Tag Archives: season

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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Cottonwood Tree, Evening

Cottonwood Tree, Evening
The day’s last light catches the autumn leaves of a cottonwood tree, Capitol Reef National Park, Utah

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

The day’s last light catches the autumn leaves of a cottonwood tree, Capitol Reef National Park, Utah

I made a long trip to Utah to photograph last fall, mostly photographing in the southwest and south-central part of the state. At times I worked alone, exploring slot canyons, washes, and back roads at my leisure. Later I met up with various other folks: photographers from California and Utah, relatives who were also visiting the state, and eventually members of my family. It may surprise some people to hear that I was almost completely unaware of the beauties of southern Utah until recently. (My family had passed through the state many times when I was young, but always through empty, arid regions that did not appeal to me then. Somehow they never showed me the spectacular red rock country, and consequently I thought of Utah as an empty and arid place.)

During the first week of the trip, after several days on my own, I met up with my friend and fellow California photographer David Hoffman in Capitol Reef National Park, where we camped and explored and photographed for several days. This day began with a spectacular and somewhat unexpected sunrise above the Waterpocket Fold, included a long drive on gravel roads to a more remote region of the park, and concluded along the road through the park with early evening photography just before we returned to camp. This section of the road passes though a valley lined with red rock walls, and it is filled with cottonwood and other trees. Late October is prime time for cottonwood color, and this scene of a backlit cottonwood below vertical sandstone cliffs seems representative of this time of year in this place.

(I taking a weekend break from posting my recent Sierra Nevada photographs — they will return on Monday.)


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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Cottonwood Trees and Redrock Canyon, Autumn

Cottonwood Trees and Redrock Canyon, Autumn
Brilliantly colorful autumn cottonwood foliage winds down a Utah redrock canyon

Cottonwood Trees and Red Rock Canyon, Autumn. Utah. October 26, 2014. © Copyright 2014 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

Brilliantly colorful autumn cottonwood foliage winds down a Utah red rock canyon

After four days of photography and camping in the far reaches of the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, I came out to civilization and spent a night at Boulder Mountain Lodge. (Not my usual thing, but I had an appointment to meet someone there — and it was quite a fine visit!) Arriving a bit early, I decided to head out on a nearby road just to see what I could see.

I knew this road a bit from traveling it in the past — I was looking forward to red rock cliffs and some cottonwood color. But I was not prepared for the intensity of the autumn cottonwoods in this little canyon. The effect was a combination of arriving at the peak moment of color for these trees, and the fact that the light was slightly softened by some high clouds. The result was one of those colorful scenes that you imagine but rarely actually find, with the tree winding down the canyon and around the far bend.


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.

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


All media © Copyright G Dan Mitchell and others as indicated. Any use requires advance permission from G Dan Mitchell.

Cottonwood Trees, Autumn

Cottonwood Trees, Autumn
Cottonwood Trees, Autumn

Cottonwood Trees, Autumn. Southern Utah. October 26, 2014. © Copyright 2014 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

A grove of autumn cottonwood trees in Utah red rock country

After a few days “in the field” in a remote southern Utah location with a group of friends, I left our camp and headed back out to what passes for civilization in this part of Utah. Truth be told, by the end of the day I arrived in a quite civilized place! After driving a bit I ended up in the town of Boulder, where I was to meet my cousin and her husband to share dinner and conversation. But I arrived a bit early, so I decide to explore a bit first.

I headed right on through Boulder and onto the Burr Trail route, following it for a few miles to an overlook where the road descends into a long canyon. I arrived at close to the perfect date to see brilliant colors from autumn cottonwood trees in this valley — although the color peak may have come a few days earlier, I like the combination of colorful trees and the skeletal shapes of partially bare trees. This little valley has a flat bottom, and the trees grew across its width and right up the red rock cliff on the opposite side.


G Dan Mitchell is a California photographer and visual opportunist whose subjects include the Pacific coast, redwood forests, central California oak/grasslands, the Sierra Nevada, California deserts, urban landscapes, night photography, and more.
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Text, photographs, and other media are © Copyright G Dan Mitchell (or others when indicated) and are not in the public domain and may not be used on websites, blogs, or in other media without advance permission from G Dan Mitchell.

Oak Leaves, Reflections, Spring

Oak Leaves, Reflections, Spring
Oak Leaves, Reflections, Spring

Oak Leaves, Reflections, Spring. Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Utah. October 24, 2014. © Copyright 2014 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

Autumn oak leaves, reflections of sky and sandstone cliffs on stained rock

This was a wonderful autumn day of exploration, re-visiting a familiar place, wandering with friends, and photography. We drove a short distance down a back-country road from our campsite to get to the start of a canyon, beginning in a spot where there is little in the surrounding landscape to indicate what is hidden here. We left our vehicles on the flats at the edge of a shallow valley and dropped into it. The valley quickly narrowed and it wasn’t long until sandstone walls towered above as we traced the meandering course of the stream that had cut this canyon. We travelled slowly, making detours as the spirit took us, and halting to concentrate on photographic subjects we discovered along the way.

Eventually we arrived at a sort of “half-subway” (referencing a well-known Utah landscape subject that is far from this spot) where the creek rounded a bend in a narrow section of the canyon and has cut away rock back underneath the overhead walls. At the lower end of this section we arrived at a wider flat area, though the canyon was still quite narrow, and we paused to eat, talk, make photographs, and ponder. Across the bend in the creek a smooth rock wall dropped down from beneath a thickly vegetated ledge to the banks of the creek, and water seeped from cracks below the ledge, providing enough water to keep the rock constantly damp, and autumn leaves from an oak tree on the ledge were scattered on the rock.


G Dan Mitchell is a California photographer and visual opportunist whose subjects include the Pacific coast, redwood forests, central California oak/grasslands, the Sierra Nevada, California deserts, urban landscapes, night photography, and more.
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Text, photographs, and other media are © Copyright G Dan Mitchell (or others when indicated) and are not in the public domain and may not be used on websites, blogs, or in other media without advance permission from G Dan Mitchell.

Cottonwood Leaf, Dry Grass, Winter

Cottonwood Leaf, Dry Grass, Winter
Cottonwood Leaf, Dry Grass, Winter

Cottonwood Leaf, Dry Grass, Winter. Yosemite Valley, California. March 1, 2015. © Copyright 2015 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

A single cottonwood tree lies among dry winter grasses in a Yosemite Valley meadow.

This has been and continues to be a historically dry year in California and especially in the Sierra. More concerning, it is the third such year in a row. In a more typical year — and may those return soon! — the location where I made this photograph would be very wet and perhaps even snow-covered on a day like the one when I visited.

We headed out into the Valley very early on this morning. It was the sort of day when you might hope to find some ground fog in the Valley meadows. We had no luck at the first two meadows we checked, but the third did have a very tenuous and shallow layer of fog, so we stopped. I wandered out into the dry and slightly frosty meadow, and as I did the last of the fog dissipated. As I looked for compositions among the waves of dormant grasses I began to notice that here and there were reddish-brown heart-shaped leaves left over from the autumn cottonwoods.


G Dan Mitchell is a California photographer and visual opportunist whose subjects include the Pacific coast, redwood forests, central California oak/grasslands, the Sierra Nevada, California deserts, urban landscapes, night photography, and more.
Blog | About | Flickr | Twitter | FacebookGoogle+ | 500px.com | LinkedIn | Email

Text, photographs, and other media are © Copyright G Dan Mitchell (or others when indicated) and are not in the public domain and may not be used on websites, blogs, or in other media without advance permission from G Dan Mitchell.