Tag Archives: clouds

Ross’s Geese, Evening Sky

Ross's Geese, Evening Sky
Ross’s Geese, Evening Sky

Ross’s Geese, Evening Sky. San Joaquin Valley, California. March 1, 2015. © Copyright 2015 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

A flock of Ross’s geese head west against the clouds of a winter evening sky

This may well end up being one of my final migratory bird photographs of the 2014-15 season. It seemed to wind down early this year, at least from what I saw. I suspect that this probably has something to do with the very unusual weather this winter in California. The temperatures were far above normal. In some places there averaged ten degrees higher than usual during the first three months of the year. Precipitation has also been way out of whack. There were some early indications of a possible wet year, then things seemed to be put on hold… until some serious rain (at my elevation) in December, which brought back memories of what winter used to be like in California. Then the tap seemed to be shut off with the new year, and where I live we went nearly 50 days with no rainfall whatsoever at what should be the wettest time of the year. It finally rained again, but not much. More troubling, the Sierra experience roughly 10% of typical precipitation levels, and this is the fourth year of below normal precipitation.

Despite the climate challenges, the season did produce some truly wonderful days of bird photography in the Central Valley. One thing that helped was a long period of tule fog in the Valley, which I find picturesque. Eventually the birds showed up, and we had a great stretch of geese and cranes and more up through the middle of February. At the end of the month we headed to the Sierra for an exhibit at the Yosemite Renaissance, stopping on the way to visit the birds. We didn’t see many at all, and when we stopped again on the way back things hadn’t changed much. Late in the day we did find a group of Ross’s geese on a pond, and I caught groups of them as they departed to the south and west.


G Dan Mitchell is a California photographer and visual opportunist whose subjects include the Pacific coast, redwood forests, central California oak/grasslands, the Sierra Nevada, California deserts, urban landscapes, night photography, and more.
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Text, photographs, and other media are © Copyright G Dan Mitchell (or others when indicated) and are not in the public domain and may not be used on websites, blogs, or in other media without advance permission from G Dan Mitchell.

Red Rock Panorama

Red Rock Panorama
Red Rock Panorama

Red Rock Panorama. Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Utah. October 23,2014. © Copyright 2014 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

Evening glow on red rock landscape, Utah

I acknowledge that this color is pretty wild. This is partly a result of the way the camera sees in diminishing twilight, with colors saturating in surprising ways. The photograph was among the last couple I made on this evening when we continued photographing so late that it was about to become tricky finding our way back down in the near darkness. It is also the result of wild color in the sky — a bit of which you can see on the clouds in the upper portion of the frame — that fell on rock that is already quite red.

We had spent perhaps a couple of hours photographing in this terrain, focusing on the sensuous shapes of the curved sandstone, the odd cottonwood tree with fall color leaves, and bits of the surrounding landscape. It was a productive evening, working a group of six of us exploring, at times together, and times in smaller sub-groups, and sometimes alone. I didn’t really want to stop, since this isn’t the kind of location that I can easily return to — but eventually the light faded and our work was done for the day.


G Dan Mitchell is a California photographer and visual opportunist whose subjects include the Pacific coast, redwood forests, central California oak/grasslands, the Sierra Nevada, California deserts, urban landscapes, night photography, and more.
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Text, photographs, and other media are © Copyright G Dan Mitchell (or others when indicated) and are not in the public domain and may not be used on websites, blogs, or in other media without advance permission from G Dan Mitchell.

Geese, Pasture, Dusk

Geese, Pasture, Dusk
Geese, Pasture, Dusk

Geese, Pasture, Dusk. San Joaquin Valley, California. March 1, 2015. © Copyright 2015 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

A small group of Ross’s geese feed in a San Joaquin Valley pasture as dusk arrives

As a winter afternoon begins to turn into evening in the San Joaquin Valley on a day of photographing migratory birds, a familiar ritual begins, with variations depending on various factors — the weather, the month, and which birds are about. Not long before it becomes too dark to photograph I begin to seek out a place to be at the end of the day. The ideal locations includes some combination of interesting birds, a compelling sky, and a location that lets me combine the two.

This was a rather quiet evening, and it had the feeling of being late in the winter season. The numbers of birds had diminished quite a bit, even compared to only a couple of weeks earlier. High clouds and haze filled the sky and began to take on the colors of evening. We went to one likely bird spot, found few birds, spotted a fly-in some distance away, and headed over to this spot where a group of Ross’s geese was on the ground, feeding in a pasture. As the last light angled across the birds, I made this photograph of mostly sky, one of the last of the day.


G Dan Mitchell is a California photographer and visual opportunist whose subjects include the Pacific coast, redwood forests, central California oak/grasslands, the Sierra Nevada, California deserts, urban landscapes, night photography, and more.
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Text, photographs, and other media are © Copyright G Dan Mitchell (or others when indicated) and are not in the public domain and may not be used on websites, blogs, or in other media without advance permission from G Dan Mitchell.

Yosemite Fall, Winter Mist

Yosemite Fall, Winter Mist
Yosemite Fall, Winter Mist

Yosemite Fall, Winter Mist. Yosemite Valley, California. February 28, 2015. © Copyright 2015 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

Upper Yosemite Fall briefly appears through the mist on a winter morning

In Yosemite Valley for a few days at the end of February, I had the opportunity to wake up early and wander off into meadows before most of the Valley had awakened. The overnight forecast had included a small chance of some snow flurries and continuing snow in the morning, so I wanted to be “out in it” when and if it arrived. Around dawn I got up and walked out into the meadow near the swinging bridge. There was the tiniest bit of snow from the night before — so little that its faint trace was only to be seen in hollows and protected areas. As I walked through the meadow the sun began to rise and there was a five-minute snow shower as I set up my tripod and camera.

From where I stood I had an open view upwards toward the Valley cliffs, but I couldn’t see much. Heavy mists were floating along the upper reaches near the Valley rim, and for the most part I only was able to see bits and pieces of the formations through momentary windows in the clouds as they drifted by. One moment a ridge line or a pinnacle would briefly appear, only to be swallowed up again in the clouds. From where I stood I knew that Upper Yosemite Fall should be visible, so I pointed my camera that way, hoping for a muted and obscured view of the thing if the clouds cleared enough. And they momentarily thinned enough that I could see the upper rim of the Valley, the cleft where the fall leaps into space, and a section of its downward path behind the scrim of clouds.


G Dan Mitchell is a California photographer and visual opportunist whose subjects include the Pacific coast, redwood forests, central California oak/grasslands, the Sierra Nevada, California deserts, urban landscapes, night photography, and more.
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Text, photographs, and other media are © Copyright G Dan Mitchell (or others when indicated) and are not in the public domain and may not be used on websites, blogs, or in other media without advance permission from G Dan Mitchell.

Cliff’s Edge, Winter Mist

Cliff's Edge, Winter Mist
Cliff’s Edge, Winter Mist

Cliff’s Edge, Winter Mist. Yosemite Valley, California. February 28, 2015. © Copyright 2015 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

Winter mist and snow swirl above the edge of Yosemite Valley cliffs

We spent three days in Yosemite Valley near the end of February and through the first day of March. The weather forecast had been for snow all the way down to the Valley floor, so we thought our timing appeared to be perfect — there are few things more beautiful than this valley in new snow. Unfortunately, as seems to have been the typical pattern this winter, the snow didn’t amount to much. I had a five-minute flurry while photographing in one of the meadows very early in the morning, and a drive up and out of the Valley to higher points put us in light snowfall for a while.

To make this photograph I stopped at an iconic location, but then I looked up rather than in the direction where the famous view lay. With a long lens on my camera I was able to compose little vignettes highlighting bits of the near vertical world where the highlands area meet the upper rims of the cliffs dropping into the Valley. Here mist and light snowfall blows across the slanting terrain just above the void. Most of the image is relatively obscured — the foreground cliff is dark enough to mute many details, and near the top of the frame the mist is lit intensely by the sun.


G Dan Mitchell is a California photographer and visual opportunist whose subjects include the Pacific coast, redwood forests, central California oak/grasslands, the Sierra Nevada, California deserts, urban landscapes, night photography, and more.
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Text, photographs, and other media are © Copyright G Dan Mitchell (or others when indicated) and are not in the public domain and may not be used on websites, blogs, or in other media without advance permission from G Dan Mitchell.

Curving Branch, Rippled Water

Curving Branch, Rippled Water
Curving Branch, Rippled Water

Curving Branch, Rippled Water. San Joaquin Valley, California. February 27, 2015. © Copyright 2015 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

A curved branch extends above the rippled surface of a wetland pond reflecting morning sunlight and thinning clouds

This is a very simple photograph — though maybe not quite as simple as it seems — but one that needed a very specific set of conditions. The more I look at the shape of the branch the more the boundary between the actual branch and its reflection blurs, and the more similarities I see between the twisting shapes of the branch itself and the warped version of the twisting form seen in the reflection. I also like the way that its rough and mostly black shape contrasts with the soft curves and colors of the water.

The water is very shallow, part of a seasonally flooded wetland area in the Central Valley. Much of the flooded wetland is full of plants and grasses and other distractions, but here I found a single standing branch against a fairly large background uninterrupted by other branches or plants. The water was relatively still on this morning, though later the wind rose and broke up these smooth ripples. The morning tule fog had almost completely dissipated, leaving the sky a soft blue color interspersed with a few scattered clouds — and those colors and patterns are abstracted here in the surface of the water.


G Dan Mitchell is a California photographer and visual opportunist whose subjects include the Pacific coast, redwood forests, central California oak/grasslands, the Sierra Nevada, California deserts, urban landscapes, night photography, and more.
Blog | About | Flickr | Twitter | FacebookGoogle+ | 500px.com | LinkedIn | Email

Text, photographs, and other media are © Copyright G Dan Mitchell (or others when indicated) and are not in the public domain and may not be used on websites, blogs, or in other media without advance permission from G Dan Mitchell.

Almost Without Form

Almost Without Form
Almost Without Form

Almost Without Form. Yosemite Valley, California. February 28, 2015. © Copyright 2015 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

Winter storm clouds, mist, and snow obscure the upper rim of Yosemite Valley

I have an idea that one kind of better photograph is a photograph that is as minimal as possible, perhaps so minimal that the viewer has to guess at and perhaps fill in details that are implied but not literally present in the image. I’m also intrigued by subjects that are on the edge of being (or not being) visible — how little can be present in the image and still have it be an image of something. And I’m also fascinated by luminous atmosphere — clouds and fog and mist made to glow softly by sunlight.

Near the end of February we were in Yosemite Valley for a few days in connection with the opening of the 30th Yosemite Renaissance exhibition. We were hoping for a real snow storm, and early encouraging predictions suggested snow all the way to the Valley floor. The way things have gone this year, it was little surprise when that did not happen — but there were beautiful clouds drifting around the upper reaches of the Valley’s cliffs and pinnacles, and snow did fall at higher elevations. Partially because we were with a person who had never been to the Valley before we stopped more than once at some of the popular and iconic spots — and this photograph, though it does not show the famous iconic view, was made at one of the best known as think clouds and light snow passed across the upper rim of the Valley, nearly rendering granite towers and solitary trees invisible.


G Dan Mitchell is a California photographer and visual opportunist whose subjects include the Pacific coast, redwood forests, central California oak/grasslands, the Sierra Nevada, California deserts, urban landscapes, night photography, and more.
Blog | About | Flickr | Twitter | FacebookGoogle+ | 500px.com | LinkedIn | Email

Text, photographs, and other media are © Copyright G Dan Mitchell (or others when indicated) and are not in the public domain and may not be used on websites, blogs, or in other media without advance permission from G Dan Mitchell.