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Sierras in January: Part 1

Alabama Hills Recreation Area - Near Lone Pine, CA

With all the recent activity on getting ready for my gallery showing and artist reception, I haven't had much of an opportunity to look through the photos from my recent trip to Bishop, CA. But I finally got a calm in the storm that is my schedule, so I thought I'd browse through them and post a few shots for you to see.

The trip to Bishop was only 3 days long and I went on it with the goal of capturing some beautiful snow scenes in the Eastern Sierra. But there's just a few problems with that specific goal... First of all, it's been a horribly dry winter, and the lack of snow in these mountains has been a topic of conversation all season. Secondly, almost all the main passes through the Sierras are shut down in winter, which means I wouldn't be able to get to very many places. And finally, a storm was supposed to roll through the area the second day I was there.

The storm was good news and bad news. The good news was that I would get some fresh snow on the landscape. The bad news was that the heavy cloud cover would make my sunrises and sunsets almost non-existent.

Overall, I was a little bit disappointed with my photographic performance on this trip. It felt like I was in the wrong place at the right time on several occasions and I was, for some reason, having a difficult time capturing the full magnitude of the beauty I saw. Normally, I can make a place look much better in the photos than in real life. But here...I just wasn't on my A-game.

But nevertheless, I think I got some good photos (and a few great ones) to share with you. I figured I'd divide my trip up into 2 blog posts, not by date, but by the two main locations I visited throughout the trip. This first post is everything from the Alabama Hills at the base of the Sierras near Lone Pine. I visited this area 3 times on the trip and I just loved it. The scenery is unreal - lots of fun to explore. The second post will be all my winter snow scenes from the areas around Mammoth Lakes and Lee Vining.

The Alabama Hills Recreation Area is an expanse of immense, round, granite rock formations that spread out beneath the majestic Eastern Sierra peaks. Tons of movies and commercials have been filmed here, and for good reason. There is really no other place on Earth quite like it.

Alabama Hills Recreation Area - Near Lone Pine, CA

Alabama Hills Recreation Area - Near Lone Pine, CA

The Alabama Hills contains a few semi-famous arches that I had the opportunity to visit. Truthfully, photographing these arches was not real high on my t0-do list because it seems like everyone has photographed these things and they've all done it about the same way. Also, many others have had much better sunrises and sunsets to work with than I did. But I took some shots anyway...nothing I would frame, but it was nice to check them off my bucket list.

This first one is Lathe Arch. It's hard to tell in the photo, but this arch is very tiny. It only spans about 3 or 4 feet side to side and rises about 18 inches above the rock below it. Interesting shape, though.

Lathe Arch in the Alabama Hills Recreation Area - Near Lone Pine, CA

And this bad-boy is Mobius Arch. I'm 6'2" and I can stand up straight underneath it. There are a ton of great photos of this arch all over the net. I wish I'd had a better sunset to work with here, but what can you do?

Mobius Arch in the Alabama Hills Recreation Area - Near Lone Pine, CA

The rest of these photos were taken all over the Alabama Hills. I was playing a lot with different foregrounds to help pull attention to Mt. Williamson in the background.

Alabama Hills Recreation Area - Near Lone Pine, CA

Alabama Hills Recreation Area - Near Lone Pine, CA

Alabama Hills Recreation Area - Near Lone Pine, CA

Alabama Hills Recreation Area - Near Lone Pine, CA

Alabama Hills Recreation Area - Near Lone Pine, CA

Stay tuned for Part 2 of my trip!

Traveling Bubbles at Crystal Cove

Upon looking over my pictures from 2011, I realized that it had been far too long since I'd gone down to the beach to get some landscapes. So, on January 5th, I packed up my gear and headed out to one of my favorite local spots, Crystal Cove State Park.

Traveling Bubbles in Crystal Cove State Park

I wouldn't describe the sunset as phenomenal that night, but it was decent enough. Nothing was really blowing me away compositionally, so decided to think outside the box and try something new.

So with a slow shutter speed (3.2 seconds), I photographed the motion of the bubbles left by the waves as they traveled back out to sea. I've photographed these types of bubbles before, but I'd never really explored their motion across the wet sand and I'd never made it the main focus of a picture. Turned out pretty good, I think. And it was fun letting the bubbles, in a sense, paint the picture. Every frame was a surprise to see what path they took. My favorite from the night is displayed above, and here's another more traditional composition from earlier in the sunset:

Rocks and Waves at Crystal Cove State Park, CA

Lunar Eclipse – December 2011

December 2011 Lunar Eclipse from Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve, CAClick image for a larger view

Many of you are probably already aware that we had a full lunar eclipse early this morning. The eclipse started at 4:45 am (Pacific Time) with the earth set to cast its full shadow over the face of the moon starting at 6:05 am on the morning of December 10, 2011. The eclipse would coincide nicely with the moonset, which meant it would be in the perfect position to catch it over the Pacific Ocean.

Having previously visited Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve for sunset photos, I knew of a perfect Torrey Pine tree that I could place in the foreground for a great accent to the eclipse. With the park over an hour's drive from my home, plus another 45 minutes to hike in, I had no choice but to wake up at 2:30 in the morning and make the long haul with tired eyes.

To be completely honest, the eclipse wasn't as spectacular as the news stories predicted - the moon didn't turn a blood red color and it didn't look abnormally large - and my pictures aren't quite as dramatic as I had envisioned, but regardless, it was well worth the effort. And since the next full lunar eclipse isn't for another 3 years, I figured I better at least go see it. Besides, the breathtaking walk along an empty beach in moonlight as I made my way to the park was reward enough.

December 2011 Lunar Eclipse from Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve, CAClick image for a larger view

Update:
I also wanted to share a photo from one of my photographer friends, Corey Sandler, based here in Southern California. He set up on the beach in Laguna to photograph the eclipse and wrote about his experience over at his blog. Check it out here. And be sure to browse through his site. He's a superb event and portrait photographer offering his services throughout Orange County, San Diego and Los Angeles.

Lunar Eclipse by Corey Sandler