Tag Archives: morning

Hikers in the Badlands

Hikers in the Badlands
A group of hikers is dwarfed by arid badlands terrain near Zabriskie Point, Death Valley National Park

Hikers in the Badlands. Death Valley National Park, California. April 4, 2007. © Copyright 2007 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

A group of hikers is dwarfed by arid badlands terrain near Zabriskie Point, Death Valley National Park

In the midst of all the recent Death Valley photographs, with this photograph I reached back into the archives to pull up an older image that had not previously made it out of the collection of raw files. Various things impel me to dig back into the older photographs to see what I’ve missed, and in this case it was a random visit to my website that I noted in my server log — someone had linked in to a photograph of some photographers in Death Valley from this 2007 trip. When I saw that I thought to go back and look at that particular photograph and update it just a bit, and then I got side-tracked and wandered off into that raw file collection.

I recall this photograph rather clearly. For some reason I had stopped at Zabriskie point on a morning that I probably expected to produce an exceptional sunrise — at least that’s my guess based on the kind of clouds in the photograph. If I recall correctly, the morning did produce some interesting soft light, but not the stunner that I thought might happen. (I rarely stop at Zabriskie, but I make an exception if the conditions look like they might produce something unexpected — but you never know until you actually go there before dawn and see what happens.) I remember looking down toward Gower Gulch and the trail to Golden Canyon and spotting this string of five hikers. It isn’t that unusual to see people on this trail, but they stuck close together as the wound along its twisting route, and I thought that this might produce some interesting photographs and reveal the scale of this landscape.


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.

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.
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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.

Sunrise Haze, Panamint Mountains

Sunrise Haze, Panamint Mountains
Sunrise Haze, Panamint Mountains

Sunrise Haze, Panamint Mountains. Death Valley National Park, California. April 1, 2015. © Copyright 2015 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

Haze from airborne dust above the crest of the Panamint Mountains at dawn

I suppose that I was the “victim” of a sort of natural April Fool’s joke on this April 1 morning. I woke up very early, thinking I might photograph from high along the spine of the Panamint Mountains east of Death Valley. I was on the road in the dark, and as I got closer to my goal and the light began to increase enough to see a bit I noticed that it was hazy — the sort of haze that I associate with dust storms in this part of the world. But there was no dust storm, at least not where I was — just a lot of stuff in the air. Since there were no clouds, I figured that I would get above it by the time I reached my goal at over 6000′ of elevation. I topped the final climb onto the ridge where I could look into Death Valley… and was greeted with haze so thick that it almost looked more like fog (almost an impossibility here), and the floor of the Valley was completely invisible.

Such conditions could be disappointing for someone looking for a “sunrise shot,” but I actually love unusual conditions, especially when they involve mist and haze and fog and clouds. I covered the short distance remaining to reach the end of the road, parked and unloaded camera gear, and looked around to try to figure out how to photograph in these unexpected circumstances. A few minutes later the sun rose thought the haze, and I made a few photographs. I decided that I would likely have to remain here a while and observe the landscape gradually become visible as light penetrated down to lower elevations and as the dust-filled atmosphere thinned a bit. I turned my attention away from the deep valley and towards the ridge leading away to the north, where the thin light illuminated a landscape of shadow and light gradually fading into the distance.


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.

Trail Canyon, Dust Storm Haze

Trail Canyon, Dust Storm Haze
Trail Canyon, Dust Storm Haze

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

Trail Canyon and Death Valley obscured by dense morning haze from desert dust storms.

I had never seen a view quite like this one from this spot before, and I don’t recall seeing conditions quite like this in Death Valley National Park. I awoke very early — well before dawn — and headed up into the Panamint Mountains to the west of Death Valley, aiming for a familiar high location with panoramic views. I had several sorts of photographs in mind, including detail photographs of very small components of the larger landscape, the possibility of shooting directly into the light of the rising sun, and photographs of this deep canyon cutting down from the ridges toward the valley floor.

As I headed toward this spot I was surprised by the amount of haze in the air as the first light arrived. When I’ve seen such conditions before dust storms almost always followed, but I didn’t see any evidence of their development on this morning. (Later someone suggested to me that high winds farther to the west might have raised dust there and that it may have travelled over this direction.) I arrived at the summit ridge at around 6000′ expecting to see the view across and perhaps down into Death Valley, but instead I found myself looking down into a soupy haze that filled the Valley to this level and perhaps a bit higher. A short time later the sun rose through this murk and began to backlight it, creating an intense glow in the atmosphere and muting the small details of the mysterious landscape. The great Valley itself was virtually invisible in the thick haze, luminous with the morning backlight slanting in from the east.


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.

The Wetlands, Late Winter

The Wetlands, Late Winter
The Wetlands, Late Winter

The Wetlands, Late Winter. San Joaquin Valley, California. February 27, 2015. © Copyright 2015 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

San Joaquin Valley wetlands on a late winter morning

About a week ago we headed off to Yosemite Valley for a few days, primarily to attend the opening reception of the 30th annual Yosemite Renaissance Exhibit in The Valley, but also to spend some time there in what we hoped might be interesting and possibly snowy conditions. Given the way this year has gone, it shouldn’t be surprising that the hopes of snow were not met — though there was a five-minute flurry in the morning in the Valley and we found a few inches of new snow by climbing up out of the Valley. But “there is always something to see,” and there was no shortage of other things to photograph.

On our way to the Valley from the San Francisco Bay Area we made a short morning stop at a favorite migratory bird hangout. Typically we arrive here by dawn and encounter thick tule fog. This morning was different and more spring-like with sun and a few puffy clouds overhead. While it seems wrong to see this weather in what should be winter, it still was beautiful, and I made this simple photograph of a quite wetlands marsh where I more typically photograph in fog very early in the morning.


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.

Tree and Morning Frost

Tree and Morning Frost
Tree and Morning Frost

Tree and Morning Frost. Yosemite Valley, California. March 1, 2015. © Copyright 2015 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

A frost-covered Yosemite tree in morning light

It was great fun to be in Yosemite Valley this past weekend for the opening of the 30th annual Yosemite Renaissance exhibition. This is the third time that I’ve had photographs in the show. (If you are in the Valley, drop by. It is in the Visitor Center Museum through May 10, after which it moves on to a couple of Central Valley locations.) The show features a wide variety of two and three-dimensional art by artists who focus on the Sierra and the park. The entry of mine that was selected this year was atypical for me — it includes people and it is humorous! I share it again here at some point, but for now I’ll just note that it features backcountry photographers engaged in an unusual activity. The show brings lots of other fun things: a chance to photograph in the Valley, opportunities to hang out with lots of photographer and artist friends.

I made this photograph on our final morning in the park. We headed out around sunrise, thinking we might find some shallow fog in meadows. There was a bit of the fog but it was dissipating quickly and we eventually ended up in this sunny meadow. I was immediately attracted to this large elm tree, covered in frost and backlit in the morning light. I made several photographs of it — and at least one other may appear here before long — and before long the air warmed and the frost melted.


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.

Cranes and Geese, Winter Fog

Cranes and Geese, Winter Fog
Cranes and Geese, Winter Fog

Cranes and Geese, Winter Fog. San Joaquin Valley, California. February 13, 2015. © Copyright 2015 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

A foggy San Joaquin Valley winter landscape filled with geese and cranes

This photograph comes for exactly two weeks ago, when we took a detour through a favorite migratory bird area on our way to Yosemite for the opening reception of a show. Driving into the San Joaquin from the west it looked like most of the fog was gone — and I wanted fog! — but we took a chance and headed out into this area, which seems to be one of the most consistently foggy around. And luck was with us — we drove into the tule fog just before out goal. And when we arrived we found stupendous conditions of fog and birds.

A very large bunch of birds had settled in on a recently cleared field this is very close to the access road. Among there were a few egrets, more white-fronted geese, yet more sandhill cranes (as many as I’ve seen here at one time), and then thousands and thousands of Ross’s geese. Within minutes the fog began to thin and areas of light began to move among the birds. The birds were in constant motion, with one or another group taking of at every moment. At times something would cause them to go on alert (note the heads held straight up) and then, quite often, to suddenly take to the air in wild, flapping clouds of birds.


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.