Tag Archives: trees

Three Men, Urban Garden

Three Men, Urban Garden
Three men sitting on benches in a downtown San Francisco courtyard

Three Men, Urban Garden. San Francisco, California. August 14 ,2015. © Copyright 2015 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

Three men sitting on benches in a downtown San Francisco courtyard

This seemed like a rare quiet scene in this part of San Francisco, along busy Market Street, which is crowded with tourists, locals, buses and taxis at this time of year. While walking through this area with my camera I had taken a break to grab a coffee when I saw this scene right outside the window.

There are many things that strike me about the relationship between urban environments like this one and the natural world that is also a subject of my photography. Places like Market Street are so antithetical to almost the entirety of the rest of the world — they noise and bustle and crowds are truly an anomaly on this planet. In some places it is quite possible to see almost no evidence of that non-human world, except perhaps by looking straight up at the sky. Yet in places like this an image of that world, synthetic though it may be, is constructed — and it brings some quiet and stillness.


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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Morning, Tuolumne Meadows, Mount Dana

Morning, Tuolumne Meadows, Mount Dana
Lembert Dome and Mount Dana rise above Tuolumne Meadows on a cloudy summer morning

Morning, Tuolumne Meadows, Mount Dana. Yosemite National Park, California. July 13, 2015. © Copyright 2015 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

Lembert Dome and Mount Dana rise above Tuolumne Meadows on a cloudy summer morning

This is yet another of the stopped-on-my-way-somewhere-else photographs, often made unexpectedly as I encounter something I wasn’t really looking for and get distracted — though another way to put it is that I quickly fall into a different mode of seeing when I photograph, and I begin to recognize the potential in subjects that I might otherwise not have noticed. In this case I was headed towards a specific location that I had planned to visit this morning, with a rather specific subject in mind. I set out and, as almost always, my “photographer’s brain” engages and I start seeing potential photographs everywhere. There is a tricky balance sometimes between stopping for the thing I see right here and sticking to a plan to photograph that other thing that I want to see. (This is an old question in photography with the extreme answers ranging from “never pass up a subject in front of you for one that you might see elsewhere” to “make a plan and stick to it if you want to get the photograph you have in mind.” The truth is complex, situational, and depends as much on good fortune and good guesses perhaps as much as on any rational considerations.)

In any case, I skipped past a few opportunities/distractions but ended up stopping for this one. This is a fairly well-known view in this part of the Sierra, though not everyone sees it right at sunrise. I’ve often stopped to admire the scene and on occasion photograph it, usually with some beautiful haze partially obscuring distant details and perhaps making closer details clearer by contrast. Since I am familiar with the view and had a good idea of what I wanted the photograph to look like, stopping for a few minutes was sufficient to make the photograph… and I was back on the road to my original destination.


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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Receding Ridges, Trees, Morning

Receding Ridges, Trees, Morning
Morning haze and tree covered glacial ridges, Yosemite National Park

Receding Ridges, Trees, Morning. Yosemite National Park, California. July 15, 2015. © Copyright 2015 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

Morning haze and tree covered glacial ridges, Yosemite National Park

This is a view that has long caught my attention. It is very close to a place where [i]every[/i] park visitor stops to take in a famous view, but I suspect that quite a few miss this view in their anticipation of the stop for the more famous overlook. Some years ago a group of friends and I had an unusual experience here. One of my long-time backpacking buddies and I love listening to classical music on long drives, and we sometimes attempt to time the music so that particularly appropriate and impressive points in the music may coincide with our arrival at appropriate and impressive places. (Full backpacking and music geekery into one thing, and that’s what you end up with! ;-) We we listening to Mahler’s second symphony and we managed to hit the overwhelmingly powerful conclusion of that work right as we came around the bend to see this view. Needless to say, that made an impression on me, and the place is both special on its own and now associated with that experience.

Music aside, this is a stunning bit of Yosemite high country scenery, and it is perhaps (somewhat ironically) revealed even more clearly in the morning haze seen here. In the foreground trees manage to eke out an existence on the nearly solid granite slabs of a glaciated dome. Another similar ridge rises in the middle distance with more trees. And it keeps going. On the other side of that ridge there is a huge and deep valley, but across its expanse there is even more of the glaciated granite terrain, all of it highlighted in the early morning back-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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Pine Trees, Morning

Pine Trees, Morning
A small grove of high elevation pine trees in morning Sierra Nevada light

Pine Trees, Morning. Sierra Nevada, California. August 10, 2015. © Copyright 2015 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

A small grove of high elevation pine trees in morning Sierra Nevada light

Although I visit the Sierra frequently, it has been some time since my last real backpacking trip and even longer since I last me up with my “Talusdancers” friends. The Talusdancers go way back — to a time about two decades ago when a loosely organized group of us began joining regularly for Sierra backcountry trips that ranged from a few days to longer than a week. In early August I had the opportunity to get these things back on track, with a three-day backpack trip in the eastern Sierra with three of the old gang. I arrived before the others, was on the trail by mid-afternoon, and had set up camp and was fixing dinner before the sun set. My friends apparently got to the trailhead much later and didn’t start hiking until about 6:00 PM. As the sun was setting I heard the “holler” of my friend Owen coming from across the valley, and I yelled back to let him know I as there. They soon arrived, and I can report that there are few things more wonderful that meeting up in the backcountry with good friends you have not seen for some time!

Our camp was on a rise above the shore of a sub-alpine lake, a very familiar Sierra Nevada setting. Beyond the lake to the west the terrain rises, past more lakes and thinning trees, into the alpine zone, and eventually to Sierra crest peaks and ridge lines. To the east there was a long valley with several more lakes, ending at a drop off between the descending canyon walls, and in the far distance we could see the high desert of Owens Valley and even further off the line of the White Mountains. We camped in the midst of an open grove of small, high-elevation lodgepole pines, common Sierra trees, but always beautiful in the early morning 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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Trees, Meadow, Morning Fog

Trees, Meadow, Morning Fog
Low morning fog floats above Tuolumne Meadows and nearby trees

Trees, Meadow, Morning Fog. Yosemite National Park, California. July 14, 2015. © Copyright 2015 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

Low morning fog floats above Tuolumne Meadows and nearby trees

With this photograph I move back to landscapes, and temporarily away from urban subjects. In early July I spent a few wonderful days in the Yosemite Sierra, camping at Tuolumne meadows, photographing morning and evening, hiking to interesting places in the middle of the day, and running into various photographers and friends (and photographer-friends) almost every day. I’ve been going to this place for years — to camp there, as a launching pad for many backpacking trips into the Yosemite backcountry, and to do photography.

As was the case each morning, I was up early — well before sunrise and before most anyone else in the campground. In the morning I typically already have some sort of plan, usually hatched the evening before, since guessing about sunrise locations in the dark is often not a very profitable activity! On this morning I had a plan to photograph a particular area filled with granite domes and with the potential for interesting early morning light. Thinking of this, as I passed the low fog in Tuolumne Meadows I almost didn’t stop, since a similar morning detour earlier in the trip resulted in my arrival at the day’s planned location too late for the good light. But unable to resist the temptation of ground for, I decided to make a brief stop near these trees (familiar to me from many previous visits) and at least make a few quick exposures before moving on.


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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Two Trees, Granite Face

Two Trees, Granite Face
Two trees, one very old and one very young, grow high on a granite face in Yosemite National Park

Two Trees, Granite Face. Yosemite National Park, California. July 13, 2015. © Copyright 2015 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

Two trees, one very old and one very young, grow high on a granite face in Yosemite National Park

This tree grows high on the apparently barren face of a tall granite dome in Yosemite National Park’s high country. Of all of the improbably places to spot a tree, and one that seems reasonably healthy and strong at that, this has to be one of the most unlikely. Given its location, it must be putting its roots down in little more than a large crack in the rock and it has to be fully exposed to strong winter winds and snow.

I have photographed it more than once in the past, and it continues to intrigue me. For thinking that I know the tree well, I was surprised to find that I had not previously noticed the smaller tree growing just beyond and to the right of the main tree — perhaps the offspring of the larger tree? For a short time in the morning, low angle light streaming across the tops of more granite formations to the east glances across the surface of the dome and beautifully lights the two trees.


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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Dawn Fog and Haze, Tuolumne Meadows

Dawn Fog and Haze, Tuolumne Meadows
Morning fog rises from Tuolumne Meadows toward surrounding forest and ridges

Dawn Fog and Haze, Tuolumne Meadows. Yosemite National Park, California. July 14, 2015. © Copyright 2015 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

Morning fog rises from Tuolumne Meadows toward surrounding forest and ridges

I was up quite early on this morning, and with a plan to drive a bit to photograph a particular subject as it was struck by the first dawn light. In the dark I got dressed, crawled out of my tent, got in my vehicle, and quietly left the campground. Within a few hundred yards of the campground exit my plans changed. A low fog lay across almost the entirety of Tuolumne Meadows, shallow in places and deeper in others, partially obscuring trees and domes. In the pre-dawn light the quiet scene was one of very low contrast and not altogether interesting color, but I suspected that once the sun begin to come over the Sierra crest that it might strike the fog and create some interesting effects. So, out the window with the original plan, and now to see what I could make of my new plan.

I headed to the far end of the meadow where I figured that several potentially interesting things would happen. First, the fog was likely to be back-lit once the sun hit it. Second, I could shoot back across large sections of the fog-blanketed meadow and do so from a slight elevation. Third, I knew that I could position myself so that interesting ridges and trees might appear in the frame. In fact, it all worked out! As the sun rose high enough to illuminate the drifting fog, it began to rise and form more distinct patterns against the background of ascending ridges. I’m often somewhat surprised to find myself completely alone at this utterly beautiful times of day, when the sun is just coming up or when its last light is leaving the meadows. Tuolumne is an impressive place at any time, but it is often special in all sorts of ways during these beginning and ending of the day times. Yet most people, folks who I assume come here at least partially to seek out mountain beauty, miss out as they sleep in, linger over morning coffee, or head back to campfires before the day is over.


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.