Tag Archives: rock

The Landing

The Landing
A brown pelican joins the flock on a rock along the Pacific coast of California

The Landing. California Coast. July 212, 2015. © Copyright 2015 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

A brown pelican joins the flock on a rock along the Pacific coast of California

This photograph has appeared here at my website and in subsequent social media posts already, but merely as an example in a post I shared about some slightly technical matters related to a camera I use. (More on that in a moment.) Since I feel like the photograph stands not only as an example of how a lens and a camera work, but also as a photograph, this time I’m sharing it for the latter reason. We had spent a couple of days in the Monterey and Big Sur area, photographing along that spectacular coastline, and now we were headed home. We decided to work our say north along the coast, eventually turning inland just south of San Francisco.

Just before that homeward turn we passed a small, rocky island just a few yards off the actual coast, and I realized that it was covered with many scores of brown pelicans. I love photographing these birds, and it is somewhat unusual to see so many in one place, so we stopped and walked out to the bluff to make some photographs. The light was challenging since it was coming from almost directly behind the birds — but in this case that worked well as there is a light fringe around the bird, some light comes through its wing feathers, and additional light reflects back up from surf and rocks as this pelican lands. Oh, and that technical article? I made this photograph with a pretty unusual “birding” setup — the 50.6MP Canon EOS 5Ds R with a 100-400mm zoom lens with a 1.4x teleconverter attached!


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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The Landing

The Landing
A brown pelican joins the flock on a rock along the Pacific coast of California

The Landing. California Coast. July 21, 2015. © Copyright 2015 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

A brown pelican joins the flock on a rock along the Pacific coast of California

California’s brown pelicans are probably my favorite coastal birds, and I love to photograph them — from bluff tops which they pass as the coast along on Pacific winds, to the ocean as they skim just above the water, to places where they can be found resting between flights. These are large birds, with an almost prehistoric appearance, especially when a group of them floats by in a row, sometimes hardly moving at all. We spent a couple of days on the coast in mid-July, and on the last day as we headed home we passed a small, rocky island just of the shoreline. When we saw that it was covered with scores of these birds, so many that some had to land nearby instead of on the island, we grabbed our equipment and spent some time photographing them. I had tracked this pelican on its inbound flight. Most of them came from my right, passed the island, then turned to face into the wind before landing.

This photo also serves as a bit of a technical test, too. I made the photograph with my new Canon 5Ds R, using the EF 100-400mm f/4.5-f/5.6L IS II lens. To get a bit more “reach,” I added a 1.4x tele-extender, which made the longest focal length 560mm. Since this wasn’t possible on my previous camera (which could only autofocus at f/5.6, not the f/8 aperture produced by using the converter), I was interested to see how well this would work — would image quality be sharp enough and would the lens/extender combination focus quickly and accurately enough. In fact, it did work. Quite well, actually.


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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Base of the Cliff

Base of the Cliff
Autumn plants growing at the base of a sandstone cliff

Base of the Cliff. Capitol Reef National Park, Utah. October 22, 2014. © Copyright 2014 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

Autumn plants growing at the base of a sandstone cliff

It seems that we have arrived at that time when each year my thoughts begin to turn again to autumn photography. That is probably my favorite season as it includes those final warm days of Indian summer, the first inkling of the coming winter, the annual color transition as trees lose their leaves, and the first real winter weather — all of which are favorite photographic subjects of mine. (I’ll be paying special attention to Sierra Nevada fall color this coming season, for a number of reasons, but especially since this is the first autumn following the publication of my book on the subject: California’s Fall Color: A Photographer’s Guide to Autumn in the Sierra” from Heyday Press.)

So, an autumn photograph! This one comes from last October, when I had the opportunity to make a photography trip through some of may favorite areas of southern Utah. Partway through the trip I met up with my friend and fellow photographer, David Hoffman. We spent several days poking around in and photographing Capitol Reef National Park. On this evening we passed through a narrow gorge not far from our camp, quickly stopped, and ended up photographing the red rock canyon walls and the autumn colors until the light faded at the end 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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Fall Foliage, Sandstone Canyon

Fall Foliage, Sandstone Canyon
The colors of fall foliage and red sandstone canyon rock, Capitol Reef National Park, Utah

Fall Foliage, Sandstone Canyon . Capitol Reef National Park, Utah. October 22, 2014. © Copyright 2014 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

The colors of fall foliage and red sandstone canyon rock, Capitol Reef National Park, Utah

These are the kinds of Utah colors that make some of us return to California and to find that “our Sierra Nevada” looks a bit more gray than we thought! In my experience, the color season in southern Utah begins in late September with the arrival of aspen color. (I have seen it, but so far have arrived just after the peak color.) It continues later in the month as the lower elevation cottonwood trees become intensely colorful. In some places the show is still continuing in early November.

The fall color show on its own would be impressive, but place those colors against the backdrop of Utah’s colorful sandstone landscape and the overall effect is very powerful. We returned from a daytime adventure elsewhere in Capitol Reef National Park and passed through this canyon area just before sunset. The light in the areas shaded by the tall cliffs was already becoming soft and luminous, and in this light the colors can become even more intense. We stopped and more or less wandered for as the sun continued to drop, photographing in the quite evening right up until the light was too far gone.


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


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Weathered Cliff, Evening Light

Weathered Cliff, Evening Light
Early evening light on the face of a rugged and weathered sandstone cliff, Capitol Reef National Park

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

Early evening light on the face of a rugged and weathered sandstone cliff, Capitol Reef National Park

Recently I have been thinking about where we find subjects for photographs and about the fact that they are everywhere — I could say that you don’t always have to seek out particularly “special” places, or I might instead say that if you look closely enough almost any place can be special in some way. I do understand the interest in creating photographs of recognizable subjects and perhaps even the challenge of trying to make such photographs stand out in some way. But for me it is far more interesting to use the camera as a means of focusing more closely on what I can find wherever I am, and then trying to clear away obstacles to seeing these subjects in my own way.

Late in the day we had stopped along a section of roadway in Capitol Reef National Park. We knew, of course, that red rock sandstone cliffs and autumn trees were there, but most of all we stopped because the light was so fascinating. We simply walked along the road and looked, and almost everywhere we looked we found something that seemed like it might be worthy of a photograph. There was so much to see in this small area that as fast and furiously as we photographed, we felt like the light was passing too quickly. The subject of this photograph is a rough and weathered by of sandstone cliff that I happened to notice as I looked up from another subject I had been photographing.


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


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Waterpocket Fold Terrain

Waterpocket Fold Terrain
Deep erosion gullies below an uplifted rock band empty into the valley below, with rugged terrain extending into the distance

Waterpocket Fold Terrain. Capitol Reef National Park, Utah. October 22, 2014. © Copyright 2014 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

Deep erosion gullies below an uplifted rock band empty into the valley below, with rugged terrain extending into the distance

Until a few years ago, although I had heard the term “waterpocket fold” before, I was almost completely unaware of what this geological feature is. Since that time I have visited it several times. On the first occasion I visited the area, but I still did not understand the geology. I “got it” that there was some sort of uplift — the land rising to the west of Capitol Reef was a pretty good clue — but I did not understand or really see any of the connections. I recall stopping at one road side pullout and seeing a sign about it, registering that it is something important, but not really understanding.

On more recent visits the reality of this huge and striking feature has finally sunk in. I began to see it a few years ago on a trip that took we away from main roads and way up on a rocky ridge from which I could look down into the eastern valley and clearly see some of the larger patterns — sinuous lines of angled rock, the valley twisting gently into the distance in the south. On the most recent visit it began to make a lot more sense, as I noticed features like the shadowed cliff band across the center of this photograph, which more or less represents the remaining underside of a layer that long ago continued on up into what today would be the sky. Its edge overhangs the softer material below, though it still erodes into the bottom of the valley. Further to the east in this photograph the impossibly rugged terrain of arid strata continues, eventually rising to a mountain range in the far distance.


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


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