Tag Archives: clouds

Storm, Mono Lake

Storm, Mono Lake
Dark clouds of a massive summer thunderstorm move across Mono Lake.

Storm, Mono Lake. Eastern Sierra Nevada, California. August 7, 2015. © Copyright 2015 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

Dark clouds of a massive summer thunderstorm move across Mono Lake.

This has been the “summer of the monsoon” in the Sierra Nevada. Although the range is terribly dry after four years of drought and this past winter’s truly anemic snow pack, summer has brought a greater than usual amount of monsoonal flow from the south, producing a great deal of thunderstorms and rain. In July I saw an odd juxtaposition of nearly snow free peaks and ridges that looked like late September of a dry year… along with green meadows and full ponds where the rains had fallen.

By the time of this early August visit to the Yosemite High Sierra and then a few days of backpacking on the east side of the range further south, things were drying out a bit and the foliage was taking on the usual late-August dry appearance. I camped down in Lee Vining Canyon the first night, and being close to Mono Lake I managed to head out there and make photographs after setting up camp. Thunderstorms were forming above the Sierra crest, and they had sprinkled on my camp. They then drifted east of the range and continued to build, so as I looked along this section of the north shore of Mono Lake, with Black Point and Negit Island visible in the foreground, the sky in the distance was turbulent, dark, and full of falling rain.


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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Fog, Water, Light

Fog, Water, Light
A beam of light on water below fog, Pacific Ocean

Fog, Water, Light. Pacific Ocean Coast, California. July 212, 2015. © Copyright 2015 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

A beam of light on water below fog, Pacific Ocean

Living very close to the Pacific coast of California for nearly my entire life, the ocean has always “been there” — just on the other side of coastal mountains, hardly more than a half hour away, bringing cooling evening breezes on hot summer days, and producing periodic morning fog where I live. On one hand I am more familiar with this landscape than most people, but in recent years I began to feel that I know much less about it than I should. These photographs made with the camera pointing straight out to see are something of a them of mine, not as frequent as photographs of mountains perhaps, but important nonetheless. They might include fog or winter swell or clearing storm clouds or simply the brilliant light on the water from the western sun. To me they are all a bit mysterious.

We had spent a couple of days along the Big Sur coast photographing (and eating!). The main part of the visit was over, but we had a full day to get home, and home was only about an hour and a half away. So we took our time and followed the coast almost all the way north to San Francisco before turning inland. During much of the drive we were in the sun, but north of Santa Cruz the fog began to appear, and eventually we arrived at that point where the offshore fog bank was substantial enough to form a virtual wall against the light. We stopped and I photographed as the eastern edge of the fog picked up a bit of light and the sun broke through a few clearings to illuminate the surface of the water.


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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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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Tuolumne River, Evening

Tuolumne River, Evening
Evening clouds dissipate above the Tuolumne River, Yosemite National Park

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

Evening clouds dissipate above the Tuolumne River, Yosemite National Park

For the past few days I’ve been photographing in the Yosemite high country. When arriving at some familiar places in the Sierra Nevada I tend to follow certain rituals. I often arrive in the middle of the day and whenever possible on the day when the largest number of visitors are leaving — this makes it a bit more likely that I’ll find a campsite. That’s how it worked out on this Sunday, when I was able to grab a tent campsite at Tuolumne Meadows, even though it is the start of the peak season. As usual, I spent an hour or so getting my basic camp set up, then sat for a while, resting up from the drive and eating lunch and thinking about where I might photograph later in the day. I finally came up with vaguest of vague plans: I would simply start out by driving back down the road a ways to see what I could find. This turned out to be fortuitous decision.

In some ways it was a typical high country summer evening, with clearing clouds from recent monsoonal rain softening the light a bit. I passed a beautiful clump of trees that were dramatically lit by the low-angle sun but there was no place to pull over. I continued on up the road a ways, finally turned around, and as I headed back I decided to pull over where I could take in the wider view. There were two vehicles in the pull-out already and as I pulled in I wondered if I was going to startle the woman getting out of the one right in front of me. I took another look and soon realized that she was my friend Claudia, and that the other car was her husband Michael’s vehicle. (It still astonishes me how often I run into friends in the Sierra.) After greetings we decided to wander out along the Tuolumne to see what evening would bring. They set out across the meadow and a few minutes later I followed. As I walked I became vaguely aware that another couple was following in the same direction and when we met up at the far side of the meadow we realized that there were Charlotte and Gary, yet another couple I know! Joining “forces,” now we wandered down the river this beautiful area of small trees, open views, granite slabs, and flowing water.


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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Lenticular Clouds and Ridge

Lenticular Clouds and Ridge
A series of lenticular clouds build above the Sierra Nevada crest at sunset

Lenticular Clouds and Ridge. Yosemite National Park, California. June 21, 2015. © Copyright 2015 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved. A series of lenticular clouds build above the Sierra Nevada crest at sunset

This scene was a sort of visual benediction at the end of a very long June day in and around Yosemite National Park. We began all the way over in Oakhurst, on the southwest boundary of the park, where we had been the previous evening to attend the artist reception for an exhibit at Stellar Gallery that includes eight of my photographs, followed by a fun late-night Mexican food dinner with friends and fellow photographers. The next morning we got up relatively early (but not all that early by photography standards!), grabbed a quick breakfast, and headed out of town with a general plan to photograph along Tioga Pass Road.

We drove through most of the morning good light as we headed into the park, climbed up past the turnoff to Glacier Point Road, descended briefly to the Valley, climbed Big Oak Flat Road, and finally turned east onto Tioga Pass Road. We briefly stopped once or twice along the way, including a bit of photography at Tenaya Lake, and finally stopping at Tuolumne Meadows for lunch. We explored a bit up in the general area of the pass before descending to Lee Vining and then making a quick trip up Lundy Canyon before returning to Lee Vining and then heading back up toward Tioga Pass, timing this leg to arrive back in the high country at about the time that the shadows would lengthen and the color of the light begin to warm. We photographed a bit not too far below the past, but when we noticed a spectacular lenticular cloud building beyond the crest we decided to head to Tuolumne Meadows, where we though the cloud might be a bit more visible and have more interesting foreground. We photographed there until the light left the meadow, and then decided to think about starting the long drive back to the Bay Area. Not more than a couple of minutes down the road we looked back and saw what we sort of expected, namely the intense sunset color on the tops of the ridges of the Sierra crest and the spectacular cloud. What could we do? We quickly stopped, set up cameras and tripods, and spent a few moments photographing this beautiful final light of the day.


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


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Dusk, Clouds, Full Moon

Dusk, Clouds, Full Moon
The full moon behind dusk clouds above and eastern Sierra Nevada meadow

Dusk, Clouds, Full Moon. Sierra Nevada, California. July 4, 2006. © Copyright 2006 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

The full moon behind dusk clouds above and eastern Sierra Nevada meadow

This will be another short post — things are quite busy right now! The photograph is from almost a decade ago, when I accompanied my brother, his wife, and three sons on a backpack trip into a favorite area of the eastern Sierra Nevada. Our trip began with a hike to a picturesque lake between two high ridges, where we spent several days exploring… and surviving “interesting” weather. We found a beautiful campsite on a bench above a meadow and lake. In the evening I set up on this high spot and photographed the near-night darkness with the moon shining from behind the broken layer of clouds overhead.


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


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