Tag Archives: season

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.
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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.

Riparian Thicket, Yosemite Valley

Riparian Thicket, Yosemite Valley
Riparian Thicket, Yosemite Valley

Riparian Thicket, Yosemite Valley, Yosemite National Park, California. February 13, 2015. © Copyright 2015 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

Hazy afternoon winter light in a thicket of trees along the banks of the Merced River, Yosemite Valley

A shorter than usual post today, as I’m dealing (successfully!) with an unexpected eye problem, and one effect of the treatment is that I need to minimize computer/reading/writing time for a few days. (The short story is that I had retinal detachment, we caught it right away, were able to treat it on an out-patient basis, I’m home, and the results look fine. In short, what looked scary at first appears to be heading towards an excellent outcome.) So, briefly…

A week ago I was in Yosemite Valley for about two hours between visits to a couple of other places, and I had time to photograph around one of the large meadows late in the day, as the afternoon sun was dropping toward the tops of the cliffs and the hazy air became luminous. I wandered over to a section of the Merced River where I like to photograph cottonwood trees in spring and fall, and looking down the river I saw this little vignette in the backlight.


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.

Forest, Afternoon Light

Forest, Afternoon Light
Forest, Afternoon Light

Forest, Afternoon Light. Yosemite National Park, California. February 13, 2015. © Copyright 2015 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

Hazy afternoon winter light in a Yosemite Valley hardwood forest

This may have been just about the briefest visit to Yosemite Valley that I have ever made. We drove up from the Bay Area for two days and one night so that we could attend the opening reception for an art exhibit (Sierra Art Trails) in Oakhurst. We had thought that we might visit one of the Central Valley wildlife refuges on the way — and we ended up spending enough time there that it was after 3:00 when we got to the Yosemite Valley. We briefly stopped to watch people setting up to try to photograph Horsetail Fall, which we did not intend to do, and then headed up to one of the large meadows where I thought that I could photograph trees backlit by the low angle afternoon light.

I started out in a meadow, photographing trees to my west silhouetted against the hazy backlight. Finishing with this subject I wandered over to the banks of the Merced River to look for closer subjects, and as I looked west I saw this tangle of trees which gradually resolved into patterns of downward curving branches superimposed on taller tree trunks leaning to both sides. One challenge was trying to find a composition in this complexity, and another was shooting straight toward the sun without ending up with lens flare. The first took some careful thought, while the second required some contortions to shade the lens with my hand.


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.

The Aspen Palette

The Aspen Palette
The Aspen Palette

The Aspen Palette. Sierra Nevada, California. October 16, 2011. © Copyright 2011 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

Colorful eastern Sierra autumn aspen groves along US 395.

This is another photograph from a few years back that I rediscovered while reviewing many, many photographs for a project that I’m working on. I made the photograph in mid-October along highway 395 in the eastern Sierra, where the autumn colors had finally worked their way down from the higher regions toward the valleys. This large grove of aspens is a fall favorite of mine. The sub-grove extend mostly from left to right across the scene, and the genetically related trees of each group seem to change colors at different times and to end up with different coloration — and when my timing is just right and the season cooperates, almost the entire palette of possible aspen colors can appear here at once. In this photograph we have brilliant reds at the bottom of the frame, blending through orange toward yellow/gold, with a few still-green trees and even a few that have lost most of their leaves.

As I worked on this photograph recently I realized that I made it at a time that seemed much different in California. The two preceding winters had brought record levels of precipitation, the high country had opened late with snow remaining much later than usual, and there was water everywhere. This October visit to the eastern Sierra came near the end of the second wet summer, and it looked like we were about to be in for another wet winter, with early season storms. Then the tap was shut off, and we experienced three years are terrible drought. These trees and others in the range are now under a great deal of stress, and the past autumn was a bit of a strange one. And now, in the fourth year, the Sierra is still experiencing far below normal snowfall and far above-normal temperatures.


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.

Geese, Sun, Winter Clouds

Geese, Sun, Winter Clouds
Geese, Sun, Winter Clouds

Geese, Sun, Winter Clouds. San Joaquin Valley, California. January 25, 2015. © Copyright 2015 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

A flock of Ross’s geese flies in front of winter sun in cloud-filled sky

Occasionally, magic happens when out in a place like this, and it makes many days of less-magical photography seem more than worth it. And there was such magic at the end of this long day of winter photography in the San Joaquin Valley, beginning with a predawn arrival and hours of photography in mysterious tule fog, sometimes with birds heard by not seen. Friends were there with us, and as the day wore on more arrived. Sometimes we worked together and sometimes we headed off in different directions, but as the end of the day approached we began to see where the birds would be at sunset and then to pick our strategies for the final light.

Several of us ended up near a very large flock of Ross’s geese that was settling down in a pasture along a gravel road. The birds were gradually moving east, so we placed ourselves even further east so that rows of trees and the western sky would be in back of the birds. We settled in to photograph, occasionally moving a bit to accommodate the flock as it continued its drift to the east. For the most part things were quiet — geese came and went, with groups of them approaching from the west and landing near us. The sun was right behind the birds, which would normally make photography very challenging, but a cooperative cloud bank drifted across and blocked enough of the light to allow us to shoot straight into it as lines of birds came towards us to land.


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.