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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