Tag Archives: water

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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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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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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Wetlands, Early Light

Wetlands, Early Light
Morning light and fog along a San Joaquin Valley levee.

Wetlands, Early Light. San Joaquin Valley, California. December 6, 2015. © Copyright 2015 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

Morning light and fog along a San Joaquin Valley levee.

I seem to have developed a ritual for photographing this favorite San Joaquin Valley location. Almost invariably I arrive very early in the morning, in the half hour before dawn. Often I meet photographer friends who have arrived from other places. We stop at an area near the entrance and greet one another, engage in a bit of small talk, marvel (again!) at the sound of tens of thousands of migratory birds just beyond out sight. We get in our vehicles and we start a circuit of the wetlands, first looking for a place to photograph the dawn. By now, after photographing there for a few years in variable conditions, we all have our favorite spots — this place if there is heavy fog, that spot if the birds are close by, another if it looks like we may have a clear view of sunrise.

On this morning I moved quickly past the first ponds to round a corner on the perimeter road and then stopped near a junction of several levees, at a spot that has often proved fruitful for my photography. There was a thin fog in the air and high, broken clouds were above the Sierra far to the east. Depending on which direction I chose to point that camera I found a range of subjects. Birds were nearby, the Sierra were in the distance, and in between was that flooded wetlands. As the first thin sunlight from the rising sun came through the fog I swung my camera back in the direction from which I had arrived and photographed along the levee route, past trees and brush to a long grove of old cottonwoods lying along the boundary.


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 and Meadow

Shoreline and Meadow
The shoreline of a Yosemite backcountry lake in the late season

Shoreline and Meadow. Yosemite National Park, California. September 10, 2015. © Copyright 2015 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

The shoreline of a Yosemite backcountry lake in the late season

This lake was our home for a good week this past September. I was among a small group of photographers who spend a week or more doing this every year. This year we camped by the shore of an accessible backcountry Yosemite lake. We woke up every morning to views of this lake and we went to bed in the evening with such images still in our minds.

At times on this visit the light was very subdued. Early on this was because of intense wildfire smoke — some of the worst I’ve encountered in the range. Near the end of the trip a Pacific weather pattern swept through, and in its wake there was a period of several days of raining, cold conditions.


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.

Marsh and Sky

Marsh and Sky
Late autumn sky above a flooded marsh, Central Valley, California

Marsh and Sky. San Joaquin Valley, California. December 6, 2015. © Copyright 2015 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

Late autumn sky above a flooded marsh, Central Valley, California

A winter ritual begins each year about this time. In the late fall the migratory birds return to California’s Great Central Valley and a band of photographers of which I am a part also heads out to the valley. The primary draw is the birds — geese, ibises, cranes, herons, egrets, and more — which gather by the thousands in the wetlands. But the valley itself also has its attractions at this time of year. The tule fog that slows drivers and obscures the sun also makes the landscape quiet and mysterious. The flat terrain is open to the sky and the clouds of winter storms create an overhead landscape.

A few days ago I made my first trip of the season to the valley, joining a small group of friends for a day of photography. We spent the first few hours focused on the birds — mostly geese and cranes on this visit — and then paused in the late morning. It was during this midday pause that I stopped along the edge of one of the marshland ponds and made this photograph of the expansive cloud-filled sky reflected in the surface of the 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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All media © Copyright G Dan Mitchell and others as indicated. Any use requires advance permission from G Dan Mitchell.

Seepage Stains

Seepage Stains, Granite
Water seepage stains mark a wall of Cathedral Range granite, Yosemite Naitonal Park

Seepage Stains. Yosemite National Park, California. September 15, 2015. © Copyright 2015 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

Water seepage stains mark a wall of Cathedral Range granite, Yosemite National Park

During a week-long stay at a backcountry Yosemite lake my partners and I had plenty of time to explore our surroundings. A day in such a place is a joy, but we had a string of such days, with conditions ranging from Sierra blue sky, through wildfire smoke, to an early seasons autumn storm that dropped rain on us for a couple of days.

Being in one location for so long provides the opportunity to really get to know the place. After a day or so getting to know the main, iconic features, continuing exploration beings to reveal things that we miss at first. Across the valley from our camp was a long and low rock wall, at the base of steeply sloping granite walls and holding somewhat level basin. Not surprisingly, the evidence of water flowing over this wall was obvious, from the lush plant life to the  beautiful water stain patterns.


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.