Category Archives: Photographs: Sierra Nevada

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.

Meadow Grass and Frost

Meadow Grass and Frost
Meadow Grass and Frost

Meadow Grass and Frost. Yosemite Valley, California. March 1, 2015. © Copyright 2015 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

Early morning frost on dormant winter grasses in a Yosemite Valley meadow

On a late-winter morning like this one there could be snow in Yosemite Valley, and even without new snow there is likely to be a bit of it lying around in shady areas. But not this winter. This has been the fourth of a series of very dry years in California, and this year was especially unkind to the Sierra. By the end of the season the snow pack looks to be barely 10% of what it would be in a typical year, and the situation is even more dire since this is only the latest in a string of such years. So it was not surprise to find this meadow snow free, with only a bit of frost suggesting the season.

We arose early on this morning and headed out close to sunrise looking for a meadow with the common winter low fog. We finally found a bit of it in this meadow, though it was dissipating quickly. Before it went away we headed out into the meadow to see what photographic possibilities we could find. I first focused on the frost itself and on some of the winter-dormant brush and bushes around the meadow’s edge. Then I moved back into the main part of the meadow, where these bent over and dried grasses reminded me of the patterns I might find in flowing water.


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.

Cottonwood Leaf, Dry Grass, Winter

Cottonwood Leaf, Dry Grass, Winter
Cottonwood Leaf, Dry Grass, Winter

Cottonwood Leaf, Dry Grass, Winter. Yosemite Valley, California. March 1, 2015. © Copyright 2015 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

A single cottonwood tree lies among dry winter grasses in a Yosemite Valley meadow.

This has been and continues to be a historically dry year in California and especially in the Sierra. More concerning, it is the third such year in a row. In a more typical year — and may those return soon! — the location where I made this photograph would be very wet and perhaps even snow-covered on a day like the one when I visited.

We headed out into the Valley very early on this morning. It was the sort of day when you might hope to find some ground fog in the Valley meadows. We had no luck at the first two meadows we checked, but the third did have a very tenuous and shallow layer of fog, so we stopped. I wandered out into the dry and slightly frosty meadow, and as I did the last of the fog dissipated. As I looked for compositions among the waves of dormant grasses I began to notice that here and there were reddish-brown heart-shaped leaves left over from the autumn cottonwoods.


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.

Yosemite Fall, Winter Mist

Yosemite Fall, Winter Mist
Yosemite Fall, Winter Mist

Yosemite Fall, Winter Mist. Yosemite Valley, California. February 28, 2015. © Copyright 2015 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

Upper Yosemite Fall briefly appears through the mist on a winter morning

In Yosemite Valley for a few days at the end of February, I had the opportunity to wake up early and wander off into meadows before most of the Valley had awakened. The overnight forecast had included a small chance of some snow flurries and continuing snow in the morning, so I wanted to be “out in it” when and if it arrived. Around dawn I got up and walked out into the meadow near the swinging bridge. There was the tiniest bit of snow from the night before — so little that its faint trace was only to be seen in hollows and protected areas. As I walked through the meadow the sun began to rise and there was a five-minute snow shower as I set up my tripod and camera.

From where I stood I had an open view upwards toward the Valley cliffs, but I couldn’t see much. Heavy mists were floating along the upper reaches near the Valley rim, and for the most part I only was able to see bits and pieces of the formations through momentary windows in the clouds as they drifted by. One moment a ridge line or a pinnacle would briefly appear, only to be swallowed up again in the clouds. From where I stood I knew that Upper Yosemite Fall should be visible, so I pointed my camera that way, hoping for a muted and obscured view of the thing if the clouds cleared enough. And they momentarily thinned enough that I could see the upper rim of the Valley, the cleft where the fall leaps into space, and a section of its downward path behind the scrim of clouds.


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.

Cliff’s Edge, Winter Mist

Cliff's Edge, Winter Mist
Cliff’s Edge, Winter Mist

Cliff’s Edge, Winter Mist. Yosemite Valley, California. February 28, 2015. © Copyright 2015 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

Winter mist and snow swirl above the edge of Yosemite Valley cliffs

We spent three days in Yosemite Valley near the end of February and through the first day of March. The weather forecast had been for snow all the way down to the Valley floor, so we thought our timing appeared to be perfect — there are few things more beautiful than this valley in new snow. Unfortunately, as seems to have been the typical pattern this winter, the snow didn’t amount to much. I had a five-minute flurry while photographing in one of the meadows very early in the morning, and a drive up and out of the Valley to higher points put us in light snowfall for a while.

To make this photograph I stopped at an iconic location, but then I looked up rather than in the direction where the famous view lay. With a long lens on my camera I was able to compose little vignettes highlighting bits of the near vertical world where the highlands area meet the upper rims of the cliffs dropping into the Valley. Here mist and light snowfall blows across the slanting terrain just above the void. Most of the image is relatively obscured — the foreground cliff is dark enough to mute many details, and near the top of the frame the mist is lit intensely by the sun.


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.

Almost Without Form

Almost Without Form
Almost Without Form

Almost Without Form. Yosemite Valley, California. February 28, 2015. © Copyright 2015 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

Winter storm clouds, mist, and snow obscure the upper rim of Yosemite Valley

I have an idea that one kind of better photograph is a photograph that is as minimal as possible, perhaps so minimal that the viewer has to guess at and perhaps fill in details that are implied but not literally present in the image. I’m also intrigued by subjects that are on the edge of being (or not being) visible — how little can be present in the image and still have it be an image of something. And I’m also fascinated by luminous atmosphere — clouds and fog and mist made to glow softly by sunlight.

Near the end of February we were in Yosemite Valley for a few days in connection with the opening of the 30th Yosemite Renaissance exhibition. We were hoping for a real snow storm, and early encouraging predictions suggested snow all the way to the Valley floor. The way things have gone this year, it was little surprise when that did not happen — but there were beautiful clouds drifting around the upper reaches of the Valley’s cliffs and pinnacles, and snow did fall at higher elevations. Partially because we were with a person who had never been to the Valley before we stopped more than once at some of the popular and iconic spots — and this photograph, though it does not show the famous iconic view, was made at one of the best known as think clouds and light snow passed across the upper rim of the Valley, nearly rendering granite towers and solitary trees invisible.


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.

Tree and Morning Frost

Tree and Morning Frost
Tree and Morning Frost

Tree and Morning Frost. Yosemite Valley, California. March 1, 2015. © Copyright 2015 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

A frost-covered Yosemite tree in morning light

It was great fun to be in Yosemite Valley this past weekend for the opening of the 30th annual Yosemite Renaissance exhibition. This is the third time that I’ve had photographs in the show. (If you are in the Valley, drop by. It is in the Visitor Center Museum through May 10, after which it moves on to a couple of Central Valley locations.) The show features a wide variety of two and three-dimensional art by artists who focus on the Sierra and the park. The entry of mine that was selected this year was atypical for me — it includes people and it is humorous! I share it again here at some point, but for now I’ll just note that it features backcountry photographers engaged in an unusual activity. The show brings lots of other fun things: a chance to photograph in the Valley, opportunities to hang out with lots of photographer and artist friends.

I made this photograph on our final morning in the park. We headed out around sunrise, thinking we might find some shallow fog in meadows. There was a bit of the fog but it was dissipating quickly and we eventually ended up in this sunny meadow. I was immediately attracted to this large elm tree, covered in frost and backlit in the morning light. I made several photographs of it — and at least one other may appear here before long — and before long the air warmed and the frost melted.


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.