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Mount Dana

Mount Dana
Evening light, Mount Dana and Dana Meadows

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

Evening light, Mount Dana and Dana Meadows

On an evening early in my mid-July visit to Yosemite’s high country, I parked my car along Tioga Pass Road and next to a meadow that is an old friend of mine, shouldered my pack and tripod, and wandered slowly into the landscape, knowing that there was too much to see to warrant hurrying. I dropped to a low flat area, only to discover that water was flowing across it beneath the meadow foliage, so I spent a bit of time looking for a dry path through the section. A bit further on I climbed a low rise with glacial boulders and small trees on top, and I paused here to look for a while and then made a few photographs before moving on.

The photographs from this spot included some of this slope leading toward the summit of Mount Dana, the second tallest peak in the park at just over 13,000 feet of elevation. From my location in this subalpine meadow, the terrain gradually ascends through dense forest, with trees gradually becoming smaller, past the tree line to where only smaller shrubs and bushes grow, and on up to alpine tundra. Clouds shrouded the peak on this evening, leftovers from early thunderstorm weather. Of all these things, photographically I was most interested in the close meadow, rocks, and trees Oddly, when I returned home I initially ignored this photograph, but later on I went back and looked again and ended up feeling that it conveys a true sense of this sort of country.


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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Service Station, Billboards

Service Station, Billboards
Billboards tower over a service station in morning light, San Francisco

Service Station, Billboards. San Francisco, California. August 14, 2015. © Copyright 2015 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

Billboards tower over a service station in morning light, San Francisco

There are many kinds of landscapes to photograph, and I like most of them. This one happens to be an urban landscape, a subject that I like a lot. I made the photograph on one of my periodic walks through parts of San Francisco. This one, as most of them do, started at the Caltrain station very early in the morning and headed straight up toward Market Street. This gas station is right near a freeway interchange, and probably ideally situated for people arriving in or departing from downtown San Francisco.

I know that a scene like this may simply baffle some viewers, especially those who are more drawn to nature and natural landscape photographs with their depictions of unspoiled beauty. I understand. But even in the city there is beauty, and the light was especially wonderful on this morning — blue sky with scattered fog breaking up created a soft but still directional quality to the muted light. My eyes first went to the billboards, whose backsides here tower above the surrounding buildings — urban mountains or cliffs, perhaps? But alone they did not seem to make a photograph. But then I saw the light on that wall with the “PRINTING” sign, and the contrast between the blues of the sky and wall and the hot reds and yellows of the corporate colors on the gas station.


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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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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Market Street

Market Street
A scene along San Francisco’s Market Street

Market Street. San Francisco, California. August 14, 2015. © Copyright 2015 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

A scene along San Francisco’s Market Street

Here is another San Francisco street photography image, this one from the “act quick and grab before it is gone” school of photography. When I’m lucky I may spot a scene like this and find that the human (and other transitory) element is unusually static, and I can take a bit of time to compose and wait for other elements to appear in the scene. On the other hand, often it is a matter of making that photograph almost instantaneously before the person moves, the street is again filled with cars, or any of many other elements change.

In this case I was initially thinking about the figures on the far side of the street and the interesting beam of light reflected down onto the street from the windows of tall buildings. As I walked I turned to my left and saw the person in black leaning against the structure and I had just enough time to make one exposure before he moved. As to what such a photograph might tell us or might mean, I prefer to leave that to your imagination. What is the person actually doing? Why is he leaning on the wall? What, if any, compositional relationships to you see between him and the trash receptacle and the angled light?


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.

Green Door, Brick Wall

Green Door, Brick Wall
Repainted and patched green door in the brick wall of an old San Francisco building

Green Door, Brick Wall. San Francisco, California. August 14, 2015. © Copyright 2015 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

Repainted and patched green door in the brick wall of an old San Francisco building

On this mid-August morning I got up early, took the bus to the train and the train to San Francisco, then walked right up into the downtown core of the City. The walk began with among train commuters heading up toward Market Street, past construction zones, freeway interchanges, and lots of traffic. Once at Market Street I turned toward the Bay and walked slowly, stopping frequently to watch and photograph. At the end of Market I turned south and began my walk back to the train station along the Embarcadero.

Eventually I decided to leave the Embarcadero and follow smaller streets to cross back to the Caltrain station. Like so many parts of San Francisco today, this is an area in transition. There are still some gritty old buildings, but things are rapidly evolving in a much more upscale and expensive direction — and for now the gritty and the modern live side by side. But not for long. Given the price of real estate in this area, funky old buildings like the one with this doorway do not have much of a future. I imagine that almost all of them will be knocked down for more condos and townhouses, and those that remain will be cleaned up and gentrified in ways that retain only the stylish chic quality. Two things (at least) caught my attention about this doorway, at least sufficiently to make me stop for a minute and make a few exposures. First is the stark contrast between the pinkish color of the painted bricks and greens of the doorway. Second is the sum effect of paint over graffiti and then painting it over again, which often produces interesting cubist patterns on San Francisco architecture in places like this.


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.

Colin P. Kelley

Colin P. Kelley
Stark light on an old building on Colin P. Kelly Street, San Francisco

Colin P. Kelley. San Francisco, California. August 14, 2015. © Copyright 2015 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

Stark light on an old building on Colin P. Kelly Street, San Francisco

Most often when I go out to make photographs I do not have extremely specific ideas about my subject or even about how I will photograph the subjects I encounter. Usually, and especially with street photography, it is more a matter of tuning in to my surroundings and essentially hunting, conspiring to be in places where I think I might find interesting things, paying attention, and being ready to take advantage of whatever opportunities arise. On the other hand, I often do have some general ideas about the sorts of things that might interest me, and on my way to this morning on San Francisco streets I had specifically thought about a sort of image that might be black and white and which might use rather stark light a bit later in the morning — so when I saw this building on a corner near the train station I didn’t hesitate to photograph it.

What about the name of this photograph? It was simply a practical matter. I usually do not like to name photographs in ways that tell the viewer how to think of the photograph — most often I feel that if the photograph has anything to say to the viewer, the viewer should be allowed to figure that out from the visual content. (Yes, there are some exceptions.) So in this case the choice to use the words on the street sign near the right side of the frame was simply a practical decision… especially since I forgot to look for any other name on the building! However, I did wonder who Colin P. Kelley is/was. Most likely the street is named after a man known for being “one of the first American heroes of the war [who sacrificed] his own life to save his crew” in World War II. (There are lots of interesting little San Francisco streets with unusual and surprising naming histories like this.)


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.

Forest Edge, Mountain Slopes, Evening

Forest Edge, Mountain Slopes, Evening
Forest edge in evening light with forest sloping upwards toward Sierra crest peaks

Forest Edge, Mountain Slopes, Evening. Yosemite National Park, California. July 13, 2015. © Copyright 2015 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

Forest edge in evening light with forest sloping upwards toward Sierra crest peaks

This is most certainly not an iconic view, but I’m sure that many fellow Yosemite high country aficionados have been to this spot and gazed at this and the surrounding view. (Part of one Yosemite high country icon does appear in this photograph, but it is the bottom part.)

Earlier on this visit to the park I had walked out into this landscape to photograph in the meadow, on low hills, among trees, and alongside a river. As I passed by here again on this early evening I stopped and was entranced by the warm evening light on the trees at the edge of the meadow and by the further forest-covered slopes rising into the alpine zone and eventually above tree line to the elevations where there is little but rock and tundra plants. While the landscape often seems rather static during the day, at moments like this near the beginning and ending of the day the landscape changes dynamically as light shifts and highlights and then shadows subjects.  I had only a brief moment to make this photograph (and a couple of others) before the light lifted from the trees and left them in shadow.


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.