Tag Archives: america

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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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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Timberline Meadow, Morning

Timberline Meadow, Morning
A small Sierra Nevada timberline meadow in morning light, surrounded by rocky alpine terrain

Timberline Meadow, Morning. Sequoia-Kings Canyon National Park, California. September 13, 2013. © Copyright 2015 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

A small Sierra Nevada timberline meadow in morning light, surrounded by rocky alpine terrain

This photograph comes from a long visit to the Sierra back-country in September of 2013. A group of photographers made our way into the high backcountry of Kings Canyon National Park (with the help of pack animals) and set up there to make photographs in this 11,000+’ region for the better part of a week. We remained camped in one spot for the entire time. That might seem less exciting that moving on and covering more ground in the Sierra — and experience that I have also had. However, by remaining in one spot we were able to learn the personality of that specific little area much more deeply and to see it in various conditions: morning and evening, rain and fair weather, and more.

This is a humble little photograph — no towering peaks, building clouds, dramatic weather here. However, I got to know this little spot quite well during our visit. It was right “in the neighborhood,” and on a morning like this one I could roll out of my tent, lift my pack, walk uphill for five minutes or so, and be in this meadowy glade, filled with granite slabs and boulders and backed by rocky slopes leading to a nearby ridge.


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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Base of the Cliff

Base of the Cliff
Autumn plants growing at the base of a sandstone cliff

Base of the Cliff. Capitol Reef National Park, Utah. October 22, 2014. © Copyright 2014 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

Autumn plants growing at the base of a sandstone cliff

It seems that we have arrived at that time when each year my thoughts begin to turn again to autumn photography. That is probably my favorite season as it includes those final warm days of Indian summer, the first inkling of the coming winter, the annual color transition as trees lose their leaves, and the first real winter weather — all of which are favorite photographic subjects of mine. (I’ll be paying special attention to Sierra Nevada fall color this coming season, for a number of reasons, but especially since this is the first autumn following the publication of my book on the subject: California’s Fall Color: A Photographer’s Guide to Autumn in the Sierra” from Heyday Press.)

So, an autumn photograph! This one comes from last October, when I had the opportunity to make a photography trip through some of may favorite areas of southern Utah. Partway through the trip I met up with my friend and fellow photographer, David Hoffman. We spent several days poking around in and photographing Capitol Reef National Park. On this evening we passed through a narrow gorge not far from our camp, quickly stopped, and ended up photographing the red rock canyon walls and the autumn colors until the light faded at the end of the day.


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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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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Dawn Fog and Haze, Tuolumne Meadows

Dawn Fog and Haze, Tuolumne Meadows
Morning fog rises from Tuolumne Meadows toward surrounding forest and ridges

Dawn Fog and Haze, Tuolumne Meadows. Yosemite National Park, California. July 14, 2015. © Copyright 2015 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

Morning fog rises from Tuolumne Meadows toward surrounding forest and ridges

I was up quite early on this morning, and with a plan to drive a bit to photograph a particular subject as it was struck by the first dawn light. In the dark I got dressed, crawled out of my tent, got in my vehicle, and quietly left the campground. Within a few hundred yards of the campground exit my plans changed. A low fog lay across almost the entirety of Tuolumne Meadows, shallow in places and deeper in others, partially obscuring trees and domes. In the pre-dawn light the quiet scene was one of very low contrast and not altogether interesting color, but I suspected that once the sun begin to come over the Sierra crest that it might strike the fog and create some interesting effects. So, out the window with the original plan, and now to see what I could make of my new plan.

I headed to the far end of the meadow where I figured that several potentially interesting things would happen. First, the fog was likely to be back-lit once the sun hit it. Second, I could shoot back across large sections of the fog-blanketed meadow and do so from a slight elevation. Third, I knew that I could position myself so that interesting ridges and trees might appear in the frame. In fact, it all worked out! As the sun rose high enough to illuminate the drifting fog, it began to rise and form more distinct patterns against the background of ascending ridges. I’m often somewhat surprised to find myself completely alone at this utterly beautiful times of day, when the sun is just coming up or when its last light is leaving the meadows. Tuolumne is an impressive place at any time, but it is often special in all sorts of ways during these beginning and ending of the day times. Yet most people, folks who I assume come here at least partially to seek out mountain beauty, miss out as they sleep in, linger over morning coffee, or head back to campfires before the day is over.


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.

Island and Trees, Tuolumne River

Island and Trees, Tuolumne River
Trees grow on a small, rocky island in the Tuolumne River, Yosemite National Park

Island and Trees, Tuolumne River. Yosemite National Park, California. July 12, 2015. © Copyright 2015 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

Trees grow on a small, rocky island in the Tuolumne River, Yosemite National Park

This first evening on a recent trip to the Yosemite high country turned out to be a special one in several ways. I arrived in the park in the middle of the day and was fortune to snag a camp site at Tuolumne Meadows. (The place is busy and often full during the summer high season, but certain strategies can increase the odds — for example, I arrived on Sunday at just about the time that folks had to check out of the camp ground.) I set up my simple camp, lounged around a bit, and then it was time to head out and look for photographs. I headed back along Tioga Pass Road, making note of several possibilities as I passed the meadow, then turned around to go back to one of them. Along the way I decided to pull over to take in the view and by lucky coincidence I pulled in right behind my friends Michael and Claudia. We ended up heading out across the meadow to a likely photography location. Within moments a couple caught up with us — another group of friends, Charlotte and Gary!

The group of us continued hiking along the river, eventually reaching a beautiful area where the slope increased, the channel narrowed, and the river picked up speed. Here it glides across granite slabs, bounces around and across boulders, and occasionally pools for a moment in hollows in the valley. We stopped at a granite bowl where the river takes a bend, and I photographed this small island and its trees against a background of late-afternoon sky with dissipating clouds.


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.