Tag Archives: fallen

Fallen Tree, Lake Shore Autumn Grasses

Fallen Tree, Lake Shore Autumn Grasses
An old fallen tree and lakeshore autumn grasses at a Sierra Nevada lake.

Fallen Tree, Lake Shore Autumn Grasses. Yosemite National Park, California. September 12, 2015. © Copyright 2015 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

An old fallen tree and lakeshore autumn grasses at a Sierra Nevada lake.

During a week at this backcountry lake and the surrounding area I had plenty of time to wander about, work in varied conditions, and see beyond the obvious first impressions. After a few long stays in such places I have come to be familiar with a certain cycle. I arrive with a mixture of “how will I ever manage to find enough here for a week of work?” and “once I slow down I know there will be plenty to see.” After a day of settling in it begins to feel like there will be plenty to photograph, but that there is no real urgency to the work. I tend to wander, looking at whatever happens to catch my attention and not really working much from a plan. At some point near the middle of the stay there comes a time when I do a count of subjects remaining to photograph and number of mornings/evenings remaining… and I realize that I have to formulate a plan! And then, invariably, on the final day or two I realize that even with a week to work there will be subjects that I won’t get to.

I photographed this scene close to the midway point on the trip — when there still seemed to be plenty of time and just before I felt the need to begin planning more carefully. This is a wonderful time on such a trip, when there are opportunities to engage in “aimless” wandering — though there is very much an aim to that aimlessness! This subject is one that I could easily overlook early on during a trip or during the end-of-trip attention to specific remaining subjects. The skeletal gray of the fallen tree contrasts wonderfully with the rich coloration of the early fall meadow around the edges of this sub-alpine lake.


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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All media © Copyright G Dan Mitchell and others as indicated. Any use requires advance permission from G Dan Mitchell.

Aspen Leaves on Snow

Aspen Leaves on Snow
Aspen Leaves on Snow

Aspen Leaves on Snow. Eastern Sierra Nevada, California. October 11, 2013. © Copyright 2013 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

Frost covered autumn aspen leaves lying on new-fallen snow, Sierra Nevada

Early October is the time of the annual aspen color transition in the eastern Sierra Nevada. For me, the combination of the dramatic color change and the seasonal weather changes clearly denote the fact that summer is over and that we are heading toward the cold part of the year. (I like this – I find that the fall through spring seasons are more photographically compelling, and I’m no longer a “hot weather person.”) While October in the Sierra can bring some beautiful and even warm days, there is not question that nights are both longer and colder, and the occasional passing weather front will drop enough snow to make it feel distinctly winter-like.

Although we knew that much of the iconic color at North Lake had already passed, we decided to go there anyway on this morning and look for more subtle things that remain. The road past the lake is on a north slope and we drove through plenty of recent snow as we passed along this shoreline in 22 degree temperatures. As expected, most of the trees had lost their leaves already, though we also found some trees that still held enough colorful leaves to make the visit well worth our time. And, when those leaves fall, they don’t simply disappear! On a snowy morning like this one they collect in piles on top of the snow, providing beautiful little compositions and highlighting the intensity of their colors.

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.

Fallen Leaves

Fallen Leaves
Fallen Leaves

Fallen Leaves. Seattle, Washington. August 14, 2013.© Copyright 2013 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

Fallen leaves on a grate along a Seattle downtown sidewalk

August 14 was a day off during the Seattle Opera “Ring” cycle – a series of four Wagner operas performed over a six-day period. For those who may not know, attending a full production of the Ring is almost a full-time occupation for the better part of a week. This may sound unbelievable to those who cannot imagine such a thing, but the four operas range from as short as about 2 1/2 hours up to well beyond five hours for the last one, Götterdämmerung – and once you start to “get it” and buy into the whole story, the music, and everything that goes with a production of this thing, well you’ll understand. In any case, on this first of two free days we had during the performances we decided to keep it simple and just head to downtown Seattle to walk around and see what we could photograph.

We took a fairly free-form approach to the shoot, starting near Pike Place Market where we knew we could get some coffee and then photographing people and stuff in and around the Market. We finished there and headed south through downtown, with no particular goal in mind. Eventually we got as far as the Art Wolfe Gallery, where we looked around a bit before heading north again. These street shoots are a lot of fun. I often shoot quickly, using a small camera and almost always just a prime, and I forego the usual tripod and gobs of heavy equipment. Subjects can range from people to buildings to little bits and pieces of urban detritus, and they frequently appear and are gone quickly. Something about this conjunction of lines and textures caught my attention, along with the faintly mossy green tint and the bit of accidental nature in the form of the leaves that had fallen on the metal grate.

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.

Maple Leaves and Sandstone

Maple Leaves and Sandstone - Fallen autumn maple leaves lie on pink sandstone slabs in the high country of Zion National Park
Fallen autumn maple leaves lie on pink sandstone slabs in the high country of Zion National Park

Maple Leaves and Sandstone. Zion National Park, Utah. October 22, 2012. © Copyright 2012 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

Fallen autumn maple leaves lie on pink sandstone slabs in the high country of Zion National Park

Wind is not usually the photographer’s friend, at least when the photographer is shooting natural subjects that include foliage. Later on this trip we were stymied by strong winds when shooting in the Escalante River Canyon, as the trees and leaves were being whipped around in the gale. But the same winds that create these problems – and I was experiencing some of them with tree photographs on this day, too – also bring down the autumn leaves and in the right conditions can create a thick carpet of the wild fall colors.

This photograph, like quite a few I have shared recently, was made in the bottom of a wash where leaves tend to collect, but by means of water flow and, as here, due to the wind. These maple leaves ranged in color from yellow-gold through orange to almost red, and here they littered the rocks in the bottom of the channel. Like spring flowers, these colors are a fleeting thing, and the leaves on the ground quickly blow away or turn brittle and brown.

G Dan Mitchell is a California photographer 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.

Cottonwood, Fallen Monolith, and Cliff

Cottonwood, Fallen Monolith, and Cliff - Sunlight reflected from nearby canyon walls illuminates an autumn cottonwood tree in front of a fallen sandstone monolith and vertical cliff face.
Cottonwood, Fallen Monolith, and Cliff – Sunlight reflected from nearby canyon walls illuminates an autumn cottonwood tree in front of a fallen sandstone monolith and vertical cliff face.

Cottonwood, Fallen Monolith, and Cliff. Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Utah. October 29, 2012. © Copyright 2012 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

Sunlight reflected from nearby canyon walls illuminates an autumn cottonwood tree in front of a fallen sandstone monolith and vertical cliff face.

I may be repeating a story I’ve previously told, but here goes. Earlier during my late-October visit to Utah we had wandered into this area, only to be largely stymied by clouds, cold, absurdly strong winds, and even a bit of rain. It was a bit disappointing, in that we had really looked forward to visiting this portion of the Escalante River, and when we started out in the early morning and saw a lot of beautiful fall color we thought we were in for a good day of shooting. Although that day was not a complete loss, it wasn’t what we hoped for – and by the end of the day we were struggling against very strong winds and cold.

Fortunately, nearly a week later we found ourselves back in roughly the same area of Utah, and as we considered the next day’s possible shooting locations the idea of giving this spot a second try came up. After considering that alternatives of trying a new location or going back, we decided to go back. It was a good decision! Where the first visit had been cold, cloudy, windy and even a bit damp, the second visit brought warmer conditions, almost completely clear skies… and most important, nearly windless conditions. (At one point we were cautiously admitting to one another that we had made exposures of foliage that lasted as long as a couple of seconds!) Near one large bend in the canyon there was a spectacular abundance of “targets” – brilliant cottonwood and box elder trees, beautiful canyon walls of various colors, fallen leaves, and more. On the previous visit we had all looked at this little scene of a large fallen section of the canyon wall with golden cottonwoods growing all around, and then pretty much continued on since the trees where being whipped around by the wind. But on this second visit the wind was calm, and light was reflected into the scene from sunlit sandstone walls to our left.

G Dan Mitchell is a California photographer 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.

Autumn Leaves, Sand

Autumn Leaves, Sand - Autumn oak and box elder leaves lie on the pink sand in the bottom of a wash, Zion National Park
Autumn oak and box elder leaves lie on the pink sand in the bottom of a wash, Zion National Park

Autumn Leaves, Sand. Zion National Park, Utah. October 22, 2012. © Copyright 2012 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

Autumn oak and box elder leaves lie on the pink sand in the bottom of a wash, Zion National Park

The thing that most often first catches my attention in the bottom of slot canyons, such as this small one in the Zion National Park high country, is the way that they twist between closely spaced vertical walls. There is virtually nothing quite like this in our experience. But the thing I notice first is not necessarily the thing I remember most. I often wonder how others might regard my photographs, since I know that they cannot share the full context of the images that I know from being in these places. (I’ve often said that we, as the photographers, are perhaps the least able to see our own work objectively, since we cannot easily put aside these non-photographic things that are no longer present in the purely visual medium within which we work.) When I think of these canyons I think of the sound, often deadened by the sand and perhaps by vegetation, and of the feeling of the air, which always different from the feeling of the air outside the canyon – most often cooler when the “outside” air is warm but also warmer when the canyon provides shelter from cool-season winds. And it those canyons with water flowing through them, there is the constant, though often gentle sound of water flowing and trickling.

I also usually end up slowing down and looking at many small things that might not first be seen – the leftover pattern of water than may have flowed through weeks or months earlier, place where the sand has been marked by the passage of a small animal or by grass moving across its surface in the breeze, the mixture of rocks that must have come from distant places, plants growing in odd cracks in the rock, patterns in the rock walls, the passage from one rock layer to another, and more. On this fall day it had been windy and lots of autumn “stuff” was littering the canyon floor, which here was pink sandstone sand, further colored by the glowing light reflected from the red rock canyon walls.

G Dan Mitchell is a California photographer 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.

One Green Leaf

One Green Leaf - One green leaf on a bed of brown and tan autumn leaves in a desert wash, Capitol Reef National Park
One green leaf on a bed of brown and tan autumn leaves in a desert wash, Capitol Reef National Park

One Green Leaf. Capitol Reef National Park, Utah. October 26, 2012. © Copyright 2012 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

One green leaf on a bed of brown and tan autumn leaves in a desert wash, Capitol Reef National Park

My two October trips to photograph in Utah extended my ongoing education about the place, and one of the locations (but not the only one!) about which I had and still have the most to learn is Capitol Reef National Park. When I first was there in April of 2012, my encounter with this park was perhaps shamefully superficial, though my excuse is that we were only passing through on our way to another place. All I saw of the park was the short highway drive that passed by the Fruita District as it passes through the park – the rest of the park beyond this small bit remained a complete mystery to me. In October I was there twice. On the first visit I was in the area enough to start to get a bit of a feel for the place, though I mostly still stuck to the most popular and accessible areas, with the addition of a bit of hiking and a long drive on gravel roads down the less-visited side of the park. On the second visit I learned and saw a bit more – enough to convince me that there is much more to this park and that it is a place I want to return to.

Although there is no evidence of this in the photograph, this shot was made in a short slot canyon in an out-of-the way area of the park. We drove there on a very cold morning and heading into the canyon while the temperature still hovered around freezing. There was no one else there at all, and we barely even saw anyone else on the long drive to get there. The little canyon itself was quite beautiful and full of interesting surprises – juxtapositions of glowing red-orange walls and shaded blue-purple walls, brilliantly colorful gambel oak leaves, large sandstone faces and walls, and more. As I investigate a place like this I try to let my eyes roam beyond the first things I see, and try to also see smaller things that could easily be missed. Here I happened to look down at my feet – sometimes a good thing to do! – and see that the floor of the stream bed was in places carpeted with oak and other leaves that had recently fallen, and this batch of brown and tan leaves held one that was still green.

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.