Tag Archives: Mountain

First Light, Trees, Lake, and Ridge

First Light, Trees, Lake, and Ridge
Trees along a rock strewn lake as first morning light strikes a southern Sierra Nevada backcountry ridge

First Light, Trees, Lake, and Ridge. Sequoia National Park, California. August 8, 2008. © Copyright 2008 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

Trees along a rock strewn lake as first morning light strikes a southern Sierra Nevada backcountry ridge

This was the scene on the morning of this fifth day or a trip of over a week across the High Sierra Trail, a trip that would eventually summit Mount Whitney before descending the east side of the Sierra. To me, this route feels like it is composed of several distinct sections. The first couple of days are the approach, reaching the first high country from a west side trailhead. The next few of days are the crossing of the Kaweahs and the descent to the ridges above Big Arroyo, a portion of the trip that has the distinct feeling of remoteness and of dropping down to much lower country. Then there is the march up the Kern and the ascent to meet the JMT, followed by the lateral over to a base camp below Whitney, with the finale being the ascent of this ridge and then the long descent to Whitney Portal.

This morning was in that post-Kaweah phase, at our second camp after crossing the Gap. This lake, a bit off the “official” route, is a quiet and forested place with a gentle feeling that contrasts the rough edges of the higher country. We awoke this morning and I was out before dawn, photographing the first light on this high ridge beyond the trees and across 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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Colorful Granite Cliff and Trees

Colorful Granite Cliff and Trees
A colorful High Sierra granite cliff and trees in soft light

Colorful Granite Cliff and Trees. Yosemite National Park, California. September 9, 2015. © Copyright 2015 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

A colorful High Sierra granite cliff and trees in soft light

Sitting here on a late-winter day, this late September week spent photographing in the Yosemite back-country seems so far away. (At the same time, as I watch the inevitable progress of the seasons, the upcoming summer season seems closer and closer!) Three photographers headed out to a back-country lake, where we set up a base-camp for something like nine days of photography. It might seem like photographing in one tiny area for a week might exhaust its possibilities. In fact, at the start of such a trip I often harbor such fears — but by the end of every one of them I am again reminded that it virtually never works that way. The more time spent looking in such a place, there more there is to see, and at the end of such a trip there are, inevitably, things left to be photographed on the next visit.

Not far from our camp was a rocky area that we often crossed in order to make our way around the perimeter of a nearby lake and to get to areas a bit further away. After climbing slabs the route dropped into the lower extent of a deep gully traveling down from higher terrain, and eventually I began to know these rocks and this gully very well. We had “interesting” weather during our stay, and on the day I made this photograph the light was muted by various factors including clouds and wildfire smoke.


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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Rocks and Grass, Sierra Foothills

Rocks and Grass, Sierra Foothills
Wildflowers and new grasses begin to sprout in the Sierra Nevada foothills.

Rocks and Grasses, Sierra Foothills. Mariposa County, California. February 28, 2016. © Copyright 2016 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

Wildflowers and new grasses begin to sprout in the Sierra Nevada foothills.

The “impossible green” season begins early in California. I want to call this a “spring” photograph, but unlike many colder parts of the USA, these colors come to California in late winter. The effect is especially striking in years with good winter rains, and after four years of crushing drought much of California has received between normal and above normal rainfall this year. This past week it seemed like the Sierra foothills were taking advantage of all the moisture and of a recent warm spell.

Over three-day period we spend time in the Central Valley, Yosemite, and in the Sierra foothills. On the first day we were somewhat surprised to see the California Golden Poppies were already blooming in places in Merced Canyon, covering hillsides with a carpet of colorful flowers. Lower down in the foothills the short grasses have turned intensely green and wildflowers are beginning to bloom.


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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Tundra Swans, Mount Shasta

Tundra Swans, Mount Shasta
Tundra swans fly in front of distant cloud-shrouded Mount Shasta

Tundra Swans, Mount Shasta. Klamath Basin, California. February 12, 2016. © Copyright 2016 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

Tundra swans fly in front of distant cloud-shrouded Mount Shasta

Mount Shasta is one of those special mountains that stands alone and above all around it. In land that rarely exceeds a few thousand feet in elevation, this peak soars to over 14,000′, only a bit shorter than Mount Whitney, the tallest peak in the Lower 48 States. While Mount Whitney is nestled into a very high section of the Sierra Crest, along with other peaks and ridges of nearly the same height, nothing near Shasta is remotely near as tall. Its bulk soars above the rest of the landscape, especially when it is covered in winter snows — and the clouds that build over its summit can make it seem even larger. As we like to point out, the peak is so big that it makes its own weather.

The peak is clearly visible from this area of the Klamath Basin, and it is the first thing to catch the morning light. While out in this immense valley photographing tundra swans I noticed that some flocks along the far side of the valley were passing in front of the peak, and I started tracking them to see if any would cross the mountain at the right elevation. As I saw a flock far to my northwest, I would begin to track it along the horizon, hoping that it would pass in front of the peak and be high enough to clear the lower and darker mountains, yet not so high as to be far above the peak.


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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Lake and Peninsula

Lake and Peninsula
Trees grow on a peninsula at a Yosemite subalpine lake, late summer

Lake and Peninsula. Yosemite National Park, California. September 12, 2015. © Copyright 2015 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

Trees grow on a peninsula at a Yosemite subalpine lake, late summer

We have passed nearly halfway though our annual circuit around the sun since I made this photograph. It is now slightly past midwinter, and the photograph was made in late summer, a few weeks before the arrival of solar fall, though the signs of autumn were already everywhere in this drought-affected portion of the Sierra backcountry.

The haze in the atmosphere beyond the peninsula with its sunlit trees comes from wildfires that were burning all over Yosemite and the rest of the Sierra. One small one was burning just across a nearby ridge and a more distant but larger fire periodically fill the air with thick smoke. Wildfire smoke is a normal feature at the end of the season, but this year it was much worse than normal. Fortunately, every day the winds shifted, the smoke moved away, and we got some beautiful near-autumn weather — time to enjoy the golden-brown meadow grasses, walks around the lake, and the occasional climb up onto grants slabs that rose from its shoreline.


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.

Hollywood

Hollywood
The Hollywood sign and antennas

Hollywood. Los Angeles, California. November 28, 2015. © Copyright 2015 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

The Hollywood sign and antennas

Yes. That sign. I suppose that everyone (probably) needs a photograph of the thing and, believe it or not, this is my first. There I was. There the sign was. The light was attractive. I photographed it. ;-)

During a four-day visit to Southern California we ended up making a drive up north to central Los Angeles to visit a museum, and since I had never been to the Griffith Observatory before — really! — we decided to correct that. In the late afternoon we headed to Griffith Park with, or so it seemed, about half of the population of the Los Angeles basin. We eventually caught a shuttle and soon found ourselves among the crowd at the observatory. Crowds aside, it is quite a place… and there, off to the right, was the famous sign. As something of an iconophobe, I have to admit that I did not realize that it would be visible from here!


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.

September Rain

September Rain
September rain falls on a Yosemite backcountry lake

September Rain. Yosemite National Park, California. September 14, 2015. © Copyright 2015 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

September rain falls on a Yosemite backcountry lake

Autumn in the Sierra is time of wonderful transitions — it is my favorite time of year to be there. For the most part the weather is still beautiful, with warm days and pleasantly chilly evenings and early mornings. The light is special — it is hard to put my finger on the precise quality, but somehow it feels warmer and softer than in the summer. Meadows turn golden brown and many plants take on their autumn colors. It feels like everything is slowing.

There can also be storms. These are not the brief afternoon thunderstorms of summer. They are the first harbingers of winter — the large Pacific weather fronts that begin to push in and which will eventually bring winter snow. We had such a storm — though it was a gentle one — on our visit, and it rained off and on for the final two days of our stay. I made this photograph along the shoreline of “our” lake, with fall colors in the foreground and a passing shower in front of the distant peak.


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.