Tag Archives: tree

Fog, Tree, And Pond

Fog, Tree, And Pond
A tree reflected in a wetland pond in dawn tule fog, San Joaquin Valley

Fog, Tree, And Pond. San Joaquin Valley, California. January 30, 2018. © Copyright 2018 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

A tree reflected in a wetland pond in dawn tule fog, San Joaquin Valley

I love fog, and I especially love the thick and mysterious tule fog of California’s Central Valley — comprised of the northern Sacramento Valley and the southern San Joaquin Valley, and draining to the Pacific Ocean via San Francisco Bay. This fog is mostly a winter thing, when the moisture rises from the ground, farmland, and ponds as the temperature drops at night. It often reaches its peak in the early morning, just after dawn. (It also creates some very challenging driving conditions — so bad that lots of people simply try to avoid them.)

If you stop and get out of your car, the world of tule fog is quiet and mysterious and still. Your universe closes down to a radius of perhaps a couple hundred feet or less, and you can sense as much about your surroundings by sound as you can by vision — you might hear but not see a flock of crane passing overhead. Surprising to some who are new to these conditions, while the tule fog is incredibly dense, it is often astonishingly shallow. On occasion I have seen conditions so bad that it was almost impossible to drive… but I could look up and see clouds in the sky overhead. The tops of trees and utility poles might poke out of the top of the fog layer. This, of course, can produce some very special light, since this thick fog may also be intensely illuminated by that overhead sky and sun, to the point that at times it can almost hurt to look into the brightness. Those were not the conditions when I made this photograph, but the astonishing blue color (which I actually had to tone down a bit in post) is the result of the glowing fog picking up the color of the blue morning sky.


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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Tree, Winter Light

Tree, Winter Light
A bare winter tree and clearing tule fog.

Tree, Winter Light. Calero Hills, California. January 14, 2018. © Copyright 2018 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

A bare winter tree and clearing tule fog.

On Sunday there was ground fog all over the San Francisco Bay Area, and I had a few free hours, so I headed out to see what I could find. I went to a place that is very familiar to me, a local haunt where I have hiked and photographed for decades. I had not been there in perhaps a year, so it was good to reestablish my relationship with the location and note a few changes. The little trip also reminded me that it isn’t necessary to travel long distances to find photographic subjects — quite often a closer look at nearby places will reveal worthy subjects.

The idea here was to arrive before the fog cleared, photograph in the thick fog for a while, and then be ready to photograph the brief transition period as it thinned, a time when brilliant and stunning but ephemeral light may appear. During my short drive to this location the fog remained thick, but just before reaching my destination it began to clear, likely because ground fog doesn’t stick around as long in the hills. As I parked and loaded up a light load (my lightweight trail photography setup) there were still some pockets of fog clinging to the hillsides, but in most places there was instead a sort of haze that glowed when I photographed in the direction of the sun. I’m very fond of this kind of light, so I quickly looked for subjects that I could use to advantage, and I soon found this tree standing on a grassy hillside and silhouetted against the glowing atmosphere beyond.


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.

Geese, Dusk, Pond, and Tree

Geese, Dusk, Pond, and Tree
Geese take off over pond and tree at dusk, San Joaquin Valley

Geese, Dusk, Pond, and Tree. San Joaquin Valley, California. January 11, 2018© Copyright 2018 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

Geese take off over pond and tree at dusk, San Joaquin Valley

This day in the San Joaquin Valley wetlands was something of a surprise. When I arrived before dawn, the light was dreary, with a shield of clouds from a passing cold front hiding the sky and the sun, with the exception of a very narrow band along part of the eastern horizon. There was little photograph in this light, but before long the sun rose though that gap and provided perhaps ten minutes of beautiful light… and then that show was over and the flat light returned. All morning long it remained cloudy, though that band of open sky in the east gradually expanded and worked its way toward my position.

Just past midday I finally took a break and went to nearby town to grab a bite to eat. An hour later I was back, and now the clouds above this area were breaking up and the light was starting to be interesting. By evening most of the sky was clear, though the air remained hazy — not unusual for this part of the world in winter. I looked around for the birds that I wanted to photograph, but wasn’t finding any large flocks. Finally I made it back to where I started… just as geese began to fly out from their resting place in nearby ponds. I put a long lens on the camera and continued photographing well past sunset, as the sky darkened and waves of birds continued to fly away. In the end, this day was a reminder that sometimes finding beautiful conditions requires facing some less exciting light… and being persistent and patient.


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.

Crane, Tree, Morning Sky

Crane, Tree, Morning Sky
A solitary sandhill crane flies into pre-dawn sky above a silhouetted tree and San Joaquin Valley wetlands

Crane, Tree, Morning Sky. San Joaquin Valley, California. December 9, 2017. © Copyright 2017 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

A solitary sandhill crane flies into pre-dawn sky above a silhouetted tree and San Joaquin Valley wetlands

By now you may be getting the idea that I like the brief pre-dawn interval, especially out in this autumn and winter wetlands of Central California. If so, you are right! There is a period of perhaps a half hour or so when the sky begins go glow, and the wetlands birds start their morning rituals — flying out from their overnight spots and generally raising a ruckus. Aside from their noise and fury, the rest of the landscape can be very quiet, as in this photograph.

On this morning I arrived early as usual, paused to set up my gear for photography, then began a circumnavigation of the area, slowing and stopping as various subject appeared. This bare tree, surrounding by reflecting water and set against the pre-dawn sky, caught my attention and I paused to make a few photographs. During this one a solitary crane passed through the scene.


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+ | LinkedIn | Email


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