The Landing

The Landing
A brown pelican joins the flock on a rock along the Pacific coast of California

The Landing. California Coast. July 21, 2015. © Copyright 2015 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

A brown pelican joins the flock on a rock along the Pacific coast of California

California’s brown pelicans are probably my favorite coastal birds, and I love to photograph them — from bluff tops which they pass as the coast along on Pacific winds, to the ocean as they skim just above the water, to places where they can be found resting between flights. These are large birds, with an almost prehistoric appearance, especially when a group of them floats by in a row, sometimes hardly moving at all. We spent a couple of days on the coast in mid-July, and on the last day as we headed home we passed a small, rocky island just of the shoreline. When we saw that it was covered with scores of these birds, so many that some had to land nearby instead of on the island, we grabbed our equipment and spent some time photographing them. I had tracked this pelican on its inbound flight. Most of them came from my right, passed the island, then turned to face into the wind before landing.

This photo also serves as a bit of a technical test, too. I made the photograph with my new Canon 5Ds R, using the EF 100-400mm f/4.5-f/5.6L IS II lens. To get a bit more “reach,” I added a 1.4x tele-extender, which made the longest focal length 560mm. Since this wasn’t possible on my previous camera (which could only autofocus at f/5.6, not the f/8 aperture produced by using the converter), I was interested to see how well this would work — would image quality be sharp enough and would the lens/extender combination focus quickly and accurately enough. In fact, it did work. Quite well, actually.


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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Monsoonal Clouds, Pacific Ocean

Monsoonal Clouds, Pacific Ocean
Monsoonal clouds above the Pacific Ocean, Big Sur coast, California

Monsoonal Clouds, Pacific Ocean. Big Sur Coast, California. July 20, 2015. © Copyright 2015 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

Monsoonal clouds above the Pacific Ocean, Big Sur coast, California

Driving along the central California Big Sur coastline in mid-July we experienced a very unusual coastal summer day. Summers in this area typically feature morning and evening fog and relatively cool temperatures, interspersed with clearer days when the temperatures might rise to near 70 degrees. But for a few days this July, California was affected in an unusual way by a dissipating tropical storm and the early phase of El Niño, and we had unusual manifestations of light and atmosphere and more. There were thunderstorms, some of them quite heavy. The ocean was smoother than usual and the swell came from the south rather than the north. Layers of unusual monsoon clouds filled the sky.

This photograph belongs to what I categorize as both minimalist and imaginary landscapes. I wrote more about this in my previous post, so I’ll keep it short here. The idea is to work with simple materials and often not with an obvious central subject, to focus on some kind of subjective reality rather than creating the illusion of objective depiction.


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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Fujifilm Deal: X-Pro-1 And Lens Bundles

There is a special deal right now on the Fujifilm X-Pro-1 mirrorless camera if you purchase it with a couple of available lens options:

Yes, you read that correctly — the 27mm lens is essentially free with the X-Pro-1, and for $150 you can also get the outstanding 35mm f/1.4 XF R lens which is sold separately for $599! (This is the lens that is almost always on my X-E1 body.)

Fujifilm X-Pro-1 Body
Fujifilm X-Pro-1 Body

If you are interested in trying out the Fujifilm sensor system, like rangefinder-style bodies, and like to shoot with small, high quality primes, this seems like a great deal to me.

These days I use two different camera systems, depending on what kind of photography I’m doing. While my main system is based the Canon EOS 5DS R DSLR, I also use a separate system based around one of the Fujifilm X-trans mirrorless sensor cameras. I still use the original Fujifilm X-E1, even though it has now been superseded by newer models including the Fujifilm X-E2, the Fujifilm X-T1, and the less expensive Fujifilm X-T10.

The first of the interchangeable lens X-trans sensor bodies was the Fujifilm X-PRO-1. This was — and in many ways, remains — a groundbreaking camera. Continue reading Fujifilm Deal: X-Pro-1 And Lens Bundles

Pacific Ocean, Clouds

Pacific Ocean, Clouds
Monsoonal clouds above the Pacific Ocean horizon, Big Sur, California

Pacific Ocean, Clouds. Big Sur Coast, California. July 20, 2015. © Copyright 2015 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

Monsoonal clouds above the Pacific Ocean horizon, Big Sur, California

This photograph and the one that will follow it belong to a small sub-thread in my photography, but a thread that means a lot to me. I think of these photographs as both imaginary and minimalist landscapes. They are “imaginary” in that they are about the subjective experience of the place and an invented or focused way of seeing it, and they are “minimalist” in that they are about simple forms and patterns, and because they often include large “empty” or near empty areas. These are not remotely photographs that are attempting to show the objective nature of places. They are photographs that are about some subjective way of seeing things. I often say that “all photographs lie,” but it might be more honest to say that “all photographs have a point of view.”

I’m not sure that the specific location or subject is all that relevant to this photograph, but since it is my habit to say something about that when I share photographs online, here goes. We spent a few days along the central California coast in mid-July. This is a very familiar place, but several things were unusual this time — and they may have put me in a somewhat different perceptual state. Monsoonal moisture was streaming up the coast from a Pacific Ocean tropical storm near Mexico and bringing clouds and even heavy rain to parts of California, a very unusual situation here. An anomalous plankton bloom turned big areas of the ocean and Monterey Bay an unusual blue-green aqua color. (That is probably the source of the light patch in the water in this photograph.) The swell was out of the south rather than the more typical northwest, and the water was much smoother than is typical, creating unusual reflections of sky and coastal bluffs.


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.

Comments Working Now

(This is an update to the original version of this post, with the update first and the original post below the horizontal divider.)I

Update: I think I have a handle on the comment problem now. I have contacted the plugin developer whose plugin is creating the problem, and they offered a temporary solution that I’ll use for now: I will check for new comments once per day and manually approve them.

So if you commented in the past and were disappointed that your comment never showed up, give it a try one more time. Thanks!


(Original post text follows…) Continue reading Comments Working Now

Asian Styles

Asian Styles
People in front of a San Francisco storefront at night

Asian Styles. San Francisco, California. July 25, 2015. © Copyright 2015 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

People in front of a San Francisco storefront at night

At about this time last year I made an important “discovery during a trip to Manhattan” — with newer cameras I can photograph at high enough ISOs that it is possible (and even easy) to do handheld night street photography. And since I use a small mirrorless camera for street photography, I can even do this sort of photography without carrying around a big camera and lenses. I’ve long been a night photographer, but generally the type to sets up a tripod and approaches this genre more or less the same way I approach landscape photography, but with longer exposures. Much longer! But this new development is tremendously liberating. Using a large aperture prime I can walk around and spontaneously respond to what I see, and I can capture brief and ephemeral moments in the wild and beautiful light of the urban night.

This photograph exemplifies one way that I’ve always shot street photography, though now adapted to the night. I begin by finding an interesting bit of urban landscape — buildings, light, color, texture, form. I find a composition that will work… and then I wait. Sometimes the wait is brief and sometimes it is long. I wait for people to populate this “landscape,” and to ideally configure themselves into some interesting combination. Since I don’t pose these photographs, I have to react quickly and take whatever the street serves up. This time it served up something special, I think. The storefront itself first got my attention, with its brightly colored merchandise, the light spilling out onto the sidewalk, the aqua windows on the left margin, and the red and yellow vending machine on the right. The small group of people just to the right of the doorway were my first target, and I think I have a photograph of just them taken shortly before this one. But very soon a wonderful and unpredictable conjunction occurred as the man walked out through the store doorway, the woman in blue passed in front of the vending machine, and the two men with the crying child in a stroller passed the store, followed by the woman with the bag.


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.
Blog | About | Flickr | Twitter | FacebookGoogle+ | 500px.com | LinkedIn | Email


All media © Copyright G Dan Mitchell and others as indicated. Any use requires advance permission from G Dan Mitchell.

A Photo A Day: How Long Has This Gone On?

Recently someone who was giving a talk on photography noted that I have been posting a photograph every day for a long time. His guess was that I had been doing so for about four of five years. I told him that I thought that it has been longer than this, but I wasn’t sure how long.

Morning Light, Zabriskie Point
Morning light on the badlands near Zabriskie Point, Death Valley National Park

Morning Light, Zabriskie Point. Death Valley National Park. April 4, 2004. © Copyright 2004 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved. (Originally posted April 5, 2006.)

Judging from some records I just looked up, I think I may have been doing this since early April 2006! Some of those earliest posts are still there, but the photographs have gone missing — in the course of moving the website between different hosts and transferring the content from one content management system to another some of the early content was lost.

(This was not the first photograph shared  I posted online — I was blogging in the mid-1990s, and posting photographs not long afterward. It is a bit scary to think of how many thousands of photographs I must have posted by now!)

My friend (the “someone” mentioned above) was pointing to this history in the context of practice, something that I think is tremendously important in photography. He and I share extensive background and training in music, where the importance of practice is obvious, and where practicing is assumed. Continue reading A Photo A Day: How Long Has This Gone On?

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