Category Archives: Events

Sierra Nevada Fall Color (Morning Musings 8/25/14)

For various reasons — projects I’m working on, clear signs of the changing seasons, photographs I’ve recently seen — I have been getting into that autumn frame of mind that comes at about this time every year. With that in mind, today’s “morning musings” post is about finding and photographing fall color in the Sierra Nevada. Rather than re-writing the whole thing, I’ll start by pointing you to an extensive guide that I wrote a few years ago and have updated every year since that time — if you are thinking of chasing aspen color this fall you may want to take a look: “Sierra Nevada Fall Color — Coming Sooner Than You Think”

If things evolve on a relatively typical schedule, eastern Sierra aspen color is perhaps about six weeks away. I have been photographing this subject for a while now, and it is one of my favorites. I intend to be out there again this fall.

Aspen Color, North Lake
Aspen Color, North Lake

One popular game at this time of year is to predict/guess when the colors will arrive and how good they will be. I’m fully aware that I’ve been wrong quite a few times, and my increasing knowledge of this subject has perhaps only made me more aware of how unpredictable this can be. However, this year I have to wonder about the effects on the trees from our three-year California drought, which has reached an extreme level all across the state this year. I don’t know what the results will be, but I’m considering some possibilities:

  • During the last two years it seemed to me that I was seeing the onset of color move a bit earlier in the season. I have to wonder if we may see stressed trees go into fall mode a bit on the early side this year.
  • Some people say that they are seeing a few aspen groves turning brownish-yellow already and looking like they are drying out.
  • Also during the last few dry years we have seen some anomalous early season storms, and I wonder if that pattern will continue. This can affect the season in various ways if it happens. On the negative side, leaves can blow down early. On the positive side, snow and aspens can make a beautiful pair.

As always, to the extent possible, I like to remain flexible about when and where I’ll photograph the aspens, and I watch the evolving conditions to see what this season may bring. How about you? What are your fall color plans?

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.

Happy 150th Birthday Yosemite

It was 150 years ago today on June 30, 1864 that President Abraham Lincoln signed a congressional act that established the “Yosemite Grant” in the Sierra Nevada — the first instance of the US government setting aside land specifically for preservation and public use. (Technically, Yellowstone became the first “national park,” when it was established in 1872.) Between that first act of preservation and protection, the park passed through several intermediate stages including management by the state and by the military before it became a national park on October 1, 1890. (Little known fact: Beautiful Mount Conness, on the northeastern park boundary and visible from many areas between Olmsted Point that peaks near Tioga Pass, was named after senator John Conness, who was instrumental in getting the 1864 act through congress. Some have suggested that Lincoln was distracted by “other events” at about this time, and may have let this slip by without much attention. I’m fine with that.)

G Dan and Richard Mitchell in Yosemite, date unknown
G Dan and Richard Mitchell in Yosemite, date unknown

My family moved from Minnesota to California when I was four years old — and trust me, that was not recently! I’m sure that to Midwesterners the wonders of California must have seemed quite unbelievable, and my family travelled to many interesting places around the state. I don’t now recall for certain when I first visited Yosemite, though I think it was perhaps before this photograph was made. That’s me on the right and my brother Richard on the left. (Richard is also a photographer who does beautiful work in the Pacific Northwest.) My first clear recollection of the park is actually from just outside the park where, before the current mega hotels were constructed, there used to be a bunch of much smaller places to stay right along the Merced River. My memory is of sitting on metal chairs and watching the wild Merced River pass by. Continue reading Happy 150th Birthday Yosemite

A Reprise: “Fractured Granite, Reflections”

 

Rock Wall, Reflections
Fractured Granite, Reflections

Today I am reprising a photograph that I shared previously since it is part of the Yosemite Renaissance XXIX exhibit opening this weekend in the Yosemite Museum Gallery in The Valley. 

An exhibition of contemporary art of Yosemite and the Sierra
Saturday, March 1 to Sunday, May 11, 2014
Yosemite Museum Gallery, Yosemite National Park

The first event of the show is tonight

The public is invited to the
Awards Reception, Friday, February 28 from 5:30 to 7:30 PM

Perhaps I’ll see you there!

Now, to the text of the original post, plus a more recent addition…

Fractured Granite, Reflections. Kings Canyon National Park, California. September 15, 2013. © Copyright 2013 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

The base of a rugged granite wall reflected in the still surface of a sub-alpine Sierra Nevada lake

A few days ago I returned from a 9-day trip into the back-country of Kings Canyon National Park. I was one of a group of four photographers who traveled to a remote location at about 11,000′, where we remained for more than five days, photographing the surrounding terrain morning and evening. We followed the common routine of such work – up before dawn and off to investigate and photograph some valley or lake, back by mid or late morning for breakfast, generally hanging out and doing camp chores during the midday period when the light is often less exciting, then back out in the late afternoon for a few more hours of exploration and photography before returning to camp for a post-sunset dinner. Unlike a typical backpack trip, where one rarely stays in the same place for long, we remained in the same camp for six nights, allowing us to really get to know the surrounding area very well.

With so much time, we were frequently able to return to places that we had already visited – perhaps coming back in the evening after a morning visit, returning to try again to catch a subject that didn’t have the right light the first time, or shooting the subject in various conditions ranging from clear skies to rain. This bit of interesting rock was next to a lake that I walked to on a number of occasions, and on this morning I arrived when the lake was still in shadow but illuminated by light reflected from nearby rock faces. Because it was so early the air was very still, allowing me to photograph this very sharp reflection of the fractured granite cliff where it entered the water. A bit of vegetation just above the waterline has taken on early fall colors.

Addendum: It occurred to me last week that there is a (perhaps tenuous?) connection between this photograph – with its theme of a vertical rock face above placid water – and this one by Ansel Adams that I had an early connection to: http://www.christies.com/lotfinder/photographs/ansel-adams-lake-precipice-frozen-lake-and-5056399-details.aspx – I have a personal connection to the place, which I wrote about here: http://www.gdanmitchell.com/2010/01/14/a-photograph-exposed-submerged-boulders-precipice-lake

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.

Performance: Charles Cramer – Photographs and Music

 

"Bare Trees, Red Leaves" - Charles Cramer
“Bare Trees, Red Leaves” – Charles Cramer

Many of you are familiar with Charlie Cramer’s beautiful photographs, but this week you have the chance to hear him make beautiful music, too. San Francisco Bay Area residents can join me and quite a few other photographers and musicians for a performance this weekend.

Saturday, January 18
7:30 PM
St. Mark’s Episcopal Church
1957 Pruneridge Ave., Santa Clara

The concert features organists Charles Cramer, Mike Cala, and Darryl Parker… and Charlie will talk about his photography and host an exhibit of prints, and more. See you there!

“A camera trained on the organ console will give us a big-screen view of all the organists in action – and a close-up view of all the buttons they have to push! The program includes Cala performing an improvisation accompanying a short silent film and Cramer’s illustrated presentation, _’How I Became a Photographer and Met Ansel Adams.’_ He’ll talk about the many connections between music and photography. Adams started off as a pianist, and Cramer will present some rarely-heard recordings of Adams playing the piano. Also included will be some of Cramer’s photographs. (http://www.charlescramer.com/) You can see more of Cramer’s prints at the reception following the recital.”

(The photograph seen here is Charlie’s “Bare Trees, Red Leaves” – used by permission of the photographer)

Looking for Eastern Sierra Aspen Color?

Since this is the season of aspen color along the east slope of the Sierra Nevada mountains, it seems like a good time to share a link to my article on where and how to find and photograph these beautiful trees: Sierra Nevada Fall Color Season – Coming Sooner Than You Think

Fallen Aspen Branch, Snow - A small aspen tree branch blown down by an early fall storm rests on snow, North Lake, California.
Fallen Aspen Branch, Snow – A small aspen tree branch blown down by an early fall storm rests on snow, North Lake, California.

“Fallen Aspen Branch, Snow” Sierra Nevada Range, California. © Copyright G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

I originally wrote this article four years ago, in response to a lot of questions about this seasonal change, and I have updated it regularly since then. The short story is that the aspens begin to change near the end of September in a typical year, and if you know where to look you can find aspen color for the next three weeks or perhaps just a bit longer. The change starts in the highest groves of trees and then works its way down to lower elevations as the transformation progresses, with later potential down along the base of the range and in some of the east side canyons.

I have not (yet) been up to photograph the trees this season – though I plan to rectify that situation very soon! – but everything I’m hearing right now suggests that the change came earlier than usual this year. In a more typical year I would expect to see the best color perhaps starting right about now and continuing for another week or longer – but this year there are a lot of reports of high elevation trees already dropping leaves and of lower elevation areas already in peak form. If you are going this year, I would make it sooner rather than later!

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.

The Annual Horsetail Fall Post

Horsetail Fall, Early Evening
Horsetail Fall, Early Evening

Horsetail Fall, Early Evening. Yosemite Valley, California. February 15, 2010. © Copyright G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

The silver strand of Horsetail Fall and water reflecting on surrounding cliffs in late afternoon light, Yosemite Valley, California.

Although it seems like it would be extremely difficult to make a truly original photograph of Horsetail Fall at this point, I won’t completely rule out the possibility, and recently I have seen a few interesting and imaginative photographs of the phenomenon.

During recent years I have posted several short articles on photographing this seasonal Yosemite Valley icon:

One of the best sources of current season information about Horsetail Fall photography potential is photographer Michael Frye, who frequently posts general information and updates each winter.

If you have not been there for this so-called “natural fire fall” (in reference to the historic unnatural fire fall that used to be pushed over the edge of Glacier Point), it may be worth a visit during late February if the conditions are right. The necessary conditions are fairly specific, and even when the basics are in place there is no guarantee that the show will occur on a given evening.

  • There must be flowing water in the creek near the east end of the face of El Capitan that feeds the fall. This is not a sure thing in mid-winter. There must be sufficient snow above El Capitan and the temperatures must be warm enough to melt it, or there must have been a recent warm storm that brought some rain to higher elevations.
  • The setting sun must align just right with a gap in the mountains to the west of El Capitan so that the setting sun (miraculously) casts its last beams right on the face of El Capitan where the fall is located. Roughly speaking this occurs during the second half of February, right around February 20 or so.
  • You must be in a position located further east of the fall, since the color appears when the fall is back-lit by the sunset light beam. In addition, your position must provide a clear view of the fall – not necessarily a simple thing given the forest cover in the Valley.
  • Finally, the skies to the west of Yosemite must be clear so that the golden hour sunset light is not blocked. Many can tell stories of clouds that made it obvious that the show would not happen or, even more frustrating, developing light that was killed at the last minute when the sun dropped behind clouds to the west. (Of course, the most miraculous light might include some clouds around or above the fall along with the clear skies to the west. Good luck!)

Any post about the February Horsetail Fall occurrence must include a few other important points:

  • The event has become so popular in recent years that you will not have an experience of relative solitude such as Galen Rowell likely had when he made the first iconic photograph of the subject several decades ago. Instead you will find yourself among scores or even hundreds of other photographers lined up with lenses pointed the same direction.
  • This, of course, implies that parking and finding “your spot” may both be challenges. Arrive early. Be prepared to walk. Dress warmly and expect to spend a lot of time sitting out in potentially very cold conditions. Cooperate with your fellow “Horsetail pilgrims” and don’t be surprised if others are quite close to your position.
  • If Horsetail isn’t “going to happen” on the evening you are there, you are in luck… you are still in one of the most beautiful and compelling places on the face of the planet for making photographs! Speaking of which, while the crowds are focused on Horsetail, you might consider photographing other things away from the crowds…
  • While these circumstances are unlikely to lead to the creation of truly novel or original photographs in the vast majority of cases, I can report from personal experience that the human experience of joining with many others to stand in a snowy forest, staring upwards in hopes of seeing a miracle of rock, water, and light appear high above can itself be the main attraction.

Also of interest to photographers, the annual Yosemite Renaissance art show typically opens at about this time each February and features the work of photographers and other artists working in Yosemite. The show is in the Yosemite Museum Gallery and the 2013 edition runs from February 22 through May 5, with the opening reception at 5:30-7:30 on February 22 – so you could make it over for the reception after you finish your own Horsetail Fall adventure! (You can view my work in the show this year.) In addition, there is always something interesting to see at the nearby Ansel Adams Gallery – this year an exhibit of Michael Frye’s photographs opens on February 16.

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.

Studio Nocturne 2012 Open Studio – Fort Mason, SF – October 12-14

Yellow Buildings, Shadows, Moving Clouds - Night photograph of two large yellow buildings, shadows, and streaks for clouds moving across the sky above the Mare Island Naval Ship Yard, California.
Yellow Buildings, Shadows, Moving Clouds – Night photograph of two large yellow buildings, shadows, and streaks for clouds moving across the sky above the Mare Island Naval Ship Yard, California.

THIS WEEKEND!

Studio Nocturne 2012 Open Studio returns for the tenth year to Fort Mason Center for San Francisco Open Studios, October 13-14, 2012, 11am-6pm – with a Preview Reception on Friday, Oct. 12, from 6-9pm. This year, ten intrepid Night Photographers (“NPrs”) again participate in the event (PLUS twenty Bay Printmakers!) once again showing in the huge “Fleet Room” in Landmark Bldg. ‘D’ (ground level). This annual event is always fun, free – plan to attend! See the link for more information.

Participating photographers include:

Blake Barrett
Tim Baskervile
Linda Fitch
James Miglian
G Dan Mitchell
Deborah Rourke
Greta & Manu Schnetzler
Kevin Sheridan
Amanda Tomlin
Roxanne Worthington

Yes, yours truly is one of the photographers whose work will be on display. If you are in the San Francisco Bay Area and wonder what my work looks like in print form… come on down! While a good portion of my 15 prints are of night or near-night subjects, some of my natural and urban landscape will also be shown.