Tag Archives: water

Drake’s Estero

Drake's Estero
Summer sun penetrates clearing fog over Drake’s Estero, Point Reyes National Seashore

Drake’s Estero. Point Reyes National Seashore, California. June 27, 2015. © Copyright 2015 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

Summer sun penetrates clearing fog over Drake’s Estero, Point Reyes National Seashore

I took my camera for a hike this week. Or at least that’s how it felt. I have to confess that Point Reyes, a place I visit somewhat regularly, has always been a photographic challenge for me. I can’t quite put my finger on why that is. I certainly have good results with seascape photographs from other areas along the California coast. As I hiked today — an eight mile round trip to the entrance to Drake’s Estero* — I pondered this what might explain it. Because the point extends out into the ocean, it is often foggy. This fog is not the mysterious sort that hangs along the ground and partially obscures trees and hills. It tends to be the cold gray fog that hovers a few hundred feed up, simply blocking and flattening the light. Although I’m intrigued by this landscape, much of it can be quite barren. There are forests, but they often consist of slender trees growing closely together, often with dense undergrowth. It is difficult to find the things that attract me to the landscapes of the Sierra and the desert — rugged rocky forms, tall cliffs (there are some of these at Point Reyes), light-filled forests, bare and rocky ground. Oh, and did I mention the wind!?

But I keep going back, frequently returning with only a few photographs. This was one of those days. I very much like the place I hiked — a route that alternates between forest, tramping along the waterline, and traversing high bluffs above the estero. I walked four miles out past the end of the trail, to a place where I could walk along a narrow band at the base of cliffs that front the estero, and across the relatively still water were sandbars with birds. Beyond that the surf broke outside of the entrance to the estero. At this far end of the hike I was completely alone, and I found a rock to sit on and quietly take in this scene before turning around to retrace my steps. The photographic challenges on this walk were primarily the strong winds and the gray light. As I passed along the top of one of the bluffs, the sky cleared enough to produce beautiful, soft light on the water and the far peninsula, providing an opportunity to make my one good photograph of the day.

  • “Drake’s Estero” is, as you probably guessed, an estuary — but here I’m using the word that the park service uses for this feature.

G Dan Mitchell is a California photographer and visual opportunist. 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.

Bricks, Reflection

Bricks, Reflection
Bricks and water reflecting urban sky.

Bricks, Reflection. San Francisco, California. May 29, 2015. © Copyright 2015 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

Bricks and water reflecting urban sky.

Walking up Market Street in San Francisco I was watching out for anything that could be photographically interesting — architecture, people, vehicles, light — when I looked down and saw this little vignette of… not much at all really. Perhaps someone had been cleaning the street earlier, and now a puddle of water covered some sidewalk bricks and flowed over the gaps between others.

I stopped, more or less in the middle of the sidewalk, likely forcing a few people to take a path around me or perhaps just wonder what I was photographing with my camera pointed straight down. What I saw was, first, the water itself. Then I saw the narrow vertical band of lighter tones, where there was a break between reflected buildings. I only paused for a moment to make a couple of exposures, and then I continued on.


G Dan Mitchell is a California photographer and visual opportunist. 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.

Dawn, Eastern Sierra, Mono Lake

Dawn, Eastern Sierra, Mono Lake
Dawn light comes to the eastern escarpment of the Sierra Nevada and Mono Lake.

Dawn, Eastern Sierra, Mono Lake. Sierra Nevada, California. July 3, 2007.© Copyright 2007 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

Dawn light comes to the eastern escarpment of the Sierra Nevada and Mono Lake.

Some years back I visited Mono Lake very early one morning with my brother, Richard, who is also a dedicated landscape photographer. My recollection is that we had arrived separately in the eastern Sierra and somehow ended up meeting here near the town of Lee Vining and heading out to this familiar spot before dawn to make photographs.

I never know exactly what will turn up here. Yes, I can always photograph those tufa towers, but I’m usually often interested in special atmospheric effects: haze, clouds, broken dawn light, the glow on the peaks of the eastern Sierra, reflections in the morning-smooth water. We began by photographing fairly conventional photographs of the tufa towers before the light arrived. It was a cloudy morning, though the deck of clouds was broken, allowing some light to make it through the gaps and a momentary band of light to strike the mountains as the sun came up beneath the far edge of the clouds in the east. I must have made this photograph fairly close to that moment. Most of the scene is in shadow, but bands of light appear on the peaks, and a bit of softer light illuminates the foreground tufa.


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


All media © Copyright G Dan Mitchell or others where indicated. Any use requires advance permission from G Dan Mitchell.

Panamint Range, Reflection

Panamint Range, Reflection
The east face of the Panamint Range is reflected in the surface of a desert pool

Panamint Range, Reflection. Death Valley National Park, California. April 31, 2015. © Copyright 2015 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

The east face of the Panamint Range is reflected in the surface of a desert pool

This is a photograph of one of those surprising features of Death Valley — water in the middle of a place that is astonishingly arid. This location is one of the lowest, hottest, and driest places in the Valley, and beyond this pool is a terrain that is particularly inhospitable, the famous salt flats. It is not pleasant to venture out there on a hot and sunny day, when not only is the heat oppressive but the light is so intense on the white playa surface that it is almost impossible to look.

I went here quite early one morning, in time for the sunrise light across the Valley on the mountains of the Panamint Range. In many ways this was not a hugely promising morning. I would have preferred some interesting clouds, though the thing high clouds are not completely uninteresting. It might have been nice to have white salt flats, but the playa had apparently gone so long without rain and had experience enough wind that the sometimes-white salt was quite gray. This little pool, at the edge of the Valley and the base of the tall and rugged hills, mirrored the early morning sky and a bit of the dawn color on the mountains.


G Dan Mitchell is a California photographer and visual opportunist whose subjects include the Pacific coast, redwood forests, central California oak/grasslands, the Sierra Nevada, California deserts, urban landscapes, night photography, and more.
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Text, photographs, and other media are © Copyright G Dan Mitchell (or others when indicated) and are not in the public domain and may not be used on websites, blogs, or in other media without advance permission from G Dan Mitchell.

Seepage, Canyon Wall

Seepage, Canyon Wall
Seepage, Canyon Wall

Seepage, Canyon Wall. Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Utah. October 24, 2014. © Copyright 2014 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

Water seeps across the patterned rocks of a Utah canyon

We began our day’s hike and photography in sage-covered flatlands, where we left our vehicles at the end of a gravel road and soon dropped into a small canyon. The canyon quickly deepened and cut into the flatlands and sandstone walls soon rose around us as we continued. Soon we reached a junction where a stream flowed and we followed the stream, walking in it, along side it, and occasionally leaving it to cross higher ground where the canyon curved. The deeper we traveled into the canyon, the more intimate the landscape became as high walls cut us off completely from the surrounding terrain and bends in the canyon limited our view ahead and behind.

In the area of this photograph the canyon was rock all the way to its bottom, where the small stream flowed along the bottom of the shallow v-shape and water from springs seeped down across the rock, supporting the growth of plants. The water left behind sediments that colored the rock and formed patterns against the curving cracks, seen here in the soft light filtering down from high above, reflecting blue from the open sky and red from the sandstone canyon walls.


G Dan Mitchell is a California photographer and visual opportunist whose subjects include the Pacific coast, redwood forests, central California oak/grasslands, the Sierra Nevada, California deserts, urban landscapes, night photography, and more.
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Text, photographs, and other media are © Copyright G Dan Mitchell (or others when indicated) and are not in the public domain and may not be used on websites, blogs, or in other media without advance permission from G Dan Mitchell.

Oak Leaves, Reflections, Spring

Oak Leaves, Reflections, Spring
Oak Leaves, Reflections, Spring

Oak Leaves, Reflections, Spring. Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Utah. October 24, 2014. © Copyright 2014 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

Autumn oak leaves, reflections of sky and sandstone cliffs on stained rock

This was a wonderful autumn day of exploration, re-visiting a familiar place, wandering with friends, and photography. We drove a short distance down a back-country road from our campsite to get to the start of a canyon, beginning in a spot where there is little in the surrounding landscape to indicate what is hidden here. We left our vehicles on the flats at the edge of a shallow valley and dropped into it. The valley quickly narrowed and it wasn’t long until sandstone walls towered above as we traced the meandering course of the stream that had cut this canyon. We travelled slowly, making detours as the spirit took us, and halting to concentrate on photographic subjects we discovered along the way.

Eventually we arrived at a sort of “half-subway” (referencing a well-known Utah landscape subject that is far from this spot) where the creek rounded a bend in a narrow section of the canyon and has cut away rock back underneath the overhead walls. At the lower end of this section we arrived at a wider flat area, though the canyon was still quite narrow, and we paused to eat, talk, make photographs, and ponder. Across the bend in the creek a smooth rock wall dropped down from beneath a thickly vegetated ledge to the banks of the creek, and water seeped from cracks below the ledge, providing enough water to keep the rock constantly damp, and autumn leaves from an oak tree on the ledge were scattered on the rock.


G Dan Mitchell is a California photographer and visual opportunist whose subjects include the Pacific coast, redwood forests, central California oak/grasslands, the Sierra Nevada, California deserts, urban landscapes, night photography, and more.
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Text, photographs, and other media are © Copyright G Dan Mitchell (or others when indicated) and are not in the public domain and may not be used on websites, blogs, or in other media without advance permission from G Dan Mitchell.

American Avocet, Reflection

American Avocet, Reflection
American Avocet, Reflection

American Avocet, Reflection. San Joaquin Valley, California. February 27, 2015. © Copyright 2015 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

American Avocet and reflection, San Joaquin Valley wetlands

I have written before — often! — about the tremendous numbers of birds in California’s Central Valley, especially in the winter when migrating birds overwinter here. It is easy to be most impressed by the birds that are the biggest, the most unusual, those that are found in almost unbelievable numbers, and those whose cries are most striking. Frankly, very few experiences can compete with the sound and fury of many thousands of geese taking to the air at once, the magic of squadrons of cranes gliding in at dusk, the grace and size of the slower-moving egrets and herons, and too many others to list.

I’ve never been the classic “birder” type — the guy with the scope who searches out and identifies any and all birds — though I have become much more sympathetic to the passions of such people as I have spent more time among these remarkable birds! More recently, as I have returned to these places more and more frequently, I have gradually become aware that there are many other birds besides the big, impressive specimens mentioned above. These include individuals such as the hawks and owls, small birds that also live in flocks such as red-winged blackbirds, and a bunch of smaller birds that hang out in and around the water… like the avocet shown here. At one end of a refuge where we frequently photograph there are some quiet ponds along the side of the access road. I rarely see the bigger birds here, but I have recently learned that there is a lot more going on here than initially meets the untrained eye. On one of our recent visits I spent some time photographing avocets against the mostly smooth water in the morning just after the fog had cleared.


G Dan Mitchell is a California photographer and visual opportunist whose subjects include the Pacific coast, redwood forests, central California oak/grasslands, the Sierra Nevada, California deserts, urban landscapes, night photography, and more.
Blog | About | Flickr | Twitter | FacebookGoogle+ | 500px.com | LinkedIn | Email

Text, photographs, and other media are © Copyright G Dan Mitchell (or others when indicated) and are not in the public domain and may not be used on websites, blogs, or in other media without advance permission from G Dan Mitchell.