Tag Archives: trees

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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Island and Trees, Tuolumne River

Island and Trees, Tuolumne River
Trees grow on a small, rocky island in the Tuolumne River, Yosemite National Park

Island and Trees, Tuolumne River. Yosemite National Park, California. July 12, 2015. © Copyright 2015 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

Trees grow on a small, rocky island in the Tuolumne River, Yosemite National Park

This first evening on a recent trip to the Yosemite high country turned out to be a special one in several ways. I arrived in the park in the middle of the day and was fortune to snag a camp site at Tuolumne Meadows. (The place is busy and often full during the summer high season, but certain strategies can increase the odds — for example, I arrived on Sunday at just about the time that folks had to check out of the camp ground.) I set up my simple camp, lounged around a bit, and then it was time to head out and look for photographs. I headed back along Tioga Pass Road, making note of several possibilities as I passed the meadow, then turned around to go back to one of them. Along the way I decided to pull over to take in the view and by lucky coincidence I pulled in right behind my friends Michael and Claudia. We ended up heading out across the meadow to a likely photography location. Within moments a couple caught up with us — another group of friends, Charlotte and Gary!

The group of us continued hiking along the river, eventually reaching a beautiful area where the slope increased, the channel narrowed, and the river picked up speed. Here it glides across granite slabs, bounces around and across boulders, and occasionally pools for a moment in hollows in the valley. We stopped at a granite bowl where the river takes a bend, and I photographed this small island and its trees against a background of late-afternoon sky with dissipating 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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Trees, Glaciated Ridge

Trees, Glaciated Ridge
A small group of trees in morning light atop a glaciated Sierra Nevada ridge.

Trees, Glaciated Ridge. Yosemite National Park, California. July 15, 2015. © Copyright 2015 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

A small group of trees in morning light atop a glaciated Sierra Nevada ridge.

This photograph includes many of the things that say “Yosemite” to me: the broken granite ridge of glaciated granite, the bluish morning haze, the small group of trees with space between them, ridges receding into the distance. Other things say “Sierra Nevada” to me, but these seem closely connected to the high country of this particular part of the Sierra.

This is a location that I (and, no doubt, quite a few others) have photographed many times, in a variety of conditions of light, atmosphere, weather, and time of year. I almost always stop here when I cross the Sierra through the park. On this morning I wasn’t making a stop while in transit to another place — this area was my destination. I had several photographs in mind when I arrived, ranging from more distant landscape to intimate scenes of glacial erratics and granite slabs. I knew that if I walked a short distance up hill and climbed a small hill that I could get a higher vantage point and look back at these trees and across this ridge and the morning light illuminated them from behind.


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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Shoreline, Trees, Morning

Shoreline, Trees, Morning
Morning light on trees and granite slabs along the shoreline of Tenaya Lake

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

Morning light on trees and granite slabs along the shoreline of Tenaya Lake

I think this photograph combines several elements that I find attracting in my landscape work. I have written that I sometimes like to photograph along the “edges of the light,” the boundaries between shadow and sunlight that move across landscapes, especially when it is early or late in the day and/or when the landscape is surrounded by higher ridges. This photograph was made in early morning, in an area where the sunlight does not arrive until some time after dawn. When the light does come, it works its way down the granite slabs on the left as beams of light pass across the valley from the right. I also love to work with haze. (I often am baffled by photographers who always want crystal clear atmosphere — that can be beautiful, too, but it can also be stark and obvious.) There was plenty of haze on this morning, and the light shining through it partially obscures the background forest. And the photograph is rendered in black and white. While I don’t think of myself as a “black and white photographer,” I frequently find myself seeing scenes like this one in monochrome. Perhaps that goes back to my roots as a photographer.

There is something a bit unusual about this landscape, too — a road bed features prominently in the scene! This is the edge of Tenaya Lake along the Tioga Pass Road through Yosemite’s high country, and here the road (for better or worse) passes right along the shoreline. But for me the trees are the dominant feature, standing along the base of the granite slabs, trying to push their way up onto the slabs, and filling the background as forest ascends the slopes of this valley toward the granite ridges above.


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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Tuolumne River, Evening

Tuolumne River, Evening
Evening clouds dissipate above the Tuolumne River, Yosemite National Park

Tuolumne River, Evening. Yosemite National Park, California. July 12, 2015. © Copyright 2015 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

Evening clouds dissipate above the Tuolumne River, Yosemite National Park

For the past few days I’ve been photographing in the Yosemite high country. When arriving at some familiar places in the Sierra Nevada I tend to follow certain rituals. I often arrive in the middle of the day and whenever possible on the day when the largest number of visitors are leaving — this makes it a bit more likely that I’ll find a campsite. That’s how it worked out on this Sunday, when I was able to grab a tent campsite at Tuolumne Meadows, even though it is the start of the peak season. As usual, I spent an hour or so getting my basic camp set up, then sat for a while, resting up from the drive and eating lunch and thinking about where I might photograph later in the day. I finally came up with vaguest of vague plans: I would simply start out by driving back down the road a ways to see what I could find. This turned out to be fortuitous decision.

In some ways it was a typical high country summer evening, with clearing clouds from recent monsoonal rain softening the light a bit. I passed a beautiful clump of trees that were dramatically lit by the low-angle sun but there was no place to pull over. I continued on up the road a ways, finally turned around, and as I headed back I decided to pull over where I could take in the wider view. There were two vehicles in the pull-out already and as I pulled in I wondered if I was going to startle the woman getting out of the one right in front of me. I took another look and soon realized that she was my friend Claudia, and that the other car was her husband Michael’s vehicle. (It still astonishes me how often I run into friends in the Sierra.) After greetings we decided to wander out along the Tuolumne to see what evening would bring. They set out across the meadow and a few minutes later I followed. As I walked I became vaguely aware that another couple was following in the same direction and when we met up at the far side of the meadow we realized that there were Charlotte and Gary, yet another couple I know! Joining “forces,” now we wandered down the river this beautiful area of small trees, open views, granite slabs, and flowing 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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Cottonwood Trees and Redrock Canyon, Autumn

Cottonwood Trees and Redrock Canyon, Autumn
Brilliantly colorful autumn cottonwood foliage winds down a Utah redrock canyon

Cottonwood Trees and Red Rock Canyon, Autumn. Utah. October 26, 2014. © Copyright 2014 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

Brilliantly colorful autumn cottonwood foliage winds down a Utah red rock canyon

After four days of photography and camping in the far reaches of the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, I came out to civilization and spent a night at Boulder Mountain Lodge. (Not my usual thing, but I had an appointment to meet someone there — and it was quite a fine visit!) Arriving a bit early, I decided to head out on a nearby road just to see what I could see.

I knew this road a bit from traveling it in the past — I was looking forward to red rock cliffs and some cottonwood color. But I was not prepared for the intensity of the autumn cottonwoods in this little canyon. The effect was a combination of arriving at the peak moment of color for these trees, and the fact that the light was slightly softened by some high clouds. The result was one of those colorful scenes that you imagine but rarely actually find, with the tree winding down the canyon and around the far bend.


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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Dead Trees, Sandstone Pothole

Dead Trees, Sandstone Pothole
Dead trees lie at the bottom of a deep sandstone pothole, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument

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

Dead trees lie at the bottom of a deep sandstone pothole, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument

There are multiple ways to react to the remarkable sandstone potholes from this terrain of rounded sandstone hills and gentle slabs. First of all, they are remarkable structures. They are simply “holes” in the sandstone — but surprisingly large holes. They are many feet across and perhaps 15-20 feet deep. They have no outlet, and you can imagine that with the right water source they would make rather gigantic swimming holes. Their source is not immediately apparent, though I understand that they are created over a long period of time by the forces of wind and water on the relatively soft sandstone.

They are beautiful, too. Their smooth, curving shapes have an almost sensuous quality, made stronger by the warm colors of the sandstone rock. Surprisingly, plants and even trees grow at the bottom of many of them. But these potholes may also be traps — there is no way out of their depths except for those creatures that can fly. In the middle or relatively smooth expanses of sandstone, these pits appear suddenly, and the angles at their edges quickly increase to vertical, making them potentially dangerous. The pothole in this photograph seems to me to have a bit less of the rock garden quality and a bit more of the ominous quality, with two dead cottonwood trees and broken branches littering the bottom of the pit.


G Dan Mitchell is a California photographer and visual opportunist. Blog | About | Flickr | Twitter | FacebookGoogle+ | 500px.com | LinkedIn | Email


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