Tag Archives: reflection

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 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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Photographer, Wetlands

Photographer, Wetlands
Water reflects clouds above photographer David Hoffman as he works from a levee in San Joaquin Valley wetlands.

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

Water reflects clouds above photographer David Hoffman as he works from a levee in San Joaquin Valley wetlands.

Passing through California’s Great Central Valley by car, you could be forgiven for thinking that there isn’t much there besides fast food, gas stations, freeway, and other stuff alongside the road. Get off the freeway, get out of the car, and slow down a bit, especially during the colder half of the year, and you may find a very different place. This little post is not the place to share the whole story, but for me the place is partly defined by its agricultural roots, partly by the sense that it is located between the coast ranges and the great Sierra Nevada, and partly by the sense I often get there of space and immense sky.

We had spent the morning photographing migratory birds and the somewhat hazy landscape. We broke for lunch in a nearby town and then returned for more photography in the mid afternoon. While we were at lunch the conditions changed — the light fog dissipated and high clouds from a Pacific weather front drifted across the sky. As we headed out toward a spot where we hoped to find birds for evening photography we paused along the levee and photographed the sky, its reflection in the wetlands pond, and the spare winter landscape. My friend and photographer David Hoffman is photographing the same pond from the far bank.


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.

Blue Hour, Wetlands

Blue Hour, Wetlands
Late autumn evening clouds reflected in wetlands of the San Joaquin Valley.

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

Late autumn evening clouds reflected in wetlands of the San Joaquin Valley.

I have become a passionate photographer of winter migratory birds in California’s Great Central Valley, and I spend as much time as possible out there between late fall and the start of spring. For most of my life I was almost completely unaware of the great migration that takes place just a couple of hours east of my home and midway between there and “my” Sierra Nevada. For a few months this valley that seems primarily like farmland (at least to us coastal folks) for the rest of the year becomes a wildlife haven.

But it isn’t just about the birds. The birds may be the main draw, but they are certainly not the whole show, and the landscape itself fascinates me, especially with its surprising and varied effects of atmosphere and light. The ubiquitous fog creates mystery and the clouds of winter weather fronts produce beautiful skies. The dusk ending of a day out here rarely fails to produce some twilight magic.


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, 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.

Shoreline and Meadow

Shoreline and Meadow
The shoreline of a Yosemite backcountry lake in the late season

Shoreline and Meadow. Yosemite National Park, California. September 10, 2015. © Copyright 2015 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

The shoreline of a Yosemite backcountry lake in the late season

This lake was our home for a good week this past September. I was among a small group of photographers who spend a week or more doing this every year. This year we camped by the shore of an accessible backcountry Yosemite lake. We woke up every morning to views of this lake and we went to bed in the evening with such images still in our minds.

At times on this visit the light was very subdued. Early on this was because of intense wildfire smoke — some of the worst I’ve encountered in the range. Near the end of the trip a Pacific weather pattern swept through, and in its wake there was a period of several days of raining, cold conditions.


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.

Marsh and Sky

Marsh and Sky
Late autumn sky above a flooded marsh, Central Valley, California

Marsh and Sky. San Joaquin Valley, California. December 6, 2015. © Copyright 2015 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

Late autumn sky above a flooded marsh, Central Valley, California

A winter ritual begins each year about this time. In the late fall the migratory birds return to California’s Great Central Valley and a band of photographers of which I am a part also heads out to the valley. The primary draw is the birds — geese, ibises, cranes, herons, egrets, and more — which gather by the thousands in the wetlands. But the valley itself also has its attractions at this time of year. The tule fog that slows drivers and obscures the sun also makes the landscape quiet and mysterious. The flat terrain is open to the sky and the clouds of winter storms create an overhead landscape.

A few days ago I made my first trip of the season to the valley, joining a small group of friends for a day of photography. We spent the first few hours focused on the birds — mostly geese and cranes on this visit — and then paused in the late morning. It was during this midday pause that I stopped along the edge of one of the marshland ponds and made this photograph of the expansive cloud-filled sky reflected in the surface of the 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.
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.