Tag Archives: morning

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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Winter Geese, Morning

Winter Geese, Morning
Thousands of migratory geese take to the air at dawn above San Joaquin Valley wetlands

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

Thousands of migratory geese take to the air at dawn above San Joaquin Valley wetlands

Before dawn on New Year’s Day, when a group of friends, artists, and photographers arrived for our annual celebration of the literal dawn of a new year, this wildlife refuge area, a favorite of ours, was oddly quiet. More typically we exit our vehicles to the raucous sound of thousands of birds — geese, cranes, and more. But we heard almost no birds in the morning twilight. We split up and went off to find out where the birds were and several of us eventually ended up outside the refuge along the passing roadway, where there are some large ponds. At least there were some geese here.

We never know what we’ll find. It might be the most astonishing day of tens or thousands of birds in the air, in the fields, on the water, in and among trees. Or it might be quiet. Either will work — when the birds are more scarce we tend to turn to the landscape. These thoughts were going through my mind as we tried to photograph the small flock of geese on the pond outside the fence. But soon, and somewhat unexpectedly, large groups of Ross’s and/or snow geese began to arrive from the south, coming in above a row of winter-bare trees, circling a bit, and then landing on the pond, and at times filling the sky above the wetland landscape.


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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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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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.
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Wetlands, Early Light

Wetlands, Early Light
Morning light and fog along a San Joaquin Valley levee.

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

Morning light and fog along a San Joaquin Valley levee.

I seem to have developed a ritual for photographing this favorite San Joaquin Valley location. Almost invariably I arrive very early in the morning, in the half hour before dawn. Often I meet photographer friends who have arrived from other places. We stop at an area near the entrance and greet one another, engage in a bit of small talk, marvel (again!) at the sound of tens of thousands of migratory birds just beyond out sight. We get in our vehicles and we start a circuit of the wetlands, first looking for a place to photograph the dawn. By now, after photographing there for a few years in variable conditions, we all have our favorite spots — this place if there is heavy fog, that spot if the birds are close by, another if it looks like we may have a clear view of sunrise.

On this morning I moved quickly past the first ponds to round a corner on the perimeter road and then stopped near a junction of several levees, at a spot that has often proved fruitful for my photography. There was a thin fog in the air and high, broken clouds were above the Sierra far to the east. Depending on which direction I chose to point that camera I found a range of subjects. Birds were nearby, the Sierra were in the distance, and in between was that flooded wetlands. As the first thin sunlight from the rising sun came through the fog I swung my camera back in the direction from which I had arrived and photographed along the levee route, past trees and brush to a long grove of old cottonwoods lying along the boundary.


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.

Wetlands Dawn, Sierra Crest

Wetlands Dawn, Sierra Crest
The peaks of the High Sierra rise beyond San Joaquin Valley wetlands on an autumn morning

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

The peaks of the High Sierra rise beyond San Joaquin Valley wetlands on an autumn morning

In the late fall and winter, California’s Great Central Valley manages to provide some of the most diverse and beautiful effects of light and atmosphere that I know of. In a way this is ironic, since most of us probably tend to think of the place as a fairly boring, flat, and drab bunch of agricultural land that is too often smoggy and hot and dry in the summer. But in the winter, especially if you get away from the drive-through freeways, there is a lot to see here. This is especially true in the wetlands areas, with their wildlife, trees, ponds and fogs.

I arrived before dawn on this early December morning and, to be honest, I was not initially overly hopeful about the sunrise prospects. In fact, moments before I arrived I had driven past beautiful pre-dawn reflections on nearby marshes and decided to keep going toward my destination, only to arrive and find much less striking light. Sometimes the most brilliant sunrise light can blind me to more subtle beauties, but on this morning I found a quiet spot overlooking water and trees, stopped, and just photographed the beginning of the day. In this photograph the wetlands trees are reflected in the water as they march away into the slightly foggy distance, a few sandhill cranes fly past, and in the distance the crest of the Sierra Nevada rises toward the sky.


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.