Nick Carver Photography Blog

Photography Tips, Tutorials, & Videos

CONTACT NICK

Sierras in January: Part 2

As I mentioned in my last post "Sierras in January: Part 1", this "Part 2" post will be all about the snow scenes from around Mammoth Lakes and Lee Vining.

Snow scene near Lee Vining, CA

The storm came in strong on our second day there, dumping tons of fresh powder all over the landscape just north of Bishop. The driving conditions made me a little nervous at first, since I have virtually no experience driving in the snow. That, and my only previous experience driving in the snow entailed 2 bad spin-outs on a narrow mountain road. But this time around, I had 4-wheel drive and ABS brakes to help me out. In the end, it was much less treacherous than I imagined.

Snow scene near Lee Vining, CA

Snow scene near Lee Vining, CA

What really gave my patience and nerves a run for their money was the wind. I've been in some crazy strong winds before, but never with air temperature in the 20's. Woo, was it cold! My visit to Convict Lake in late afternoon was especially brutal. I think the wind chill must have been down in the low teens (you guys out in Minnesota must be laughing at me right now).

Strong winds, in my opinion, are some of the toughest and most frustrating conditions to shoot in. You can't keep the tripod stable, you're trying to hold on to 3 or 4 different things at once, your clothes feel like mesh...but what made it even more difficult were the splashes of water coming off the lake and settling on my filters, then freezing near instantly.

Boy, did it try my patience.

Convict Lake in Winter

Shooting in the snow was a little difficult in general because the snowfall never fully stopped, but there was a break in storm in the afternoon when I happened to be near some old, run-down structures on the side of Highway 395. For those of you familiar with the area, you've probably seen these two little houses between Mammoth Lakes and Lee Vining. They weren't the grand, sweeping vista I wanted, but they were good photo subjects nonetheless.

Run-Down Houses Near Lee-Vining, CA off Highway 395

Run-Down Houses Near Lee-Vining, CA off Highway 395

Run-Down Houses Near Lee-Vining, CA off Highway 395

But my favorite snow photos from the trip were from alongside the 395 right near the junction to Mammoth Lakes. The strong winds were kicking up snow off the mountain peaks, creating gorgeous layers and dramatic light.

Snow and wind near Mammoth Lakes, CA

Snow and wind near Mammoth Lakes, CA

Snow and wind near Mammoth Lakes, CA

And here are a couple videos I shot on my iPhone of the road conditions:

[vimeo width="550" height="309"]http://vimeo.com/36318005[/vimeo]

[vimeo width="550" height="309"]http://vimeo.com/36318730[/vimeo]

Overall, the trip was great, but as I mentioned in the previous post, I didn't feel like I was quite on the top of my game. Oh, well. It happens. There's always next winter...