Tag Archives: forest

Eastern Sierra Valley, Afternoon Light

Eastern Sierra Valley, Afternoon Light
Afternoon light coming over the Sierra crest illuminates a subalpine eastern Sierra valley

Eastern Sierra Valley, Afternoon Light. Sierra Nevada, California. July 17, 2015. © Copyright 2015 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

Afternoon light coming over the Sierra crest illuminates a subalpine eastern Sierra valley

This little spot is not far from the boundary of Yosemite. It is a place that people often stop, but from what I’ve seen they usually stop for reasons other than the view. (Recently I was there very early in the morning, and I found a bunch of impromptu campers there — probably folks who weren’t able to get a campsite inside the park.) Some years ago I “discovered” a couple of views from the spot that I’ve come to enjoy and return to — one looking towards a nearby tall peak from an angle different from the more familiar views, and the other looking westward up this high valley with meadows along the creek, forest leading up the lower slopes, and high and rocky terrain above.

This time I was there in the afternoon, and on a very hazy day. (This has been the Year of Haze in the Sierra, largely due to the dry condition and the consequent early and widespread wildfires.) I love haze, and in many ways I prefer hazy conditions over crystal clear air. so my first thoughts were of how I could use this hazy atmosphere in my photograph. As I stood at this spot with my tripod set up, clouds traversed the Sierra summit, sending shadows across the valley — alternately putting everything in shade and then revealing features and the light crept back across the landscape. So I began to watch the clouds and the approaching beams of light, trying to predict when I might see an ideal combination of the two. At the moment I made this exposure most of the scene was in sun, though a few shadows added relief to the darker areas of the forest across the valley.


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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Mount Dana

Mount Dana
Evening light, Mount Dana and Dana Meadows

Mount Dana. Yosemite National Park, California. July 13, 2015. © Copyright 2015 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

Evening light, Mount Dana and Dana Meadows

On an evening early in my mid-July visit to Yosemite’s high country, I parked my car along Tioga Pass Road and next to a meadow that is an old friend of mine, shouldered my pack and tripod, and wandered slowly into the landscape, knowing that there was too much to see to warrant hurrying. I dropped to a low flat area, only to discover that water was flowing across it beneath the meadow foliage, so I spent a bit of time looking for a dry path through the section. A bit further on I climbed a low rise with glacial boulders and small trees on top, and I paused here to look for a while and then made a few photographs before moving on.

The photographs from this spot included some of this slope leading toward the summit of Mount Dana, the second tallest peak in the park at just over 13,000 feet of elevation. From my location in this subalpine meadow, the terrain gradually ascends through dense forest, with trees gradually becoming smaller, past the tree line to where only smaller shrubs and bushes grow, and on up to alpine tundra. Clouds shrouded the peak on this evening, leftovers from early thunderstorm weather. Of all these things, photographically I was most interested in the close meadow, rocks, and trees Oddly, when I returned home I initially ignored this photograph, but later on I went back and looked again and ended up feeling that it conveys a true sense of this sort of country.


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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Morning, Tuolumne Meadows, Mount Dana

Morning, Tuolumne Meadows, Mount Dana
Lembert Dome and Mount Dana rise above Tuolumne Meadows on a cloudy summer morning

Morning, Tuolumne Meadows, Mount Dana. Yosemite National Park, California. July 13, 2015. © Copyright 2015 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

Lembert Dome and Mount Dana rise above Tuolumne Meadows on a cloudy summer morning

This is yet another of the stopped-on-my-way-somewhere-else photographs, often made unexpectedly as I encounter something I wasn’t really looking for and get distracted — though another way to put it is that I quickly fall into a different mode of seeing when I photograph, and I begin to recognize the potential in subjects that I might otherwise not have noticed. In this case I was headed towards a specific location that I had planned to visit this morning, with a rather specific subject in mind. I set out and, as almost always, my “photographer’s brain” engages and I start seeing potential photographs everywhere. There is a tricky balance sometimes between stopping for the thing I see right here and sticking to a plan to photograph that other thing that I want to see. (This is an old question in photography with the extreme answers ranging from “never pass up a subject in front of you for one that you might see elsewhere” to “make a plan and stick to it if you want to get the photograph you have in mind.” The truth is complex, situational, and depends as much on good fortune and good guesses perhaps as much as on any rational considerations.)

In any case, I skipped past a few opportunities/distractions but ended up stopping for this one. This is a fairly well-known view in this part of the Sierra, though not everyone sees it right at sunrise. I’ve often stopped to admire the scene and on occasion photograph it, usually with some beautiful haze partially obscuring distant details and perhaps making closer details clearer by contrast. Since I am familiar with the view and had a good idea of what I wanted the photograph to look like, stopping for a few minutes was sufficient to make the photograph… and I was back on the road to my original destination.


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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Receding Ridges, Trees, Morning

Receding Ridges, Trees, Morning
Morning haze and tree covered glacial ridges, Yosemite National Park

Receding Ridges, Trees, Morning. Yosemite National Park, California. July 15, 2015. © Copyright 2015 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

Morning haze and tree covered glacial ridges, Yosemite National Park

This is a view that has long caught my attention. It is very close to a place where [i]every[/i] park visitor stops to take in a famous view, but I suspect that quite a few miss this view in their anticipation of the stop for the more famous overlook. Some years ago a group of friends and I had an unusual experience here. One of my long-time backpacking buddies and I love listening to classical music on long drives, and we sometimes attempt to time the music so that particularly appropriate and impressive points in the music may coincide with our arrival at appropriate and impressive places. (Full backpacking and music geekery into one thing, and that’s what you end up with! ;-) We we listening to Mahler’s second symphony and we managed to hit the overwhelmingly powerful conclusion of that work right as we came around the bend to see this view. Needless to say, that made an impression on me, and the place is both special on its own and now associated with that experience.

Music aside, this is a stunning bit of Yosemite high country scenery, and it is perhaps (somewhat ironically) revealed even more clearly in the morning haze seen here. In the foreground trees manage to eke out an existence on the nearly solid granite slabs of a glaciated dome. Another similar ridge rises in the middle distance with more trees. And it keeps going. On the other side of that ridge there is a huge and deep valley, but across its expanse there is even more of the glaciated granite terrain, all of it highlighted in the early morning back-light.


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 Edge, Mountain Slopes, Evening

Forest Edge, Mountain Slopes, Evening
Forest edge in evening light with forest sloping upwards toward Sierra crest peaks

Forest Edge, Mountain Slopes, Evening. Yosemite National Park, California. July 13, 2015. © Copyright 2015 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

Forest edge in evening light with forest sloping upwards toward Sierra crest peaks

This is most certainly not an iconic view, but I’m sure that many fellow Yosemite high country aficionados have been to this spot and gazed at this and the surrounding view. (Part of one Yosemite high country icon does appear in this photograph, but it is the bottom part.)

Earlier on this visit to the park I had walked out into this landscape to photograph in the meadow, on low hills, among trees, and alongside a river. As I passed by here again on this early evening I stopped and was entranced by the warm evening light on the trees at the edge of the meadow and by the further forest-covered slopes rising into the alpine zone and eventually above tree line to the elevations where there is little but rock and tundra plants. While the landscape often seems rather static during the day, at moments like this near the beginning and ending of the day the landscape changes dynamically as light shifts and highlights and then shadows subjects.  I had only a brief moment to make this photograph (and a couple of others) before the light lifted from the trees and left them in shadow.


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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Trees, Meadow, Morning Fog

Trees, Meadow, Morning Fog
Low morning fog floats above Tuolumne Meadows and nearby trees

Trees, Meadow, Morning Fog. Yosemite National Park, California. July 14, 2015. © Copyright 2015 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

Low morning fog floats above Tuolumne Meadows and nearby trees

With this photograph I move back to landscapes, and temporarily away from urban subjects. In early July I spent a few wonderful days in the Yosemite Sierra, camping at Tuolumne meadows, photographing morning and evening, hiking to interesting places in the middle of the day, and running into various photographers and friends (and photographer-friends) almost every day. I’ve been going to this place for years — to camp there, as a launching pad for many backpacking trips into the Yosemite backcountry, and to do photography.

As was the case each morning, I was up early — well before sunrise and before most anyone else in the campground. In the morning I typically already have some sort of plan, usually hatched the evening before, since guessing about sunrise locations in the dark is often not a very profitable activity! On this morning I had a plan to photograph a particular area filled with granite domes and with the potential for interesting early morning light. Thinking of this, as I passed the low fog in Tuolumne Meadows I almost didn’t stop, since a similar morning detour earlier in the trip resulted in my arrival at the day’s planned location too late for the good light. But unable to resist the temptation of ground for, I decided to make a brief stop near these trees (familiar to me from many previous visits) and at least make a few quick exposures before moving on.


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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Dawn Fog and Haze, Tuolumne Meadows

Dawn Fog and Haze, Tuolumne Meadows
Morning fog rises from Tuolumne Meadows toward surrounding forest and ridges

Dawn Fog and Haze, Tuolumne Meadows. Yosemite National Park, California. July 14, 2015. © Copyright 2015 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

Morning fog rises from Tuolumne Meadows toward surrounding forest and ridges

I was up quite early on this morning, and with a plan to drive a bit to photograph a particular subject as it was struck by the first dawn light. In the dark I got dressed, crawled out of my tent, got in my vehicle, and quietly left the campground. Within a few hundred yards of the campground exit my plans changed. A low fog lay across almost the entirety of Tuolumne Meadows, shallow in places and deeper in others, partially obscuring trees and domes. In the pre-dawn light the quiet scene was one of very low contrast and not altogether interesting color, but I suspected that once the sun begin to come over the Sierra crest that it might strike the fog and create some interesting effects. So, out the window with the original plan, and now to see what I could make of my new plan.

I headed to the far end of the meadow where I figured that several potentially interesting things would happen. First, the fog was likely to be back-lit once the sun hit it. Second, I could shoot back across large sections of the fog-blanketed meadow and do so from a slight elevation. Third, I knew that I could position myself so that interesting ridges and trees might appear in the frame. In fact, it all worked out! As the sun rose high enough to illuminate the drifting fog, it began to rise and form more distinct patterns against the background of ascending ridges. I’m often somewhat surprised to find myself completely alone at this utterly beautiful times of day, when the sun is just coming up or when its last light is leaving the meadows. Tuolumne is an impressive place at any time, but it is often special in all sorts of ways during these beginning and ending of the day times. Yet most people, folks who I assume come here at least partially to seek out mountain beauty, miss out as they sleep in, linger over morning coffee, or head back to campfires before the day is over.


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.