Category Archives: Southern California

A Photograph Exposed: Two Rocks, Morning, Racetrack Playa

(“A Photograph Exposed” is a series of posts looking more closely at the background of some of my photographs.)

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

Umbrellas, Getty Center Garden

Umbrellas, Getty Center Garden
Umbrellas, Getty Center Garden

Umbrellas, Getty Center Garden. Los Angeles, California. December 30, 2009. © Copyright G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

Visitors walk through the garden on a rainy and foggy afternoon day at the Getty Center, Los Angeles, California.

I’m probably just about the only person who goes to the Getty Center hoping for rain… and who is regards himself as lucky when he gets rain… and fog! :-)

We were in LA during the past week to visit my daughter and our son-in-law, and we decided to stop at the Getty on the start of our return drive to the SF Bay Area. I’m always fascinated by the grounds of the Getty and by the opportunities to photograph people on those grounds, and interesting weather makes this even more appealing. On top of that my daughter had told us about the wonderful Rembrandt exhibit and I was looking forward to the Irving Penn “Small Trades” photographs on display. (It is a great exhibit – see it if you are in the area.)

I often confess that as much as I enjoy the art at the Getty, I enjoy the Getty as architecture and urban landscape just as much. Although few of my Getty photographs appear here, I very much enjoy photographing the forms and lighting of the buildings and the gardens. It was raining lightly when we arrived, and by the time we made it up the hill fog had settled on the ridge. I actually made well over 100 exposures throughout the day. Many were shot quickly as momentary conjunctions of people and light and atmosphere appeared and just as quickly disappeared. I happened to find myself on a walkway overlooking the fogged-in garden just as a couple groups of umbrella-bearing visitors encountered one another near the sharp point of this path.

This photograph is not in the public domain and may not be used on websites, blogs, or in other media without advance permission from G Dan Mitchell.

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