Tag Archives: landscape

Subalpine Lake, Morning Reflections

Subalpine Lake, Morning Reflections
Morning light and reflections on the rocky shoreline of a subalpine Sierra Nevada lake

Subalpine Lake, Morning Reflections. Yosemite National Park, California. September 12, 2015. © Copyright 2015 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

Morning light and reflections on the rocky shoreline of a subalpine Sierra Nevada lake

A wonderful thing about making photographs is that I get to travel backwards and forwards in time almost at will. Here it is in the middle of winter, and by looking back a few months in my archive I can go right back to a beautiful late summer week spent photographing around a Yosemite subalpine lake with a couple of friends. All of the sensory memories come right back: the stillness of the morning lake as the first sun worked its way through high clouds and haze, the memory of carrying my camera around the perimeter of that lake every morning as I looked slowly of subjects, the first colors of Sierra autumn.

We camped here for a full week, working intensively to photograph in and around one small area. If you haven’t done this you could be forgiven for wondering how in the world one could spend an entire week in area not much larger than a mile or two across. In fact, I still have those doubts at the start of any trip like this. All I can say is that, inevitably, the end of such a week comes too soon, I depart with many things left unphotographed, and I often return to these places again and find even more to see and photograph.


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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Big Creek Bridge, Big Sur Coast

Big Creek Bridge, Big Sur Coast
Evening light on the Big Sur Coast and the Big Creek Bridge

Big Creek Bridge, Big Sur Coast. Pacific Coast, California. January 24, 2016. © Copyright 2016 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

Evening light on the Big Sur Coast and the Big Creek Bridge

I have to admit that when it comes to available photograph subjects… I am spoiled. I knew I was going to go make photographs today, but when I awoke well before dawn I had not decided for sure where I would go. I considered going north across the Golden Gate to Point Reyes National Seashore, but it sounded like a weak weather system was going to pass through that area late in the day. I thought about heading to the Central Valley where my favorite winter subject, migratory birds, can be found — but I generally prefer to go there when I think there will be at least some fog. So I headed south, beginning my morning with a few hours at the Point Lobos State Reserve and then heading further south down the Big Sur coastline.

When I arrived at Point Lobos the light was interesting and the surf was still huge. Over the next few hours the surf diminished a bit and a thin overcast drifted in overhead and began to thicken. I figured that I might get somewhat clearer light a bit further south, so off I went on the Pacific Coast Highway. On the way south I stopped at this spot and considered it as a possible subject for the sunset hour, and then I continued on down the coast. Later I checked the time, estimated I had enough to make it back to this spot before sunset, and headed back up the road, arriving here perhaps ten minutes before the good light arrived. The bridge, dwarfed by the immense landscape of coastal mountains and ocean, spans the outlet of Big Creek.


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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Winter Wetlands, Morning

Winter Wetlands, Morning
Flooded Sacramento Valley wetlands in the early morning

Winter Wetlands, Morning. Sacramento Valley, California. January 8, 2016. © Copyright 2016 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

Flooded Sacramento Valley wetlands in the early morning

While I tell myself that I go to places like this to photograph birds, the truth is that little spots like this one may be more my target. Imagine waking many hours before dawn, and against your instincts starting to move quickly and efficiently to arise, make breakfast, fix lunch, brew coffee, and load a car. Then drive many hours in the dark, radio playing, as the invisible landscape slides past and the world consists mostly of what I see in the headlight beams. Getting close to my destination the sky begins to glow a bit, but I’m still driving, in the world of a noisy car and freeway speeds.

Finally I leave the freeway and drive a relatively short distance to my Central Valley destination. My first stop is still all business — arriving, I park and change into cold weather clothing and set up camera and lenses and get back in the car. I start out on some gravel road around the area I’ve chosen to photograph, though the sun has yet to rise, and I’m focused on finding birds to photograph. A bit later I finally begin to slow down, and with the car windows rolled down in the cold morning air I stop and turn the motor off and sit next to a place like this one and everything is finally still.


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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Geese, Morning

Geese, Morning
A huge flock of geese settled in under San Joaquin Valley dawn sky

Geese, Morning. San Joaquin Valley, California. January 1, 2016. © Copyright 2016 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

A huge flock of geese settled in under San Joaquin Valley dawn sky

Arriving near here before dawn on New Year’s Day 2016, our little group was a bit surprised to hear very few birds. Typically they are the first thing we notice when we get out of our vehicles — many thousands of birds raucously greeting the dawn. But on this morning there were almost no bird sounds at all. There was a rumor of geese nearby along a country road, so some of us headed that direction, and we did find a modest sized group of birds there. It wasn’t an astonishing number, but it least there were some.

Settling in to wait for dawn and perhaps more birds, things were fairly quiet. But before long more geese began to fly in, arriving in groups from the south and settling in on the ponds. In this place that can often be extremely foggy, the fog was thinner on this morning, and the hazy dawn light filtered through to shine on the water and silhouette the trees.


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.

Dawn Clouds, Sacramento Valley

Dawn Clouds, Sacramento Valley
Dawn clouds above the winter landscape of the Sacramento Valley

Dawn Clouds, Sacramento Valley. Central Valley, California. January 8, 2016. © Copyright 2016 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

Dawn clouds above the winter landscape of the Sacramento Valley

I have been meaning to visit some new locations for California Central Valley winter photography of migratory birds and of this huge place. I love my familiar stomping grounds in an area closer to where I live, but I keep hearing reports of locations further north along the Pacific Flyway. I decided that this is the winter to begin that wider exploration. Some of the locations I have in mind are far enough away that they will require overnight stays, but this one is (just barely!) within range for a day trip. A very long day trip.

Up many (almost four) hours before dawn, I quickly filled a thermos with coffee, made a sandwich, grabbed quick breakfast, loaded the car, and hit the road. I drove east and north out of the San Francisco Bay Area in darkness, and eventually was heading north up the Sacramento Valley on I-5, still in the dark. I had in mind an area a good distance up the Valley where there are many wildlife refuges and lots of water… and, as a result, the potential to find lots of migratory birds. It is a bit of an adventure trying to locate some of the reserves in the dark, particularly if you haven’t been to them before, but I found the first one as the sky was beginning to lighten and I drove before dawn. At this point the next morning ritual is always to stop the car, put on the warm clothes, unload the camera gear, and get everything set up. I headed out into the grounds of the refuge just as the first light was hitting the precursor clouds of an incoming Pacific weather system high above the valley, and this is literally my first photograph of the day.


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.

Before Dawn, Wetlands

Before Dawn, Wetlands
Pre-dawn clouds and misty light above the Sierra and San Joaquin Valley wetlands

Before Dawn, Wetlands. San Joaquin Valley, California. December 6, 2015. © Copyright 2015 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

Pre-dawn clouds and misty light above the Sierra and San Joaquin Valley wetlands

This photograph comes from one of my first trips of this season to photograph migratory birds in California’s Great Central Valley, an endeavor that has come to fascinate me more and more over the past few years. Somewhere in the post-Thanksgiving time frame I become aware that the birds have begun to return, and I soon find time to be out there on beautiful, cold, and often foggy days to photograph them and the winter landscape.

On this season’s first trip I arrived, as I always do, before dawn. The range of possible conditions out here is quite large, and I might find anything from dense fog to rain to perfectly clear skies. This morning brought some high clouds, especially to the east over the Sierra crest, and some scattered pockets of fog. At first the cloudiness made me wonder if there would even be much of a sunrise, but as the light began to appear the sky above the clouds became a bit more


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.

Goose-Filled Dawn Sky

Goose-Filled Dawn Sky
Geese fill the winter dawn sky above a San Joaquin Valley marsh

Goose-Filled Dawn Sky. San Joaquin Valley, California. January 1, 2016. © Copyright 2016 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

Geese fill the winter dawn sky above a San Joaquin Valley marsh

This is another photograph from our New Year’s Day visit to the migratory birds of California’s San Joaquin Valley. A group of us, photographers and painters and friends, made a rendezvous in the pre-dawn darkness. We were surprised to hear almost no birds in this place, where more typically we are greeted by the sounds of many thousands of them as soon as we get out of our cars. Eventually we found geese at a nearby set of ponds along the roadway.

The number of geese seemed to have diminished since my last visit a few weeks earlier, but before long groups of them began to arrive, mostly flying in from a southerly direction before setting down on the ponds. Eventually the crowd reached a more typical size, with thousands of the birds in a large flock. And, predictably, at some point something set them off, and almost all of them took to the air at once, in a swirling cloud of honking and squawking, and they flew a few circles above the ponds before heading off to more distant points.


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.