Tag Archives: light

Dawn Fog and Haze, Tuolumne Meadows

Dawn Fog and Haze, Tuolumne Meadows
Morning fog rises from Tuolumne Meadows toward surrounding forest and ridges

Dawn Fog and Haze, Tuolumne Meadows. Yosemite National Park, California. July 14, 2015. © Copyright 2015 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

Morning fog rises from Tuolumne Meadows toward surrounding forest and ridges

I was up quite early on this morning, and with a plan to drive a bit to photograph a particular subject as it was struck by the first dawn light. In the dark I got dressed, crawled out of my tent, got in my vehicle, and quietly left the campground. Within a few hundred yards of the campground exit my plans changed. A low fog lay across almost the entirety of Tuolumne Meadows, shallow in places and deeper in others, partially obscuring trees and domes. In the pre-dawn light the quiet scene was one of very low contrast and not altogether interesting color, but I suspected that once the sun begin to come over the Sierra crest that it might strike the fog and create some interesting effects. So, out the window with the original plan, and now to see what I could make of my new plan.

I headed to the far end of the meadow where I figured that several potentially interesting things would happen. First, the fog was likely to be back-lit once the sun hit it. Second, I could shoot back across large sections of the fog-blanketed meadow and do so from a slight elevation. Third, I knew that I could position myself so that interesting ridges and trees might appear in the frame. In fact, it all worked out! As the sun rose high enough to illuminate the drifting fog, it began to rise and form more distinct patterns against the background of ascending ridges. I’m often somewhat surprised to find myself completely alone at this utterly beautiful times of day, when the sun is just coming up or when its last light is leaving the meadows. Tuolumne is an impressive place at any time, but it is often special in all sorts of ways during these beginning and ending of the day times. Yet most people, folks who I assume come here at least partially to seek out mountain beauty, miss out as they sleep in, linger over morning coffee, or head back to campfires before the day is over.


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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Trees, Glaciated Ridge

Trees, Glaciated Ridge
A small group of trees in morning light atop a glaciated Sierra Nevada ridge.

Trees, Glaciated Ridge. Yosemite National Park, California. July 15, 2015. © Copyright 2015 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

A small group of trees in morning light atop a glaciated Sierra Nevada ridge.

This photograph includes many of the things that say “Yosemite” to me: the broken granite ridge of glaciated granite, the bluish morning haze, the small group of trees with space between them, ridges receding into the distance. Other things say “Sierra Nevada” to me, but these seem closely connected to the high country of this particular part of the Sierra.

This is a location that I (and, no doubt, quite a few others) have photographed many times, in a variety of conditions of light, atmosphere, weather, and time of year. I almost always stop here when I cross the Sierra through the park. On this morning I wasn’t making a stop while in transit to another place — this area was my destination. I had several photographs in mind when I arrived, ranging from more distant landscape to intimate scenes of glacial erratics and granite slabs. I knew that if I walked a short distance up hill and climbed a small hill that I could get a higher vantage point and look back at these trees and across this ridge and the morning light illuminated them from behind.


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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Shoreline, Trees, Morning

Shoreline, Trees, Morning
Morning light on trees and granite slabs along the shoreline of Tenaya Lake

Shoreline, Trees, Morning. Yosemite National Park, California. July 14, 2015. © Copyright 2015 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

Morning light on trees and granite slabs along the shoreline of Tenaya Lake

I think this photograph combines several elements that I find attracting in my landscape work. I have written that I sometimes like to photograph along the “edges of the light,” the boundaries between shadow and sunlight that move across landscapes, especially when it is early or late in the day and/or when the landscape is surrounded by higher ridges. This photograph was made in early morning, in an area where the sunlight does not arrive until some time after dawn. When the light does come, it works its way down the granite slabs on the left as beams of light pass across the valley from the right. I also love to work with haze. (I often am baffled by photographers who always want crystal clear atmosphere — that can be beautiful, too, but it can also be stark and obvious.) There was plenty of haze on this morning, and the light shining through it partially obscures the background forest. And the photograph is rendered in black and white. While I don’t think of myself as a “black and white photographer,” I frequently find myself seeing scenes like this one in monochrome. Perhaps that goes back to my roots as a photographer.

There is something a bit unusual about this landscape, too — a road bed features prominently in the scene! This is the edge of Tenaya Lake along the Tioga Pass Road through Yosemite’s high country, and here the road (for better or worse) passes right along the shoreline. But for me the trees are the dominant feature, standing along the base of the granite slabs, trying to push their way up onto the slabs, and filling the background as forest ascends the slopes of this valley toward the granite ridges above.


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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Cottonwood Tree, Evening

Cottonwood Tree, Evening
The day’s last light catches the autumn leaves of a cottonwood tree, Capitol Reef National Park, Utah

Cottonwood Tree, Evening. Capitol Reef National Park, Utah. October 22, 2014. © Copyright 2014 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

The day’s last light catches the autumn leaves of a cottonwood tree, Capitol Reef National Park, Utah

I made a long trip to Utah to photograph last fall, mostly photographing in the southwest and south-central part of the state. At times I worked alone, exploring slot canyons, washes, and back roads at my leisure. Later I met up with various other folks: photographers from California and Utah, relatives who were also visiting the state, and eventually members of my family. It may surprise some people to hear that I was almost completely unaware of the beauties of southern Utah until recently. (My family had passed through the state many times when I was young, but always through empty, arid regions that did not appeal to me then. Somehow they never showed me the spectacular red rock country, and consequently I thought of Utah as an empty and arid place.)

During the first week of the trip, after several days on my own, I met up with my friend and fellow California photographer David Hoffman in Capitol Reef National Park, where we camped and explored and photographed for several days. This day began with a spectacular and somewhat unexpected sunrise above the Waterpocket Fold, included a long drive on gravel roads to a more remote region of the park, and concluded along the road through the park with early evening photography just before we returned to camp. This section of the road passes though a valley lined with red rock walls, and it is filled with cottonwood and other trees. Late October is prime time for cottonwood color, and this scene of a backlit cottonwood below vertical sandstone cliffs seems representative of this time of year in this place.

(I taking a weekend break from posting my recent Sierra Nevada photographs — they will return on Monday.)


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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Tenaya Lake, First Light

Tenaya Lake, First Light
Early morning light shines on granite cliffs above Tenaya Lake, Yosemite National Park

Tenaya Lake, First Light. Yosemite National Park, California. July 15 2015. © Copyright 2015 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

Early morning light shines on granite cliffs above Tenaya Lake, Yosemite National Park

I have long been intrigued by a certain patch of sunlight that descends the granite slopes above this Yosemite lake in the mornings, and I planned to photograph it again on this trip to the park. I was up early on the first morning and off to this location, but I quickly got distracted by low fog floating in a very large nearby meadow. Somewhere I have heard an old saying about not ignoring the photograph in front of you for the possibility of another photograph that [i]might[/i] (or might not) happen, and I followed that “rule” and stopped and photographed the fog as the sun rose. By the time I finished this it was well past dawn, and although I continued on to the location of this photograph, when I got there the early light had transitioned into something much less interesting.

A couple of mornings later I thought I would try again. This time I was up even earlier and resolved to not stop for any but the most astonishing distractions, and I made it here before the first light was on the granite slopes. In this case, since I had a specific photograph in mind (and a few others that I might also try afterwards), I went to the exact spot where I wanted to be, pulled out the lens I knew I would need, set up and waited for the light. My location is not exactly an isolated or inaccessible one, and later on this day (and every summer day!) there would be lots of people and vehicles here. But at dawn even a place like this provides almost complete silence and the sense of deep stillness and huge space that I love in these mountains. I marvel that so many go to the Sierra yet so few seek out this quiet stillness. Soon the first tough of light appeared high on the dome to the left above the lake as beams of light began to pass between the peaks to the right, and I photographed as the light gradually worked its way down toward the lake.


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.

Dry Mud and Sand

Dry Mud and Sand
Dry, cracked mud on top of red sand under reflected canyon light, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument

Dry Mud and Sand. Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Utah. October 25, 2014. © Copyright 2014 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

Dry, cracked mud on top of red sand under reflected canyon light, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument

I almost titled this photograph, “Another Photograph of Mud.” But I have resisted that temptation, and once again used a simple more or less objective title. But, indeed, this is almost a photographic type when it comes to the Southwest, and one that is awfully difficult to pass up. These formations come about when silt-laden water rushes down desert canyons, washes, and streams, leaving behind a layer of very wet silt. The layer may be thin, as it was in this case, or it may be quite thick. In one narrow canyon last year I slipped into such silt-mud and it almost seemed like there was not bottom!

I’m not sure quite what explains our fascination with these formations. Is it because they are among the most transient features of the physical landscape, disappearing and then reforming every time it rains? Is it the patterns themselves, which can have a wonderful geometric quality and, at the same time, embody a randomness? Is it the combination of the colors of the material, which can range from white through black with many colors in between, and the reflected canyon light? Possibly it is all of these things and more.


G Dan Mitchell is a California photographer and visual opportunist. Blog | About | Flickr | Twitter | FacebookGoogle+ | 500px.com | LinkedIn | Email


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Flowers, Light, Shadow

Flowers, Light, Shadow
An urban garden scene in a friend’s yard

Flowers, Light, Shadow. Heidelberg, Germany. July 12, 2013. © Copyright 2013 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

An urban garden scene in a friend’s yard

I have had this little photograph open in my image editing program for some time now, waiting to post it online. It is a simple photograph, but I connect it to several things that have some meaning to me. The scene is in the tiny yard at the home of relatives in Heidelberg, Germany, whose hospitality we enjoyed over a two-week period a couple of summers ago. On this evening we had gone outside, if I recall correctly, to eat and have some wine when I noticed this diagonal beam of light passing over the surface of the white wall and forming a shadow. As someone once wrote, “There is always something to see,” and photographs are potentially anywhere.


G Dan Mitchell is a California photographer and visual opportunist. 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.