Tag Archives: valley

Waterpocket Fold Terrain

Waterpocket Fold Terrain
Deep erosion gullies below an uplifted rock band empty into the valley below, with rugged terrain extending into the distance

Waterpocket Fold Terrain. Capitol Reef National Park, Utah. October 22, 2014. © Copyright 2014 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

Deep erosion gullies below an uplifted rock band empty into the valley below, with rugged terrain extending into the distance

Until a few years ago, although I had heard the term “waterpocket fold” before, I was almost completely unaware of what this geological feature is. Since that time I have visited it several times. On the first occasion I visited the area, but I still did not understand the geology. I “got it” that there was some sort of uplift — the land rising to the west of Capitol Reef was a pretty good clue — but I did not understand or really see any of the connections. I recall stopping at one road side pullout and seeing a sign about it, registering that it is something important, but not really understanding.

On more recent visits the reality of this huge and striking feature has finally sunk in. I began to see it a few years ago on a trip that took we away from main roads and way up on a rocky ridge from which I could look down into the eastern valley and clearly see some of the larger patterns — sinuous lines of angled rock, the valley twisting gently into the distance in the south. On the most recent visit it began to make a lot more sense, as I noticed features like the shadowed cliff band across the center of this photograph, which more or less represents the remaining underside of a layer that long ago continued on up into what today would be the sky. Its edge overhangs the softer material below, though it still erodes into the bottom of the valley. Further to the east in this photograph the impossibly rugged terrain of arid strata continues, eventually rising to a mountain range in the far distance.


G Dan Mitchell is a California photographer and visual opportunist. Blog | About | Flickr | Twitter | FacebookGoogle+ | 500px.com | LinkedIn | Email


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Eroded Ridge and Valley

Eroded Ridge and Valley
Eroded ridge and valley in the Waterpocket Fold area, Utah

Eroded Ridge and Valley. Capitol Reef National Park, Utah. October 22, 2014. © Copyright 2014 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

Eroded ridge and valley in the Waterpocket Fold area, Utah

This landscape could hardly be more different from the landscape in yesterday’s photograph. The earlier photograph was of Drake’s Estero, at the Point Reyes National Seashore, made on a day that was almost entirely foggy until a brief interval of filtered sun illuminated the blue waters of the estuary, a bit of green on a peninsula, and distant sky and water. None of those things are found in this photograph.

This landscape from Capitol Reef National Park is austere, arid, and quite rugged. It has a special beauty, but it is not a beauty with soft edges, misty skies, and water. Here the land is laid bare, seeming from a distance to be devoid of plant life. (Once inside this landscape, it turns out to be a bit more alive than it might seem.) Geology and the effects of time are visible in these places with their colored layers of rock, deeply cut valleys, and rugged erosion forms. Here gullies lie below rocky ridges, and two valleys come together in a flat area laced by stream beds.


G Dan Mitchell is a California photographer and visual opportunist. Blog | About | Flickr | Twitter | FacebookGoogle+ | 500px.com | LinkedIn | Email


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Redrock Country, Near Fruita

Redrock Country, Near Fruita
Cliffs and eroded towers near Fruita, Capitol Reef National Park

Redrock Country, Near Fruita. Capitol Reef National Park, Utah. October 20, 2014. © Copyright 2014 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

Cliffs and eroded towers near Fruita, Capitol Reef National Park

I’m a sucker for juxtapositions of mountains and cliffs, and sunlit and shadowed surfaces. (In fact, “juxtaposition” is a word I think about a lot when making photographs.) This part of the world provides these juxtapositions with a vengeance. Everywhere in the red rock country of the Southwest there are sandstone walls, lined up, building one on top of the other, standing in front of and behind each other, layered with eroded rock and soil, standing above valleys and beyond lower ridges.

We had only a brief time to photograph on this first afternoon in Capitol Reef National Park. I had arrived in the middle of the afternoon and then busied myself with setting up a tent and a few other camp chores, plus catching up on the news with my friend Dave. By the time all of these important things had been taken care of the sun was rapidly dropping toward the horizon, so we quickly headed to a nearby area to see what sort of late-day light we could find. Literally within minutes of leaving our campground (which is just to the right of the shadowed trees visible in the lower part of the photograph) we came upon this intense and saturated late-day light, with shadows starting to stretch across the valley and the low foreground ridges.


G Dan Mitchell is a California photographer and visual opportunist. Blog | About | Flickr | Twitter | FacebookGoogle+ | 500px.com | LinkedIn | Email


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Salzburg, Bavarian Alps

Salzburg, Bavarian Alps
Countryside around Salzburg, Austria and the Bavarian Alps, as seen from the Hohensalzburg castle.

Salzburg, Bavarian Alps. Salzburg, Austria. July 17, 2013. © Copyright 2013 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

Countryside around Salzburg, Austria and the Bavarian Alps, as seen from the Hohensalzburg castle.

As I have mentioned in earlier posts, while we did not actually stay in Salzburg during our 2013 trip to London, Germany, and a tiny bit of Austria, were there on several days during our week near Berchtesgaden, Bavaria. We arrived in Salzburg by train from Heidelberg, and we left from Salzburg on the return journey. In between we made additional visit to Salzburg and the surrounding area.

On this visit we decided to walk up to and into the Salzburg Castle, sitting high above the old city. The castle is worth the visit for many reasons, but if you keep climbing… and climbing… and climbing you can eventually reach the highest accessible point, from which you have huge panoramic views in all directions. Behind me was the city itself, and stretching off in this direction was an alternative patchwork of buildings and fields and trees that appeared to reach all the way to the base of the Alps in the far 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.

Bavarian Alps, Berchtesgaden National Park

Bavarian Alps, Berchtesgaden National Park
The Bavarian Alps rise above Königsee in Berchtesgaden National Park, Germany

Bavarian Alps, Berchtesgaden National Park. Königsee, Bavaria, Germany. July 14, 2013. © Copyright 2013 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

The Bavarian Alps rise above Königsee in Berchtesgaden National Park, Germany

Over the course of a summer week in 2013 we had a lot of opportunities to gaze at these Bavarian Alps. We spent a week with family in the Berchtesgaden area, staying in a big farm-house with views across a bucolic valley and into the mountains as they rose to the summit of the Watzmann, the second-highest peak in Germany. We did the “tourist thing” and rode the electric boats up the Königsee Lake between high ridges, and on one memorable day we visited Jennerbahn, took the tram to the top, and spent the rest of the day descending alpine valleys on foot — with a mid-hike stop for snacks and a beer!

During our stay I think I got a sense of how these mountains are different from my “home range” of the Sierra Nevada — though I would need a much longer stay and more hiking to get to know them well. Because they are built from different sorts of rock, the shapes of the peaks are often quite different. The tall rugged peaks also rise almost directly from relative lowlands — for example, a short hike took us from the lake to the base of a huge cliff at Die Eiskapelle, a place that felt thoroughly alpine. In the Sierra we have kept vast stretches of the range relatively wild, isolated from human structures to the point that one can imagine that he/she is in a fully wild place. In the alps there are huts, and you can stop for a beer in the middle of an afternoon hike! The ridges and valley in this photograph rise from the shoreline of the Königsee.


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.

Cottonwood Trees, Autumn

Cottonwood Trees, Autumn
Cottonwood Trees, Autumn

Cottonwood Trees, Autumn. Southern Utah. October 26, 2014. © Copyright 2014 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

A grove of autumn cottonwood trees in Utah red rock country

After a few days “in the field” in a remote southern Utah location with a group of friends, I left our camp and headed back out to what passes for civilization in this part of Utah. Truth be told, by the end of the day I arrived in a quite civilized place! After driving a bit I ended up in the town of Boulder, where I was to meet my cousin and her husband to share dinner and conversation. But I arrived a bit early, so I decide to explore a bit first.

I headed right on through Boulder and onto the Burr Trail route, following it for a few miles to an overlook where the road descends into a long canyon. I arrived at close to the perfect date to see brilliant colors from autumn cottonwood trees in this valley — although the color peak may have come a few days earlier, I like the combination of colorful trees and the skeletal shapes of partially bare trees. This little valley has a flat bottom, and the trees grew across its width and right up the red rock cliff on the opposite side.


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.

Ross’s Geese, Evening Sky

Ross's Geese, Evening Sky
Ross’s Geese, Evening Sky

Ross’s Geese, Evening Sky. San Joaquin Valley, California. March 1, 2015. © Copyright 2015 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

A flock of Ross’s geese head west against the clouds of a winter evening sky

This may well end up being one of my final migratory bird photographs of the 2014-15 season. It seemed to wind down early this year, at least from what I saw. I suspect that this probably has something to do with the very unusual weather this winter in California. The temperatures were far above normal. In some places there averaged ten degrees higher than usual during the first three months of the year. Precipitation has also been way out of whack. There were some early indications of a possible wet year, then things seemed to be put on hold… until some serious rain (at my elevation) in December, which brought back memories of what winter used to be like in California. Then the tap seemed to be shut off with the new year, and where I live we went nearly 50 days with no rainfall whatsoever at what should be the wettest time of the year. It finally rained again, but not much. More troubling, the Sierra experience roughly 10% of typical precipitation levels, and this is the fourth year of below normal precipitation.

Despite the climate challenges, the season did produce some truly wonderful days of bird photography in the Central Valley. One thing that helped was a long period of tule fog in the Valley, which I find picturesque. Eventually the birds showed up, and we had a great stretch of geese and cranes and more up through the middle of February. At the end of the month we headed to the Sierra for an exhibit at the Yosemite Renaissance, stopping on the way to visit the birds. We didn’t see many at all, and when we stopped again on the way back things hadn’t changed much. Late in the day we did find a group of Ross’s geese on a pond, and I caught groups of them as they departed to the south and west.


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.