Tag Archives: print

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.
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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 Arid Mountains

Dunes and Arid Mountains
Dunes and Arid Mountains

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

Low sand dunes against a backdrop of the arid mountains of the east side of Death Valley

I made this photograph early during my evening visit to the lower portions of these sand dunes, before the sun had dropped low enough to really warm the color of the light but when the shadows were beginning to lengthen. Looking at this expanse of dunes, with shapes reminiscent of ocean waves, I considered whether to include or avoid the bits of life scattered though the dunes — and decided to mostly leave them out, except that I did build the composition around a small clump of branches poking out of the dunes in the center foreground, lining myself up to put an interesting and rugged set of mountains in the right spot beyond the sand.

The distant mountains are the Grapevine Mountains, which are actually a section of the larger Amargosa Range that runs along the east side of Death Valley. These are rugged, arid, rocky, and sun blasted mountains, with little evidence that much grows there. Late in the day the light on the mountains, and especially in shadows, shifts toward blue tones and the textures of the three layers of the scene seem connected and related — the foreground dunes, the middle distance low hills at the base of the higher mountains, and then the lower slopes of the Amargosa Range.


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.