Aspen Trees, Shoreline. Sierra Nevada, California. September 26, 2015. © Copyright 2015 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.
Colorful autumn aspen trees along the rocky shoreline of a subalpine Sierra Nevada lake
The Sierra Nevada autumn color season seemed to start earlier than usual this year. The question of when it would start has been on the minds of many of us who chase the aspen and other color each fall, especially given the effects of California’s fourth year of drought. We wondered (and still wonder) how many trees would die, how early the color would arrive, how good it would be, and much more. The picture isn’t yet fully clear, but I think that I can perhaps make three generalizations. First, the color did arrive early — I made this photograph during the last week of September, and such color typically arrives in this location perhaps a full week later. Second, some trees have clearly been stressed by the drought — in places trees that would usually be developing colorful leaves have instead simply dropped their leaves early. Third, in places where the water situation isn’t quite as dire there are still a lot of very green trees, and they will possibly prolong the color season well into October.
When I visited this spot I already had a long familiarity with this colorful group of trees growing along the shoreline of this subalpine lake. Ironically, it was in this drought year, when I arrived at an atypically early point in the season, that I found what may be the best colors I’ve seen on them. In the Sierra the predominant autumn aspen leaf color is a sort of golden-yellow. However, there are other colors ranging from orange through read and even to some deep almost red-brown colors. In some ways, those are the “prize” colors that we look for. And this little strip of trees has those colors in abundance!
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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