And The Winner Is …

Finalists in California Fall Color’s first video contest (in no particular order) include:

California Autumn - Philip Reedy

Sierra Gold - Nao Tharp, Sky Rock Media

Laguna Mountain Fall Colors - Robert J Olsson

Autumn Leaves - Gene Miller

Exploring Oak Glen - Yuni & Cat, Wilderness Wanderers

Clearing Autumn Storm - Elliot McGucken

Before continuing to read and learn who was selected to win California Fall Color’s first video contest, we hope you’ll view each of the above videos first, as they each deserve praise in their own right.

Following announcement of the winner is a review of what we found exceptional with each entry. In addition to being able to claim bragging rights, the winner will be sent a California Fall Color hat.

And the winner is ...

Sierra Gold - Nao Tharp

Judges' Comments ...

  • California Autumn – Philip Reedy opens his video with Tim Janus’ emotional Come Home to Me and a quotation from Anne of Green Gables to express sentiment through a mix of images showing people in relation to nature, the landscape, still life and motion, through the Northern Sierra and Cascades.
  • Sierra Gold – Nao Tharp, Sky Rock Media employs spectacular time lapse, dolly and aerial video, accompanied by an original, haunting melody and masterful editing to present a powerful and visually inspiring portrayal of autumn in the Eastern Sierra.
  • Laguna Mountain Fall Colors – Robert J Olsson takes us on a journey through the Laguna Mountains blending pans and zooms of still and live video to show the raw age and beauty of autumn in San Diego County.
  • Autumn Leaves – Gene Miller brings to life Nat King Cole’s classic song Autumn Leaves, while traveling through wine country with its red and gold vineyards and presenting still life portraits of Yosemite Valley, inviting their exploration.
  • Exploring Oak Glen – Yuni & Cat have produced a classic travelog introducing the viewer to Oak Glen and its many delightful stops, through first-hand and first-rate interviews and commentary, balanced with colorful imagery and lots of solid information. 
  • Clearing Autumn Storm – Elliot McGucken videoed a clearing autumn storm while he photographed it. The time-lapse result – set to Claude Debussy’s Clair de Lune – provides an instructive lesson of how to wait for and capture the moment.
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Giving Thanks and Looking Back at 2021


On this Thanksgiving Day, CaliforniaFallColor.com is thankful to the 95 color spotters who contributed reports, photographs and videos in 2021.

They include (from first leaf): Philip Reedy, Jeff Simpson, Jeff Luke Titcomb, Clayton Peoples, Gary Young, Michael Beatley, Michelle Pontoni, Julie Kirby, Steve Arita, Vishal Mishra, Bruce Wendler, Kathy Jonokuchi, Jen Miyara, Mark Harding, Gabriel Leete, Sarah Wollock, Jim Van Matre, Soyoung Kim, Robert Kermen, John Ehrenfeld, Woody Elliott, Angie Plaisted, Don Vilfer, Mark Hanning-Lee, Alicia Vennos, Lucas Yan, Liz Grans, Jeff Hemming, Michael Tolchard, Elliot McGucken, Mike Caffey, Ryan Boyd, Emo Gyetvai, Austin Grove, James Haase, Walt Gabler, Jan Arendtsz, Jeremy Johnson, Morgan Terrell, Anusha Ravioo, Pierre Redmond, Frank McDonough, Bill McFall, David Sharp, Bob Simms, Gabby Tobar Balcunas, Gary Skipper II, Anson Davalos, Jason Branz, Max Forster, Liliana Beatley, Shanda Ochs, Parrish Todd, Jeri Rangel, Peter Robbins, Bin Lin, Adarsh Dattani, Lyle Gordon, Anish Sidhan, Gene Miller, Jason Francisco, Travel Crazy Katie, Mariana Dillingham, Wilderness Amani, Sweet Me Life, M&J, Golden Island Walks, Jobille Tuts, Bella’s Grandma, Nao Tharp (Sky Rock Media), Julia Jia Rao, Life of Fernandos, Farmer Omni, Natural Priyanka Vlogs, Bob Bong Travels, Sonoma Shorts, Jon Lenvik, Our & My Memories, SmithsGold, The Mads of San Diego, Biprajt Dutt, NBCLA, Strangers Abroad, Eastern Sierra Now, Kiran Kumar, Pete A, Robert Olsson, Hieu Nguyen, Modern Mangai, Happenin, Omni Nova, Rahi’s Wall, Wilderness Wanderers, Peter Mikuljan, Life after Halftime and Ron Tyler, who produced the above video. If, somehow, we missed you, please know it wasn’t intentional. We are truly indebted to every contributor.

Special thanks are expressed to Inyo County Tourism, Bishop Area Chamber of Commerce & Visitors Bureau, Mono County Tourism and Mammoth Lakes Tourism for underwriting California Fall Color, and to the many reporters and media who carried our reports and gave attention to what we have shown about California’s fall color.

Of course, this list is not complete without mentioning Joan, my bride of 51 years. She has pulled the car to the shoulder so that I could jump out to photograph particularly beautiful locations; humored my recording of color percentages, species and elevations; pointed out spectacular color; and tolerated my exuberance in showing her countless stunning photographs taken by our contributors.

Our deepest thanks go to our readers who on over one hundred thousand occasions opened, read, followed, reacted to and commented here and on our social media pages. You are, after all, the reason we do this.

Above is our video impression of autumn across California in 2021. Fall began hesitantly, with the Dixie and Caldor fires burning huge areas of fall color in the Northern and Western Sierra. The fires eventually receded and after skies were clear of haze luster returned to the forests. A drought delayed the salmon run, then a bomb cyclone deluged the mountains reinvigorating streams and waterfalls. The dusting of snow from that event provided dramatic contrast just as leaves were at peak. Not as many locations were photographed this year – perhaps because of forest closures and lingering smoke. Though those that were submitted were beautiful.

The photographs selected for this year’s video represent: what happened (including a couple that show the impact of fires), the diversity of fall color across the state, and some of the finest photography of 2021. This was a notable year for Yosemite Valley, as evidenced by the many exceptional photographs taken there this autumn. Gorgeous color was also seen in the Eastern Sierra.

If you would like your photographs considered for inclusion in next autumn’s video, we recommend that you submit “horizontal,” high resolution (300dpi), not-watermarked photographs, within a week of having captured them. Pictures taken in places not often photographed have an advantage in getting selected, as competition is stiffest among pictures taken at popularly photographed destinations.

Autumn doesn’t end today. It continues for nearly a month longer. We’ll continue to post photos and reports, as received. Though today, we dial back reports and will post them less frequently. We’ve also stopped sending  weekly updates to meteorologists, travel and outdoor writers.

So, enjoy your Thanksgiving Day and plan an Orange Friday of fall color spotting, tomorrow.

See you next autumn, dude.

California – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW! – In our hearts, California is always peaking.


Looking Back at Autumns Past

On Thanksgiving Day, California Fall Color posts its message of thanks and video review of autumn 2021. It will be the tenth annual “California Fall Color Looks Back” video. Although CaliforniaFallColor.com went live in 2009, it wasn’t until 2012 that our first video review was posted. In advance of seeing “California Fall Color Looks Back at 2021,” here are videos fom years past.

Ron Tyler created each video. Ron is head of the Tyler Marketing Group, an El Dorado Hills-based marketing communications consultancy with expertise in social media, product marketing and video. Previous videos were judged among the state’s best outdoor videos by the Outdoor Writers Association of California.

Each of the photographs selected for these videos is representative of what happened that autumn, the extent and diversity of fall color seen across the state, and some of the finest photographs taken that year.


Pass The Envelope, Please …

California Fall Color went looking for videos of California’s autumn color on YouTube. You were busy. So far, here are the entries in our first video contest, the winner to be announced on Dec. 1. Email YouTube links, not later than Nov. 30, to: editor@californiafallcolor.com. Videos that are under three minutes long or the length of one song have the best chance of winning.


Video Contest

Autumn Leaves – Gene Miller

CaliforniaFallColor.com hat

This video of autumn leaves submitted by Gene Miller inspired the thought, “Why not challenge readers of CaliforniaFallColor.com to submit their video interpretations of autumn?”

So, born is our first video contest. Email a YouTube link to a video of your autumn pictures to editor@californiafallcolor.com not later than November 30 and be eligible to win this CaliforniaFallColor.com hat.

The video should be not longer than three minutes. The video judged best on the basis of entertainment value, beauty and creativity wins the hat. (Photos need not have been taken this autumn, though please submit only photos you took). All videos will be posted on the site (as long as they don’t violate some sorta rule). Plus, look for a review of past CaliforniaFallColor videos next Monday and Tuesday.

Thank You For Your Service

El Dorado County Veterans Monument, Placerville (11/5/21) John Poimiroo

On this Veterans Day, we remember those who served the cause of freedom and wish them and their families peace and comfort in this season of beauty and transformation.

Mapping Fall Color

California Fall Color Map

Each Friday during Autumn, the California Fall Color map (righthand navigation bar) is updated by hand, after reports have been received and verified.

So, it lags what’s been reported and is current only on the day it’s been updated. Nevertheless, it is a snapshot of how autumn color is changing across the state.

Above is the map as updated today (Fri., Sept. 24). Hiding behind green leaves are yellow and orange leaves. To see greater detail, click and enlarge the map. To learn more about a location, click the leaf.

Mono County (9/24/21)

At left is a blowup of where Patchy and Near Peak color is being seen in Mono County, presently. Areas of California that produce a lot of reports have greater detail. Areas that rarely get reported are only as reliable as the latest report submitted to California Fall Color.

When a location is reported as Patchy, but then is not reported about for a couple of weeks, I will upgrade its rating to what should be happening based on what’s been seen in nearby areas at the same elevation or historical pattern. That’s why the California Fall Color Map, while a helpful representation of where color is changing, is not precise. The accuracy of the map depends on receiving reports from spotters throughout California.

When an area is nearing Past Peak, we are cautious to not declare it as Past Peak until most of the color has fallen, as there’s still beauty to be seen. This is a subjective decision, but one that over time has proven to be prudent.

However, please note that once a brown Past Peak leaf has been placed in a given area, other peaking locations near the same elevation are likely to become Past Peak momentarily. So, haste is needed to see peak color at those locations. An exception is burn areas over which brown leaves have been placed.

The most accurate way to know the color status of a specific location is to read posts like this on the website. Dated photographs confirm reports. We appreciate all reports, even if they are for Just Starting locations, as they help others conclude when it is likely to be peaking there.

To contribute to the map, include a photo, mention the location where and the day when the color change was seen and email your report to editor@californiafallcolor.com

There are several fall foliage maps across the United States. Most, in our opinion, seem not to be based on what’s actually happening at those locations, but are general forecasts of what should or might be appearing.

Great Smoky Mountains Map

In particular, national maps that include California are often based on hunches rather than actual reports. One example is the Great Smoky Mountains Map (above) which uses a slider to indicate where fall color might appear by date. However, for California, it’s total nonsense and has nothing to do with what really happens, here.

Worse, it entirely misses the San Bernardino, San Jacinto and Laguna Mountains, turning all of Southern California past peak without any sense of what really happens. The reason it is so incorrect is because it’s based on what happens elsewhere in the United States. Namely, color appears by latitude first, then elevation. Whereas in California, color appears by elevation and latitude has little to no effect.

For example, in the Smoky Mountains map, it suggests that Patchy color west of Lake Tahoe is appearing now, but entirely misses the Patchy to Near Peak color actually being seen now in the Eastern Sierra. All that peak color it shows supposedly being seen in the Rockies isn’t there, either. The map is useless.

The California Fall Color Map, on the other hand, is based on actual reports received in the week preceding the Friday on which the map is updated. We do not make things up as these other maps seem to do. We report what’s been seen or model projections based on recent reports.



Looking Back at Autumns Past

Tomorrow, we post our annual Thanksgiving Day message and video review of 2020.

It will be our ninth annual “California Fall Color Looks Back” video. As, although CaliforniaFallColor.com went live in 2009, it wasn’t until 2012 that we began posting video reviews.

In advance of seeing “California Fall Color Looks Back at 2020,” we thought you might like to see those from years past.

Ron Tyler created each video. Ron is head of the Tyler Marketing Group, an El Dorado Hills-based marketing communications consultancy with expertise in social media, product marketing and video. Last year’s video was judged Best Outdoor Video of 2019 by the Outdoor Writers Association of California.

Each of the photographs selected for these videos is representative of what happened that autumn, the extent and diversity of fall color seen across the state, and some of the finest photographs taken that year.

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California Blushes

California continues to blush, as seen on the California Fall Color Map. Past Peak leaves appear at elevations above 8,500′.

California Fall Color Map (10/16/20)

More Color Appears

San Bernardino National Forest announced a partial reopening yesterday, allowing more leaves to be colored. CLICK HERE to read the announcement.