Category Archives: Photographs: Northern California

Photographs from Northern California

Drake’s Estero

Drake's Estero
Summer sun penetrates clearing fog over Drake’s Estero, Point Reyes National Seashore

Drake’s Estero. Point Reyes National Seashore, California. June 27, 2015. © Copyright 2015 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

Summer sun penetrates clearing fog over Drake’s Estero, Point Reyes National Seashore

I took my camera for a hike this week. Or at least that’s how it felt. I have to confess that Point Reyes, a place I visit somewhat regularly, has always been a photographic challenge for me. I can’t quite put my finger on why that is. I certainly have good results with seascape photographs from other areas along the California coast. As I hiked today — an eight mile round trip to the entrance to Drake’s Estero* — I pondered this what might explain it. Because the point extends out into the ocean, it is often foggy. This fog is not the mysterious sort that hangs along the ground and partially obscures trees and hills. It tends to be the cold gray fog that hovers a few hundred feed up, simply blocking and flattening the light. Although I’m intrigued by this landscape, much of it can be quite barren. There are forests, but they often consist of slender trees growing closely together, often with dense undergrowth. It is difficult to find the things that attract me to the landscapes of the Sierra and the desert — rugged rocky forms, tall cliffs (there are some of these at Point Reyes), light-filled forests, bare and rocky ground. Oh, and did I mention the wind!?

But I keep going back, frequently returning with only a few photographs. This was one of those days. I very much like the place I hiked — a route that alternates between forest, tramping along the waterline, and traversing high bluffs above the estero. I walked four miles out past the end of the trail, to a place where I could walk along a narrow band at the base of cliffs that front the estero, and across the relatively still water were sandbars with birds. Beyond that the surf broke outside of the entrance to the estero. At this far end of the hike I was completely alone, and I found a rock to sit on and quietly take in this scene before turning around to retrace my steps. The photographic challenges on this walk were primarily the strong winds and the gray light. As I passed along the top of one of the bluffs, the sky cleared enough to produce beautiful, soft light on the water and the far peninsula, providing an opportunity to make my one good photograph of the day.

  • “Drake’s Estero” is, as you probably guessed, an estuary — but here I’m using the word that the park service uses for this feature.

G Dan Mitchell is a California photographer and visual opportunist. 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.

Tuolumne River, Evening

Tuolumne River, Evening
The Tuolumne River flows through the Yosemite Sierra Nevada high country

Tuolumne River, Evening. Yosemite National Park, California. June 21, 2015. © Copyright 2015 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

The Tuolumne River flows through the Yosemite Sierra Nevada high country

We had one day in the Yosemite area on the summer solstice, and we made as much of the long daylight hours as we could. We started out very early in the morning in Oakhurst, just outside the southwest boundary of the park, and then headed towards Tioga Pass Road. We took that route through the high country to Tuolumne Meadows, and after lunch we crossed Tioga Pass and headed down to Lee Vining for a brief east side visit.

While we were in the Lee Vining area we began to see interesting clouds east of the range, and it looked like lenticular clouds might form before sunset. That is my cue to find a high place with light from the west, so we headed back up to Tuolumne, stopping a few times on the way there, and finally arriving nearly perhaps an hour and a half or more before sunset. As we followed a trail out into the meadow to find foreground for photographs of the Sierra crest and the clouds I looked back to the west across the twisting river, meadows, and forests to see this scene in evening light.


G Dan Mitchell is a California photographer and visual opportunist. 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.

Lenticular Clouds and Ridge

Lenticular Clouds and Ridge
A series of lenticular clouds build above the Sierra Nevada crest at sunset

Lenticular Clouds and Ridge. Yosemite National Park, California. June 21, 2015. © Copyright 2015 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved. A series of lenticular clouds build above the Sierra Nevada crest at sunset

This scene was a sort of visual benediction at the end of a very long June day in and around Yosemite National Park. We began all the way over in Oakhurst, on the southwest boundary of the park, where we had been the previous evening to attend the artist reception for an exhibit at Stellar Gallery that includes eight of my photographs, followed by a fun late-night Mexican food dinner with friends and fellow photographers. The next morning we got up relatively early (but not all that early by photography standards!), grabbed a quick breakfast, and headed out of town with a general plan to photograph along Tioga Pass Road.

We drove through most of the morning good light as we headed into the park, climbed up past the turnoff to Glacier Point Road, descended briefly to the Valley, climbed Big Oak Flat Road, and finally turned east onto Tioga Pass Road. We briefly stopped once or twice along the way, including a bit of photography at Tenaya Lake, and finally stopping at Tuolumne Meadows for lunch. We explored a bit up in the general area of the pass before descending to Lee Vining and then making a quick trip up Lundy Canyon before returning to Lee Vining and then heading back up toward Tioga Pass, timing this leg to arrive back in the high country at about the time that the shadows would lengthen and the color of the light begin to warm. We photographed a bit not too far below the past, but when we noticed a spectacular lenticular cloud building beyond the crest we decided to head to Tuolumne Meadows, where we though the cloud might be a bit more visible and have more interesting foreground. We photographed there until the light left the meadow, and then decided to think about starting the long drive back to the Bay Area. Not more than a couple of minutes down the road we looked back and saw what we sort of expected, namely the intense sunset color on the tops of the ridges of the Sierra crest and the spectacular cloud. What could we do? We quickly stopped, set up cameras and tripods, and spent a few moments photographing this beautiful final light of the day.


G Dan Mitchell is a California photographer and visual opportunist. 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.

San Francisco Urban Buildings

San Francisco Urban Buildings
Worn and frequently painted front walls of urban San Francisco buildings

San Francisco Urban Buildings. San Francisco, California. May 29, 2015. © Copyright 2015 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

Worn and frequently painted front walls of urban San Francisco buildings

I have a few more in this urban/street photography set from a recent day spent photographing in San Francisco. I took the train to The City, headed north along the waterfront, then cut inland at Market Street before wandering up past Chinatown (avoiding Grant) and through North Beach before heading back to where I started. There is a lot to see on such a walk on a weekday in San Francisco!

Usually when I pass through the Chinatown area I forego the walk up touristy Grant Street, and instead cut across (and uphill!) to take smaller streets and to miss a lot of the usual stuff. There are lots of little nooks and crannies here, and the buildings offer diverse and sometimes wild visual treats. These buildings, which certainly look run down from the outside, present an incredible surface of textures and colors, much of which probably evolved by accident as people painted out the ubiquitous graffiti.


G Dan Mitchell is a California photographer and visual opportunist. 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.

Lamp and Wire

Lamp and Wire
An electric wire and a rusty lamp attached to a weathered wall

Lamp and Wire. San Francisco, California. May 29, 2015. © Copyright 2015 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

An electric wire and a rusty lamp attached to a weathered wall

Here is another “poking around in alleys” photograph from San Francisco. I have been walking along this section of the Embarcadero with a camera for a number of years now. The San Francisco waterfront has always been a place of change, but these days things seem to be accelerating. Real estate in The City is becoming increasingly precious and increasingly costly, and there is a continuous transition from inexpensive work, living, and warehouse space to much more expensive and trendy uses, especially in waterfront and other special locations. The changes are closing in on the Embarcadero from both ends and even the middle — from the tourist areas of Pier 39 through the Ferry Building to the bustling area around AT&T Park and on into China Basin.

More and more of the oddball little forgotten places are discovered and eventually transformed. This little alley leads to a set of abandoned railroad tracks leading out onto one of the old piers. Some kind of business seems to have moved in, but the rough walls, worn paint, and functional construction remain. This bit of wood siding, with a rusty lamp and a funky bit of exterior wiring is subtly colored with fading paint, rust and wear from the foggy environment, and bit of blue coloration from being in shade.


G Dan Mitchell is a California photographer and visual opportunist. 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.

Man in Blue, One Way Corner

Man in Blue, One Way Corner
A man in blue walking past a barren San Francisco street corner

Man in Blue, One Way Corner. San Francisco, California. May 29, 2015. © Copyright 2015 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

A man in blue walking past a barren San Francisco street corner

This is a street photograph from one favorite corner in downtown San Francisco, where the buildings are tall enough that I can often photograph subjects in soft light. In addition, the buildings and the street are not very colorful, allowing whatever the subject bring to the scene to become more important.

Often when I make photographs like this I think a bit like a landscape photographer. I find a configuration of fixed subjects that interests me, I try to create some kind of composition out of it (usually working very quickly) and then I watch for a person or persons to walk into and through the scene. This time the two components happened almost simultaneously. as soon as I saw the one-way sign on the corner and realized I wanted to photograph it I also saw this man crossing the narrow street and heading toward it — and I had just enough time to lift the camera, frame the scene, and photograph him between the sign and the fire hydrant, and at the closest point on the sidewalk.


G Dan Mitchell is a California photographer and visual opportunist. 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.

Lake, Rocks, and Clouds

Lake, Rocks, and Clouds
Evening clouds reflected in the surface of an alpine lake with a cluster of rocks

Lake, Rocks, and Clouds. Yosemite National Park, California. July 2, 2007. © Copyright 2007 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

Evening clouds reflected in the surface of an alpine lake with a cluster of rocks

I recently revisited this older photograph, one that I had shared in a color rendition in the past, and this time I felt like I wanted to see it in monochrome. This is a sort of scene probably familiar to anyone who has spent much time in the high country of the Sierra Nevada, that region where lakes, large sub-alpine meadows, sparse trees, and surrounding peaks come together to produce a landscape like no other.

This is a lake I visit frequently, typically several times each season. I visit it for several reasons, ranging from practical to aesthetic. The lake is not too far from roadways, and it is common that I find that I have enough time available on a late afternoon to park my car, load up my pack, and do the short but steep hike up and over a nearby ridge to get to this alpine world. In fact, it is one of the places where I can arrive at that world rather quickly. Once there I tend to explore the familiar landscape, often revisiting lakes, rocks, streams, and trees that I have visited many times before. As the evening wears on, I know that I should head back to my car before dark, but I am never able to leave quite quickly enough, and I end up lingering through sunset and into early dusk, often ending up on the that ridge between me and the road as darkness comes on, and arriving at my car after dark.


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


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