Tag Archives: north

Dust Storm, Dunes, Evening Light

Dust Storm, Dunes, Evening Light
A dust storm rages above sand dunes at the end of the day, Death Valley National Park

Dust Storm, Dunes, Evening Light. Death Valley National Park, California. March 28, 2016. © Copyright 2016 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

A dust storm rages above sand dunes at the end of the day, Death Valley National Park

This was a wild evening, featuring an apocalyptic combination of tremendously strong winds, huge clouds of blowing sand and dust, periodic downpours of rain, and light that changed constantly from ominous and dark to luminous clouds backlit by sun to threads of virgo, and more. I had never seen quite this combination of conditions in Death Valley at one time.

Photography was quite challenging. Because sunset was approaching (and I continued to photograph into the dusk), it was often quite dark. The screaming winds made it virtually impossible to shoot from the tripod, so I was mostly reduced to bracing my camera against the window frame of my vehicle and working with the camera handheld. In the rough conditions I was forced to work from a distance with a long lens, since photographing inside the windblown clouds of dust and sand was not a good idea. Here the clouds and the dust above the sand dunes momentarily thinned, creating a backlit glow from the low angle sun about to drop behind mountains to the west.


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 and Mountains, Twilight

Dunes and Mountains, Twilight
Sand dunes and desert mountains in twilight, Death Valley National Park

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

Sand dunes and desert mountains in twilight, Death Valley National Park

Arriving in Death Valley earlier in the day, we had visited some canyon country that is a bit off the beaten path and then headed back to our home base in the park for the next few days. We got settled in, had some dinner, and headed out to make some photographs, deciding that it would be best on this first evening to photograph nearby.

We made it to an area along the periphery of the dunes before sunset and then continued to photograph during the evening light transition from warm pre-sunset color to the post-sunset blue hour light. Here there was still a bit of a glow from the west, but the sun had already dropped below the Cottonwood mountains, and the light was soft as we finished photographing in the evening stillness.


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.

SFMOMA, Cloud

SFMOMA, Cloud
A cloud above the new SFMOMA building

SFMOMA, Cloud. San Francisco, California. May 20, 2016. © Copyright 2016 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

A cloud above the new SFMOMA building

I think my landscape photographer instincts went to work on this photograph, despite its thoroughly urban subject. But imagine a valley floor, a vertical granite cliff, peaks beyond, and a cloud floating past and I think you might see the analogy. But this is a distinctly San Francisco street/architecture photograph.

I was on foot in The City, spending the better part of a day wandering around in an area bounded by the Embarcadero and the Bay, Market street more or less, and Fourth Street. I was headed south on a less crowded street, traveling more or less toward the newly remodeled SFMOMA (museum of modern art). I had been looking a the tall building on the right and the bit of the new portion of the museum poking out to its left when the solitary cloud appeared from behind the building and began to move from right to left. Having very little time to contemplate, I framed up this vertical composition and made the photograph “street” style, using the prime lens already on the camera and simply shooting handheld


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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A Purple Mask

A Purple Mask
People gather outside a store at night.

A Purple Mask. San Francisco, California. July 25 2015. © Copyright 2015 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

People gather outside a store at night.

A purple mask, eh? You may need to look closely at this small web version of the photograph, but if you do you may see that one of the people in the scene is carrying a furry purple mask. Don’t ask. I didn’t.

I’ll keep the commentary on this one to a minimum since I have already written a few times about the circumstances of such photographs. I made it on a summer afternoon and night walk through sections of downtown San Francisco. Here I was wandering slowly along Grant, the main tourist street of the city’s Chinatown district. By this time at night the crowds had diminished quite a bit, but most shops were still open. With fewer people on the street, there were better opportunities to find compositions that were less cluttered.


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.

Canyon Narrows

Canyon Narrows
Twisting narrows in a desert canyon, Death Valley

Canyon Narrows. Death Valley National Park, California. April 30, 2016. © Copyright 2016 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

Twisting narrows in a desert canyon, Death Valley

On a late spring day of wind and sand storms in Death Valley National Park — and after several days of such conditions — we retreated to one of the deep and narrow desert canyons for an afternoon. After a short walk across the upper edges of a giant alluvial fan, we dropped into the lower reaches of the canyon and headed uphill. Soon the path entered the base of the range and the walls began to narrow, and the wide open world of the desert floor was invisible to us.

The canyons of Death Valley are in some ways similar to the more famous slot canyons of the Southwest. Both are formed by water coursing down narrow canyons, sometimes at high rates that rearrange the geography of the canyons significantly. But there are differences. Here the canyons are most often dry — a year round water supply in such Death Valley places is not typical. And the rock is not the familiar red sandstone of the Southwest, but here a more contorted and broken and often less colorful rock. But sections are very beautiful, and there is something very magical about this section of this canyon, as it narrows and passed between inward curving walls.


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.

Gate and Harbor

Gate and Harbor
Closed gate and shadows at South Beach Harbor, San Francisco

Gate and Harbor. San Francisco, California. May 20, 2016. © Copyright 2016 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

Closed gate and shadows at South Beach Harbor, San Francisco

Up early and on the train to San Francisco on a sunny spring morning, I got off at the SF Caltrain Station and began walking along the waterfront. This is familiar territory to me, since “train walks” are a somewhat regular event for me, especially during spring and summer. I get off the train and slowly wander in one or another direction on foot, taking time to look. Sometimes it turns into and out-and-back walk, and sometimes something like a loop. (The latter is what happened on this morning.)

I decided to hear toward the bay, past AT&T Park and then along the waterfront. I angled over toward the South Beach Harbor, mainly because of the luminous and intense light coming across the bay as the fog began to clear — so bright that it was almost impossible to look directly into it. As I passed the harbor this shadow fell across the walkway, so I stepped back and shot straight into its shadow, with the harbor and the bay behind.


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.

Shadow and Line Study

Shadow and Line Study
Patterns of lines, curves, concrete and shadows

Shadow and Line Study. San Francisco, California. May 20, 2016. © Copyright 2016 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

Patterns of lines, curves, concrete and shadows

I have always been intrigued by and occasionally obsessed with patterns and juxtapositions and form. When I go back and look at my earliest photography from when I was in middle school or high school I can now see that even then I wasn’t just looking at things for what they “are,” but for the other things that they might also be — the aspects of them that are not immediately visible. This is simple (or so it seems) study of some lines and curves and perspective lines, made quickly while walking along the Embarcadero on San Francisco’s waterfront one morning.

Recently the discussion about realism and honesty and manipulation in photographs has crescendoed a bit, as it does from time to time. On one side are those who think that anything goes — not exactly my point of view, though I might be more “permissive” that you would expect. On the other side are members the “no manipulation” faction, who want to apply the supposed standards of photojournalism to all photographs — their job is to show truth and be completely objective and no “manipulation” is permitted. The problem with the extremes of the first position are obvious. The problems with the extremes of the second deserve a lot more thoughtful scrutiny then they have generally been receiving. All photographs lie, even those that tell truths. Some might imagine that a photograph like this one represents an objective truth, a straightforward (and straight photography) look at the true nature of a thing. But if you saw this subject, you would not likely see anything like this, and my choices (to make it black and white, to use a particular lens, to render the image in black and white, to look at this particular subset of the whole, and much more) are entirely subjective. In the end, this is still truth — but it is my very subjective truth about this subject and it most certainly is not an objective “record” of a thing.


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.