Tag Archives: season

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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September Rain

September Rain
September rain falls on a Yosemite backcountry lake

September Rain. Yosemite National Park, California. September 14, 2015. © Copyright 2015 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

September rain falls on a Yosemite backcountry lake

Autumn in the Sierra is time of wonderful transitions — it is my favorite time of year to be there. For the most part the weather is still beautiful, with warm days and pleasantly chilly evenings and early mornings. The light is special — it is hard to put my finger on the precise quality, but somehow it feels warmer and softer than in the summer. Meadows turn golden brown and many plants take on their autumn colors. It feels like everything is slowing.

There can also be storms. These are not the brief afternoon thunderstorms of summer. They are the first harbingers of winter — the large Pacific weather fronts that begin to push in and which will eventually bring winter snow. We had such a storm — though it was a gentle one — on our visit, and it rained off and on for the final two days of our stay. I made this photograph along the shoreline of “our” lake, with fall colors in the foreground and a passing shower in front of the distant peak.


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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Autumn Ferns, Tree, and Gully

Autumn Ferns, Tree, and Gully
Boulders, autumn ferns and a small tree line a Yosemite back country granite gully

Autumn Ferns, Tree, and Gully. Yosemite National Park, California. September 12, 2015. © Copyright 2015 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

Boulders, autumn ferns and a small tree line a Yosemite back country granite gully

For me, intimate scenes like this one define the Sierra Nevada experience at least as much as do alpine ridges and grand scenery. While those subjects are highlights, the feeling of smooth granite, stepping across half-buried rocks and through grasses, finding my way up or down a gully are the core experiences of the place. I wonder if I’m the only person who, when he starts thinking about the sensor experience of the Sierra, mostly recalls these things, along with the sound of gravel beneath boots, echoing off of the rock walls, water flowing in creeks, wind in trees and always the light.

This little spot is probably not one that would get the attention of too many people, unless perhaps they spent a week camped a few minutes from such a gully, crossed it daily on travels around a lake, and often paused to look up and eventually decided to explore a bit. A first glance told me that there was a gully. Another look and I began to see the colors of the rocks and their curve. Returning a few more times I noticed the little spruce tree and the ferns growing among the rocks. And after a week this spot become one more piece of the Sierra as I know it.


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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Grove of Bare Aspen Trees

Grove of Bare Aspen Trees
A few autumn leaves linger on a grove of bare aspen trees, eastern Sierra Nevada

Grove of Bare Aspen Trees. Eastern Sierra Nevada, California. October 3, 2015. © Copyright 2015 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

A few autumn leaves linger on a grove of bare aspen trees, eastern Sierra Nevada

No, I’m still not done with my photographs from autumn 2015 in the Sierra Nevada! This year I first photographed this grove in late September, much earlier than would normally be the case. Even then many of the trees had already lost their leaves, seemingly in response to the fourth serious drought year in the Sierra. The drought affected trees in a variety of ways, ranging from early color change to simply dropping leaves without a color change to seemingly going dormant. (Other trees that were less stressed seemed to change later than usual, perhaps in response to later warm temperatures resulting from climate change.) I was less than satisfied with those first late-September photographs of these trees, so I thought more about them after returning home and made a plan to return the following week and refine my ideas.

And that’s just what I did. I made this photograph one week after those first images. This time I spent less time at the grove since I already had a fairly clear idea of what I was trying to produce. Given how few leaves there had been the week before, I was somewhat surprised to find any color still left here — but I was also happy that there was some! Bare and near bare late-season aspen trees seem compelling to me, for reasons I cannot quite put my finger on. Is it that they signal the fine, incontrovertible end of the warm season? Or is it that they signal the certain arrival of the beauties of winter? Perhaps there is something about these bare trees standing in groups and their promise of new life the following spring? When there are still just a few colorful leaves remaining, as in this scene, somehow the effect seems even stronger.


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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Orange, Yellow, and Green

Orange, Yellow, and Green
Autumn aspen color along Bishop Creek in the eastern Sierra Nevada

Orange, Yellow, and Green. Eastern Sierra Nevada, California. October 4, 2015. © Copyright 2015 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

Autumn aspen color along Bishop Creek in the eastern Sierra Nevada

By the time this photograph appears at my website, the transitory seasonal aspen color show will be mostly a memory. (Or, for many of us who think way in advance, a promise for next year!) With this fall’s release of my book on Sierra fall color (“California’s Fall Color: A Photographer’s Guide of Autumn in the Sierra” — Heyday Books, 2015) I made a point of spending as much time in the Eastern Sierra as possible. I started looking for easy signs of developing autumn color all the way back in early September — and in this unusual, drought-influenced year, I found it. The first notable aspen color appeared in late September, and by the end of the month I saw very good color in some high elevation locations, and I spent a good portion of the next few weeks returning to photograph as it continued to develop.

I made this photograph in early October, typically the beginning of the period of best color — though this year some areas had already lost leaves by then. Aspens grow in a range of different surroundings — these grow in a drier area of sage brush rather than begin interspersed with pines. This group of aspens had achieved more or less peak color, and some nearby trees were losing leaves rapidly. In this photograph the colors are intensified by the quality of the light — I like to photograph these trees in the very early and very late times when they have fallen into shadow, softening the otherwise harsh contrasts of brighter light.


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 and Aspen, Autumn, Eastern Sierra

Cottonwood and Aspen, Autumn, Eastern Sierra
Fall colors come to cottonwood and aspen groves in McGee Canyon

Cottonwood and Aspen, Autumn, Eastern Sierra. Sierra Nevada, California. October 9, 2015. © Copyright 2015 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

Fall colors come to cottonwood and aspen groves in McGee Canyon

From the valley east of the Sierra the upper reaches of this canyon are not hard to see, though the bottom of the canyon and its entrance point are not so obvious. Pulling off on US 395 some distance from the canyon, a road rises up the alluvial hills at the base of the Sierra and traverses across toward an old lateral moraine. Rounding this hill, the tree-lined creek draining the canyon comes into view and a gentle through sage brush country passes a campground and a pack station before reaching the end of the road and trailhead.

This canyon rises quickly, and from the cottonwood lowlands one can hike into subalpine country in a short time, and it isn’t much further to get to backcountry lakes that seem to sit at the base of the Sierra crest. I paused along the road in the sage brush zone to make this photograph. Fall cottonwood trees are in the foreground, and further up the U-shaped canyon aspen trees have turned yellow. The remnants of an early autumn storm are seen, too, in the dusting of snow high up the rocky slopes at the head of the canyon.


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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Inside the Grove

Inside the Grove
Among the trees of an Eastern Sierra aspen grove, autumn

Inside the Grove. Eastern Sierra Nevada, California. October 9, 2015. © Copyright 2015 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

Among the trees of an Eastern Sierra aspen grove, autumn

Late in the afternoon on this day of Eastern Sierra fall aspen color photography I found myself in a familiar place, where a small lateral road, narrow and gravel, roughly parallels are larger paved road. I like to pull off the main road here and slowly drive the short distance up canyon on the gravel road, stopping along the way to view and photograph the variety of aspen trees that grow here. It is especially nice late in the day when the sun drops behind high peaks, leaving soft, shadowed light.

I pulled into a familiar pull-out along this road, at a spot where I have photographed in the past and where there is  a little grove of small trees. None of the trees seems to be as tall as twenty feet, but they grow very closely together — so closely that it is actually difficult to walk among them. The spot is often quiet — personal rather than iconic — especially late on an autumn day, and I sometimes simply pause quietly here for a while. On other occasions, like this one, I make photographs. I decided that I would put on a very wide-angle lens and then walk in among the trees, photographing them very close up and trying to capture some of the feeling of being inside such a dense little grove.


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.