Tag Archives: tree

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 Tree, Sandstone Pothole

Cottonwood Tree, Sandstone Pothole
A cottonwood tree with fall foliage stands in the bottom of a sandstone pothole.

Cottonwood Tree, Sandstone Pothole. Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Utah. October 23, 2014. © Copyright 2014 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

A cottonwood tree with fall foliage stands in the bottom of a sandstone pothole.

Coming upon one of the large and deep sandstone potholes is a strange experience. There is something almost spooky about them. At first there is no obvious explanation for how such a thing could come to be. (It involves water and wind and long periods of time.) There is something strangely attractive about them and you want to get closer and closer to the edge. But this is a very dangerous proposition. The incline of the rock increases quickly and then quickly becomes vertical. It is a long ways down — perhaps as much as twenty feet. And anyone falling into such a pothole would not only be injured by the fall but would find it virtually impossible to get out without help. (There are stories of people finding dead animals that had fallen in and died there.)

There is positive magic about these formations, too, especially when a beautiful cottonwood tree grows within one of them, creating a kind of magical garden cut off from the rest of the world. We came to this area late in the day, climbed up onto VAST sandstone slabs, picked a route across the terrain, and arrived at a place where there were several of the potholes, many of which were home to cottonwood trees full of autumn foliage.


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.

Canyon and Stream

Canyon and Stream
Canyon and Stream

Canyon and Stream. Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Utah. October 24, 2014. © Copyright 2014 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

A small rock-filled stream wanders along the bottom of a deep Utah red rock canyon

Yet another bend in yet another Utah canyon! We had hiked a good distance down into the depths of this canyon, finally stopping (most of us, anyway) at a scenic bend with lots of interesting photographic subjects. We held up there to make photographs, to sit and talk, and to eat. A few of us went a bit farther and some went a good distance more, but soon we had all checked our watches and realized it was time to start back..

This spot is just below a narrow section of the canyon where the water flows through a narrow cleft and around a big curve. Here, below that section, it seems like the flow must slow a bit, since a few more trees manage to grow here and the bed of the creek held a lot of river rocks and silt. In the distance the canyon curves more toward the west, and this allows a bit more light down into the canyon, producing a bit of a glow ahead.


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.

Bend in the Canyon

Bend in the Canyon
Bend in the Canyon

Bend in the Canyon. Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Utah. October 24, 2014. © Copyright 2015 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

A sharp curving bend in the bottom of a Utah canyon

In many ways this is a bend in the canyon much like probably many thousands or other bends in this and other canyons. In places the courses of these canyons seem to wobble back and forth, turning right and then left and then right again as they trace their way down into the deeper sections of such canyons. In this spot the canyon narrowed and steepened just a little bit, and the creeks almost filled the bottom of the rocky section of the canyon around the bend. The nearly vertical canyon walls towered hundreds of feet above and no direct sunlight made it down here while I walked through.

These spots form their own little worlds, cut off from the flat country surrounding the canyons high above, and far from entry and exit points above and below. They are quiet places — at least during the good weather times when I tend to visit — and they are sonically isolated from the rest of the world, too. It is possible to walk slowly down such a canyon, picking your way along and through the creek, stopping frequently to look and perhaps photograph… and completely forget that outside world.


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.

Tree and Morning Frost

Tree and Morning Frost
Tree and Morning Frost

Tree and Morning Frost. Yosemite Valley, California. March 1, 2015. © Copyright 2015 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

A frost-covered Yosemite tree in morning light

It was great fun to be in Yosemite Valley this past weekend for the opening of the 30th annual Yosemite Renaissance exhibition. This is the third time that I’ve had photographs in the show. (If you are in the Valley, drop by. It is in the Visitor Center Museum through May 10, after which it moves on to a couple of Central Valley locations.) The show features a wide variety of two and three-dimensional art by artists who focus on the Sierra and the park. The entry of mine that was selected this year was atypical for me — it includes people and it is humorous! I share it again here at some point, but for now I’ll just note that it features backcountry photographers engaged in an unusual activity. The show brings lots of other fun things: a chance to photograph in the Valley, opportunities to hang out with lots of photographer and artist friends.

I made this photograph on our final morning in the park. We headed out around sunrise, thinking we might find some shallow fog in meadows. There was a bit of the fog but it was dissipating quickly and we eventually ended up in this sunny meadow. I was immediately attracted to this large elm tree, covered in frost and backlit in the morning light. I made several photographs of it — and at least one other may appear here before long — and before long the air warmed and the frost melted.


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.

Red-Winged Blackbirds, Wetland Tree

Red-Winged Blackbirds, Wetland Tree
Red-Winged Blackbirds, Wetland Tree

Red-Winged Blackbirds, Wetland Tree. San Joaquin Valley, California. January 25, 2015. © Copyright 2015 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

A tree full of red-winged blackbird, in a San Joaquin Valley wetland marsh

This tree and I have become good friends over the past few winters. I have driven past it many times while out in the San Joaquin Valley photographing migratory birds and the flat, agricultural landscape of the place. It is a landmark of sorts on this looping drive — after passing by flat areas with no trees at all, it is the first tree before the route arrives at a grove near the furthest point on the loop.

This tree stands alone on a small peninsula along a levee separating shallow ponds during the winter and adjacent fields the rest of the year. Because of the open landscape, by moving my camera position I have many options for what appears behind the tree, though often the sky itself may be the main show. (Not so much here, since the variations in this foggy sky are quite subtle.) The isolated position of the tree also opens it to light from all directions, so it is interesting in different ways throughout the day — on clear days the sunrise light hits it from the right and the evening light comes in from the left side. The tree is frequently a meeting place for raucous groups of active red-winged blackbirds, and a group of them are perched in its branches in this photograph.


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.

Wetlands Tree, Evening

Wetlands Tree, Evening
Wetlands Tree, Evening

Wetlands Tree, Evening. San Joaquin Valley, California. December 22, 2014. © Copyright 2014 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

A last beam of evening light illuminates a lone tree in San Joaquin Valley wetlands

My recollection of this early winter, late December day in the San Joaquin Valley is that it was mostly a foggy and gray day, with direct light being quite rare. I’m usually fine with that, since the fog is certainly a strong element in the character of the place at this time of the year and because I like photographing in cloudy, foggy, and misty conditions. (Gray is another story… ;-) On a day like this, while I’m happy to see some glow through the clouds and fog, I’m also often just fine with conditions that some might regard as boring.

Sometimes, even on a gray day, there are surprises. We had photographed all morning, taken a brief break away from here to grab some lunch, and then returned to photograph in the middle afternoon and on into the evening. For the most part, the combination of some fog and high clouds kept things fairly “atmospheric” for the rest of the day. But not long before sunset there was one of these “surprises.” To be honest, when I am watching the conditions carefully and predicting where they might lead, there are less likely to be literal surprises. Perhaps they are better described as positive evolutions of potential conditions. In this case, even though it was cloudy and gray, I had my eyes on the possibility that the sun might briefly shine through a gap along the horizon just before sunset. And that is exactly what happened! For a brief span of a few minutes the light gradually warmed and intensified, starting almost imperceptibly but soon becoming quite obvious. As this happened I move quickly to this nearby spot where I had photographed this tree many times before and therefore knew that it could be my central subject, standing out in the warm light against the flat valley marshes and flatland extending into the distance.


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.