Tag Archives: yosemite

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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Forest Edge, Mountain Slopes, Evening

Forest Edge, Mountain Slopes, Evening
Forest edge in evening light with forest sloping upwards toward Sierra crest peaks

Forest Edge, Mountain Slopes, Evening. Yosemite National Park, California. July 13, 2015. © Copyright 2015 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

Forest edge in evening light with forest sloping upwards toward Sierra crest peaks

This is most certainly not an iconic view, but I’m sure that many fellow Yosemite high country aficionados have been to this spot and gazed at this and the surrounding view. (Part of one Yosemite high country icon does appear in this photograph, but it is the bottom part.)

Earlier on this visit to the park I had walked out into this landscape to photograph in the meadow, on low hills, among trees, and alongside a river. As I passed by here again on this early evening I stopped and was entranced by the warm evening light on the trees at the edge of the meadow and by the further forest-covered slopes rising into the alpine zone and eventually above tree line to the elevations where there is little but rock and tundra plants. While the landscape often seems rather static during the day, at moments like this near the beginning and ending of the day the landscape changes dynamically as light shifts and highlights and then shadows subjects.  I had only a brief moment to make this photograph (and a couple of others) before the light lifted from the trees and left them in shadow.


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

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

A Photograph Exposed: One Subject, Two Compositions

(“A Photograph Exposed”  is a series exploring some of my photographs in greater detail. A companion article looks at post processing issues related to the same subject.)

Landscape photographs depend on many things: good fortune to be in the right place at the right time, experience that helps predict when and where to find “right place at the right time,” sensitivity and experience that help you recognize the potential in a scene, being able to think beyond the intrinsic beauty of a scene to consideration of how it might make a photograph, an intuitive sense of “what is right” visually, the ability to apply some objective thought on top of the intuition, and other things in a list that is too long to recount completely.

I would like to share some of the thinking that went into photographing one particular scene earlier this summer.

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

Back in mid-July I experienced a special evening in the Tuolumne Meadows Sierra Nevada of Yosemite National Park. It was special for many reasons — some photographic and some not, but even the non-photographic reasons helped put my mind and my senses in the right place to make photographs. I had arrived and set up camp, taken care of camp chores, and finally headed out for late-afternoon and evening photography. I pulled off the road to take a look at a possible subject, and by remarkable coincidence found myself parked behind two good friends who were there for much the same reason. We joined forces and headed of to a nearby area that seemed promising. In an even more remarkable coincidence, partway there two more friends showed up, also there for the same purpose! Something about hiking off into a beautiful landscape with like-minded friends seems to heighten my awareness.

We followed the Tuolumne River and soon its angle of descent began to increase slightly as its channel narrowed and became more rocky. Continue reading A Photograph Exposed: One Subject, Two Compositions

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.