Tag Archives: landscape

Storm, Mono Lake

Storm, Mono Lake
Dark clouds of a massive summer thunderstorm move across Mono Lake.

Storm, Mono Lake. Eastern Sierra Nevada, California. August 7, 2015. © Copyright 2015 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

Dark clouds of a massive summer thunderstorm move across Mono Lake.

This has been the “summer of the monsoon” in the Sierra Nevada. Although the range is terribly dry after four years of drought and this past winter’s truly anemic snow pack, summer has brought a greater than usual amount of monsoonal flow from the south, producing a great deal of thunderstorms and rain. In July I saw an odd juxtaposition of nearly snow free peaks and ridges that looked like late September of a dry year… along with green meadows and full ponds where the rains had fallen.

By the time of this early August visit to the Yosemite High Sierra and then a few days of backpacking on the east side of the range further south, things were drying out a bit and the foliage was taking on the usual late-August dry appearance. I camped down in Lee Vining Canyon the first night, and being close to Mono Lake I managed to head out there and make photographs after setting up camp. Thunderstorms were forming above the Sierra crest, and they had sprinkled on my camp. They then drifted east of the range and continued to build, so as I looked along this section of the north shore of Mono Lake, with Black Point and Negit Island visible in the foreground, the sky in the distance was turbulent, dark, and full of falling rain.


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.

Mount Dana

Mount Dana
Evening light, Mount Dana and Dana Meadows

Mount Dana. Yosemite National Park, California. July 13, 2015. © Copyright 2015 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

Evening light, Mount Dana and Dana Meadows

On an evening early in my mid-July visit to Yosemite’s high country, I parked my car along Tioga Pass Road and next to a meadow that is an old friend of mine, shouldered my pack and tripod, and wandered slowly into the landscape, knowing that there was too much to see to warrant hurrying. I dropped to a low flat area, only to discover that water was flowing across it beneath the meadow foliage, so I spent a bit of time looking for a dry path through the section. A bit further on I climbed a low rise with glacial boulders and small trees on top, and I paused here to look for a while and then made a few photographs before moving on.

The photographs from this spot included some of this slope leading toward the summit of Mount Dana, the second tallest peak in the park at just over 13,000 feet of elevation. From my location in this subalpine meadow, the terrain gradually ascends through dense forest, with trees gradually becoming smaller, past the tree line to where only smaller shrubs and bushes grow, and on up to alpine tundra. Clouds shrouded the peak on this evening, leftovers from early thunderstorm weather. Of all these things, photographically I was most interested in the close meadow, rocks, and trees Oddly, when I returned home I initially ignored this photograph, but later on I went back and looked again and ended up feeling that it conveys a true sense of this sort of country.


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.

Service Station, Billboards

Service Station, Billboards
Billboards tower over a service station in morning light, San Francisco

Service Station, Billboards. San Francisco, California. August 14, 2015. © Copyright 2015 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

Billboards tower over a service station in morning light, San Francisco

There are many kinds of landscapes to photograph, and I like most of them. This one happens to be an urban landscape, a subject that I like a lot. I made the photograph on one of my periodic walks through parts of San Francisco. This one, as most of them do, started at the Caltrain station very early in the morning and headed straight up toward Market Street. This gas station is right near a freeway interchange, and probably ideally situated for people arriving in or departing from downtown San Francisco.

I know that a scene like this may simply baffle some viewers, especially those who are more drawn to nature and natural landscape photographs with their depictions of unspoiled beauty. I understand. But even in the city there is beauty, and the light was especially wonderful on this morning — blue sky with scattered fog breaking up created a soft but still directional quality to the muted light. My eyes first went to the billboards, whose backsides here tower above the surrounding buildings — urban mountains or cliffs, perhaps? But alone they did not seem to make a photograph. But then I saw the light on that wall with the “PRINTING” sign, and the contrast between the blues of the sky and wall and the hot reds and yellows of the corporate colors on the gas station.


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.

Morning, Tuolumne Meadows, Mount Dana

Morning, Tuolumne Meadows, Mount Dana
Lembert Dome and Mount Dana rise above Tuolumne Meadows on a cloudy summer morning

Morning, Tuolumne Meadows, Mount Dana. Yosemite National Park, California. July 13, 2015. © Copyright 2015 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

Lembert Dome and Mount Dana rise above Tuolumne Meadows on a cloudy summer morning

This is yet another of the stopped-on-my-way-somewhere-else photographs, often made unexpectedly as I encounter something I wasn’t really looking for and get distracted — though another way to put it is that I quickly fall into a different mode of seeing when I photograph, and I begin to recognize the potential in subjects that I might otherwise not have noticed. In this case I was headed towards a specific location that I had planned to visit this morning, with a rather specific subject in mind. I set out and, as almost always, my “photographer’s brain” engages and I start seeing potential photographs everywhere. There is a tricky balance sometimes between stopping for the thing I see right here and sticking to a plan to photograph that other thing that I want to see. (This is an old question in photography with the extreme answers ranging from “never pass up a subject in front of you for one that you might see elsewhere” to “make a plan and stick to it if you want to get the photograph you have in mind.” The truth is complex, situational, and depends as much on good fortune and good guesses perhaps as much as on any rational considerations.)

In any case, I skipped past a few opportunities/distractions but ended up stopping for this one. This is a fairly well-known view in this part of the Sierra, though not everyone sees it right at sunrise. I’ve often stopped to admire the scene and on occasion photograph it, usually with some beautiful haze partially obscuring distant details and perhaps making closer details clearer by contrast. Since I am familiar with the view and had a good idea of what I wanted the photograph to look like, stopping for a few minutes was sufficient to make the photograph… and I was back on the road to my original destination.


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.

Receding Ridges, Trees, Morning

Receding Ridges, Trees, Morning
Morning haze and tree covered glacial ridges, Yosemite National Park

Receding Ridges, Trees, Morning. Yosemite National Park, California. July 15, 2015. © Copyright 2015 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

Morning haze and tree covered glacial ridges, Yosemite National Park

This is a view that has long caught my attention. It is very close to a place where [i]every[/i] park visitor stops to take in a famous view, but I suspect that quite a few miss this view in their anticipation of the stop for the more famous overlook. Some years ago a group of friends and I had an unusual experience here. One of my long-time backpacking buddies and I love listening to classical music on long drives, and we sometimes attempt to time the music so that particularly appropriate and impressive points in the music may coincide with our arrival at appropriate and impressive places. (Full backpacking and music geekery into one thing, and that’s what you end up with! ;-) We we listening to Mahler’s second symphony and we managed to hit the overwhelmingly powerful conclusion of that work right as we came around the bend to see this view. Needless to say, that made an impression on me, and the place is both special on its own and now associated with that experience.

Music aside, this is a stunning bit of Yosemite high country scenery, and it is perhaps (somewhat ironically) revealed even more clearly in the morning haze seen here. In the foreground trees manage to eke out an existence on the nearly solid granite slabs of a glaciated dome. Another similar ridge rises in the middle distance with more trees. And it keeps going. On the other side of that ridge there is a huge and deep valley, but across its expanse there is even more of the glaciated granite terrain, all of it highlighted in the early morning back-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.
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.

Forest Edge, Mountain Slopes, Evening

Forest Edge, Mountain Slopes, Evening
Forest edge in evening light with forest sloping upwards toward Sierra crest peaks

Forest Edge, Mountain Slopes, Evening. Yosemite National Park, California. July 13, 2015. © Copyright 2015 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

Forest edge in evening light with forest sloping upwards toward Sierra crest peaks

This is most certainly not an iconic view, but I’m sure that many fellow Yosemite high country aficionados have been to this spot and gazed at this and the surrounding view. (Part of one Yosemite high country icon does appear in this photograph, but it is the bottom part.)

Earlier on this visit to the park I had walked out into this landscape to photograph in the meadow, on low hills, among trees, and alongside a river. As I passed by here again on this early evening I stopped and was entranced by the warm evening light on the trees at the edge of the meadow and by the further forest-covered slopes rising into the alpine zone and eventually above tree line to the elevations where there is little but rock and tundra plants. While the landscape often seems rather static during the day, at moments like this near the beginning and ending of the day the landscape changes dynamically as light shifts and highlights and then shadows subjects.  I had only a brief moment to make this photograph (and a couple of others) before the light lifted from the trees and left them in shadow.


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.

From Valley to Crest

From Valley to Crest
Afternoon light and haze, clearing storm clouds, eastern Sierra Nevada

From Valley to Crest. Eastern Sierra Nevada, California. August 7, 2015. © Copyright 2015 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

Afternoon light and haze, clearing storm clouds, eastern Sierra Nevada

In early August I was (of course!) once again in the Sierra for several days. This time the main event was to be a short backpacking trip with long-time back-country friends — a “taking it easy” trip to a beautiful group of lakes in the Rock Creek drainage. Our plan was to meet on at the trailhead or on the trail, to do the short hike to a central lake, set up a base camp, and relax and explore for a few days.

I decided to head up early, partly to have a bit of time to adapt the elevation, but also to do a bit of photography. (My backpacking partners were more “normal” people — not “abnormal” photograph-obsessed folks like me!) Arriving in the Yosemite high country at noon on a Friday in August, I did not spend much time at all trying to find a campsite there, instead heading straight over the crest and down to a less crowded spot. With camp set up, it was time to go make some photographs. Taking advantage of my east side location, I decided to head south a short distance along US 395, where I could find beautiful vistas of high desert terrain rising to the crest of the Sierra Nevada, augmented on this day by dissipating storm clouds and a bit of haze from early season wildfires.


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.