Trees grow at the base of a granite face, Yosemite National Park
I originally worked up this photograph for an article on the relationship between supposed realism in photographs and post-processing. (“Photographs And Reality: A Complicated Relationship”) I selected it because the scene posted a particular common challenge, namely a dynamic range that was wider than the typical dynamic range of presentation media, and because capturing the full scene required me to make some exposure decisions that intentionally produce an original “straight out of camera” image that wasn’t lovely, but which protected the scene data I would need to work with the photograph in post.
The subject is a group of large-trunk trees growing on granite slabs at the base of a Yosemite high country granite dome. This landscape — more or less the landscape of much of Yosemite — is interesting in so many ways. Here the trees seem to somehow grow out of little more than cracks in solid granite, and shortly beyond where they stand the rock becomes too steep and too solid to support more large trees. While such scenes can be found throughout the park and in many more inaccessible areas, this one is right alongside Tioga Pass Road!
Forest and granite boulders at the water’s edge, subalpine Sierra Nevada lake
I’m looking backwards and forwards with this photograph. Backwards to a visit of more than a week to a Yosemite backcountry lake with a couple of photographer friends near the end of last year’s summer season — a season that brought another year of drought and tremendous wildfires. All of that aside — but, boy, did we deal with wildfire smoke! — we had a beautiful period of late season light on many days, and a few days of rain from an early season storm near the end.
And I’m looking forward… to getting back into the summer Sierra before too much longer. Spring has been quite busy since our last big adventure, a visit to Death Valley back at the end of March, and aside from bird photography and a few odd trips here and there, well, it is really time to get back into the field for a more extensive period. Tioga Pass Road has now been open for a couple of weeks, and the High Sierra awaits. I hope to be back there soon, and back at places like this one and it this high country light.
Sand dune shapes in soft light, Death Valley National Park
There are still a few more photographs to share from this year’s spring visit to Death Valley National Park back at the end of March. To answer the inevitable question, we arrived after the peak of the “super bloom” — but there were still flowers and there are always plenty of other things to see. We visited some familiar sites and sights, and we also investigated some areas that were new to us. (It is a big park — even though I’ve been going regularly for over 15 years there is still plenty of new thing stuff to see.)
On the last morning of our trip, after days featuring wind and dust storms and even rain, it appeared to be calm. I got up well before dawn — what else is new? — and headed to a nearby area of dunes. Rather than going to the “usual spot,” I drove on to a location that I had been thinking of for a while, parked, loaded up my pack full of camera gear, grabbed my tripod, and headed out the pre-dawn light across a playa, heading toward some low dunes. Twenty or thirty minutes later I arrived, still before sunrise, and I had some time to photograph in the beautiful soft pre-dawn light.
The shadow of a breakwater across a view of San Francisco Bay
I’ve had an obsession with the morning light coming across the San Francisco Bay ever since I started taking an early morning train up there and walking the waterfront, making photographs. The light varies, but it is almost always interesting — muted by fog, brilliantly bright when there is lighter haze, reflecting off the water when the skies are clearer. That latter was mostly the case on this morning, with only a few clouds left from a late-season rain storm that was clearing out.
I began photographing some pier not far from the South Beach Harbor, and as I walked out onto one of them I was intrigued by the overlapping patterns of breakwaters near the entrance to the harbor. As I looked to the right of that entrance the low breakwater cut the bright reflections of morning sun, placing an almost black line across the water parallel with the horizon line.
Reflections and shaded interior beyond a barred window, San Francisco
Walking along the waterfront near the South Beach Harbor I noticed a walkway going out to the end of a pier than I had not noticed before. This time a gate was open, so I walked out onto the pier and passed many small temporary (or so they seemed) businesses and shops that were set up behind the sliding metal doors, now open for the day. My goal was the end of the pier, where I figured I might be a good, clear view straight into the morning light coming across the bay or possibly back across the boats tied up in the harbor.
Passing one small metal-sided building, I noticed the odd combination of objects — a bird cage behind a sort of “human cage” of the barred windows. The right window provided a visual and subjective contrast with these objects, since it reflected the open blue sky and the upper portions of the masts of the nearby sailboats.
San Francisco, a city with a truly interesting past, is being gentrified at an alarming rate. The absurd and explosive increase in real estate values in the region is one indication. Another is the rate at which formerly down and out areas are being “redeveloped” and filled with very expensive real estate.
In few places is this more apparent than along the waterfront north and south of ATT Park, where the Giants play. The area right around the ball park took off some years back, and soon become one of the most expensive areas in the City. (No surprise, given the views of the bay!) More recently the run down areas south of the park have been the site of a huge amount of new construction — run down open areas are now full of new buildings. In a few spots some of the old things remain, including along sections of the Embarcadero where the “Hi Dive” still stands, along with the Java House and (not for long) Red’s Java House.
Photographer Patricia Emerson Mitchell at work in a Death Valley canyon
Photographer Patricia Emerson Mitchell paying attention to the small things along a narrow canyon in Death Valley National Park. On a cloudy day with dust storms out in the valley we headed up this canyon in the afternoon and found quiet conditions following this narrow canyon as it twisted and turned its way up into the mountains along the east side of the valley.
We started our hike at the top of a monumental alluvial fan build of rocks washed down from the mountains through this canyon. We dropped over the edge into the main wash and headed uphill, with the canyon walls soon closing in around us. In many places the canyon walls are almost vertical and only feet apart. These are places of deep quiet and stillness, mostly cut off from the surrounding terrain, protected from the wind, and with only a narrow band of blue sky straight overhead.