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Devil’s Cornfield, Evening

Devil's Cornfield, Evening
Devil’s Cornfield, Evening

Devil’s Cornfield, Evening. Death Valley National Park, California. April 1, 2015. © Copyright 2015 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

Arrowweed plants at the Devil’s Cornfield

I’ll confess upfront that one reason I made this photograph is that I barely have any of this specific site in Death Valley, one that is well-known enough to warrant a place to pull over on the highway and look at it. I have not found it to be an easy place to “see” photographically.

The “corn” is actually the arrowweed plant, whose roots seem to manage to block and trap blowing sand and dust on this playa-like area. As the plants grow they manage to hold onto these piles of soil and thus group above their surroundings a bit. I made the photograph from a slightly elevated position and during evening hours where the golden light emphasized and enhanced to colors of the plants.


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.

Sand Dune Patterns

Sand Dune Patterns
Sand Dune Patterns

Sand Dune Patterns. Death Valley National Park, California. April 2, 2015. © Copyright 2015 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

Sand dune patterns following a day of dust storms

Sometimes we flatter ourselves by saying that we make photographs. Indeed, there is truth to that — if there wasn’t something unique in each act of photographic creation everyone would produce photographs of equal interest. However, there is also a distinct element of simply finding things — I like to think of it as hunting. In a location such as the one where I found this subject, there is, for all practical purposes, an infinity of possible subjects — and they are not static, but very much the result to constantly evolving processes of light and wind and erosion and rain and more. We like to tell ourselves that the photographs are out creations, but if we are honest we must admit that there is a great deal in our subjects that is completely beyond our control.

I understand the periodic feeling that “there is nothing to photograph.” However, many times the opposite problem is the challenge — there are so many possible photographs and so many potential ways to approach each subject that it can be overwhelming. During perhaps an hour or a bit more on these dunes I was never without something to photograph, and there were moments the work seemed almost frantic as I spotted some effect of light and hurried to find a way to photograph it during the brief time before it was gone. These patterns were the result of dust storms and high winds over the past 24 hours or more. These conditions had piled sand up near the tops of dunes, and on the leeward side the sand had drifted downward, following patterns that seem more like those of a liquid than a solid. I happened to show up as the low angle evening light briefly passed from left to right across the surface of this texture, and working quickly I was able to make a few exposures before the light faded.


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.

Dunes in Shadow

Dunes in Shadow
Dunes in Shadow

Dunes in Shadow. Death Valley National Park, California. April 2, 2015. © Copyright 2015 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

Sand dunes in the shadows of post-sunset light

You could be forgiven to thinking that the subject of sand dunes has been “done,” and even over-done. Nonetheless, it is hard to resist a walk into and among the dunes on a spring evening as the light diminishes at the end of the day. In a way, photographing dunes might almost a form of photographers’ recreation, and these areas are full on remarkably varied subjects that change constantly — as the wind rearranges them, as the light changes their color and the visibility of textures, and as the photographer looks at them from different angles.

On this evening I felt a bit more drawn to expanses of dune forms extending away from me for some distance. As a result I ended up with a number of photographs in which more or less horizontal shapes cut across the frame and are layered one behind the other. Earlier, when the color of the light was warmer, the dunes had a very different color — but once the direct sunlight was gone and shadows moved it the warm colors drained away and the blue tones of from the sky began to strengthen.


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.
Blog | About | Flickr | Twitter | FacebookGoogle+ | 500px.com | LinkedIn | Email

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.

Wash and Eroded Hills

Wash and Eroded Hills
Wash and Eroded Hills

Wash and Eroded Hills. Death Valley National Park, California. April 3, 2015. © Copyright 2015 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

Morning light shines on eroded hills and a desert wash.

This was the final morning of my spring photographic excursion to Death Valley. On the last day of these visits I always seem to follow the same general ritual — I get up well before dawn (of course!) and visit one final photography location very early, then go back and break camp before leaving the park and starting the long drove back to the San Francisco Bay Area. This means that I almost always pick a familiar “sure thing” location for the last morning, and one that is not too far from wherever I camped the night before. I rarely make this a spur-of-the-moment decision, instead typically deciding ahead of time where I’ll go — there isn’t a lot of time to waste on this final, long day. On this trip I headed back to a little area not far from a familiar Death Valley icon. (I would stop at that icon, but only if the conditions turned out to be spectacularly unusual — I certainly don’t need another photograph of it otherwise, as beautiful as it is.)

I turned off the main road onto the gravel side road, slowed to a crawl, parked and got out with camera gear in hand, and quickly settled into the quiet and stillness of this place in the moments before dawn. Even though I have been to this spot many times, I’m still surprised by how quiet it is and by how few others go here. Although I know specific locations that might offer reliable and predictable photographs, once I’m here I prefer to take my time and look for and at things that I had not previously noticed. At first — and it was the case on this morning — it seems like there is little special to see, and I may momentarily wonder if I’m going to be able to find photographs. But as I slow down and begin to see, I invariably find things that I would have missed if I had not given the place some time. This photograph was the result of spotting a little path up to a higher spot — the path itself intrigued me so I followed it, and I was happy to find that it overlooked this little bit of classic Death Valley geography.


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.
Blog | About | Flickr | Twitter | FacebookGoogle+ | 500px.com | LinkedIn | Email

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.