Tag Archives: Mountain

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.
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Pine Trees, Morning

Pine Trees, Morning
A small grove of high elevation pine trees in morning Sierra Nevada light

Pine Trees, Morning. Sierra Nevada, California. August 10, 2015. © Copyright 2015 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

A small grove of high elevation pine trees in morning Sierra Nevada light

Although I visit the Sierra frequently, it has been some time since my last real backpacking trip and even longer since I last me up with my “Talusdancers” friends. The Talusdancers go way back — to a time about two decades ago when a loosely organized group of us began joining regularly for Sierra backcountry trips that ranged from a few days to longer than a week. In early August I had the opportunity to get these things back on track, with a three-day backpack trip in the eastern Sierra with three of the old gang. I arrived before the others, was on the trail by mid-afternoon, and had set up camp and was fixing dinner before the sun set. My friends apparently got to the trailhead much later and didn’t start hiking until about 6:00 PM. As the sun was setting I heard the “holler” of my friend Owen coming from across the valley, and I yelled back to let him know I as there. They soon arrived, and I can report that there are few things more wonderful that meeting up in the backcountry with good friends you have not seen for some time!

Our camp was on a rise above the shore of a sub-alpine lake, a very familiar Sierra Nevada setting. Beyond the lake to the west the terrain rises, past more lakes and thinning trees, into the alpine zone, and eventually to Sierra crest peaks and ridge lines. To the east there was a long valley with several more lakes, ending at a drop off between the descending canyon walls, and in the far distance we could see the high desert of Owens Valley and even further off the line of the White Mountains. We camped in the midst of an open grove of small, high-elevation lodgepole pines, common Sierra trees, but always beautiful in the early morning 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.
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Timberline Meadow, Morning

Timberline Meadow, Morning
A small Sierra Nevada timberline meadow in morning light, surrounded by rocky alpine terrain

Timberline Meadow, Morning. Sequoia-Kings Canyon National Park, California. September 13, 2013. © Copyright 2015 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

A small Sierra Nevada timberline meadow in morning light, surrounded by rocky alpine terrain

This photograph comes from a long visit to the Sierra back-country in September of 2013. A group of photographers made our way into the high backcountry of Kings Canyon National Park (with the help of pack animals) and set up there to make photographs in this 11,000+’ region for the better part of a week. We remained camped in one spot for the entire time. That might seem less exciting that moving on and covering more ground in the Sierra — and experience that I have also had. However, by remaining in one spot we were able to learn the personality of that specific little area much more deeply and to see it in various conditions: morning and evening, rain and fair weather, and more.

This is a humble little photograph — no towering peaks, building clouds, dramatic weather here. However, I got to know this little spot quite well during our visit. It was right “in the neighborhood,” and on a morning like this one I could roll out of my tent, lift my pack, walk uphill for five minutes or so, and be in this meadowy glade, filled with granite slabs and boulders and backed by rocky slopes leading to a nearby ridge.


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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Island and Trees, Tuolumne River

Island and Trees, Tuolumne River
Trees grow on a small, rocky island in the Tuolumne River, Yosemite National Park

Island and Trees, Tuolumne River. Yosemite National Park, California. July 12, 2015. © Copyright 2015 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

Trees grow on a small, rocky island in the Tuolumne River, Yosemite National Park

This first evening on a recent trip to the Yosemite high country turned out to be a special one in several ways. I arrived in the park in the middle of the day and was fortune to snag a camp site at Tuolumne Meadows. (The place is busy and often full during the summer high season, but certain strategies can increase the odds — for example, I arrived on Sunday at just about the time that folks had to check out of the camp ground.) I set up my simple camp, lounged around a bit, and then it was time to head out and look for photographs. I headed back along Tioga Pass Road, making note of several possibilities as I passed the meadow, then turned around to go back to one of them. Along the way I decided to pull over to take in the view and by lucky coincidence I pulled in right behind my friends Michael and Claudia. We ended up heading out across the meadow to a likely photography location. Within moments a couple caught up with us — another group of friends, Charlotte and Gary!

The group of us continued hiking along the river, eventually reaching a beautiful area where the slope increased, the channel narrowed, and the river picked up speed. Here it glides across granite slabs, bounces around and across boulders, and occasionally pools for a moment in hollows in the valley. We stopped at a granite bowl where the river takes a bend, and I photographed this small island and its trees against a background of late-afternoon sky with dissipating clouds.


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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Tuolumne River, Evening

Tuolumne River, Evening
Evening clouds dissipate above the Tuolumne River, Yosemite National Park

Tuolumne River, Evening. Yosemite National Park, California. July 12, 2015. © Copyright 2015 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

Evening clouds dissipate above the Tuolumne River, Yosemite National Park

For the past few days I’ve been photographing in the Yosemite high country. When arriving at some familiar places in the Sierra Nevada I tend to follow certain rituals. I often arrive in the middle of the day and whenever possible on the day when the largest number of visitors are leaving — this makes it a bit more likely that I’ll find a campsite. That’s how it worked out on this Sunday, when I was able to grab a tent campsite at Tuolumne Meadows, even though it is the start of the peak season. As usual, I spent an hour or so getting my basic camp set up, then sat for a while, resting up from the drive and eating lunch and thinking about where I might photograph later in the day. I finally came up with vaguest of vague plans: I would simply start out by driving back down the road a ways to see what I could find. This turned out to be fortuitous decision.

In some ways it was a typical high country summer evening, with clearing clouds from recent monsoonal rain softening the light a bit. I passed a beautiful clump of trees that were dramatically lit by the low-angle sun but there was no place to pull over. I continued on up the road a ways, finally turned around, and as I headed back I decided to pull over where I could take in the wider view. There were two vehicles in the pull-out already and as I pulled in I wondered if I was going to startle the woman getting out of the one right in front of me. I took another look and soon realized that she was my friend Claudia, and that the other car was her husband Michael’s vehicle. (It still astonishes me how often I run into friends in the Sierra.) After greetings we decided to wander out along the Tuolumne to see what evening would bring. They set out across the meadow and a few minutes later I followed. As I walked I became vaguely aware that another couple was following in the same direction and when we met up at the far side of the meadow we realized that there were Charlotte and Gary, yet another couple I know! Joining “forces,” now we wandered down the river this beautiful area of small trees, open views, granite slabs, and flowing water.


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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Eroded Ridge and Valley

Eroded Ridge and Valley
Eroded ridge and valley in the Waterpocket Fold area, Utah

Eroded Ridge and Valley. Capitol Reef National Park, Utah. October 22, 2014. © Copyright 2014 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

Eroded ridge and valley in the Waterpocket Fold area, Utah

This landscape could hardly be more different from the landscape in yesterday’s photograph. The earlier photograph was of Drake’s Estero, at the Point Reyes National Seashore, made on a day that was almost entirely foggy until a brief interval of filtered sun illuminated the blue waters of the estuary, a bit of green on a peninsula, and distant sky and water. None of those things are found in this photograph.

This landscape from Capitol Reef National Park is austere, arid, and quite rugged. It has a special beauty, but it is not a beauty with soft edges, misty skies, and water. Here the land is laid bare, seeming from a distance to be devoid of plant life. (Once inside this landscape, it turns out to be a bit more alive than it might seem.) Geology and the effects of time are visible in these places with their colored layers of rock, deeply cut valleys, and rugged erosion forms. Here gullies lie below rocky ridges, and two valleys come together in a flat area laced by stream beds.


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


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Redrock Country, Near Fruita

Redrock Country, Near Fruita
Cliffs and eroded towers near Fruita, Capitol Reef National Park

Redrock Country, Near Fruita. Capitol Reef National Park, Utah. October 20, 2014. © Copyright 2014 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

Cliffs and eroded towers near Fruita, Capitol Reef National Park

I’m a sucker for juxtapositions of mountains and cliffs, and sunlit and shadowed surfaces. (In fact, “juxtaposition” is a word I think about a lot when making photographs.) This part of the world provides these juxtapositions with a vengeance. Everywhere in the red rock country of the Southwest there are sandstone walls, lined up, building one on top of the other, standing in front of and behind each other, layered with eroded rock and soil, standing above valleys and beyond lower ridges.

We had only a brief time to photograph on this first afternoon in Capitol Reef National Park. I had arrived in the middle of the afternoon and then busied myself with setting up a tent and a few other camp chores, plus catching up on the news with my friend Dave. By the time all of these important things had been taken care of the sun was rapidly dropping toward the horizon, so we quickly headed to a nearby area to see what sort of late-day light we could find. Literally within minutes of leaving our campground (which is just to the right of the shadowed trees visible in the lower part of the photograph) we came upon this intense and saturated late-day light, with shadows starting to stretch across the valley and the low foreground ridges.


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.