Tag Archives: trees

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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Winter Wetlands, Morning

Winter Wetlands, Morning
Flooded Sacramento Valley wetlands in the early morning

Winter Wetlands, Morning. Sacramento Valley, California. January 8, 2016. © Copyright 2016 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

Flooded Sacramento Valley wetlands in the early morning

While I tell myself that I go to places like this to photograph birds, the truth is that little spots like this one may be more my target. Imagine waking many hours before dawn, and against your instincts starting to move quickly and efficiently to arise, make breakfast, fix lunch, brew coffee, and load a car. Then drive many hours in the dark, radio playing, as the invisible landscape slides past and the world consists mostly of what I see in the headlight beams. Getting close to my destination the sky begins to glow a bit, but I’m still driving, in the world of a noisy car and freeway speeds.

Finally I leave the freeway and drive a relatively short distance to my Central Valley destination. My first stop is still all business — arriving, I park and change into cold weather clothing and set up camera and lenses and get back in the car. I start out on some gravel road around the area I’ve chosen to photograph, though the sun has yet to rise, and I’m focused on finding birds to photograph. A bit later I finally begin to slow down, and with the car windows rolled down in the cold morning air I stop and turn the motor off and sit next to a place like this one and everything is finally still.


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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Marsh, Fog, Evening Light

Marsh, Fog, Evening Light
Evening light on San Joaquin Valley marshland

Marsh, Fog, Evening Light. San Joaquin Valley, California. December 17, 2015. © Copyright 2015 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

Evening light on San Joaquin Valley marshland

This photograph represents the flip side of an observation I made in a separate post regarding another photograph that I made on this mid-December evening. The comment had to do with the contrast at the end of the day between events here that happen suddenly and those that unfold more slowly — a simulations slowing down and speeding up of events at the end of the day. The speeding up events include sudden departures and arrivals of large groups of birds. The slowing down part is exemplified by this photograph. (For the EXIF file data aficionados among you, the EXIF data shows an incorrect time of day for this photograph. Ah, well…)

As I photographed other subjects I had slow moments to look around and take in static elements of the scene. Late in the evening, as the light color warmed, I saw the effect this had on the brown reeds and the trees, many of which still had a few fall leaves left. While the near trees are quite clear, being lit by this beautiful side-light, the details of the further trees are muted just a bit by haze, and the more distant sky’s color is muted by this incipient fog. A few remaining geese along with some ducks sit almost completely still in the shallow water.


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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Evening Trees

Evening Trees
Evening trees reflected in the surface of San Joaquin Valley wetlands

Evening Trees. San Joaquin Valley, California. December 6, 2015. © Copyright 2015 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

Evening trees reflected in the surface of San Joaquin Valley wetlands

The primary attraction for me in these San Joaquin Valley wetlands is, or so I tell myself, the hordes of migratory birds that arrive here in the late fall and over-winter — geese, ibises, sandhill cranes, along with egrets and herons and more. They draw me to the Valley, just a couple of miles away from my home over the coast range, throughout the late fall through winter period. But once I get there I think I am as interested in the landscape as in the wildlife.

We had just about finished a full day of photographing (mostly) the migratory birds. Late in the day I always start to think about what my final subject will be, and then I try to extend my shooting time as late into the failing light as possible. I might continue to photograph birds in deep dusk, raising ISO and lowering shutter speed and working with the resulting motion blur. On this late-fall evening I went in a different direction, and I put the camera on the tripod and finished up with some blue-hour landscape photographs of the wetlands, the trees, and the evening clouds.


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.

Central Valley Trees and Fog

Central Valley Trees and Fog
Late autumn trees and fog, San Joaquin Valley

Central Valley Trees and Fog. San Joaquin Valley, California. December 6, 2015. © Copyright 2015 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

Late autumn trees and fog, San Joaquin Valley

I have had my eye on these trees for several years now. In fact, I have photographed them a few times, though I wasn’t quite happy with the results. They stand near a spot that I frequently visit during the late fall through winter months, when migratory birds live in the nearby wetlands and fields. In fact, that is why I was there on this December day. After a couple of hours of bird photography I looked over in the direction of the trees and thought that the light might be right for a photograph.

The light in this part of the Central Valley is astonishingly variable, especially in the winter and near-winter months. There can be high thin clouds, a Pacific weather front, general haze, or fog so thick that you can’t see 100 feet… unless you look up to see the stars and the moon! This day was quite variable, and that was part of the fun of photographing it. Fog was forming when we arrived before dawn. It stuck around a while, thinned and morphed into a sort of general atmospheric haziness. Above the fog there were high clouds that also muted the light a bit. Here and there, actual fog banks formed. This photograph has a little of all of these things: the light on the trees is muted, fog banks stand in the distance with high clouds overhead.


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.