Tag Archives: green

Sierra Foothills, Late Winter

Sierra Foothills, Late Winter
First growth of the season brings green to Sierra Nevada foothills in late winter

Sierra Foothills, Late Winter. February 27, 2016. Sierra Nevada Foothills, California. © Copyright 2016 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

First growth of the season brings green to Sierra Nevada foothills in late winter

During late winter many parts of California undergo stunning conversion. During the previous summer the landscape dried out under summer heat. As summer turns to fall the heat does not immediately abate, and the landscape may reach its driest point. Then, in a normal year, the winter rains finally arrive. At first the changes — mud, mostly — don’t speak of spring, but at some point in the middle of winter plants again gain a foothold and begin to sprout everywhere. Short and very greens grasses spring up. Wildflowers begin to appear on the hillsides.

This photograph is of an area that seemed to be starting the late winter transformation. Though some trees are still leafless, the hills are otherwise covered with the first, short grasses. A few flowers have begun to appear on some of the chaparral plants. And beautiful light is everywhere. This begins a short but intense period of wild land growth here. The short grasses turn to lush, thick grasses. Wildflowers take over, and the leafless trees begin to show new 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.
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Rocks and Grass, Sierra Foothills

Rocks and Grass, Sierra Foothills
Wildflowers and new grasses begin to sprout in the Sierra Nevada foothills.

Rocks and Grasses, Sierra Foothills. Mariposa County, California. February 28, 2016. © Copyright 2016 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

Wildflowers and new grasses begin to sprout in the Sierra Nevada foothills.

The “impossible green” season begins early in California. I want to call this a “spring” photograph, but unlike many colder parts of the USA, these colors come to California in late winter. The effect is especially striking in years with good winter rains, and after four years of crushing drought much of California has received between normal and above normal rainfall this year. This past week it seemed like the Sierra foothills were taking advantage of all the moisture and of a recent warm spell.

Over three-day period we spend time in the Central Valley, Yosemite, and in the Sierra foothills. On the first day we were somewhat surprised to see the California Golden Poppies were already blooming in places in Merced Canyon, covering hillsides with a carpet of colorful flowers. Lower down in the foothills the short grasses have turned intensely green and wildflowers are beginning to bloom.


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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Green and Blue Wall

Green and Blue Wall
Grafitti and poster remnants on a green and blue Brooklyn brick wall.

Green and Blue Wall. New York City. December 21, 2015.© Copyright 2015 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

Graffiti and poster remnants on a green and blue Brooklyn brick wall.

We arrived in New York late the day before, in time to check in to lodgings and meet our “kids” (two sons and their fiances) for dinner, but there wasn’t a lot of time to get around and see and photograph. The next morning we met up with our youngest son in the more or less the Williamsburg area, and we wandered about, hitting the waterfront of the East River and then finding lunch.

During any bit of urban wandering I’m almost always on the lookout for photographs. Photographing on the street is an exercise in working quickly and being versatile. In most cases I don’t have a specific subject in mind — the closest to that may be a general idea of looking a buildings or people or water or interiors or… In this case I was in an area with a lot of older construction, and we passed through a few spots that were obviously the hope to lots of posters and graffiti. Oddly, since people are sometimes trying to paint out the tagging, there can be many layers of often new paint, posters in various states of decay, and odds and ends of painted words and images. Here the remnants of a poster partially obscured a hand drawn heart on a wall that appeared to have been painted in two not quite identical shades of blue-green.


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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Orange, Yellow, and Green

Orange, Yellow, and Green
Autumn aspen color along Bishop Creek in the eastern Sierra Nevada

Orange, Yellow, and Green. Eastern Sierra Nevada, California. October 4, 2015. © Copyright 2015 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

Autumn aspen color along Bishop Creek in the eastern Sierra Nevada

By the time this photograph appears at my website, the transitory seasonal aspen color show will be mostly a memory. (Or, for many of us who think way in advance, a promise for next year!) With this fall’s release of my book on Sierra fall color (“California’s Fall Color: A Photographer’s Guide of Autumn in the Sierra” — Heyday Books, 2015) I made a point of spending as much time in the Eastern Sierra as possible. I started looking for easy signs of developing autumn color all the way back in early September — and in this unusual, drought-influenced year, I found it. The first notable aspen color appeared in late September, and by the end of the month I saw very good color in some high elevation locations, and I spent a good portion of the next few weeks returning to photograph as it continued to develop.

I made this photograph in early October, typically the beginning of the period of best color — though this year some areas had already lost leaves by then. Aspens grow in a range of different surroundings — these grow in a drier area of sage brush rather than begin interspersed with pines. This group of aspens had achieved more or less peak color, and some nearby trees were losing leaves rapidly. In this photograph the colors are intensified by the quality of the light — I like to photograph these trees in the very early and very late times when they have fallen into shadow, softening the otherwise harsh contrasts of brighter 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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Aspen Trees, Near-Peak Color

Aspen Trees, Near-Peak Color
A small group of aspens against a rocky slope are in full autumn color

Aspen Trees, Near-Peak Color. Eastern Sierra Nevada, California. October 4, 2015. © Copyright 2015 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

A small group of aspens against a rocky slope are in full autumn color

Having visited this area a week earlier I was expecting a certain level of fall color in specific places along the shoreline of this eastern Sierra Nevada lake when I arrived here again early on October. I was also expecting to see quite a few other photographers, given that this is an accessible and well-known location. I was not disappointed on either count. As I arrived I found brilliant colors along the small dirt roadway, and I also found photographers everywhere — in the parking lots, along the shoreline of the lake, stopped in the middle of the road, wandering in grassy areas. There were even a few workshop groups collected together in promising spots.

I kept going, passing through the area of the most intense color. My idea was to find a location from which I could get a line back across the valley towards the trees, placing them against a backdrop of the gray texture of granite hillsides and cliffs, and contrasting that with the brilliant color of the leaves, made even more saturated by the cloudy, wet conditions. I found my spot, wandered up onto a slight rise with a clear view of the trees, and used a long lens to isolate them.


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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Aspen Grove, Yellow and Green

Aspen Grove, Yellow and Green
The transition from green to yellow foliage in an eastern Sierra Nevada aspen grove

Aspen Grove, Yellow and Green. Eastern Sierra Nevada, California. October 9, 2015. © Copyright 2015 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

The transition from green to yellow foliage in an eastern Sierra Nevada aspen grove

Aspen color is a more complex and fascinating thing than what if first seems — and that first impression is quite a strong one to begin with. The first thing most of us see when we learn about aspens is simply “brilliant color,” enhanced by the tree’s juxtaposition with other spectacular landscape elements and amplified when the trees are seen in vast and colorful groves. In fact, there are few things more astonishing than a huge grove of aspens at peak fall color, stretching up and across a sub-alpine landscape on a fall day.

Once you catch the aspen bug — and have seen quite a few of those vast and colorful groves — subtler things start to become interesting. There are too many elements to fully describe them all in this little post, but they include the patterns produced by the white trunks, almost regardless of leaf color. The color shadings are more varied than we first see — from the first lime-green hints of upcoming color change, through the spectrum of colors encompassing yellow and gold and red and orange and brown, and including the subtler effects of brown and black leaves late in the season. When I saw this vignette (within a much larger grove) my firs thought was perhaps “not quite at peak,” but I think that the combination of a few leaves just arriving at near-peak color against the background of leaves yet to change is pretty interesting, too, especially when the scene is cut through by those stark white trunks.


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 Aspens, Eastern Sierra Gully

Autumn Aspens, Eastern Sierra Gully
A “river” of aspen trees in autumn colors snakes its way up an eastern Sierra Nevada gully

Autumn Aspens, Eastern Sierra Gully. Sierra Nevada, California. September 26, 2015. © Copyright 2015 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

A “river” of aspen trees in autumn colors snakes its way up an eastern Sierra Nevada gully

I believe that I shared this photograph earlier in a different context — rather than a photo-of-the-day post, it was used to illustrate one of my reports on my Sierra Nevada Fall Color page. I made this photograph at an iconic eastern Sierra location in late September, which is a week or so earlier than I would typically expect to see such color in this place. This has been a strange year, the fourth in a series of drought years, and possibly the worst. The effect of Sierra Nevada vegetation is more apparent as we go into the fall, and there have been apparent effects on aspens. First, some of them changed color noticeably early this year, as much as a week or two earlier than what has been typical. Second, some trees seem to have been stressed to the point that they are almost foregoing the brilliant color stage and instead going almost directly from green to losing their leaves — and some groves were already completed bare before September ended. On the other hand, where the trees were perhaps a bit less stressed the color change seems to have come on a more typical schedule, with quite a few low elevation trees still green as of a few days ago. You can see almost all of this conditions in this photograph — trees changing colors early, trees that lost their leaves completely, and some that are still green.

This particular spot is intriguing, and quite a few people show up to photograph here — not just for the “river of aspens” in the photograph but also for some of the surrounding alpine scenery and for other accessible examples of aspen color. I’ve photographed here for quite a few years, so I often forego the chance to re-photograph some of the familiar subjects, but this time I found a slightly different location from which to make this photograph and I wanted to capture the unusual conditions. There were several things that appealed to me about this scene on this day. Obviously, the colorful trees are an attraction at any time, but the bare trees in the middle, between the upper orange trees and the lower yellow/green trees, were an unusual sight. The curve of the grove, as it passes around the hill on the right with its coniferous trees, seemed to enhance the character of the aspen’s s-curve as it descends the gully and transitions from orange to white to yellow and green.


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.