Tag Archives: water

Sierra Shoreline

Sierra Shoreline
Forest and granite boulders at the water’s edge, subalpine Sierra Nevada lake

Sierra Shoreline. Yosemite National Park, California. September 9, 2015. © Copyright 2015 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

Forest and granite boulders at the water’s edge, subalpine Sierra Nevada lake

I’m looking backwards and forwards with this photograph. Backwards to a visit of more than a week to a Yosemite backcountry lake with a couple of photographer friends near the end of last year’s summer season — a season that brought another year of drought and tremendous wildfires. All of that aside — but, boy, did we deal with wildfire smoke! — we had a beautiful period of late season light on many days, and a few days of rain from an early season storm near the end.

And I’m looking forward… to getting back into the summer Sierra before too much longer. Spring has been quite busy since our last big adventure, a visit to Death Valley back at the end of March, and aside from bird photography and a few odd trips here and there, well, it is really time to get back into the field for a more extensive period. Tioga Pass Road has now been open for a couple of weeks, and the High Sierra awaits. I hope to be back there soon, and back at places like this one and it this high country 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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Breakwater, Bay

Breakwater, Bay
The shadow of a breakwater across a view of San Francisco Bay

Breakwater, Bay. San Francisco, California. May 20, 2016. © Copyright 2016 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

The shadow of a breakwater across a view of San Francisco Bay

I’ve had an obsession with the morning light coming across the San Francisco Bay ever since I started taking an early morning train up there and walking the waterfront, making photographs. The light varies, but it is almost always interesting — muted by fog, brilliantly bright when there is lighter haze, reflecting off the water when the skies are clearer. That latter was mostly the case on this morning, with only a few clouds left from a late-season rain storm that was clearing out.

I began photographing some pier not far from the South Beach Harbor, and as I walked out onto one of them I was intrigued by the overlapping patterns of breakwaters near the entrance to the harbor. As I looked to the right of that entrance the low breakwater cut the bright reflections of morning sun, placing an almost black line across the water parallel with the horizon line.


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 Arrival

Dawn Arrival
Winter geese fly in to a Central Valley wetlands pond at dawn

Dawn Arrival. Central Valley, California. January 1, 2016. © Copyright 2016 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

Winter geese fly in to a Central Valley wetlands pond at dawn

Near the end of May I revisited some photographs from the past year, including a set that I made on an annual New Year’s Day visit to California’s Central Valley. For several years now a group of friends, photographers, artists, and more have greeted the dawn of the new year by going together before dawn to celebrate the new year and the annual spectacle of the winter bird migration into the valley. So, during the first week when the temperatures here in California rose into the nineties, I enjoyed recalling a foggy morning when they sat near freezing.

We arrived a half hour before dawn to find patchy, thinning fog. We set out trying to determine, in the half-light, where the birds might be, and soon some were spotted settling in on a nearby pond. We headed that way, and I lined up a view across the pond, past quiet foreground birds and past a row of trees toward the eastern sky, which was gradually beginning to brighten. I made this photograph as another small group of birds was flying in to join those already on the pond


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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Surf, Bluff, Sea Stacks

Surf, Bluff, Sea Stacks
Surf, a steep bluff, and sea stacks lead toward a foggy horizon, Big Sur Coast

Surf, Bluff, Sea Stacks. Big Sur Coast, California. May 1, 2016. © Copyright 2016 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

Surf, a steep bluff, and sea stacks lead toward a foggy horizon, Big Sur Coast

I sometimes forget how long this coast has been a part of my consciousness, but a visit or two quickly remind me. I have lived in the San Francisco Bay area since I was four-years-old. Weekend and summer visits to the Monterey Bay beaches and the tide pools of Point Lobos were regular events, and the effect of those visits remains all these years later — and all it takes is a quick visit to remind me of what it means to live this close to the Pacific Ocean.

On this first day of May I made a morning visit to the upper Big Sur coast, getting to some of the best parts before the inevitable weekend crowds arrived. It was a beautiful day, at first looking like it might turn out to be “yet another blue sky day,” but soon becoming more interesting, at least from the photographic point of view, as thin fog began to form just about the meeting of the ocean and land. When I made this photograph looking south down the coastline, it was still early enough that the bluffs and coastal mountains cast shadows along the surf line.


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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Rocks, Wave, Horizon

Rocks, Wave, Horizon
Shoreline rocks, an incoming wave, and the Pacific Ocean horizon on a gray morning

Rocks, Wave, Horizon. Coastal California. May 13, 2016. © Copyright 2016 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

Shoreline rocks, an incoming wave, and the Pacific Ocean horizon on a gray morning

I knew I wanted to photograph today, but the conditions in the Bay Area were perhaps less than inspiring, at least for the subjects I had initially thought to explore. It was a gray morning all up and down the coast and the high fog extended well inland, producing lots and lots of flat light. I stalled for a bit and then, after reading a weather forecast offering the hope of some breaks my late morning, I headed over the hills to the coast and began to work my way north from the Santa Cruz area. Some days the photographs just seem to appear almost of their own accord, but this was not going to be one of those days.

There are several ways to deal with this eventuality. One is, of course, to give up and go home — and, in truth, sometimes that is the most reasonable choice. There will always be another day with better conditions. A second option is to continue to look, holding out hope that something special will eventually happen. (I can tell plenty of stories of unpromising conditions that offered up astounding light surprises.) A third is to look for some completely different subject. For a moment today I thought about doing some urban photography. A fourth — and this may be the best in the long run — is to try to “see” the conditions as they are and find some way to photograph them, perhaps even going with the gray, so to speak. So that is what this photograph is — a very simple and quiet image that perhaps reflects the nature of this day.


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.

First Light, Trees, Lake, and Ridge

First Light, Trees, Lake, and Ridge
Trees along a rock strewn lake as first morning light strikes a southern Sierra Nevada backcountry ridge

First Light, Trees, Lake, and Ridge. Sequoia National Park, California. August 8, 2008. © Copyright 2008 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

Trees along a rock strewn lake as first morning light strikes a southern Sierra Nevada backcountry ridge

This was the scene on the morning of this fifth day or a trip of over a week across the High Sierra Trail, a trip that would eventually summit Mount Whitney before descending the east side of the Sierra. To me, this route feels like it is composed of several distinct sections. The first couple of days are the approach, reaching the first high country from a west side trailhead. The next few of days are the crossing of the Kaweahs and the descent to the ridges above Big Arroyo, a portion of the trip that has the distinct feeling of remoteness and of dropping down to much lower country. Then there is the march up the Kern and the ascent to meet the JMT, followed by the lateral over to a base camp below Whitney, with the finale being the ascent of this ridge and then the long descent to Whitney Portal.

This morning was in that post-Kaweah phase, at our second camp after crossing the Gap. This lake, a bit off the “official” route, is a quiet and forested place with a gentle feeling that contrasts the rough edges of the higher country. We awoke this morning and I was out before dawn, photographing the first light on this high ridge beyond the trees and across the lake.


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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Granite Cliffs, Alpine Lake

Granite Cliffs, Alpine Lake
Rocks from vertical cliffs line the base of a deep blue alpine lake

Granite Cliffs, Alpine Lake. Sequoia National Park, California. August 6, 2008. © Copyright 2008 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

Rocks fallen from vertical cliffs line the edges of a deep blue alpine lake

As I write this tonight for posting tomorrow, winter is over and spring is a few hours old. It is perhaps for that reason — the start of spring and the inevitability of summer — that I found myself looking though some old photograph files from a summer about eight years in the past. There is a practical reason to revisit the old files from time to time; I often find photographs that now look pretty interesting that I apparently skipped over originally, for one reason or another. But it is also an opportunity to revisit the older memories as well, since looking at the photographs brings back the recall of many other details of such Sierra trips.

On this trip I crossed the Southern Sierra from west to east with a small group of long-time trail friends. I am not sure why, but I had not been back on this trail in the decades since my first visit — so I was excited to revisit this spectacular route. Today I began tracking the progress of the trip via the old photographs, starting on the first day and looking at photograph up through day three, when we climbed from a beautiful lake to cross the Kaweah Mountains and head east. I came to this photograph, which is a vertical orientation interpretation on a scene in another of my photographs that may be somewhat recognizable. At the time when I made the original print I think I must have committed to the horizontal format and, thus, put the vertical on the back burner. but today I decided that I like this version, too, with a bit less emphasis on the water and a bit more on the vertical thrust of the rocky walls.


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.