The last few winters I’ve spent some time in California’s San Joaquin Valley photographing migrating birds – mostly snow geese, Ross’s geese, and sandhill cranes. Last week Claudia and I ventured further north, into the Sacramento Valley (the northern half of California’s Great Central Valley), exploring some of the backroads and wildlife refuges there.
One morning, while driving an obscure little road in the Sacramento Valley, Claudia and I stumbled upon an orchard filled with fog. As far as we could tell there was no other fog within 50 miles, because there’s very little moisture anywhere, but for some reason this one spot had fog – possibly because the trees had been watered recently, creating moisture that condensed in the cool morning air.
Seeing the sunbeams cutting through the mist underneath the trees, I grabbed my camera and tripod, and quickly framed a few compositions, one of which is shown above. Within five minutes the fog had burned off, leaving us with yet another clear, warm, dry January day.
I’ve included a few other photographs here of birds we encountered, as well as a beautiful marshland sunset from our last evening as we drove back home. Most people wouldn’t consider the Central Valley to be as spectacular as some other parts of the state, like the Sierra Nevada, or the coast. But beauty can be found everywhere. Photography is more about moments than places, and I’ve experienced moments in the Central Valley – sunsets, sun breaking through fog, the sound and chaos of 10,000 geese lifting off – that are as memorable as anything I’ve encountered in Yosemite.
— Michael Frye
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Michael Frye is a professional photographer specializing in landscapes and nature. He is the author or principal photographer of The Photographer’s Guide to Yosemite, Yosemite Meditations, Yosemite Meditations for Women, and Digital Landscape Photography: In the Footsteps of Ansel Adams and the Great Masters. He has also written three eBooks: Light & Land: Landscapes in the Digital Darkroom, Exposure for Outdoor Photography, and Landscapes in Lightroom 5: The Essential Step-by-Step Guide. Michael written numerous magazine articles on the art and technique of photography, and his images have been published in over thirty countries around the world. Michael has lived either in or near Yosemite National Park since 1983, currently residing just outside the park in Mariposa, California.