Tag Archives: light

Woman with Umbrella, Salzburg Street

Woman with Umbrella, Salzburg Street
A Salzburg, Austria street scene including a woman with an umbrella

Woman with Umbrella, Salzburg Street. Salzburg, Austria. July 17, 2013. © Copyright 2013 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

A Salzburg, Austria street scene including a woman with an umbrella

This is one of those photographs that you could see in any number of ways, I think. It is a narrow street in Salzburg, Austria, not far from the main square and the Salzburg Cathedral and perhaps right in front of the building that is described as the birthplace of Mozart. (Somehow the juxtaposition of a shopping district with that place seems just a bit jarring.) You could regard it as an almost random scene from this street, though I think there is a bit more going on.

One of the things I like about street photography is working quickly and spontaneously, reacting quickly to people, events, and juxtapositions that may last only for a brief moment. If I recall correctly, I perhaps began simply by thinking “there is a shot here somewhere, with all these people on this narrow street.” Then things began to coalesce a bit when I noticed the bright backlight streaming almost directly down the street and stretching long shadows toward me. Then I saw the woman with the dark umbrella — and who can resist a photograph of umbrellas!? As she walked past I quickly made a brief series of photographs, trying to instantly place her and her shadow in some kind of compositional relationship with people and objects in the scene. From this series, this one has her standing slightly apart from others and with her shadow stretching toward the lower part of the frame, and a similar shadow from another woman almost parallels it. The people at front right were in shadow (yes, some work in post makes them more visible) but I felt like they provided some balance to the brightness on the left side of the frame and, to me at least, there is something a bit odd and interesting about their intense gaze at something behind me. Looking closer at the people in the scene — closer than I could consciously look when I pressed the shutter release — I find the dark figure on the right margin interesting, and as the people stretch into the distance several of them seem to have stories to tell, too.


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.

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.
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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 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.
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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.

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.
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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 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.
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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.