Winter Morning, Sacramento Valley. Central Valley, California. January 8, 2016. © Copyright 2016 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.
Winter clouds and morning fog, Sacramento Valley, California
I’ve been driving through California’s Great Central Valley (composed of the northern Sacramento Valley and the southern San Joaquin Valley) for decades, on my way too and from the Sierra and on travels north toward the Pacific Northwest and south toward Southern California. I confess that for many years it was just a place to pass thought on the way to someplace else, though years ago I began to develop an affinity for the sensations that came from driving across on a hot summer evening on the return from the Sierra or from slowing down for the winter fogs on the way to/from ski trips. And then I became away of the winter migratory birds, almost by accident, and I started regarding the winter valley as a destination rather than a route, and I have gradually come to appreciate the place itself.
This has also been (yet another) opportunity for me to relearn an important photography lesson, namely that it isn’t so much about going to distant exotic places (though I’ll do that, too, when I can) as it is about slowing down and paying attention to what there is to see wherever your are. And once I did that, this place that was little more than “the place I drove through” has become the subject. This photograph came on a short trip that I made with the goal of pushing out the boundaries of my experience in the Valley a bit. This time I headed further north up the Sacramento Valley to visit some areas that, frankly, I didn’t know existed until I started researching a bit. This area shares a lot with the more familiar locations where I photograph birds and landscapes every winter — the birds, the immense sky, the flat landscape, water everywhere — but it turns out to have its own personality, too. The birds are similar but not identical. (I photographed bald eagles here for the first time in California.) I saw snow-covered hills to my west in the dawn light. A small and isolated group of mountains rose to the east. And there was water everywhere, far more than where I photograph further south, and a surprise to anyone who has ever visited this area during get hot, dry summer months.
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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