Tag Archives: evening

Evening Dunes and Mountains

Evening Dunes and Mountains
Evening on Death Valley sand dunes with desert mountains in the distance

Evening Dunes and Mountains. Death Valley National Park, California. March 27, 2016. © Copyright 2016 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

Evening on Death Valley sand dunes with desert mountains in the distance

It was the first evening in Death Valley this season, and we had arrived after a lazy drive in from the Ridgecrest area. Having plenty of time, we stopped at Trona Pinnacles before reaching the park and after entering we took a long side trip out on a gravel road to a couple of somewhat remote canyons. We got settled in and it was time to head out for some evening photography — and since dunes were nearby they seemed like a good first evening destination.

The sand dunes go quickly through some remarkable transitions of light and color at the end of the day. In the full sunlight the tones of the sand can seem a bit flat and washed out, but the low angle light begins to highlight the textures — large textures of the dunes themselves, plus the finer textures of small patterns of windblown sand. The the color of the light begins to warm and the contrast drops and shadows fill with a soft light. At the moment I made this photograph the sun was still above the ridge to our west, but it had passed behind high, thin clouds that momentarily muted the light even more.


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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Desert Wash and Mountains

Desert Wash and Mountains
A desert wash cuts though golden layers toward mountains and Death Valley

Desert Wash and Mountains. Death Valley National Park, California. March 29, 2016. © Copyright 2016 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

A desert wash cuts though golden layers toward mountains and Death Valley

I made this in another area of Death Valley where, despite its popularity, I have never really quite felt comfortable making photographs. The area is along a loop road that ascends the alluvial fan along the valley edge and then passed across and along some very beautiful washes, giving access to areas of strikingly colored rock formations. The formations are intriguing, but they don’t move be photographically. At least not yet — I won’t rule out the possibility that I’ll someday find a way to “see” them.

However, at one of the most popular stops, when I look the opposite direction, I see this absolutely lovely wash curving gracefully back and forth as it descends through golden rock and toward darker hills before taking a turn and heading down the giant alluvial fan toward the great basin of Death Valley. Late in the day, just before the sun drops beyond tall mountains in the west, there is a brief window of warm, golden light, even on a day like this one with distant clouds in the sky.


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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Dunes, Evening

Dunes, Evening
Evening light comes to desert sand dunes, Death Valley National Park

Dunes, Evening. Death Valley National Park, California. March 27, 2016. © Copyright 2016 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

Evening light comes to desert sand dunes, Death Valley National Park

I made this photograph on the evening of our arrival in Death Valley this past March, when we spent the better part of a week photographing in this desert park. We took a slow drive into the park from Ridgecrest, stopping at Trona and then in the Panamint Valley before crossing Towne Pass and dropping into Death Valley itself. It was early enough that we decided to take a “little” side trip to some slightly remote canyons in the afternoon and go for a short hike. We returned to the Stovepipe Wells area and then headed out along the dunes in the evening.

The evening light, especially when softened a bit by clouds or else just after the sun sets, paints the dunes and the surrounding terrain in marvelous and subtle colors. Mountains that are blue-gray in daylight and dunes that are almost colorless take on the colors of the haze, the sky, and the evening light, with shades of pink and yellow and blue and purple and more. This little vignette adds the green of the lush plants growing atop this sand dune, though the dead plants at the right betray the harsh conditions that are found her much of the time.

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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Dunes, Plants, Evening

Dunes, Plants, Evening
Evening light on a cluster of plants growing among sand dunes.

Dunes, Plants, Evening. Death Valley National Park, California. March 27, 2016. © Copyright 2016 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

Evening light on a cluster of plants growing among sand dunes.

The sand dunes in the evening can be many things — the wind may blow or it may be still, glaring light transitions through golden hour to blue after sunset, in the right spot one may photograph alone. Above all, this is a time of transition in the light, and there is a sweet spot — perhaps just as the sun drops behind mountains or clouds to the west — when the light is still directional but when all the harshness disappears, soft light remains, and colors invisible in the daytime begin to appear.

I made this photograph on the first evening of our recent visit to Death Valley. We had arrived in the middle of the day, driven off to explore a less-traveled canyon, returned to get settled in to our accommodations, and then headed out into the late day light. Bypassing the crowds at the iconic turn-outs, we kept going, and as the sun dropped toward the ridge of the western mountains we grabbed equipment and headed out across the playa toward a quieter area of the dunes where we might find untracked sand.

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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Evening Rain and Sandstorm

Evening Rain and Sandstorm
Evening rain and sandstorm as sun illuminates the Grapevine Mountains

Evening Rain and Sandstorm. Death Valley National Park, California. March 30, 2016. © Copyright 2016 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

Evening rain and sandstorm as sun illuminates the Grapevine Mountains

During the spring season in Death Valley National Park almost anything can happen. It can be 90 degrees or higher, or it might snow. Days may be pleasant to sunny, or it could be overcast with huge winds and dust storms or rain. We just spent the better part of five days there, and I think I saw as great a range of conditions as I’ve encountered before. The second evening was particularly remarkable. We were up in Panamint Mountains when we first noticed the tell-tale haze of dust storms, and by the time we returned to the Valley it was so windy that there was nothing to do but hunker down and wait it out. Near sunset the winds began to abate a bit and we ventured outside. I heard a few claps of thunder and it began to rain huge drops. Later we discovered that it had snowed on the highest peaks.

A few days later the conditions were supposed to be more benign. We spend early morning hours photographing out on the dunes, then did a midday and afternoon hike up a beautiful canyon. Exiting the canyon we were surprised to see dust beginning to rise again, since the forecast had called for very light winds. By the time we got back to Stovepipe Wells the winds were howling, light rain was falling, and dust filled the atmosphere. A bit later things calmed down and I decided to make a quick evening trip to a nearby high point from which I could get an overview of the valley. Arriving there I could see a wild combination of dramatic light on up-valley mountains, rain falling on their summits, and the dust storm growing below. Within minutes of making this photograph the wind began to howl and the dust enveloped my position and I retreated once more.


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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Alpine Lake, Wind, Dusk

Alpine Lake, Wind, Dusk
Evening wind on the surface of an alpine lake at dusk

Alpine Lake, Wind, Dusk. Sequoia National Park, California. August 10, 2008 © Copyright 2008 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

Evening wind on the surface of an alpine lake at dusk

When we reached this lake we were approaching the end of a long trans-Sierra hike on the High Sierra Trail. We had crossed the Kaweahs, descending into the Kern River canyon, ascending to the John Muir Trail and headed south, with the eventual goal being the summit of Mount Whitney and the end of our trip at Whitney Portal at the eastern base of the Sierra.

This little alpine lake is the traditional base camp for hikers heading to the summit of Mount Whitney from the west, a group that includes a number of people nearing the end of the southbound John Muir Trail hikes. It can be a crowded place, with many backpackers (sometimes too many) setting up marginal camps in tiny flat spots among the boulders. In the evening I left my group to wander and do a bit of photography, and as the light faded I lengthened my exposures and allowed the wind to blur the surface of the lake a bit.


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.

Twilight Birds

Twilight Birds
A flock of geese against twilight sky above the Central Valley

Twilight Birds. Central Valley, California. February 5, 2016. © Copyright 2016 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

A flock of geese against twilight sky above the Central Valley

February was mostly a very good month for photographing migratory birds in the Central Valley this winter. This was a relief, quite honestly, after the past four years of drought and increasingly dire conditions in the Valley and throughout the state. In normal times, the wildlife refuges where I often photograph can be filled with water and life in the winter — flowing creeks and flooded fields where thousands of birds collect. But much of this water comes from sources that are not local, and as they dried up the refuges also began to shrink the acreage that was under water. It was sad to see locations that I’ve thought of as ponds become plain, dry fields. And at times the birds seemed to suffer a bit, too, or at least change their habits. Back in the late fall, before the course of the winter season became clear and Northern and Central California received rain again, we were concerned about what would happen this year.

But in most of California the rains came, at times heavy, and water flows once again. The birds returned, and sometimes it seemed that there numbers were exploding with the return of water. By February it wasn’t uncommon to find many thousands of birds in the refuges, and by late in the month the scene was downright wild, with all kinds of geese, huge numbers of cranes, and much more. In the evening things become active, and as the light fails I often continue to photograph, but at longer shutter speeds that allow me to work with the moving poetry of blurred birds in flight against dusk sky.


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.