep Utah red rock canyon

Yet another bend in yet another Utah canyon! We had hiked a good distance down into the depths of this canyon, finally stopping (most of us, anyway) at a scenic bend with lots of interesting photographic subjects. We held up there to make photographs, to sit and talk, and to eat. A few of us went a bit farther and some went a good distance more, but soon we had all checked our watches and realized it was time to start back..

This spot is just below a narrow section of the canyon where the water flows through a narrow cleft and around a big curve. Here, below that section, it seems like the flow must slow a bit, since a few more trees manage to grow here and the bed of the creek held a lot of river rocks and silt. In the distance the canyon curves more toward the west, and this allows a bit more light down into the canyon, producing a bit of a glow ahead.


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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