Sandhill Cranes, Marsh, Dawn. San Joaquin Valley, California. January 1, 2014. © Copyright 2014 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.
Flocks of sandhill cranes fly through dawn haze above San Joaquin Valley marshland
This is another New Year’s Day photograph – and probably won’t be the last one. The typical process when I shoot here is to start at a parking area near the entrance before the sun comes up, either meeting friends there or else simply pausing to get my gear ready and put on warm clothes. Without fail, I also pause for a few minutes to take in the extraordinary sound of the many thousands of migratory birds, usually coming from unseen places off in the mist or fog, and the sound always makes me smile. I may make a few initial photographs in the dim predawn light, and then I usually move off to start looking for subjects.
On this morning I began my “move” before the sun came up, but moments later I looked over my shoulder to see the first light of the rising sun, and I quickly found this location with a small gap in the tules, a bare tree, and some reflecting water, and I lined them up with the rising sun. In this foggy valley, when the fog is not too thick, there is a brief interval of perhaps a minute or two when the globe of the sun rises behind the fog, which mutes the light and allows me to shoot straight into the sun. Also right about dawn, flights of sandhill cranes lift off and fly in lines above the landscape – and on this morning the two ephemeral events happened simultaneously.
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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