Tag Archives: grass

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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Marsh, Fog, Evening Light

Marsh, Fog, Evening Light
Evening light on San Joaquin Valley marshland

Marsh, Fog, Evening Light. San Joaquin Valley, California. December 17, 2015. © Copyright 2015 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

Evening light on San Joaquin Valley marshland

This photograph represents the flip side of an observation I made in a separate post regarding another photograph that I made on this mid-December evening. The comment had to do with the contrast at the end of the day between events here that happen suddenly and those that unfold more slowly — a simulations slowing down and speeding up of events at the end of the day. The speeding up events include sudden departures and arrivals of large groups of birds. The slowing down part is exemplified by this photograph. (For the EXIF file data aficionados among you, the EXIF data shows an incorrect time of day for this photograph. Ah, well…)

As I photographed other subjects I had slow moments to look around and take in static elements of the scene. Late in the evening, as the light color warmed, I saw the effect this had on the brown reeds and the trees, many of which still had a few fall leaves left. While the near trees are quite clear, being lit by this beautiful side-light, the details of the further trees are muted just a bit by haze, and the more distant sky’s color is muted by this incipient fog. A few remaining geese along with some ducks sit almost completely still in the shallow water.


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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September Rain

September Rain
September rain falls on a Yosemite backcountry lake

September Rain. Yosemite National Park, California. September 14, 2015. © Copyright 2015 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

September rain falls on a Yosemite backcountry lake

Autumn in the Sierra is time of wonderful transitions — it is my favorite time of year to be there. For the most part the weather is still beautiful, with warm days and pleasantly chilly evenings and early mornings. The light is special — it is hard to put my finger on the precise quality, but somehow it feels warmer and softer than in the summer. Meadows turn golden brown and many plants take on their autumn colors. It feels like everything is slowing.

There can also be storms. These are not the brief afternoon thunderstorms of summer. They are the first harbingers of winter — the large Pacific weather fronts that begin to push in and which will eventually bring winter snow. We had such a storm — though it was a gentle one — on our visit, and it rained off and on for the final two days of our stay. I made this photograph along the shoreline of “our” lake, with fall colors in the foreground and a passing shower in front of the distant peak.


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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Autumn Shoreline

Autumn Shoreline
Autumn colors arrive along the shoreline of an Eastern Sierra lake

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

Autumn colors arrive along the shoreline of an Eastern Sierra lake

This photograph represents a bit of a step back from the more intense Sierra Nevada colors of some of my other fall color photographs. Here many of the colors are muted, and the light is soft. The upper trees have already lost their leaves — early, as a result of the drought — and the foreground plants lining the lakeside marsh have largely gone dormant. A few conifers and some sagebrush appear around the edges of the frame.

This lake in the Eastern Sierra is the location of some spectacular fall color, too. In fact, this photograph intentionally looks away from some peak colors that were occurring nearby on this morning. After photographing so much intense color for several weeks, I think I was enjoying the muted quality of autumn storm light as it began to rain and eventually rain on this beautiful and quiet October morning.


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 Mist, Autumn

Shoreline Mist, Autumn
Morning fog drifts above a Sierra Nevada lake surrounded by the colors of autumn

Shoreline Mist, Autumn. Sierra Nevada, California. September 26, 2015. © Copyright 2015 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

Morning fog drifts above a Sierra Nevada lake surrounded by the colors of autumn

This is perhaps an example of a photograph that required me to point my camera the “wrong” direction. I was at a very popular aspen photography destination in the eastern Sierra Nevada, where early color was developing quite nicely even in late September, perhaps a week earlier than usual. There are a couple of standard photographs that almost everyone makes at this location, but since I did those some years ago I’m usually not interested in re-doing them now. (With truly exceptional conditions I would relax that notion a bit and rush right back to the standard place and make photographs!) So when I go back here I now tend to poke around a bit and see what else might be possible there.

So I started this morning by climbing to a location from which I had not photographed before. From that vantage point I saw a few other possible angles on the subject, including some from the far side of the lake. I soon headed over there and as I looked back toward my original location I saw that a low haze was back-lit along the edges of the lake. I’m a complete sucker for both mist and backlight, so I pointed my camera almost straight back into this light and made a few photographs of the grassy area along the lake’s shoreline and the trees, both aspens and conifers, rising beyond.


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.

Flowers, Light, Shadow

Flowers, Light, Shadow
An urban garden scene in a friend’s yard

Flowers, Light, Shadow. Heidelberg, Germany. July 12, 2013. © Copyright 2013 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

An urban garden scene in a friend’s yard

I have had this little photograph open in my image editing program for some time now, waiting to post it online. It is a simple photograph, but I connect it to several things that have some meaning to me. The scene is in the tiny yard at the home of relatives in Heidelberg, Germany, whose hospitality we enjoyed over a two-week period a couple of summers ago. On this evening we had gone outside, if I recall correctly, to eat and have some wine when I noticed this diagonal beam of light passing over the surface of the white wall and forming a shadow. As someone once wrote, “There is always something to see,” and photographs are potentially anywhere.


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.