Dan's Outside

I go, I see, I do, I walk, I think, I like…

Two From the Little Red Tent

I see that photographs of a couple of places with meaning to me have been posted at The Little Red Tent blog.

A photograph of a long-dead Bristlecone pine tree in the White Mountains and the accompanying commentary remind me of what a wonderful and mysterious place the White Mountain Bristlecone pine forest is. High (very high – 10,000′ and higher) above Owens Valley and facing westward towards the Sierra crest, this place is intimately linked to the full eastern Sierra and Owens Valley experience, yet in many ways is also an entirely separate world.

A photograph from a rise above Townsley Lake near Fletcher Lake and the Vogelsang High Sierra Camp evokes all sorts of memories and associations for me. In most years a walk past almost this exact spot has been part one of my end-of-season solo trips into the Yosemite backcountry, a hike that takes me by means of cross-country travel from Fletcher Lake to Ireland Lake and sometimes beyond.

December 15, 2007 Posted by | Commentary, Photography, Places | Comments Off on Two From the Little Red Tent

Pigeon Point Lighthouse, Whalers Cove

Pigeon Point Lighthouse, Whalers Cove. Pescadero, California. December 8, 2007. © Copyright G Dan Mitchell.

I had some business in Santa Cruz this weekend – more accurately, my wife had some business there – so I took the opportunity to spent a few hours driving up the coast on Highway 1.

December 9, 2007 Posted by | Ocean, Photography | Comments Off on Pigeon Point Lighthouse, Whalers Cove

Hello to Visitors from Two-Heel Drive

My friend Tom shared a post about trail photography this morning that included a link to this site. (Thanks for the link, Tom… :-) A few thoughts…

  1. Welcome to those of you are visiting by way of Tom’s link!
  2. I have to agree with Tom’s basic points about trail photography, especially as they relate to folks who may not be quite as nuts about the photography part of the outdoor experience as I am.
  3. If you would like to see more of my photography – and I hope you do! – take a look at G Dan Mitchell | Photography and my Gallery site. I also have a portfolio at photo.net and a presence at Flickr.

I may try to post something else about my approach to hiking, backpacking, and other forms of outdoor photography later. In the meantime, you can read about my current backpacking photography equipment list.

December 7, 2007 Posted by | Commentary, Photography | Comments Off on Hello to Visitors from Two-Heel Drive

2007: My First Snow of the Year

On my drive over Carson Pass this weekend I encountered my first snow of the season – it was only an inch deep but it was snow!

First Snow – Highway 88 Looking North. Sierra Nevada, California. September 29, 2007. © Copyright G Dan Mitchell.

(I’m also experimenting with new border designs for uploaded photographs…)

October 1, 2007 Posted by | Photography, Sierra Nevada | Comments Off on 2007: My First Snow of the Year

Anatomy of a Sierra Nevada 'Aspen Blitz'

It is September – actually it may October when you read this – and time to chase the aspens in the eastern Sierra. I made my first serious attempt of the year yesterday. Here’s how the madness unfolded…

On Friday night – pack stuff for the day, including enough gear that I could stay out overnight if necessary. Try to get to bed early but more or less fail. :-)

Up at 3:30 a.m. on Saturday morning. After a quick bagel and an espresso I’m on the road before 4:00 a.m. I drive out of the Bay Area and across the Central Valley in the dark and begin to see a bit of light in the east before Jackson. Fill the tank in Jackson and head on toward Carson Pass. The sun rises a bit before I reach Kirkwood, so I stop and shoot a few sunrise photos looking north towards peaks around Lake Tahoe… and including an inch of snow in the foreground.

I stop to take a few photos at Silver Lake and eventually work my way over the pass. I stop on the other side to look out over Hope Valley which holds many stands of aspens, quite a few of which are starting to turn yellow. I do a bit of photography in Hope Valley as far down as Sorenson’s and then head on down toward Woodfords where I turn right and head up past Markleeville to the start of Monitor Pass.

Lots of aspens on Monitor Pass beginning with some impressively colorful stands right along the road at the base of the climb. There is another brilliant stand near a lake about half way up, and the giant aspen groves near around the top of the pass are coming into condition. I stop at the pass and shoot in a the groves here for awhile before starting down the other side. (Near the top of the descent I make a mental note to return to several spots in this area later in the day should I return by this route.)

At the bottom of Monitor Pass I turn south on highway 395 and eat lunch as I drive toward Walker. After climbing the narrow Walker River canyon beyond town, the land opens up before Sonora Pass where many large groves of aspens are visible up high. I don’t go up that direction this time, but continue south with time for a detour out on a a dirt road south of Sonora Pass road. This takes me up to some very colorful groves – though the light isn’t great this time of day – but the road becomes a bit rougher than what I’m in the mood for, so I head back to 395 and on towards Bridgeport.

After passing through Bridgeport I take another dirt road south of town, those one marked “Green Creek.” This road is mostly in pretty good shape, and it travels though high and interesting country that would be worth the drive even if the aspens weren’t there. Eventually it climbs though some outstanding aspen groves up high – this is an area that is visible from Conway Summit below in 395. After the aspens the forest changes to coniferous trees and shortly joins the road to Virginia Lakes, where I stop for a few photographs.

Leaving Virginia Lakes I calculate my remaining daylight hours and decide a) that I have time to visit Lee Vining and b) that I’ll return the way I came and shoot at those spots I noted earlier on Monitor Pass later in the day. I pass by some aspens stands as I descend toward Conway Summit and the junction with 395 – these will be good in a few days – and turn right on 395. The groves just south of Conway Summit are very colorful but there seems to be no place to pull over, so I continue on to Lee Vining.

After buying $15 worth of gas for $20 and getting an espresso and a snack at “Latte Da” (where, by tradition, I sit on the porch for ten minutes) I start to retrace my path. When I arrive back at Conway Summit the sun is lighting the huge aspen groves there from behind so I stop to shoot some multi-image panoramas. I leave Conway Summit with the goals of getting back to Monitor Pass in time to shoot some hills on the east side of the pass before the Sierra crest blocks that light and then shooting at the pass in the last light.

I arrive at the Monitor Pass road more or less on schedule. After stopping to photograph some hills near the bottom, I head up to near the top where I can get a panoramic shot of the valley and ridges to the south and east of the pass. Then it is on up to the pass proper where I spend 15 or 20 minutes shooting the colorful light in the aspen groves at the pass as the sun drops. From here I quickly head just over the pass to a spot I had earlier identified as a possible sunset shoot location, and I arrive just as the last light is going. I think I may have just barely gotten a decent shot here, but now the light is gone and it is time to head home.

At the bottom of Monitor I decide that the better road over Carson Pass is probably a better bet than the slightly shorter but twistier route over Ebbetts, so I turn right, pass through Markleeville and Woodfords and climb over Carson Pass as the last light goes. Now it is just a plain old long drive home, with a stop along the way for some disgusting fast food and some Starbucks coffee. 600 miles later I’m back home at 11:45.

Next weekend I may take a somewhat more civilized two-day trip back to the aspens, though this time I’m thinking I’ll head south of Lee Vining towards June Lake, Rock Creek, and the North/South/Sabrina Lake area…

September 30, 2007 Posted by | Commentary, Photography, Trips | 3 Comments

Back From Visiting the Aspens

Sierra Aspen Grove, Sun. Sierra Nevada, California. September 29, 2007. © Copyright G Dan Mitchell.

I’ll write more about my adventure later…

September 30, 2007 Posted by | Green World, Photography, Sierra Nevada, Trips | Comments Off on Back From Visiting the Aspens

September Morning, Los Cerritos Pond

September Morning, Los Cerritos Pond. Calero Hills, California. September 2, 2007. © Copyright G Dan Mitchell.

Another example of why I like September… :-)

September 2, 2007 Posted by | Photography: Calero | Comments Off on September Morning, Los Cerritos Pond

Giving Equal Time to Black and White

To follow up on my recent post about late-July Sierra Nevada photographs, here is a black and white photo from the same trip.

Banner Peak, Thousand Island Lake. Sierra Nevada, California. July 27, 2007. © Copyright G Dan Mitchell.

August 10, 2007 Posted by | Photography | Comments Off on Giving Equal Time to Black and White

Photos from Late-July Pack Trip

During the latter part of July I spent about a week in the eastern Sierra, first near Tuolumne Meadows and Mono Lake and then on a 6-day pack trip with my brother and his family, during which we explored the areas around Ediza and Thousand Island Lakes in the Ansel Adams wilderness area.

Mounts Ritter and Banner, Ediza Lake. Sierra Nevada, California. July 25, 2007. © Copyright G Dan Mitchell.

I think I have pretty much posted the best of the photographs from that trip now – if you are interested, take a look at the following links:

  • G Dan Mitchell | Photography – This is my photoblog where I post daily photographs. A new photo from the trip will continue to appear there daily until about August 14. (Go there and subscribe to the RSS news feed if you want to get automatic updates.)
  • My Gallery web site where my photographs are archived. All of the trip photographs that will eventually appear on the blog site are already posted here – take a look at the Sierra Nevada and Mono Lake portions of the Landscape section of the site.
  • I have also posted many of the photos at a couple of other external photo sites: my Flickr Gallery and my Photo.net gallery. (In the latter case, you’ll need to search a bit since the photos are distributed among the Sierra Nevada, Mono Lake, and Yosemite galleries.)


August 8, 2007 Posted by | Photography | Comments Off on Photos from Late-July Pack Trip

Current Photo Equipment (July 2007)

Cait (who posts at Light of Morn) recently asked about the gear I use for my landscape/mountain photography, so I think I’ll take that question as an opportunity to summarize what I use these days.

Camera: I lug a Canon 5D digital SLR (DSLR) around on the trail. The 5D is a full frame DSLR, with a 12 megapixel sensor that is essentially the same size as 35mm film. This provides certain advantages for my photography: higher resolution for large prints, wide angle lenses are truly wide, smaller apertures are usable for DOF control, somewhat better dynamic range, better noise control. There are some downsides, but they are worth it for me: cost is more than twice that of more common “crop sensor” DSLRs, size and weight are greater.

Lenses: I try not to succumb to Lens Fever, so I use a small set of good Canon lenses: EF 17-40mm f/4 L, EF 24-105mm f/4 IS L, EF 70-200mm f/4 L, and 50mm f/1.4. While I may take all four on some hikes, more often I take a subset. On pack trips where weight becomes a significant issue I may take only the 17-40mm and the 24-105mm lenses.

Tripod: On shorter hiking trips (and car supported trips) I use a very large and relatively heavy carbon fiber Induro C313 tripod. This is often too large for backpacking, so I substitute a smaller (though not exactly tiny) carbon fiber Velbon 540 that is lighter and packs more easily. I fit an Acratech Ballhead to whichever tripod I use. I do shoot handheld sometimes, but I almost always use the tripod for landscape work.

Packs: Like many photographers, I’m always looking for the perfect bag or pack – even though I know full well it doesn’t exist. I use a Lowepro Rover AW for longer day hikes, since it can carry my photo gear and enough general equipment and food/water for serious hiking. I’m fond of my Lowepro Slingshot 200 AW for shorter hike and urban photography. When backpacking (and sometimes on longer day hikes when I’m heavily laden) I carry my camera in the Lowepro Topload AW bag with a chest harness. Sometimes when I carry only the 5D and the 24-105 lens I may use a Mountainsmith lumbar pack.

Other stuff: I use a remote release (“cable release”) with tripod shots. I sometimes use a circular polarizing filter. I carry a bunch of extra memory cards and batteries when I’m out for a longer period of time.

As you can imagine, you need to be pretty committed to doing photography if you are going to carry all this stuff on the trail – and I’d forgive any of you who decide to go with something a lot lighter. Fortunately, you can do some very nice photography with less expensive and lighter gear these days.

Canon, Nikon, Sony, and Pentax all sell very nice crop sensor DSLRs these days. Because they use smaller sensors than my full frame 5D, the cameras can be smaller. In addition, smaller and lighter lenses will provide the same reach. The Canon Rebel XTi/400D (or the previous model, the Rebel XT/350D) with the 18-55mm kit lens can do a fine job. I’m sure that equivalent models from the other manufacturers are also quite excellent. Some of the smaller “point and shoot” cameras also perform well and can be quite small and light.

July 25, 2007 Posted by | Photography | Comments Off on Current Photo Equipment (July 2007)

%d bloggers like this: