Narrow Canyon, Hiker

Narrow Canyon, Hiker
A hiker passes through a narrow section of a desert canyon.

Narrow Canyon, Hiker. Death Valley National Park, California. March 30, 2016. © Copyright 2016 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

A hiker passes through a narrow section of a desert canyon.

Almost anywhere you are in desert country, canyons can be attractive places on days that might not be so enjoyable out in the open. They are often protected from wind — and in Death Valley, at least on this trip, that also meant protected from dust storms. Their light is frequently appealing during midday hours where many other locations are experiencing harsh flat light —  in canyons the midday light can reflect down among the canyon walls and look beautiful at almost any time of day. They can also be cooler, with high walls that protect from the hottest sun.

Between morning and evening photography we decided we would take a hike up this canyon — not the most popular in the park but not the least visited either, so we shared the experience with some other hikers. The approach to this canyon took us across the lower face of an arid mountain range, then dropped into a wash and started to ascend, with tall canyon walls quickly ascending both sides of the canyon. In places this canyon is impressively narrow, and everywhere it is very deep. While it has some of the water-formed features that are common to all such canyons, these Death Valley canyons have a rugged and rough-hewn character that is quite different from that of the popular Utah canyons.


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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Sea of Sand

Sea of Sand
Overlapping sand dune patterns, morning

Sea of Sand. Death Valley National Park, California. March 31, 2016. © Copyright 2016 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

Overlapping sand dune patterns, morning

On the last day in Death Valley this spring we were planning to head off to the Los Angeles area in the morning, but I decided I wanted to photograph one more time before departing. Although I really wanted to sleep in, after many days of rising very early, I decided to get up early one more time and head back to the dunes alone for one final bit of photography. I headed out before dawn and arrived at a location I had been to before, parked the car, hoisted a backpack and tripod, and headed out across the playa toward a section of dunes where I was reasonably certain I would be able to photograph alone. The distances are always deceiving, and the playa walk took much more than the ten minutes one might guess that it would take if unfamiliar with these places. Eventually I came to the low dunes that I had been aiming for, and I began to look for places where I could make sand fill the frame.

The dunes are deceiving on other ways, too. You might imagine that they are on the march, being pushed along by winds. The wind does move sand — and it was blowing around my feet on this morning — but overall the dune forms are actually quite stable. Sometimes these active looking yet stable features make me think of a sort of stop motion ocean, with waves and crests and valley mostly frozen — a stopped landscape mirroring the active surface of water. The patterns here range from small (the little ripples in the foreground) to quite large (the overlapping crests marching into the distance.) I worked this scene and others like it for an hour, and then it was time to leave — a walk back across the playa back to my vehicle, and then the long drive out of the desert.


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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One-Day Memory Card Sale

There is a one-day sale on SanDisk memory cards, SSD’s, and USB memory devices today at site-affiliate B&H Photo.

A Door

A Door
Etched glass door to outdoor light

A Door. Mission Viejo, California. April 2, 2016. © Copyright 2016 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

Etched glass door and outdoor light

This is either really interesting (somewhat interesting?) or a really great illustration of what can make photographers so annoying! With a camera in my hand, I start to see differently, and things that would otherwise often escape my notice start to catch my attention and intrigue me, and they sometimes become photographs. At almost any time the visual impulse may kick in and I’ll see something that demands to be photographed. This was one of those times.

We were visiting our daughter and son-in-law in Southern California, after our landscape and nature photography trek to Death Valley. Enjoying a few lazy days after working the desert, we were sitting around at their home doing nothing in particular that I can remember — when I noticed that the colors of objects behind this door and outside were being reflected and refracted in such a way that the etched surface of the glass was producing intense colors. The glass actually has no color — everything seen here is either the color of something behind the glass or a refraction of some sort.


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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Creosote Bush, Dunes, Morning

Creosote Bush, Dunes, Morning
A creosote bush among sand dunes, morning

Creosote Bush, Dunes, Morning. Death Valley National Park, California. March 30, 2016. © Copyright 2016 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

A creosote bush among sand dunes, morning

When I go to Death Valley I usually have a long list of places I want visit — ridges, canyons, playas, trails, and more. Even when I am there for a week, I usually run out of time before I run out of places. Perhaps for this reason I have sometimes not given enough of my time to the dunes. I have photographed them quite a few times, but they often end up being one thing on the agenda that is full of other subjects. However, on this recent trip I visited the dunes much more, walking out into them on three occasions and photographing them from greater distances, too. I photographed them at more or less all times of the day, and in conditions ranging from clear sky to clearing storms and even blowing dust.

I made this photograph on a morning when a weather front was moving past, leaving some clouds in its wake above the Amargosa range along the east side of the valley. We began photographing before dawn, and worked through the rapidly changing light as the sun rose above the mountains. Clouds periodically interrupted the light, but this meant that from moment to moment almost any kind of light was possible — full direct sun, light muted by thin clouds, the soft light from overcast — and that different light often appeared at different locations in the scene. When I saw and composed this photograph the light was initially very soft, but by the time I made this last exposure the sun was beginning to come out from behind clouds and highlight the textures, curves, and lines of the sand, and the play of light and shadow.


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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Creosote Plants, Morning Dunes

Creosote Plants, Morning Dunes
Creosote plants scattered among sand dunes in early morning light

Creosote Plants, Morning Dunes. Death Valley National Park, California. March 30, 2016. © Copyright 2016 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

Creosote plants scattered among sand dunes in early morning light

On our first full morning in Death Valley we decided to visit the dunes, skirting around the side to an area where no one else had gone yet, and arriving there just as the sun began to clear the eastern mountains. Because there had been a bit of a sand storm the previous day the dunes were in almost pristine condition, and the only foot prints were those left that morning by the two of us and the small number of other early morning visitors to the dunes.
 
The cycle of sunrise light was interesting. We began at our vehicle in dark, pre-sunrise conditions, but as we walked out across playa terrain toward the dunes the sun begin to light up the higher clouds. Then the light struck the summits of peaks to our west and begin to work down the mountains toward the valley, and before long we went quickly to work photographing the rapidly changing conditions as the first sunlight reached our location. Soon the changes slowed down again and the shadows started to fill with light reflected from the sky. I found some higher spots with views across the undulating dunes and made a series of photographs facing almost directly into the sun.

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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Macro Photographer, Death Valley

Macro Photographer, Death Valley
Photographer Patty Emerson Mitchell at work photographing the small things in Death Valley

Macro Photographer, Death Valley. Death Valley National Park, California. March 29, 2016. © Copyright 2016 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

Photographer Patricia Emerson Mitchell at work photographing the small things in Death Valley

This is perhaps the typical photographic pose for my wife, Patty Emerson Mitchell, when out photographing — down on the ground, intently photographing some small thing that I probably wouldn’t have even noticed. Her speciality is in “seeing” flowers, often not as literal objective depictions of these things but as vehicles for exploring color and line and texture and shape and curve. A flower is a wonderful thing, but sometimes it can be many other things, too. On this morning we had stopped near a section of the Death Valley playa where there is a bit of water, and I had wandered off to photograph mountains and sky and the playa. She walked down toward the playa, photographed that stuff a little bit and then headed back toward the car as I continued to work.

Eventually the sun was high enough and I and had photographed here long enough that it was time to head back myself, too. I figured that she might be waiting in the car, but then I remembered, “No, she will be crouched down in the gravel, lens an inch or two from something interesting that I probably stepped over, making photographs.” I had photographed in Death Valley for quite a few years, not unaware that there were flowers, but not paying them all that much attention. On the first trip there that she took with me, for the first time I saw — or, more accurately, was shown — that there are small flowers and plants almost everywhere you look, even on the apparently rocky surface of a dry playa or even under a light snowfall.


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.
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.

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