Tag Archives: rock

Seepage Stains

Seepage Stains, Granite
Water seepage stains mark a wall of Cathedral Range granite, Yosemite Naitonal Park

Seepage Stains. Yosemite National Park, California. September 15, 2015. © Copyright 2015 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

Water seepage stains mark a wall of Cathedral Range granite, Yosemite National Park

During a week-long stay at a backcountry Yosemite lake my partners and I had plenty of time to explore our surroundings. A day in such a place is a joy, but we had a string of such days, with conditions ranging from Sierra blue sky, through wildfire smoke, to an early seasons autumn storm that dropped rain on us for a couple of days.

Being in one location for so long provides the opportunity to really get to know the place. After a day or so getting to know the main, iconic features, continuing exploration beings to reveal things that we miss at first. Across the valley from our camp was a long and low rock wall, at the base of steeply sloping granite walls and holding somewhat level basin. Not surprisingly, the evidence of water flowing over this wall was obvious, from the lush plant life to the  beautiful water stain patterns.


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.

Seepage Stains, Cathedral Range Granite

Seepage Stains, Cathedral Range Granite
Water seepage stains the surface of a Cathedral Range granite face, Yosemite National Park

Seepage Stains, Cathedral Range Granite. Yosemite National Park, California. September 11, 2015. © Copyright 2015 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

Water seepage stains the surface of a Cathedral Range granite face, Yosemite National Park

During our week camped at a Yosemite back-country lake in September we had plenty of time to become intimately aware of the surrounding landscape, to explore its features, and to return to some of them more than once. One photographer who wasn’t with us this time but who has been a fixture on these trips in the past (Hi, Mike!) and shared some general information about a particular feature that intrigued him — and as a result the rest of us also became intrigued by it. The description of the location was a bit vague, but not so vague that a person who knows the area well would be unable to find it. (Think of directions like, “Near some granite to the south of a lake and west of another lake.”) So, once on the scene, this area was one that caught our focus.

Up from where we were camped, through some trees, and near the base of an incline, there is an odd section of cliff. In the sort of spot where you might expect everything to have been ground away by ancient glaciers there is a section of cliff that is hundreds of feet long and perhaps no ore than thirty feet high. A basin lies above it, and it seems that water finds many places to seem over and through these rocks, staining them in all sorts of diverse and amazing ways. This photograph is one of several close up studies I did of small sections of this face, where solid, blocky granite is cut through by cracks and water stains are everywhere.


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.

Backcountry Lake, Dawn

Backcountry Lake, Dawn
Dawn sky reflected in the surface of a Yosemite backcountry lake

Backcountry Lake, Dawn. Yosemite National Park, California. September 11, 2015. © Copyright 2015 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

Dawn sky reflected in the surface of a Yosemite backcountry lake

Another morning from a week of such mornings at this Yosemite backcountry lake. My tent was at the end of a granite slab leading back up from the shore of the lake, so it became typical to arise each morning, crawl out of the tent, grab camera and tripod, and walk the slab and then the meadow beyond to the shoreline for morning photography. In this strange weather year in the Sierra every morning was different. One morning it might be clear, another was filled with thick wildfire smoke, and on yet another it was raining.

This was an in-between morning. There was a bit of wildfire smoke — it never went away completely during our stay — and high clouds muted the morning light on the lake itself. The air was not moving, and was September-cold. First light brought a bit of color to the clouds, reflected in the early morning stillness of 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.
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.

Basalt Columns, Lichen, Autumn Plants

Basalt Columns, Lichen, Autumn Plants
Autumn plants and lichen lend color to basalt columns, Devils Postpile National Monument

Basalt Columns, Lichen, Autumn Plants. Devils Postpile National Monument, California. October 9, 2015. © Copyright 2015 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

Autumn plants and lichen lend color to basalt columns, Devils Postpile National Monument

Quite honestly, this photograph was at least partially the product of laziness! We were recently in the eastern Sierra Nevada for a few (more) days of autumn color photography. We had driven up late the previous day, and by the time we got settled in to our lodgings the idea of getting up again at “oh-dark-thirty” to head out and make dawn photographs was not appealing. Rather than overtly cop out, we sort of agreed to maybe not set alarms and instead just sort of see when we might wake up. Needless to say, on the morning after a very long drive that ended late at night… we did not get up at the crack of dawn! In fact, we wandered out for breakfast at perhaps 7:30 or so, and only then returned to our room to get ready for photography.

With no prior planning at all, we made  a more or less spontaneous decision to visit Devils Postpile National Monument, which was to our lodgings at Mammoth Lakes. I’ve been in that area many times, but always in conjunction with backpacking trips, and most of those simply headed out from Agnew Meadow. We finally got down there in the middle of the morning. It turns out that this is actually a very good time to photograph this geological structure, as the sun is behind it, producing beautiful soft shaded light on the details of the basalt columns. To make a series of photographs from which this image comes, I used a very long lens, which allowed me to isolate and compose photographs out of small areas of the much larger wall of basalt columns. (Update — December 2015: Patty Emerson Mitchell reminds me that I almost left my camera in the car on this morning, claiming that I was really just there to let her see this location!)


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.

Morning Light on Granite Ridge

Morning Light on Granite Ridge
Early morning light strikes trees on the ridge of a glaciated dome above Tenaya Canyon, Yosemite National Park

Morning Light on Granite Ridge. Yosemite National Park, California. July 15, 2015. © Copyright 2015 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

Early morning light strikes trees on the ridge of a glaciated dome above Tenaya Canyon, Yosemite National Park

Yosemite is known for many things — the Valley, waterfalls, and other familiar sights — but above all it should probably be known simply for granite. (Apologies to geologists ,who know that “granite” is a simplification, but I’m going with it.) The cliffs and domes of Yosemite Valley are well known, but I’m especially thinking of the higher regions of the park, where one is hardly ever far from granite slabs, granite boulders moved about by ancient glaciers, granite stream beds, granite faces, granite ground into sand…

This is one of those locations where it is possible to look in the right direction and focus your attention on a particular area… and see almost nothing but granite. Here a glaciated granite ridge, topped by sunlit trees, is backed by a glaciated granite wall in shadow, with a glacial granite canyon lying between the two. The surfaces of such places are fascinating. A close look at the sunlit ridge reveals large granite boulders, with trees and small strips of meadow. Below that ridge is a large expanse of exfoliating granite slabs with trees eking out a living on little more than bare rock.


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.

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.
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.

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.
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.