Aspen Forest and Hills. Sierra Nevada, California. October 2, 2015. © Copyright 2015 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.
Ranks of autumn aspen trees ascend the slopes of the Eastern Sierra toward the crest in afternoon light
This is a photograph of brilliantly colorful eastern Sierra fall foliage… in black and white. Because I can! The location is along US 395 as it passes along the eastern escarpment of the range, and in this spot the hills are terraced upward toward the Sierra crest, high above and out of sight in this photograph. Aspens grow in abundance on these lower slopes, interspersed with grasslands, and leading to more aspens up higher and eventually to conifer forests.
I like to photograph in this area in the late afternoon, when low angle sun light comes streaming over the top of the mountains and backlights the trees and accentuates the effect of haze. While the close trees probably first got my attention, it was the little row of trees in the far distance, seen near the upper margin of the photograph, that eventually intrigued me the most. Why black and white? To be honest, one reason that I thought of this at the time I made the exposure was that, frankly, the colors were not yet at their peak. As I though about that it became clear to me that this photograph was not so much about fall color as it was about fall atmosphere — that softening and warming of the light, the gentle haze that mutes the details of more distant subjects. And I thought of this as just a little bit of a personal challenge. Frankly, it is probably easier to make a photograph in color that says “autumn.” But I know that black and white photographers have been able to accomplish the same thing, and I thought it would be interesting to give it a try myself.
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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