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30-Second Landscape: Mehrlen Creek, Sequoia National Park in May

Watch on YouTube for full-size

Here is another 30-second landscape I made on my recent backpacking trip through Sequoia National Park. This clip features Mehrlen Creek winding through the Western Sierras.

This whole area of the trail was very interesting because it featured a gorgeous waterfall cascading gently over the slick granite rock formations. It wasn't a free-fall waterfall flying over a cliff, but instead the water just kind of poured down the steep rocks, finding the path of least resistance, guided by cracks and folds in the terrain. Truly stunning.

We made camp near this creek on our final night in Sequoia National Park and I had the great pleasure of spending some leisure time reclined on a seat of rocks next to this beautiful water feature. As I laid there with the soothing sounds filling my ears and the expansive vista filling my eyes, I felt like I finally understood John Muir's obsession with this area.

Soaking in the sights and sounds from my makeshift lounge chair, I had one of those rare moments of self-awareness where I realized that I was experiencing one of the happiest moments of my life. It may sound like I'm over-inflating a relatively mundane experience, but I truly felt a heightened state of happiness that only the deep wilderness can bring out in me. Being out there in the middle of the Sierra Nevadas, observing the wonders of light and color before me, with no cell phone, Twitter, Facebook, or any of the other usual diversions, I could truly enjoy the fruits of nature without distraction.

I can't wait to get back out there.


30-Second Landscape: Mehrlen Creek, Sequoia National Park in May

Watch on YouTube for full-size

I took a backpacking trip this past May with some good friends of mine through Sequoia National Park. Since weight is obviously an issue when backpacking, I decided to bring my lightweight Canon EOS Rebel T4i for some casual shooting. If I had my way, I would have brought my heavy Mamiya RZ67 medium format film camera, but then I'd have to hire a sherpa and I just can't afford that.

The Rebel T4i may not be my usual medium of choice, but the fact that it shoots video came very much in handy for this trip. After a fun session of photographing Mehrlen Creek at sunset, I decided to steal take inspiration from an idea borne from the great Chase Jarvis. He does these awesome 60-second portraits which are basically short tightly-framed video clips of interesting people not really talking or doing anything particularly entertaining. It's just about observing a person and seeing what their face has to say.

I thought I'd take a cue from Chase and start making these 30-second landscapes so that you can get a taste of what the world is like wherever I happen to be taking pictures. No narration or anything. Just the sights and sounds of nature.



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"][/vimeo]

[vimeo width="550" height="309"][/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...

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