Category Archives: Photographs: White Mountains

Owens Valley Sky

Owens Valley Sky
Owens Valley Sky

Owens Valley Sky. Owens Valley, California. August 6, 2005. © Copyright 2011 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

Dramatic thunderstorms begin to build above Owens Valley, flanked by the White Mountains and the eastern Sierra Nevada range.

If there is any good news about starting to run out of space on my hard drive, it might be that it encourages me to begin the process of reviewing my tens of thousands of archived raw image files, and that leads me to look through files that I haven’t revisited in a long time – and during this process I find photographs that I had forgotten about. Not only is it worthwhile to rediscover these photographs that ended up buried in the archive, but it is also a chance to recall some of the trips on which the photographs were made.

This photograph is yet another (of many!) that wouldn’t have happened at all if it were not for a whole unpredictable series of events and circumstances. I’ll make the story as short as I can, but it is still a bit involved. Almost every summer I share a long pack trip with a group of my friends. In 2005 we had come up with a 14-day trip along a good portion of the John Muir Trail between roughly the Ediza Lake area and Bishop Pass, which included one of the very few sections of the JMT that I had not hiked. We started at Agnew Meadow, headed up past Shadow Lake, turned south on the JMT, stopped at Reds Meadow, continued on to the Duck and Purple Lakes area… where I started to feel like I might be coming down with some sort of bug. Discretion being the better part of valor and all that, I decided that the prudent thing was to bail out of the trip and exit to Mammoth Lakes since the idea of getting sick on the fourth day of a 14-day hike with a large group was not appealing.

So I hiked out. Ironically, once I crossed the pass to head down to the Mammoth area, I recovered – but it was now too late to rejoin my group since they would be two days ahead of me on the trail at this point. Since I was back at my car now and feeling just fine I figured that I might as well do something else before heading home, so I decided to drive up into the White Mountains and visit the Bristlecone Pine forest. On the way back down from the Whites I just happened to pull out at this spot where the high desert terrain was extra green around a creek, on an afternoon when monsoon conditions were leading to a buildup of afternoon clouds above the Sierra, the Whites, and Owens Valley between the two ranges.

G Dan Mitchell Photography
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From the Panamints to the Sierra, Evening

From the Panamints to the Sierra, Evening
From the Panamints to the Sierra, Evening

From the Panamints to the Sierra, Evening. Death Valley National Park, California. March 30, 2011. © Copyright G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

The Sierra Nevada in evening light as seen from Aguereberry Point in Death Valley National Park’s Panamint Range.

I made this photograph from Aguereberry Point shortly before sunset. Aguereberry Point is a lonely prominence over 6000′ above Death Valley, high in the Panamint Mountain range, a place of astonishing panoramic views – and often some significant winds. As I drove the gravel road to the point late in the afternoon I saw three or four other vehicles heading the other direction, but when I arrived at the point a bit more than an hour before sunset no one else was there.

Having photographed here a few times previously, I am becoming more familiar with the challenges and the opportunities of shooting here. One of the challenges – as is the case in many spots in Death Valley – is that certain subjects seem to be “photographable” at very specific times and only for short intervals. One of the most interesting views from Aguereberry is southeast down into Trail Canyon and on to the lower slopes of Wildrose Peak beyond. This is wild, rugged, austere terrain. However, because it lies on the east side of this range the light changes quickly from a washed out blast of daytime sun to sudden deep shadows as the sun drops behind the higher ridges of the Panamints. (Trail Canyon is not seen in this photograph.)

Another challenge is that, impressive and overwhelming as the scale of this grand scene is, it can be difficult to pull interesting compositions out of it. I tend to work with longer lenses here, both to isolate smaller areas out of the huge landscape and to compress distance. In this photograph, the silhouetted crest of the highest part of the Sierra Nevada range is on the horizon, with the intervening ridges of the Panamint Range and others probably including the Inyo Mountains and the ridge just west of Panamint Valley.

And, since I tend towards those large and long lenses… wind is an issue! And on top of Aguereberry Point there is nothing to stop the often strong winds of Death Valley. On this evening the winds were howling, so I found a spot below some rocks where it was a bit less windy and then spent a lot time waiting for momentary lulls in the wind when I could make photographs.

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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.

Thunderstorm, White Mountains

StormWhiteMtns2005|08|06: Thunderstorm over the Sierra Nevada. White Mountains, California. August 6, 2005. © "Copyright G Dan Mitchell". ("sales")    keywords: white mountains thunderstorm thunderhead high desert clouds sierra nevada black and white photograph california

Thunderstorm over the Sierra Nevada. White Mountains, California. August 6, 2005. © Copyright G Dan Mitchell. (Sales)

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Bristlecone Pine Forest

BristleconeForest2006|08|06: Bristlecone Pine Forest. White Mountains, California. August 6, 2005. © "Copyright G Dan Mitchell". ("sales")    keywords: bristlecone pine forest white mountains clouds california color photograph

Bristlecone Pine Forest. White Mountains, California. August 6, 2005. © Copyright G Dan Mitchell. (Sales)

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Patriarch Grove

PatriarchGrove2005|08|06: Patriarch Grove. Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest. August 6, 2005. © Copyright Dan Mitchell.
Patriarch Grove. Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest. August 6, 2005. © Copyright G Dan Mitchell.

This is the highest (11,000+ elevation) grove in the Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest in the White Mountains of California.

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White Mountains Ridge

WhiteMountainRidge2005|08|06: Ridge. White Mountains. August 6, 2005. © Copyright G Dan Mitchell.
Ridge. White Mountains. July 6, 2005. © Copyright Dan Mitchell.

Last Saturday I found myself with a free day in the town of Bishop in California’s Owens Valley east of the Sierra Nevada. I decided to follow the road up into the Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest high in the White Mountains, the next range east of the Sierras.

I drove as far as the highest grove at over 11,000 feet, something like 12 miles out on a narrow dirt track. The road continues another four miles to a locked gate, beyond which are UC research facilities including one at the top of 14,000+ White Mountain.

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