Category Archives: Photographs: Ocean

Monsoonal Clouds, Pacific Ocean

Monsoonal Clouds, Pacific Ocean
Monsoonal clouds above the Pacific Ocean, Big Sur coast, California

Monsoonal Clouds, Pacific Ocean. Big Sur Coast, California. July 20, 2015. © Copyright 2015 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

Monsoonal clouds above the Pacific Ocean, Big Sur coast, California

Driving along the central California Big Sur coastline in mid-July we experienced a very unusual coastal summer day. Summers in this area typically feature morning and evening fog and relatively cool temperatures, interspersed with clearer days when the temperatures might rise to near 70 degrees. But for a few days this July, California was affected in an unusual way by a dissipating tropical storm and the early phase of El Niño, and we had unusual manifestations of light and atmosphere and more. There were thunderstorms, some of them quite heavy. The ocean was smoother than usual and the swell came from the south rather than the north. Layers of unusual monsoon clouds filled the sky.

This photograph belongs to what I categorize as both minimalist and imaginary landscapes. I wrote more about this in my previous post, so I’ll keep it short here. The idea is to work with simple materials and often not with an obvious central subject, to focus on some kind of subjective reality rather than creating the illusion of objective depiction.


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.

Pacific Ocean, Clouds

Pacific Ocean, Clouds
Monsoonal clouds above the Pacific Ocean horizon, Big Sur, California

Pacific Ocean, Clouds. Big Sur Coast, California. July 20, 2015. © Copyright 2015 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

Monsoonal clouds above the Pacific Ocean horizon, Big Sur, California

This photograph and the one that will follow it belong to a small sub-thread in my photography, but a thread that means a lot to me. I think of these photographs as both imaginary and minimalist landscapes. They are “imaginary” in that they are about the subjective experience of the place and an invented or focused way of seeing it, and they are “minimalist” in that they are about simple forms and patterns, and because they often include large “empty” or near empty areas. These are not remotely photographs that are attempting to show the objective nature of places. They are photographs that are about some subjective way of seeing things. I often say that “all photographs lie,” but it might be more honest to say that “all photographs have a point of view.”

I’m not sure that the specific location or subject is all that relevant to this photograph, but since it is my habit to say something about that when I share photographs online, here goes. We spent a few days along the central California coast in mid-July. This is a very familiar place, but several things were unusual this time — and they may have put me in a somewhat different perceptual state. Monsoonal moisture was streaming up the coast from a Pacific Ocean tropical storm near Mexico and bringing clouds and even heavy rain to parts of California, a very unusual situation here. An anomalous plankton bloom turned big areas of the ocean and Monterey Bay an unusual blue-green aqua color. (That is probably the source of the light patch in the water in this photograph.) The swell was out of the south rather than the more typical northwest, and the water was much smoother than is typical, creating unusual reflections of sky and coastal bluffs.


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.

Headlands, Cove, Coastal Haze

Headlands, Cove, Coastal Haze
Headlands stretch into the distance beyond a cove and beach, Big Sur

Headlands, Cove, Coastal Haze. Big Sur Coast, California. July 20, 2015. © Copyright 2015 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

Headlands stretch into the distance beyond a cove and beach, Big Sur

We just returned from a two-day jaunt along the Central California coast. This is familiar territory, as I’ve been visiting this part of California since I was a child, and I have been photographing it almost as long. (Some of my earliest photographic memories include using old film cameras borrowed from my father to make photographs at Point Lobos.) Most of my visits are on day trips, so it is special to be able to spend more than a single day at a time photographing here.

We had unusual conditions and we saw a number of unusual things this time. The remnants of tropical storm Dolores have affected the weather, bringing unusual amounts of tropical moisture to the state and setting of big thunderstorms. We had no such storms on the coast — though they had swept through a day or two earlier — but there was high humidity, a lot of clouds, and warm temperatures. The water was also unusual in several ways. The swell was coming out of the south rather than the typical northwest. Overall the water was relatively calm, and in many places the water’s surface was smooth enough to produce interesting reflections. Sea life seemed unusually abundant: we spotted whales in many places, and large numbers of fishing boats were lined up close to the shore south of Carmel. In the evening as we headed back north towards Monterey the coastal inversion layer began to reassert itself, producing a layer of incipient fog along the coastline and producing haze that enhanced the sense of distance as we looked past successive layers of coastal headlands stretching into the distance.


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.

Cormorants, Coastal Rocks

Cormorants, Coastal Rocks
Cormorants nesting on rugged coastal rocks at Point Lobos State Reserve, California

Cormorants, Coastal Rocks. Point Lobos State Reserve, California. May 3, 2015. © Copyright 2015 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

Cormorants nesting on rugged coastal rocks at Point Lobos State Reserve, California

Following a significant bit of photography near the end of April and the beginning of May, I had hardly picked up my camera for nearly a month — and I was itching to get out and make new photographs. Time was still tight, but I found a free day and headed off to the coastal areas of the Monterey Peninsula and the northern reaches of the Big Sur coastline, ending up at Point Lobos. Frankly, as much as I wanted to make photographs, I also simply wanted to get outside for a bit, and a morning of hiking and photographing here fit the bill perfectly.

The rock in the distance on which some cormorants are nesting is actually an island — an island that at some times of year is covered with many hundreds of all kinds of shore birds. This time there were far fewer. It could have been a seasonal thing, or it might be related to the changes in ocean temperature that have caused harm to marine mammals this season. In any case, I thought it would be interesting to juxtapose the small group of black birds with a landscape of rugged rock, so I wandered a bit until I found this camera position that put nothing but rocks between me and the island.


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.

Whalers Cove

Whalers Cove
Whalers Cove

Whalers Cove. Point Lobos, California. March 15, 2015. © Copyright 2015 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

Whalers Cove at the Point Lobos State Reserve

People who head straight toward the ocean at Point Lobos, driving west through the park and then south, probably miss this spot completely since it is off to the side and down a hill a bit. It is very popular with divers and recently I’ve seen kayakers working out of the cove. It is also a good place to find various sorts of birds — on more than one occasion I’ve photographed egrets standing on seaweed and hunting for meal.

This time I hiked up the trail that climbs away from the cove and towards the north shore of the park with its cypresses and steep cliffs dropping to the water. From the early part of the climb I could look back over the cove and see the small meadow at its head and the layers of forest and hills beyond as they rise toward the ring of the coastal hills across and beyond the Pacific Coast Highway.


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.

Coal Chute Point

Coal Chute Point
Coal Chute Point

Coal Chute Point. Point Lobos, California. March 15, 2015. © Copyright 2015 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

A bench on the bluff at Coal Chute Point, with inlet and peninsulas leading toward green hills, Point Lobos

A few days ago I needed to go make photographs, following a period during which that has not been possible, so I headed off towards the Monterey Peninsula with a vague plan that might have ended up here at Point Lobos or could have taken me further down the coast highway. It was overcast further north and inland, so I figured that by going south a bit I could find better light. In fact, I did, though it was not without its challenges — though the challenges of thin clouds (with their softened light) and haze usually appeal to me.

Without thinking about it a lot I ended up at Point Lobos, a place I have visited regularly since my family first came to California when I was four years old. Needless to say, this is familiar territory for me! I arrived shortly after the park opened and I headed straight to Whalers Cove and soon saw the peninsulas across this bay fading into atmospheric haze and finally to the “impossibly green” hills of the coastal range — and I knew that this would be my first subject for the day.


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.

Monterey Cypress, Cliffs

Monterey Cypress, Cliffs
Monterey Cypress, Cliffs

Monterey Cypress, Cliffs. Point Lobos, California. March 15, 2015. © Copyright 2015 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

Monterey Cypress trees growing at the edge of a rocky cliff above the Pacific Ocean, Point Lobos

It has been a very busy few weeks, for reasons I won’t explain here in detail. In any case, it was important today for me to head out and make some photographs. I originally had planned to go yesterday, but California’s strange weather wasn’t looking too promising, so I delayed for a day, hoping that the cloudiness that has been around might move further north. I was up early today and on the road, and while there were some clouds it looked like things might be a bit more interesting to the south by the ocean, so I headed towards the upper end of the Big Sur coast. (Usually I like clouds, but some types of clouds make for particularly challenging light.)

I arrived at Point Lobos within a half hour of its opening, which turned out to be critical as the place quickly became busy enough that they closed the entrance gates a few hours later! I started out in the Whalers Cove area and decided that I would walk along the north shore trail since I had in mind some photographs looking back towards this cove from higher ground. The light remained challenging for a while, but them changed to what can be a special sort of light, where high and thing clouds mute the intensity of the light but still give it a clear directional quality. This kind of light also fills the shadows better than more harsh light, and that allowed me to photograph the shady side of this rocky prominence topped with Monterey cypress trees.


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.