Tag Archives: blue

Before Dawn, Wetlands

Before Dawn, Wetlands
Pre-dawn clouds and misty light above the Sierra and San Joaquin Valley wetlands

Before Dawn, Wetlands. San Joaquin Valley, California. December 6, 2015. © Copyright 2015 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

Pre-dawn clouds and misty light above the Sierra and San Joaquin Valley wetlands

This photograph comes from one of my first trips of this season to photograph migratory birds in California’s Great Central Valley, an endeavor that has come to fascinate me more and more over the past few years. Somewhere in the post-Thanksgiving time frame I become aware that the birds have begun to return, and I soon find time to be out there on beautiful, cold, and often foggy days to photograph them and the winter landscape.

On this season’s first trip I arrived, as I always do, before dawn. The range of possible conditions out here is quite large, and I might find anything from dense fog to rain to perfectly clear skies. This morning brought some high clouds, especially to the east over the Sierra crest, and some scattered pockets of fog. At first the cloudiness made me wonder if there would even be much of a sunrise, but as the light began to appear the sky above the clouds became a bit more


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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Accessible Entrance

Accessible Entrance
A metal door with an accessibility sign

Accessible Entrance. Brooklyn, New York City. December 21, 2015. © Copyright 2016 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

A metal door with an accessibility sign

OK, how to explain a photograph like this one? On the first full day of our recent visit to New York City we were out walking around in the Williamsburg vicinity in Brooklyn, and I was taking in the combination of very old stuff, very new stuff, and some very worn and dilapidated stuff. Even for a photographer used to photographing street subjects in San Francisco, many New York neighborhoods are, as they say, photographically “target rich environments,” with lots of things to see.

If I recall correctly, we had walked down a street toward the East River waterfront, passing though an area of older industrial buildings that seems to be converting to modern tech and commercial space. All I remember of the making of this photograph is that I made it more or less while passing by. I was attracted by the wild color and by the seemingly odd placement of the accessibility sign on what looked like a rather unfriendly entrance door.


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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Green and Blue Wall

Green and Blue Wall
Grafitti and poster remnants on a green and blue Brooklyn brick wall.

Green and Blue Wall. New York City. December 21, 2015.© Copyright 2015 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

Graffiti and poster remnants on a green and blue Brooklyn brick wall.

We arrived in New York late the day before, in time to check in to lodgings and meet our “kids” (two sons and their fiances) for dinner, but there wasn’t a lot of time to get around and see and photograph. The next morning we met up with our youngest son in the more or less the Williamsburg area, and we wandered about, hitting the waterfront of the East River and then finding lunch.

During any bit of urban wandering I’m almost always on the lookout for photographs. Photographing on the street is an exercise in working quickly and being versatile. In most cases I don’t have a specific subject in mind — the closest to that may be a general idea of looking a buildings or people or water or interiors or… In this case I was in an area with a lot of older construction, and we passed through a few spots that were obviously the hope to lots of posters and graffiti. Oddly, since people are sometimes trying to paint out the tagging, there can be many layers of often new paint, posters in various states of decay, and odds and ends of painted words and images. Here the remnants of a poster partially obscured a hand drawn heart on a wall that appeared to have been painted in two not quite identical shades of blue-green.


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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Evening Trees

Evening Trees
Evening trees reflected in the surface of San Joaquin Valley wetlands

Evening Trees. San Joaquin Valley, California. December 6, 2015. © Copyright 2015 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

Evening trees reflected in the surface of San Joaquin Valley wetlands

The primary attraction for me in these San Joaquin Valley wetlands is, or so I tell myself, the hordes of migratory birds that arrive here in the late fall and over-winter — geese, ibises, sandhill cranes, along with egrets and herons and more. They draw me to the Valley, just a couple of miles away from my home over the coast range, throughout the late fall through winter period. But once I get there I think I am as interested in the landscape as in the wildlife.

We had just about finished a full day of photographing (mostly) the migratory birds. Late in the day I always start to think about what my final subject will be, and then I try to extend my shooting time as late into the failing light as possible. I might continue to photograph birds in deep dusk, raising ISO and lowering shutter speed and working with the resulting motion blur. On this late-fall evening I went in a different direction, and I put the camera on the tripod and finished up with some blue-hour landscape photographs of the wetlands, the trees, and the evening 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.
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Exit, Yellow Doors, Blue Windows

Exit, Yellow Doors, Blue Windows
Exit sign above doors to outside area illuminated by dusk light

Exit, Yellow Doors, Blue Windows. Mare Island Naval Ship Yard, Vallejo, California. November 7, 2015. © Copyright 2015 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

Exit sign above doors to outside area illuminated by dusk light

After meeting up with my fellow night photographers (associated with The Nocturnes, the long-standing San Francisco night photography community) to share photographs and pizza, we all got ready to head out into the night as darkness came on. After the social time I began to get myself into the rather different frame of mind necessary to photographing this subject. Before I even left the building I began to look around inside, and I decided to walk slowly into some corners of this facility that I had not looked at before. As I did I found myself in a bit of a dead-end spot where this door, lit by indoor artificial lighting, let to the developing twilight on the other side.

I associate a number of things with photographing at night. Of course, subjects often take on a very different appearance at night, and rather prosaic subjects can acquire a feeling of mystery. In practical terms, I’m absolutely fascinated by this world that is illuminated by lighting that is far more varied than what we typically see in daylight. Rather that more or less one kind of lighting, there could be many — the blues of twilight, the daylight-like color balance of moonlight, the wild colors of artificial light from tungsten, sodium vapor, fluorescent and other kinds of light. But beyond all of that, I associate the sense of profound stillness and quite with this kind of photography, where I frequently stand alone in dark and quiet places for many minutes as I wait for exposures to complete.


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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Blue Alley

Blue Alley
A side alley in San Francisco, illuminated at night by blue lights

Blue Alley. San Francisco, California. July 25, 2015. © Copyright 2015 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

A side alley in San Francisco, illuminated at night by blue lights

Sometimes I think about why I am attracted to certain subjects, and I’ve thought a bit about what it is about night photography that draws me. It is actually a bit complicated, so I won’t try to explicate the whole thing here. I can, however, say something about two related issues. First, a lot of night photography is as much about what the camera sees as it is about what I see. Our human vision can work rather well in near darkness, especially once we adapt, but what we see is nothing much like what our cameras see. The camera can blur motion with long exposures, can record with relative accuracy colors that we either cannot really see in near darkness or which our minds tell us are not what they really are, and quite simply the camera can sometimes produce a photograph of things that are too dark to really see. Secondly, because of these things, the concept of objective accuracy in night photography pretty much goes right out the window. How in the world do you make an “accurate” photograph of something that you cannot actually see without the camera?

If you or I saw this scene with our eyes, we would likely be almost completely unaware of the wildly divergent colors of the light. Our vision system (eyes and, especially, brain) often tell us that we are seeing what we believe we should see. Sidewalks are grey, not blue, so even in blue light the mind registers the objectively blue sidewalk as gray. Yet the camera is more objective, and when we see photographs of these subjects we are often struck by the wild colors. I have heard people ask how to “correct” these colors. My answer? Don’t! I look for and use these intensely colored lighting sources – here a blue light, sometimes the red of automobile tail lights, the warm color of tungsten light, the daylight-like color of LED lighting, the strange spectrum of fluorescent — all of which can lend string color to scenes that are often drab and nondescript in daylight


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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Drake’s Estero

Drake's Estero
Summer sun penetrates clearing fog over Drake’s Estero, Point Reyes National Seashore

Drake’s Estero. Point Reyes National Seashore, California. June 27, 2015. © Copyright 2015 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

Summer sun penetrates clearing fog over Drake’s Estero, Point Reyes National Seashore

I took my camera for a hike this week. Or at least that’s how it felt. I have to confess that Point Reyes, a place I visit somewhat regularly, has always been a photographic challenge for me. I can’t quite put my finger on why that is. I certainly have good results with seascape photographs from other areas along the California coast. As I hiked today — an eight mile round trip to the entrance to Drake’s Estero* — I pondered this what might explain it. Because the point extends out into the ocean, it is often foggy. This fog is not the mysterious sort that hangs along the ground and partially obscures trees and hills. It tends to be the cold gray fog that hovers a few hundred feed up, simply blocking and flattening the light. Although I’m intrigued by this landscape, much of it can be quite barren. There are forests, but they often consist of slender trees growing closely together, often with dense undergrowth. It is difficult to find the things that attract me to the landscapes of the Sierra and the desert — rugged rocky forms, tall cliffs (there are some of these at Point Reyes), light-filled forests, bare and rocky ground. Oh, and did I mention the wind!?

But I keep going back, frequently returning with only a few photographs. This was one of those days. I very much like the place I hiked — a route that alternates between forest, tramping along the waterline, and traversing high bluffs above the estero. I walked four miles out past the end of the trail, to a place where I could walk along a narrow band at the base of cliffs that front the estero, and across the relatively still water were sandbars with birds. Beyond that the surf broke outside of the entrance to the estero. At this far end of the hike I was completely alone, and I found a rock to sit on and quietly take in this scene before turning around to retrace my steps. The photographic challenges on this walk were primarily the strong winds and the gray light. As I passed along the top of one of the bluffs, the sky cleared enough to produce beautiful, soft light on the water and the far peninsula, providing an opportunity to make my one good photograph of the day.

  • “Drake’s Estero” is, as you probably guessed, an estuary — but here I’m using the word that the park service uses for this feature.

G Dan Mitchell is a California photographer and visual opportunist. Blog | About | Flickr | Twitter | FacebookGoogle+ | 500px.com | LinkedIn | Email


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