Escalante River, Cottonwood Trees, Autumn. Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Utah. October 24, 2012. © Copyright 2012 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.
Large cottonwood trees with autumn leaves along the Escalante River, Utah
In many places like this one along the Escalante, the terrain seems to be largely a continuous repetition of one horseshoe bend after another, and each bend encourages me to want to see what will be ahead. When the river bends one way, the bottom of the canyon may be in sunlight; when it bends the other – and perhaps narrows around the apex of the bend – everything may be in deep shadow from the tall cliffs above the narrow canyon. In these bends it is often necessary to cross back and forth across the stream as the canyon narrows. (That ritual was a new one to me as a long-time Sierra Nevada hiker and backpacker. There a stream crossing or two in a day would typically be about it, and we tend to make a big deal out of them. Here you might cross a stream more than a dozen times in less than a mile!)
The location of this photograph was at one of those crossing points. The trail approached my camera position from up the canyon and around the bend along the right (from this point of view) side of the stream, crossed the river down among the trees, and then headed across a low hill to the left that skirted between the river and the base of the cliffs. When I arrived at this point and walked underneath this wildly colorful group of cottonwoods, I thought I’d like to find a way to photograph them, the river, and the dark upper canyon. So, before wading through the water I went ahead a bit and climbed up on a sort of ledge to this overlook from which I had a good view up the canyon. Because it was a partly cloudy day, the light here was in a constant state of change. When the clouds moved overhead, the canyon and the trees become quite dark. But a moment later the cloud would pass on and the sun lit the golden trees so brightly that it was almost impossible to photograph them and keep any light in the background canyon. So I watched and waited and made this exposure when the clouds partially obscured the direct sun, but still let in enough light to brighten the trees and cast soft shadows on the bank of the stream.
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.