Tag Archives: forest

First Light, Trees, Lake, and Ridge

First Light, Trees, Lake, and Ridge
Trees along a rock strewn lake as first morning light strikes a southern Sierra Nevada backcountry ridge

First Light, Trees, Lake, and Ridge. Sequoia National Park, California. August 8, 2008. © Copyright 2008 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

Trees along a rock strewn lake as first morning light strikes a southern Sierra Nevada backcountry ridge

This was the scene on the morning of this fifth day or a trip of over a week across the High Sierra Trail, a trip that would eventually summit Mount Whitney before descending the east side of the Sierra. To me, this route feels like it is composed of several distinct sections. The first couple of days are the approach, reaching the first high country from a west side trailhead. The next few of days are the crossing of the Kaweahs and the descent to the ridges above Big Arroyo, a portion of the trip that has the distinct feeling of remoteness and of dropping down to much lower country. Then there is the march up the Kern and the ascent to meet the JMT, followed by the lateral over to a base camp below Whitney, with the finale being the ascent of this ridge and then the long descent to Whitney Portal.

This morning was in that post-Kaweah phase, at our second camp after crossing the Gap. This lake, a bit off the “official” route, is a quiet and forested place with a gentle feeling that contrasts the rough edges of the higher country. We awoke this morning and I was out before dawn, photographing the first light on this high ridge beyond the trees and across the 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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Forest, Lake, and Haze

Forest, Lake, and Haze
A hazy late-summer day at a subalpine Sierra Nevada lake, Yosemite National Park

Forest, Lake, and Haze. Yosemite National Park, California. September 10, 2015. © Copyright 2015 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

A hazy late-summer day at a subalpine Sierra Nevada lake, Yosemite National Park

With all of the recent urban and street photography I have been posting — which is a bit seasonal pattern, given my travel tendencies — I’m also making an effort to go back through some older photographs from last year to find landscape photography that escaped my notice on the first pass. This always happens with photographs — for some reason certain images don’t make sense right after I make them, but when I come back to them later on with a fresh eye I see potential that I missed. Right now I’m revisiting late-summer photographs from a week-long backcountry stay at a Yosemite lake.

For me, this photograph holds many of the subtler elements of the High Sierra experience — not the spectacular grand vistas, but something deeper and ultimately perhaps more powerful. In this beautiful late-season time of year, the meadow grasses around this quiet lake have finished the wild growth phase of summer and have already turned golden-yellow in preparation for autumn and then winter. Lower angle light comes over the shoulder of the granite ridge whose base is visible beyond the trees. Widely spaced trees stand at the edges of the meadow and even trace weaknesses in the granite slabs on the higher slopes.


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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Subalpine Lake, Morning Reflections

Subalpine Lake, Morning Reflections
Morning light and reflections on the rocky shoreline of a subalpine Sierra Nevada lake

Subalpine Lake, Morning Reflections. Yosemite National Park, California. September 12, 2015. © Copyright 2015 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

Morning light and reflections on the rocky shoreline of a subalpine Sierra Nevada lake

A wonderful thing about making photographs is that I get to travel backwards and forwards in time almost at will. Here it is in the middle of winter, and by looking back a few months in my archive I can go right back to a beautiful late summer week spent photographing around a Yosemite subalpine lake with a couple of friends. All of the sensory memories come right back: the stillness of the morning lake as the first sun worked its way through high clouds and haze, the memory of carrying my camera around the perimeter of that lake every morning as I looked slowly of subjects, the first colors of Sierra autumn.

We camped here for a full week, working intensively to photograph in and around one small area. If you haven’t done this you could be forgiven for wondering how in the world one could spend an entire week in area not much larger than a mile or two across. In fact, I still have those doubts at the start of any trip like this. All I can say is that, inevitably, the end of such a week comes too soon, I depart with many things left unphotographed, and I often return to these places again and find even more to see and photograph.


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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Granite Slabs, Forest, Evening Light

Granite Slabs, Forest, Evening Light
Evening light breaks through clouds to light trees growing on granite slabs along the Tuolumne River

Granite Slabs, Forest, Evening Light. Yosemite National Park, California. September 12, 2015. © Copyright 2015 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

Evening light breaks through clouds to light trees growing on granite slabs along the Tuolumne River

This photograph takes me back to mid-summer days in the high county when I spent a big chunk of time in the Tuolumne Meadows area making photographs in July. It was an odd year — July seemed almost normal, despite the historic drought, except that it looks more like a normal August, with virtually all snow gone, low water in the creeks,   and fairly settled weather.

One evening a group of us joined forces to wander along the Tuolumne River in evening light. Here we stopped at a curve where the river curves around a section lined with large granite slabs. It was cloudy, but a bit of late-day light slanted in from the left.


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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Shoreline and Meadow

Shoreline and Meadow
The shoreline of a Yosemite backcountry lake in the late season

Shoreline and Meadow. Yosemite National Park, California. September 10, 2015. © Copyright 2015 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

The shoreline of a Yosemite backcountry lake in the late season

This lake was our home for a good week this past September. I was among a small group of photographers who spend a week or more doing this every year. This year we camped by the shore of an accessible backcountry Yosemite lake. We woke up every morning to views of this lake and we went to bed in the evening with such images still in our minds.

At times on this visit the light was very subdued. Early on this was because of intense wildfire smoke — some of the worst I’ve encountered in the range. Near the end of the trip a Pacific weather pattern swept through, and in its wake there was a period of several days of raining, cold conditions.


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.

Shoreline, Forest, Morning

Shoreline, Forest, Morning
Morning light and forested shoreline reflected on the surface of a subalpine Sierra Nevada lake

Shoreline, Forest, Morning. Yosemite National Park, California. July 15, 2015. © Copyright 2015 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

Morning light and forested shoreline reflected on the surface of a subalpine Sierra Nevada lake

It is way past time to share this photograph — it has been sitting here since I made it back in July! The location is a familiar one to those who visit the Yosemite high country and drive across Tioga Pass Road, but sometimes I do stop at those iconic locations and make a photograph, especially in a quiet and uncrowded morning like this one.

Lakes like this one are among the places that often make me wonder if visitors have any idea what they are missing. So many people, for practical reasons or because they don’t know better, come to such places in the middle of the day or in the afternoon. While they are certainly beautiful at any time, these locations are almost (but not quite always!) at their most beautiful at the very beginning and very end of the day. Lakes like this one are often completely still at dawn, sometimes with a bit of fog rising from their surface, and the surroundings are usually quiet and uncrowded. Even in a spot like this one — where I can assure you there were crowds later in the day — I can have the place virtually to myself.


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.

Aspens, Early Autumn Snow

Aspens, Early Autumn Snow
Snow from an early autumn storm dusts the high peaks above Eastern Sierra aspen trees

Aspens, Early Autumn Snow. Eastern Sierra Nevada, California. October 4, 2015. © Copyright 2015 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

Snow from an early autumn storm dusts the high peaks above Eastern Sierra aspen trees

I made this photograph on an early autumn morning, on a day with conditions that were either difficult or special, depending on your point of view. After several days of photographing aspen color in the Eastern Sierra, this was my final morning of this particular trip. The weather had mostly been “nice” — perhaps a bit unusually so for this time of year, but in line with the pattern of California drought that was now in its fourth year. But on my last night of this trip an early fall storm blew in, and overnight it snowed lightly on my camp.

Looking at this as an opportunity, I was up early in the morning. I headed up higher into the mountains where I knew there would be plenty of the aspen color that I had photographed during the past few days, but now altered in appearance by this “interesting” weather. It was cold enough that light snow was sticking on the higher peaks, and at my elevation it was that raw kind of weather that is windy and just cold enough to “try to snow.” The overcast softened the light, bringing more illumination to shadows and intensifying the autumn colors.


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.
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.