Tag Archives: sierra

Forest, Lake, and Haze

Forest, Lake, and Haze
A hazy late-summer day at a subalpine Sierra Nevada lake, Yosemite National Park

Forest, Lake, and Haze. Yosemite National Park, California. September 10, 2015. © Copyright 2015 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

A hazy late-summer day at a subalpine Sierra Nevada lake, Yosemite National Park

With all of the recent urban and street photography I have been posting — which is a bit seasonal pattern, given my travel tendencies — I’m also making an effort to go back through some older photographs from last year to find landscape photography that escaped my notice on the first pass. This always happens with photographs — for some reason certain images don’t make sense right after I make them, but when I come back to them later on with a fresh eye I see potential that I missed. Right now I’m revisiting late-summer photographs from a week-long backcountry stay at a Yosemite lake.

For me, this photograph holds many of the subtler elements of the High Sierra experience — not the spectacular grand vistas, but something deeper and ultimately perhaps more powerful. In this beautiful late-season time of year, the meadow grasses around this quiet lake have finished the wild growth phase of summer and have already turned golden-yellow in preparation for autumn and then winter. Lower angle light comes over the shoulder of the granite ridge whose base is visible beyond the trees. Widely spaced trees stand at the edges of the meadow and even trace weaknesses in the granite slabs on the higher slopes.


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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Subalpine Lake, Morning Reflections

Subalpine Lake, Morning Reflections
Morning light and reflections on the rocky shoreline of a subalpine Sierra Nevada lake

Subalpine Lake, Morning Reflections. Yosemite National Park, California. September 12, 2015. © Copyright 2015 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

Morning light and reflections on the rocky shoreline of a subalpine Sierra Nevada lake

A wonderful thing about making photographs is that I get to travel backwards and forwards in time almost at will. Here it is in the middle of winter, and by looking back a few months in my archive I can go right back to a beautiful late summer week spent photographing around a Yosemite subalpine lake with a couple of friends. All of the sensory memories come right back: the stillness of the morning lake as the first sun worked its way through high clouds and haze, the memory of carrying my camera around the perimeter of that lake every morning as I looked slowly of subjects, the first colors of Sierra autumn.

We camped here for a full week, working intensively to photograph in and around one small area. If you haven’t done this you could be forgiven for wondering how in the world one could spend an entire week in area not much larger than a mile or two across. In fact, I still have those doubts at the start of any trip like this. All I can say is that, inevitably, the end of such a week comes too soon, I depart with many things left unphotographed, and I often return to these places again and find even more to see and photograph.


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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Before Dawn, Wetlands

Before Dawn, Wetlands
Pre-dawn clouds and misty light above the Sierra and San Joaquin Valley wetlands

Before Dawn, Wetlands. San Joaquin Valley, California. December 6, 2015. © Copyright 2015 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

Pre-dawn clouds and misty light above the Sierra and San Joaquin Valley wetlands

This photograph comes from one of my first trips of this season to photograph migratory birds in California’s Great Central Valley, an endeavor that has come to fascinate me more and more over the past few years. Somewhere in the post-Thanksgiving time frame I become aware that the birds have begun to return, and I soon find time to be out there on beautiful, cold, and often foggy days to photograph them and the winter landscape.

On this season’s first trip I arrived, as I always do, before dawn. The range of possible conditions out here is quite large, and I might find anything from dense fog to rain to perfectly clear skies. This morning brought some high clouds, especially to the east over the Sierra crest, and some scattered pockets of fog. At first the cloudiness made me wonder if there would even be much of a sunrise, but as the light began to appear the sky above the clouds became a bit more


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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Wetlands Dawn, Sierra Crest

Wetlands Dawn, Sierra Crest
The peaks of the High Sierra rise beyond San Joaquin Valley wetlands on an autumn morning

Wetlands Dawn, Sierra Crest. San Joaquin Valley, California. December 6, 2015. © Copyright 2015 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

The peaks of the High Sierra rise beyond San Joaquin Valley wetlands on an autumn morning

In the late fall and winter, California’s Great Central Valley manages to provide some of the most diverse and beautiful effects of light and atmosphere that I know of. In a way this is ironic, since most of us probably tend to think of the place as a fairly boring, flat, and drab bunch of agricultural land that is too often smoggy and hot and dry in the summer. But in the winter, especially if you get away from the drive-through freeways, there is a lot to see here. This is especially true in the wetlands areas, with their wildlife, trees, ponds and fogs.

I arrived before dawn on this early December morning and, to be honest, I was not initially overly hopeful about the sunrise prospects. In fact, moments before I arrived I had driven past beautiful pre-dawn reflections on nearby marshes and decided to keep going toward my destination, only to arrive and find much less striking light. Sometimes the most brilliant sunrise light can blind me to more subtle beauties, but on this morning I found a quiet spot overlooking water and trees, stopped, and just photographed the beginning of the day. In this photograph the wetlands trees are reflected in the water as they march away into the slightly foggy distance, a few sandhill cranes fly past, and in the distance the crest of the Sierra Nevada rises toward the sky.


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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Granite Slabs, Forest, Evening Light

Granite Slabs, Forest, Evening Light
Evening light breaks through clouds to light trees growing on granite slabs along the Tuolumne River

Granite Slabs, Forest, Evening Light. Yosemite National Park, California. September 12, 2015. © Copyright 2015 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

Evening light breaks through clouds to light trees growing on granite slabs along the Tuolumne River

This photograph takes me back to mid-summer days in the high county when I spent a big chunk of time in the Tuolumne Meadows area making photographs in July. It was an odd year — July seemed almost normal, despite the historic drought, except that it looks more like a normal August, with virtually all snow gone, low water in the creeks,   and fairly settled weather.

One evening a group of us joined forces to wander along the Tuolumne River in evening light. Here we stopped at a curve where the river curves around a section lined with large granite slabs. It was cloudy, but a bit of late-day light slanted in from the left.


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.

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

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.
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.