Category Archives: Photographs: Northern California

Photographs from Northern California

Morning, Tuolumne Meadows, Mount Dana

Morning, Tuolumne Meadows, Mount Dana
Lembert Dome and Mount Dana rise above Tuolumne Meadows on a cloudy summer morning

Morning, Tuolumne Meadows, Mount Dana. Yosemite National Park, California. July 13, 2015. © Copyright 2015 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

Lembert Dome and Mount Dana rise above Tuolumne Meadows on a cloudy summer morning

This is yet another of the stopped-on-my-way-somewhere-else photographs, often made unexpectedly as I encounter something I wasn’t really looking for and get distracted — though another way to put it is that I quickly fall into a different mode of seeing when I photograph, and I begin to recognize the potential in subjects that I might otherwise not have noticed. In this case I was headed towards a specific location that I had planned to visit this morning, with a rather specific subject in mind. I set out and, as almost always, my “photographer’s brain” engages and I start seeing potential photographs everywhere. There is a tricky balance sometimes between stopping for the thing I see right here and sticking to a plan to photograph that other thing that I want to see. (This is an old question in photography with the extreme answers ranging from “never pass up a subject in front of you for one that you might see elsewhere” to “make a plan and stick to it if you want to get the photograph you have in mind.” The truth is complex, situational, and depends as much on good fortune and good guesses perhaps as much as on any rational considerations.)

In any case, I skipped past a few opportunities/distractions but ended up stopping for this one. This is a fairly well-known view in this part of the Sierra, though not everyone sees it right at sunrise. I’ve often stopped to admire the scene and on occasion photograph it, usually with some beautiful haze partially obscuring distant details and perhaps making closer details clearer by contrast. Since I am familiar with the view and had a good idea of what I wanted the photograph to look like, stopping for a few minutes was sufficient to make the photograph… and I was back on the road to my original destination.


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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Trees, Meadow, Morning Fog

Trees, Meadow, Morning Fog
Low morning fog floats above Tuolumne Meadows and nearby trees

Trees, Meadow, Morning Fog. Yosemite National Park, California. July 14, 2015. © Copyright 2015 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

Low morning fog floats above Tuolumne Meadows and nearby trees

With this photograph I move back to landscapes, and temporarily away from urban subjects. In early July I spent a few wonderful days in the Yosemite Sierra, camping at Tuolumne meadows, photographing morning and evening, hiking to interesting places in the middle of the day, and running into various photographers and friends (and photographer-friends) almost every day. I’ve been going to this place for years — to camp there, as a launching pad for many backpacking trips into the Yosemite backcountry, and to do photography.

As was the case each morning, I was up early — well before sunrise and before most anyone else in the campground. In the morning I typically already have some sort of plan, usually hatched the evening before, since guessing about sunrise locations in the dark is often not a very profitable activity! On this morning I had a plan to photograph a particular area filled with granite domes and with the potential for interesting early morning light. Thinking of this, as I passed the low fog in Tuolumne Meadows I almost didn’t stop, since a similar morning detour earlier in the trip resulted in my arrival at the day’s planned location too late for the good light. But unable to resist the temptation of ground for, I decided to make a brief stop near these trees (familiar to me from many previous visits) and at least make a few quick exposures before moving on.


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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Post and Grant, Night

san francisco, california, usa, urban, street, photography, night, post, grant, streets, corner, intersection, black and white, monochrome, people, sidewalk
Friday night at the corner of Post and Grant, San Francisco

Post and Grant, Night. San Francisco, California. July 25, 2015. © Copyright 2015 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

Friday night at the corner of Post and Grant, San Francisco

This is (yet another) photograph from my fruitful nighttime wanderings in an area of urban San Francisco in late July, when I joined a small group of fellow photographers to do some night street photography. They started with dinner, but I arrived a bit late and finally met up with them between my starting point (near Union Square) and their location in North Beach. We first photographed in the less-touristy areas of Chinatown, then wandered into tourist central, the well-known Grant Avenue area, where we knew we would find people and interesting lighting.

Eventually we wandered on down beyond Chinatown and ended up in the Union Square vicinity, where the group began to split up — it was getting late, some had been photographing for many hours, and their cars were a distance away. I continued on down Grant a bit further, where I made this photograph at the intersection with Post Street. You might detect one or two odd compositional choices in this photograph — why is that car poking into the right side of the frame?


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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Two Trees, Granite Face

Two Trees, Granite Face
Two trees, one very old and one very young, grow high on a granite face in Yosemite National Park

Two Trees, Granite Face. Yosemite National Park, California. July 13, 2015. © Copyright 2015 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

Two trees, one very old and one very young, grow high on a granite face in Yosemite National Park

This tree grows high on the apparently barren face of a tall granite dome in Yosemite National Park’s high country. Of all of the improbably places to spot a tree, and one that seems reasonably healthy and strong at that, this has to be one of the most unlikely. Given its location, it must be putting its roots down in little more than a large crack in the rock and it has to be fully exposed to strong winter winds and snow.

I have photographed it more than once in the past, and it continues to intrigue me. For thinking that I know the tree well, I was surprised to find that I had not previously noticed the smaller tree growing just beyond and to the right of the main tree — perhaps the offspring of the larger tree? For a short time in the morning, low angle light streaming across the tops of more granite formations to the east glances across the surface of the dome and beautifully lights the two trees.


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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Doorway, Stairs

Doorway, Stairs
A doorway opens to a lighted passageway and ascending stairs.

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

A doorway opens to a lighted passageway and ascending stairs.

A small group of photographers was exploring portions of nighttime San Francisco on a recent evening, making their way from North Beach through Chinatown and towards the Union Square area. As we photographed and walked the light transitioned from evening (with some sun visible in places) to dusk (as lights came on) and then to darkness — at least as dark as it gets in this City on a Friday night. Our path took us to some areas that are not as frequently visited by tourists, but it also took us straight down a section of Grant Avenue.

Grant Avenue is what comes to mind for many people when they think of San Francisco’s Chinatown. Grant is the touristy “main drag” of the area, lined with a range of shops and business and restaurants, many of which appeal to tourists. At night much of this area shuts down, though restaurants remain open — but even as things close the light remains interesting. So we walked down Grant, stopping to photograph various things along the way. At one point we passed this somewhat mysterious doorway. Most such entrances are closed up tight, usually with a locked gate in front, but this one was open and light from the stairway inside flooded out onto the sidewalk. The walls around the door are painted in many colors, and ambient lighting adds another layer of color. My first thought was to make this a color photograph, but as I looked at it in post that seemed just a bit too obvious so I went with this monochrome rendition instead.


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.

Glaciated Ridge and Trees, Morning

Glaciated Ridge and Trees, Morning
Trees growing on rocky, glaciated granite terrain in morning light

Glaciated Ridge and Trees, Morning. Yosemite National Park, California. July 13, 2015. © Copyright 2015 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

Trees growing on rocky, glaciated granite terrain in morning light

Among folks who know me a bit, it is not a surprise to hear that this is my favorite kind of Sierra light — early morning light coming across hazy ridges and granite and striking sparse trees from behind, creating a glow among their branches. I can’t explain why it draws me, but it does, and I think it always has. Perhaps I saw something, now forgotten, during one of my first visits to the Sierra, or possibly I saw a photograph (possibly in one of my father’s books) many years ago and it made an impression.

This scene is obviously not a Yosemite icon (though one is nearby), but the nature of the view is iconic Yosemite for me. A handful of things seem characteristic of the Yosemite high country, and one of them is the sight of granite domes, usually with broken rock, and widely separated trees somehow eking out a livelihood on what appears to be bare rock. Undoubtedly, more square miles of the park are covered by forest, but we can find forest almost anywhere — these trees thriving on bare granite are more rare and more a special characteristic of this place.


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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The Landing

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

The Landing. California Coast. July 212, 2015. © Copyright 2015 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

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

This photograph has appeared here at my website and in subsequent social media posts already, but merely as an example in a post I shared about some slightly technical matters related to a camera I use. (More on that in a moment.) Since I feel like the photograph stands not only as an example of how a lens and a camera work, but also as a photograph, this time I’m sharing it for the latter reason. We had spent a couple of days in the Monterey and Big Sur area, photographing along that spectacular coastline, and now we were headed home. We decided to work our say north along the coast, eventually turning inland just south of San Francisco.

Just before that homeward turn we passed a small, rocky island just a few yards off the actual coast, and I realized that it was covered with many scores of brown pelicans. I love photographing these birds, and it is somewhat unusual to see so many in one place, so we stopped and walked out to the bluff to make some photographs. The light was challenging since it was coming from almost directly behind the birds — but in this case that worked well as there is a light fringe around the bird, some light comes through its wing feathers, and additional light reflects back up from surf and rocks as this pelican lands. Oh, and that technical article? I made this photograph with a pretty unusual “birding” setup — the 50.6MP Canon EOS 5Ds R with a 100-400mm zoom lens with a 1.4x teleconverter attached!


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.