Tag Archives: distant

Basin and Range

Basin and Range
A long distance view across Death Valley and to distant mountains beyond

Basin and Range. Death Valley National Park, California. March 28, 2016. © Copyright 2016 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

A long distance view across Death Valley and to distant mountains beyond

The landscape of Death Valley National Park is immense. The fact that it is the largest national park in the lower 48 states begins to penetrate my awareness the more time I spend there. A number of years ago I spent some time on a very long cycling trip in Alaska and the Yukon, and this desert landscape comes closer than any other I have experienced to evoking the same sense of huge distances and deep stillness and quiet. This landscape extends even further beyond the boundaries of the park, from the Sierra Nevada to the west to distant peaks of the basin and range country to the east.

This high elevation location opens to such a huge swath of terrain that it is difficult to get your mind around the scale of what you are seeing. For example, there is a road out there in the large valley. To get there from the place where my tripod was set up would take me hours of driving — and that would take me perhaps less than half way toward the most distant peaks. Enhancing the other-worldly quality of this morning was the unusual atmosphere. The clouds of a weather front were breaking up over the mountains and valleys, and their shadows were moving across the landscape. Meanwhile, in another valley far behind me, dust storm conditions (which would envelope this entire scene by the end of the day) were beginning to pick up, and already the atmosphere was getting that milky, hazy quality that precedes such weather. At the bottom of the scene is an immense gravel fan that has carried material down from these mountains, filling the valley in places to thousands of feet of depth.


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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Tundra Swans, Mount Shasta

Tundra Swans, Mount Shasta
Tundra swans fly in front of distant cloud-shrouded Mount Shasta

Tundra Swans, Mount Shasta. Klamath Basin, California. February 12, 2016. © Copyright 2016 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

Tundra swans fly in front of distant cloud-shrouded Mount Shasta

Mount Shasta is one of those special mountains that stands alone and above all around it. In land that rarely exceeds a few thousand feet in elevation, this peak soars to over 14,000′, only a bit shorter than Mount Whitney, the tallest peak in the Lower 48 States. While Mount Whitney is nestled into a very high section of the Sierra Crest, along with other peaks and ridges of nearly the same height, nothing near Shasta is remotely near as tall. Its bulk soars above the rest of the landscape, especially when it is covered in winter snows — and the clouds that build over its summit can make it seem even larger. As we like to point out, the peak is so big that it makes its own weather.

The peak is clearly visible from this area of the Klamath Basin, and it is the first thing to catch the morning light. While out in this immense valley photographing tundra swans I noticed that some flocks along the far side of the valley were passing in front of the peak, and I started tracking them to see if any would cross the mountain at the right elevation. As I saw a flock far to my northwest, I would begin to track it along the horizon, hoping that it would pass in front of the peak and be high enough to clear the lower and darker mountains, yet not so high as to be far above the peak.


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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All media © Copyright G Dan Mitchell and others as indicated. Any use requires advance permission from G Dan Mitchell.

Forest, Dome, and Distant Mountain

Forest, Dome, and Distant Mountain
Forest, Dome, and Distant Mountain

Forest, Dome, and Distant Mountain. Yosemite National Park, California. August, 7, 2013. © Copyright 2013 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

A last beam of sunset light illuminates the granite slabs of Lembert Dome and the distant slopes of Mount Dana above Tuolumne Meadows

This afternoon of a day when I was in the area of the Sierra crest near the Tioga Pass entrance to Yosemite National Park had turned murky, with a combination of wildfire smoke and high clouds that largely killed the interesting light as the “golden hour” approached. I decided to drive along Tioga Pass Road as the day came to an end, and look for whatever interesting light might appear. There is a lighting condition that can sometimes turn a “blah” evening into something amazing in the Sierra – though I wasn’t too optimistic on this evening. On an evening when clouds overhead obscure the late-day light, the clouds sometimes end a bit to the west of the high country, and as the sun drops below those clouds to the west there may be a last-minute glow that must be seen to be believed. You most certainly cannot count on this happening – sometimes the sun simply drops behind clouds and the light goes out. But if it is a possibility I will often go to great lengths to be ready for it.

Even knowing about this light, I was surprised on this evening – twice! In the first instance I had thought I saw a very subtle lightening and intensification of color on the shoulder of one distant ridge far up in the distant Rafferty Creek drainage, so I quickly found a place to turn around and return to a roadside pull-out where I thought I could photograph it. As I quickly worked to set up my tripod and camera… the glow faded and disappeared. I looked around for evidence that it might return – a bit of light elsewhere in the landscape – but seeing none I got back in the car. I had driven no more than 30 seconds down the road when the entire landscape to my south and east lit up with glorious warm light! I quickly – again – turned around and drove back and managed to get a couple of shots before it disappeared again. I then went on down to Tuolumne Meadows with a vague plan to look for interesting light or to photograph an exceptionally large herd of deer that I had seen on an earlier evening. When I arrived, the light was not stunning, but the deer where there, so I put on my “wildlife photographer hat” and a long lens. As I photographed them in less than amazing light, I saw a bright spot in the clouds to the west that just might line up to send a beam or light across the meadow from west to east – and sure enough, a moment later the light began to gradually build. Since I had no time to move or change lenses at this point, I thought about what I could do with the long lens before this light disappeared, so I focused on Lembert Dome, bathed in this light at the far end of the meadow and with the more distant slopes of Mount Dana beyond.

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.

Morning Haze, Death Valley

Morning Haze, Death Valley
Morning Haze, Death Valley

Morning Haze, Death Valley. Death Valley National Park, California. March 30, 2011. © Copyright 2013 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

Distant snow-covered peaks are barely visible across the vast space of Death Valley in hazy morning light

This photograph was made from Dantes View, high in the mountains along the eastern border of Death Valley itself, and with a commanding, panoramic view of a huge portion of the surrounding terrain and especially down into Death Valley and the Badwater area almost right beneath the peak. The view here looks roughly north or northwest, past the location of Furnace Creek and beyond the Mesquite Dunes area to the far northern end of the Valley and then beyond to distant snow-covered peaks.

I have written before that Dantes View has been a difficult place for me to photograph. At first glance, the location has a lot going for it. At about a mile above the Valley floor below, the views encompass a huge area of interesting terrain, ranging from the lowest reaches of Death Valley itself to the 11,000+” Telescope in the Panamint Range to other features so distant that they often fade into the haze. But for me these same features make it very difficult to pick out anything that can draw the larger components of the scene together. There have been times when I have gone there with the intention of photographing, gotten out, looked around, been impressed by the location, and made no photographs at all. This time I mostly shot details of the Valley using a very long lens, but I thought that the shadows of the passing clouds brought enough relieve to the uniformity of the Valley to make this photograph, which I hope conveys some sense of the scale of the place.

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.

Fiery Furnace, Arches National Park

Fiery Furnace, Arches National Park
Fiery Furnace, Arches National Park

Fiery Furnace, Arches National Park. Arches National Park, Utah. October 11, 2012. © Copyright 2012 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

Ridges and mesas recede into the distance beyond Fiery Furnace formations, Arches National Park.

These formations are part of a much larger set of similar structures along the road toward the Devil’s Garden area of Arches National Park. They overlook a large section of the park and beyond. The distant plateau in the sunlight is along the Colorado River, and though they are not visible in this photograph the La Sal Mountains tower even further off. Between there is a lot of rough country full of valleys and ridges and other formations.

The Fiery Furnace area contains sandstone with layers of contrasting color, as see here. This material has been eroded it all sorts of fantastical ways. On this particular day, the light conditions were both interesting and challenging. There were quite a few high clouds and a good portion of the time the sun was blocked by them and the light was somewhat dismal. But as the clouds moved along, the sun light occasionally broke through gaps and cast beams of light that traversed the landscape. When we first stopped here and saw the overcast conditions I almost decided to just move on. But I saw a few hints of this changeable light and decided to try patience first! It took a while, but eventually some of the clear areas in the overcast lined up with our position and we had moments of nice light.

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.

Boulder Mountain Aspens and Distant Peak

Boulder Mountain Aspens and Distant Peak - A distant peak in alpenglow above the fall aspen color on Boulder Mountain, Utah
A distant peak in alpenglow above the fall aspen color on Boulder Mountain, Utah

Boulder Mountain Aspens and Distant Peak. Dixie National Forest, Utah. October 6, 2012. © Copyright 2012 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

A distant peak in alpenglow above the fall aspen color on Boulder Mountain, Utah.

We had anticipated the huge aspen groves on the flanks of Boulder Mountain as we approached on highway 12 from the west, having seen these trees earlier in the year, last April, when we crossed the mountain in spring before the new leaves appeared. We weren’t sure what we would find since, a) Boulder Mountain is high and b) we had seen high elevations aspens earlier during the trip that had almost completely lost their leaves. As we climbed toward the mountain from the town of Boulder, we began to encounter aspen color, but as we climbed it was apparent that we had missed the most colorful phase of this years transition.

That was OK, though. Even a bit pre- or post-peak, the aspen colors can still be spectacular. We stopped at the first place where we could see large aspen groves leading on up the incline toward the higher portions of the mountain and made some photographs. Then we continued on, rounding the shoulder of the mountain to find some very large and still quite colorful groves ahead of us. Although the light was starting to fade as the end of the day approached and as high clouds moved overhead, it seemed worthwhile to try to photograph these trees with a long lens. I continued shooting through sunset and soon the last direct sun left the trees and the more distant mountains. Here there is still a bit of light on the highest peaks to the east, seen faintly through the haze.

G Dan Mitchell is a California photographer 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.

Island, Coastal Bluffs, and Distant Shore

Island, Coastal Bluffs, and Distant Shore - A steep and rocky island backed by coastal bluffs and a distant shoreline, northern California coast, Mendocino County
A steep and rocky island backed by coastal bluffs and a distant shoreline, northern California coast, Mendocino County

Island, Coastal Bluffs, and Distant Shore. Mendocino County Coastline, California. August 29, 2012. © Copyright 2012 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

A steep and rocky island backed by coastal bluffs and a distant shoreline, northern California coast, Mendocino County.

The last time I passed by this section of the California coast highway in Mendocino County, I also stopped to photograph this scene – but was less happy with the result. This section of the coastline, like much of the meeting between California and the Pacific Ocean, consists largely of high coastal bluffs, interspersed with the steep canyons where creeks and rivers meet the ocean, with many rocky islands ranging from tiny to huge. The two-peaked island in this large cove fits more into the huge category and it is backed by two fingers of land where the high bluffs extend toward the ocean. In the far distance, a section of curving coastline is barely visible through the haze.

Recently someone asked me about how I decide whether a photograph will be black and white rather than color. I admitted – and it turns out that many feel the same – that often I am not certain when I make the exposure. Roughly speaking, the black and white photographs come about in perhaps three ways. Sometimes I like the subject but the color rendition just isn’t working the way I had hoped, so I try it in black and white and “discover” that I like it that way in post. On other occasions, at the time of exposure I sort of wonder if it might work in black and white and I make mental note to try it that way in post. In the third case, I “know” (with only a small amount of doubt) that the image is going to end up in black and white and I shoot the scene with that in mind. This is one of those photographs – I was almost certain that it would end up in black and white as I stood high on a bluff next to highway 1 making the exposure.

G Dan Mitchell is a California photographer 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.