Tag Archives: green

Desert Wildflowers

Desert Wildflowers
A carpet of desert spring flowers, Death Valley National Park

Desert Wildflowers. Death Valley National Park, California. March 29, 2016. © Copyright 2016 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

A carpet of desert spring flowers, Death Valley National Park

My alternative title for this photograph might have been “What’s Underfoot.” We were a bit too later for this year’s (near?) superbloom in parts of southern Death Valley National Park, but we still found plenty of flowers during out late March visit. Many desert plants are opportunistic, holding off on their blooms in dry years and then going exuberantly wild in wetter years. This wasn’t one of the truly wet seasons, though it was wetter than the recent drought years might have suggested, and in many places the flowers responded.

I made this photograph in one of those Death Valley locations that might seem both very special and not at all special, depending on your orientation to the place. We drove out on a long road that traverses a high valley. By comparison to, say, the high peaks of the Sierra, the terrain seems unremarkable, with vast stretches of undifferentiated desert vegetation leading to dry and rocky ridges. But the vast space is special, in and of itself, and there turns out to be more to look at and experience than might first be apparent. I knew from previous visits that thick wildflowers were a possibility, and I knew that if we just pulled off the road and looked that we would find them. At one of these stops I simply took my camera and walked off a bit and found a dense carpet of plants and flowers, taking full advantage of this brief period of sunlight and a bit of moisture.


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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Bixby Bridge, Big Sur Coast

Bixby Bridge, Big Sur Coast
A spring morning along the upper Big Sur coastline above Bixby Bridge.

Bixby Bridge, Big Sur Coast. Pacific Coast Highway, California. May 1, 2016. © Copyright 2016 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

A spring morning along the upper Big Sur coastline above Bixby Bridge.

Living in the greater San Francisco Bay Area region, I’m spoiled by the wealth of visual opportunities within a day’s drive. It has been a busy few weeks since I returned from Death Valley near the beginning April, and I was overdue for a day of photography — so I decided to pick a relatively local area and head out. I had two possibilities in mind. The first was Point Reyes, north of San Francisco, and a location I’ve been trying to get my photographic mind around for some years now. The other option was to head south towards the upper section of the Big Sur coastline, perhaps with a stop at an old favorite, Point Lobos.

Initially my plan was, in fact, to start at Point Lobos. However, as I crossed the Carmel River and soon got my first look at the ocean I saw that fog was beginning to form. For me, that is a good sign! I’d much rather photograph in “interesting” conditions than in perfect blue sky weather, and I’ve often found low coastal fog in the morning to produce some stunning lighting. So I bypassed Point Lobos and headed on to the south. This point was my turn-around, on a high bluff looking back up the coast to the north past Bixby Bridge and a series of additional ridges dropping to the Pacific, with that low fog starting to gather further along. Yes, it is a familiar icon… but, yes, it is also quite beautiful.


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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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.
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.