Tag Archives: fall

Base of the Cliff

Base of the Cliff
Autumn plants growing at the base of a sandstone cliff

Base of the Cliff. Capitol Reef National Park, Utah. October 22, 2014. © Copyright 2014 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

Autumn plants growing at the base of a sandstone cliff

It seems that we have arrived at that time when each year my thoughts begin to turn again to autumn photography. That is probably my favorite season as it includes those final warm days of Indian summer, the first inkling of the coming winter, the annual color transition as trees lose their leaves, and the first real winter weather — all of which are favorite photographic subjects of mine. (I’ll be paying special attention to Sierra Nevada fall color this coming season, for a number of reasons, but especially since this is the first autumn following the publication of my book on the subject: California’s Fall Color: A Photographer’s Guide to Autumn in the Sierra” from Heyday Press.)

So, an autumn photograph! This one comes from last October, when I had the opportunity to make a photography trip through some of may favorite areas of southern Utah. Partway through the trip I met up with my friend and fellow photographer, David Hoffman. We spent several days poking around in and photographing Capitol Reef National Park. On this evening we passed through a narrow gorge not far from our camp, quickly stopped, and ended up photographing the red rock canyon walls and the autumn colors until the light faded at the end of the day.


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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Cottonwood Tree, Evening

Cottonwood Tree, Evening
The day’s last light catches the autumn leaves of a cottonwood tree, Capitol Reef National Park, Utah

Cottonwood Tree, Evening. Capitol Reef National Park, Utah. October 22, 2014. © Copyright 2014 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

The day’s last light catches the autumn leaves of a cottonwood tree, Capitol Reef National Park, Utah

I made a long trip to Utah to photograph last fall, mostly photographing in the southwest and south-central part of the state. At times I worked alone, exploring slot canyons, washes, and back roads at my leisure. Later I met up with various other folks: photographers from California and Utah, relatives who were also visiting the state, and eventually members of my family. It may surprise some people to hear that I was almost completely unaware of the beauties of southern Utah until recently. (My family had passed through the state many times when I was young, but always through empty, arid regions that did not appeal to me then. Somehow they never showed me the spectacular red rock country, and consequently I thought of Utah as an empty and arid place.)

During the first week of the trip, after several days on my own, I met up with my friend and fellow California photographer David Hoffman in Capitol Reef National Park, where we camped and explored and photographed for several days. This day began with a spectacular and somewhat unexpected sunrise above the Waterpocket Fold, included a long drive on gravel roads to a more remote region of the park, and concluded along the road through the park with early evening photography just before we returned to camp. This section of the road passes though a valley lined with red rock walls, and it is filled with cottonwood and other trees. Late October is prime time for cottonwood color, and this scene of a backlit cottonwood below vertical sandstone cliffs seems representative of this time of year in this place.

(I taking a weekend break from posting my recent Sierra Nevada photographs — they will return on Monday.)


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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Cottonwood Trees and Redrock Canyon, Autumn

Cottonwood Trees and Redrock Canyon, Autumn
Brilliantly colorful autumn cottonwood foliage winds down a Utah redrock canyon

Cottonwood Trees and Red Rock Canyon, Autumn. Utah. October 26, 2014. © Copyright 2014 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

Brilliantly colorful autumn cottonwood foliage winds down a Utah red rock canyon

After four days of photography and camping in the far reaches of the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, I came out to civilization and spent a night at Boulder Mountain Lodge. (Not my usual thing, but I had an appointment to meet someone there — and it was quite a fine visit!) Arriving a bit early, I decided to head out on a nearby road just to see what I could see.

I knew this road a bit from traveling it in the past — I was looking forward to red rock cliffs and some cottonwood color. But I was not prepared for the intensity of the autumn cottonwoods in this little canyon. The effect was a combination of arriving at the peak moment of color for these trees, and the fact that the light was slightly softened by some high clouds. The result was one of those colorful scenes that you imagine but rarely actually find, with the tree winding down the canyon and around the far bend.


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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Cottonwood Tree, Sandstone Pothole

Cottonwood Tree, Sandstone Pothole
A cottonwood tree with fall foliage stands in the bottom of a sandstone pothole.

Cottonwood Tree, Sandstone Pothole. Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Utah. October 23, 2014. © Copyright 2014 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

A cottonwood tree with fall foliage stands in the bottom of a sandstone pothole.

Coming upon one of the large and deep sandstone potholes is a strange experience. There is something almost spooky about them. At first there is no obvious explanation for how such a thing could come to be. (It involves water and wind and long periods of time.) There is something strangely attractive about them and you want to get closer and closer to the edge. But this is a very dangerous proposition. The incline of the rock increases quickly and then quickly becomes vertical. It is a long ways down — perhaps as much as twenty feet. And anyone falling into such a pothole would not only be injured by the fall but would find it virtually impossible to get out without help. (There are stories of people finding dead animals that had fallen in and died there.)

There is positive magic about these formations, too, especially when a beautiful cottonwood tree grows within one of them, creating a kind of magical garden cut off from the rest of the world. We came to this area late in the day, climbed up onto VAST sandstone slabs, picked a route across the terrain, and arrived at a place where there were several of the potholes, many of which were home to cottonwood trees full of autumn foliage.


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


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Fall Foliage, Sandstone Canyon

Fall Foliage, Sandstone Canyon
The colors of fall foliage and red sandstone canyon rock, Capitol Reef National Park, Utah

Fall Foliage, Sandstone Canyon . Capitol Reef National Park, Utah. October 22, 2014. © Copyright 2014 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

The colors of fall foliage and red sandstone canyon rock, Capitol Reef National Park, Utah

These are the kinds of Utah colors that make some of us return to California and to find that “our Sierra Nevada” looks a bit more gray than we thought! In my experience, the color season in southern Utah begins in late September with the arrival of aspen color. (I have seen it, but so far have arrived just after the peak color.) It continues later in the month as the lower elevation cottonwood trees become intensely colorful. In some places the show is still continuing in early November.

The fall color show on its own would be impressive, but place those colors against the backdrop of Utah’s colorful sandstone landscape and the overall effect is very powerful. We returned from a daytime adventure elsewhere in Capitol Reef National Park and passed through this canyon area just before sunset. The light in the areas shaded by the tall cliffs was already becoming soft and luminous, and in this light the colors can become even more intense. We stopped and more or less wandered for as the sun continued to drop, photographing in the quite evening right up until the light was too far gone.


G Dan Mitchell is a California photographer and visual opportunist. 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.

Cottonwood Trees, Gravel Road

Cottonwood Trees, Gravel Road
A gravel road passes cottonwood trees in fall color, Capitol Reef National Park, Utah

Cottonwood Trees, Gravel Road. Near Capitol Reef National Park, Utah. October 22, 2014. © Copyright 2014 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

A gravel road passes cottonwood trees in fall color, Capitol Reef National Park, Utah

By the time I made this photograph, the day almost seemed to be winding down. We had gotten up before dawn and made our way to the start of a long gravel road, where we paused to photograph as the sun came up. It was one of those almost unplanned moments — no specific landscape in mind, but there was the rising sun, so we stopped and found that we could photograph a range of subjects in that light. Then we headed on down this road, eventually arriving at one of our possible goals, where we took a hike to a high place with a panoramic view.

By now it was getting on toward the middle of the day — mostly the non-shooting hours for photographers in many cases — so we headed back the way we came. As we drove we came to this flat with good-sized cottonwood trees spread along a small gravel road heading off toward the uplifted terrain of Capitol Reef National Park. The autumn color of these trees was irresistible… so we didn’t resist! We stopped, got out, photographed for a while , and then were back on the road.


G Dan Mitchell is a California photographer and visual opportunist. 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.

Cottonwood Trees, Autumn

Cottonwood Trees, Autumn
Cottonwood Trees, Autumn

Cottonwood Trees, Autumn. Southern Utah. October 26, 2014. © Copyright 2014 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

A grove of autumn cottonwood trees in Utah red rock country

After a few days “in the field” in a remote southern Utah location with a group of friends, I left our camp and headed back out to what passes for civilization in this part of Utah. Truth be told, by the end of the day I arrived in a quite civilized place! After driving a bit I ended up in the town of Boulder, where I was to meet my cousin and her husband to share dinner and conversation. But I arrived a bit early, so I decide to explore a bit first.

I headed right on through Boulder and onto the Burr Trail route, following it for a few miles to an overlook where the road descends into a long canyon. I arrived at close to the perfect date to see brilliant colors from autumn cottonwood trees in this valley — although the color peak may have come a few days earlier, I like the combination of colorful trees and the skeletal shapes of partially bare trees. This little valley has a flat bottom, and the trees grew across its width and right up the red rock cliff on the opposite side.


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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