Tag Archives: evening

Death Valley, Evening

Death Valley, Evening
Evening light on the playa of Death Valley, with lower slopes of the Panamint Mountains rising beyond

Death Valley, Evening. Death Valley National Park, California. March 30, 2015. © Copyright 2015 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

Evening light on the playa of Death Valley, with lower slopes of the Panamint Mountains rising beyond

Since I’ve been traveling to and around Death Valley National Park for more than 15 years now, I’ve seen a lot of the park — but I most certainly have not see all of it, nor have I completely learned how to see everything in it. This is a huge place, varying greatly by location, terrain, season, weather and more. Frankly, the experience of coming to know such a place over time is one of the things I value most about such locations. While I love to “discover” a place that is completely new to me (and Death Valley was that place in the late 1990s for me), the longer process of learning the place and its rhythms more deeply is also, I think, more rewarding. It is wonderful to see a desert gully in evening light for the first time, but it may be even more beautiful to come back to it and recognize an old and familiar friend.

Along these lines, a few years ago, as I continued to push out my own boundaries of experience and knowledge in Death Valley, I began to think more about how to make photographs of things that I might have not thought worthy of a photograph before. I realized that many of these things that don’t scream “photograph me!” are otherwise a core part of the experience of this place: a vast and quiet “empty” landscape, midday sun, haze obscuring great distances, the edge between the last vegetation and a barren playa, a beam of light slanting across an alluvial fan. And if they are central to the sense of the place, it seems that there must be a way to photograph them. And that is a new challenge for me in my Death Valley photography.


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.

Dunes and Mountains

Dunes and Mountains
Low dunes and the base of Tucki Mountain in evening light

Dunes and Mountains. Death Valley National Park, California. March 31, 2015. © Copyright 2015 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

Low dunes and the base of Tucki Mountain in evening light

This is a different interpretation of a photograph that I have previously posted. Here I have simply tried a different crop, one that eliminates some areas of from the top and bottom of the earlier photograph in order to focus more on the horizontal sweep of the shallow dunes and the more distant wash sloping up to the base of gigantic Tucki Mountain, here in nearly the last light of the evening.

I think that when we are in this place, one of the most iconic in Death Valley National Park, our attention is more likely to be drawn to the tallest dunes, which are located more or less behind me at this camera position. But there is much else to see here, ranging from the intimate landscape of ripple sand and small plants to the rugged slopes of Tucki Mountain just to the south, and including the many long views across the huge spaces of the valley. Here I had been mostly photographing an expanse of dunes leading off toward the northeast, when I turned around to see this view of the edge of the sand, with low dunes curving toward the sparse plant life at their edge.


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.

Dust Storm, Early Evening

Dust Storm, Early Evening
Warm light on sand dunes during an evening sandstorm

Dust Storm, Early Evening. Death Valley National Park, California. April 1, 2015. © Copyright 2015 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

Warm light on sand dunes during an evening sandstorm

This was a somewhat strange weather day in Death Valley National Park, with thick and deep morning haze, apparently caused by dust storms some distance away from my location, and then the beginnings of a local dust storm later in the afternoon and evening. Since this is a windy time of year, dust storms sort of come with the territory, and I’ve been through a few. They are not a pleasant event, since they manage to work a fine silt into almost everything — tent, car, clothes, and so on. However, they are part of the desert scene and they can provide some compelling atmospheric conditions for photography.

As I crossed Death Valley near this iconic set of dunes, the sun was dropping toward the cottonwood Mountains to the west. The low angle back light obscured and softened the features of the landscape, and the late light was beginning to shift toward the warm end of the color spectrum. From foreground to the distance there is a sequence of layers: the foreground flats with their sparse plant growth, the beginnings of the transverse dunes beyond that, rising to the peaks of Star Dune, and far across the valley the base of the mountains range, whose details are essentially invisible here.


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.

Contemplating the Dunes

Walkers contemplate evening light on sand dunes
Walkers contemplate evening light on sand dunes

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

Walkers contemplate evening light on sand dunes

The wind had been strong enough the night before that as I lay in my fairly hardcore mountain tent (fully staked out!) I could hear nearby campers pounding in their stakes, rescuing gear than had gone flying, or giving up and sleeping in their cars. The wind continued on into the morning, and as I drove away to a place that I thought might be more sheltered I passed through big blowing clouds of dust and sand. As I returned in the middle of the afternoon there was still a lot of dust in the air and the wind was still blowing, thought its force was diminishing. I went to my camp for a quick visit and the winds continued to die down. By the point when it was time for me to head out for evening photography things had calmed down considerably and I decided to visit dunes.

The large nearby dune fields were in almost pristine condition on this evening, since the wind had kept a lot of people off the dunes and obliterated many of the tracks that folks had left earlier. I selected a part of the dunes where I saw no other people and headed out. The sand was largely undisturbed and I was able to photograph the patterns created by the wind with few signs of human visits. As I worked I looked off into the distance toward the highest dunes where a few people were not returning and walking toward the highest hills. From my position the foreground was a landscape of layered and angled slopes of sand, and in the distance a few people seemed to pause and enjoy the quiet evening among the dunes.


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.

Dunes and Mountains, Last Light

Dunes and Mountains, Last Light
Dunes and Mountains, Last Light

Dunes and Mountains, Last Light. Death Valley National Park, California. April 2, 2015. © Copyright 2015 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

The last rays of evening sun on the lower slopes of the Amargosa Range above Death Valley sand dunes

I walked out into these low dunes, as I often do, an hour or so before sunset. It had been a hazy day, with the remnants of two days of dust storms muting the light and colors a bit, and the haze continued on into the early evening. At this time of day it often first seems like there is plenty of time to photograph — the light is changing, but the changes are still so slow that it takes many minutes to notice them. I looked up and judged the angle of the sun above the mountain tops to the west, and five minutes later when I looked again the change was hardly perceptible. I continued to follow a path through the dunes that was almost entirely the result of seeing things to photograph, photographing them, seeing other things, and moving on.

Shortly before the sun drops behind the ridge, the light begins to change quickly. As the last warm-colored light slants across dunes, their textures are highlighted and subtle colors begin to appear. I’m often struck by how silent the change is — it almost seems that the sound should change, too, but the transition happens quietly and with incredible speed. When I sense it is about to start I pick a spot and a subject and simply try to watch closely enough to time things right. I picked this composition for several reasons. It entirely excluded any living things, leaving only sand and mountains. The patterns caught the light in interesting ways, and created a sea of subtle color and tonal variations as the last direct light gradually worked its way up the face of the more distant mountains.


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.

Dunes and Mountains, Evening Shadows

Dunes and Mountains, Evening Shadows
Dunes and Mountains, Evening Shadows

Dunes and Mountains, Evening Shadows. Death Valley National Park. March 31, 2015. © Copyright 2015 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

Evening light on sand dunes, Death Valley National Park

I can photograph dunes at any time of day, but for me the evening hours are the most interesting. The scene goes through a sequence of transformations that fascinate me, even on evenings when I wonder if the magic will be there. IN Death Valley, during all but the coolest times of the year, the dunes can be hot places with stark light and washed out colors in the late afternoon — yet even this kind of scene has photographic potential. But soon the sun drops toward the horizon, the color of the light warms, and the shadows lengthen, revealing the textures of the dunes that are hidden in brighter light. As the sun sets the show continues but transforms again as the light takes on a blue tint (from open sky) and fills the shadows, now revealing colors that are not seen in the daylight.

This whole transition occurs relatively quickly, perhaps over the course of an hour and a half or less, and I often feel like I have to work somewhat quickly. This photograph comes from a point in time when direct sun was still on the dunes, though it was muted by haze from earlier sand storms on this evening. The light catches the higher parts of the dunes and gives them a warm color, but the lower areas have already fallen into shadow and have taken on the blue tones of light from the open sky.


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.

Dark Hills, Death Valley

Dark Hills, Death Valley
Dark Hills, Death Valley

Dark Hills, Death Valley. Death Valley National Park, California. April 1, 2015. © Copyright 2015 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

Dark hills contrast with surrounding salt flats and alluvial fans

I know that “dark hills” is not a very poetic description for this landscape… but it does seem, at least, to be accurate! These formations have intrigued me for a few years, and I’ve been surprised to be able to photograph them all alone — despite visiting them regularly, I have never encountered another person there. I’m not sure why, except that there are some better known icons nearby, and perhaps they attract all of the others in the area.

In the past I tried to find out more about the source of the formations and my recollection (which I was unable to re-verify this time) is that they are the result of some kind of ancient tufa-like deposits formed on the bottom of the lake that once filled the basin that is now Death Valley. Their darker color contrasts strikingly with the surrounding terrain, and the material of the mounts has a finely layered quality. This example sits on a small playa where pooling water seems to have left salt deposits behind, though similar forms can also be found in slightly higher terrain nearby. In the evening the low light from the west angles across these mounds and makes their textures and curves a bit more visible.


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.