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Autumn in the Sierras: Part 2

Aspens in fall - Eastern Sierra Nevada Mountains near Bishop, CA

Welcome back for part 2 of my trip to the Sierras! This post covers the second half of Day 2 - from afternoon to sunset. I spent much of the daytime hours getting the intimate details of this beautiful landscape. Close-up shots like these tend to be more forgiving of the harsh, midday light. Also, without the time crunch of beating a setting sun, I was able to relax a bit and concentrate on the details for a change.

Aspens in fall - Eastern Sierra Nevada Mountains near Bishop, CA

Aspens in fall - Eastern Sierra Nevada Mountains near Bishop, CA

Aspens in fall - Eastern Sierra Nevada Mountains near Bishop, CA

Aspens in fall - Eastern Sierra Nevada Mountains near Bishop, CA

Fall color in the Eastern Sierra Nevada Mountains near Bishop, CA

The following 5 pictures were taken on the side of South Lake Road where sunlight was creeping out just perfectly to backlight these aspens against the dark shade of a cliff. I really enjoyed playing with the contrast between the bright yellows and deep shadow.

Aspens in fall - Eastern Sierra Nevada Mountains near Bishop, CA

Aspens in fall - Eastern Sierra Nevada Mountains near Bishop, CA

Aspens in fall - Eastern Sierra Nevada Mountains near Bishop, CA

Aspens in fall - Eastern Sierra Nevada Mountains near Bishop, CA

Aspens in fall - Eastern Sierra Nevada Mountains near Bishop, CA

As the sun started to drop, I bounced around to several locations I thought would make the most of the late afternoon light. One of my favorite spots was this little pond (2nd picture down) where some gorgeous aspens reflected nicely in the still water. This location sure tried my patience, though. Not only was it difficult to find a stable footing in the marshy meadow, but then I accidentally stepped right into the pond on my way back to the car. Drenched my socks and shoes. No fun...

Aspens in fall - Eastern Sierra Nevada Mountains near Bishop, CA

Pond and Aspens in fall - Eastern Sierra Nevada Mountains near Bishop, CA

Creek and Aspens in fall - Eastern Sierra Nevada Mountains near Bishop, CA

Aspens in fall - Eastern Sierra Nevada Mountains near Bishop, CA

Aspens in fall - Eastern Sierra Nevada Mountains near Bishop, CA

Aspens in fall - Eastern Sierra Nevada Mountains near Bishop, CA

After sunset, I took some photos along the nearby creek, but I'm going to put those in the 3rd and final installment of my trip. So watch for those along with the rest of the pictures from my last day in the Sierras!

Autumn in the Sierras: Part 1

Well, October is coming to an end and I'm happy to say that I did a fair amount of traveling in the past 27 days. The first trip this month was to Monache Meadows for some camping and off-roading. Just 8 days after that, I took a solo trip to Bishop, CA to capture the fall color over the course of a few days. I'm still working my way through the photos from that trip with the first batch featured here in this post.

Overlooking Sabrina Basin in Fall, near Bishop, CA

As the departure day for my trip rolled around, I had feared I'd missed the fall color. I'd been watching the fall color reports (at this awesome site) over the previous couple weeks and it looked as though everything around Bishop had already peaked. But much to my delight, I was wrong! Turns out the color was peaking in exactly the areas I wanted to be in exactly the days I was there. Absolute perfection!

I left Southern California early, arriving in Bishop by about noon. So after checking in and getting some turkey in my stomach, I headed out to the Sabrina Basin area to see what the color was like.

I was, uh, dumbfounded to say the least. My mouth was agape. Literally. It was ridiculous. For an east coaster, it might not have been anything special, but for me, I really could not believe how colorful it all was. I'd never seen such vibrant yellow leaves before. And so much of them! Ah...I was like a kid in a candy store. Plus, the picturesque crags and peaks towering over these gorgeous Aspens...man-oh-man, it was a treat. I hope the pictures will do it justice, but I'm betting not. Not because I think the pictures came out bad or anything, but because there's really no way a photo could record the child-like amazement of my very first encounter with true fall color.

Am I coming across as a bit callow?

Anyway, so I spent the first part of the day shooting in a nice patch of bright yellow aspens, just soaking in the color. The good thing about fall color is that it's one of the few things in landscape photography you can shoot in midday light and still get decent results. In fact, I could make the argument that fall color is best photographed in midday light (but I still think sunrise or sunset is best). You just need to position yourself so the leaves are a little backlit by the sun.

Fall Color in the Eastern Sierras

Fall Color in the Eastern Sierras

For sunset, I decided to hit the Piute Pass Trail up near North Lake. I was hoping to hike up into an area where some mountain peaks would catch the sunset light. See, the problem with shooting in the Eastern Sierra Nevada Mountains is that you're in the EASTERN Sierra Nevada Mountains. That means sunrise is when these mountains get the good light and unless you have clouds, sunset is pretty much nothing.

The hike was tough and steep and I didn't get nearly as far as I originally planned, but I got a few good shots with sunset light on the Piute Crags.

Piute Crags on the Piute Pass Tral

Piute Crags on the Piute Pass Tral

Piute Crags on the Piute Pass Tral

Piute Crags on the Piute Pass Tral

So, that marked the end of day 1. Now I originally planned to get up around 5:15 the next morning to get in position for the sunrise. I set my alarm, got to bed early and was raring to go. But apparently my body wasn't on the same page as my mind. Instead, I slept right through my alarm...2 hours past my alarm, in fact. I wanted to kick my own ass, but I'm not that flexible.

I hustled out to my pre-determined sunrise location overlooking the Sabrina Basin and although I didn't get the very first light of the day, it was early enough yet to get some good shots.

Overlooking Sabrina Basin in Fall, near Bishop, CA

These next two shots are very similar, but I still can't decide which I like better. I'm leaning towards the second one down.

Overlooking Sabrina Basin in Fall, near Bishop, CA

Aspens in the Sabrina Basin in Fall, near Bishop, CA

Overlooking the Sabrina Basin in Fall

^ Click for a larger view

Then it was off to Lake Sabrina for the final shots of the morning.

Lake Sabrina in Autumn

Reflections in Lake Sabrina in Autumn

Reflections in Lake Sabrina in Autumn

^ Click for a larger view

Stay tuned for Parts 2 and 3 of this trip!

Sedona and the Grand Canyon

It's been a hell of a month - holidays, drama, life changes. To be honest, I can't wait for 2010 to be over. But that's neither here nor there. I'm simply trying to justify the ridiculous 3-week delay on getting these pictures up from my trip to Sedona, AZ last month. At least there's a lot of them...

It was a rare family vacation jam-packed with hiking, sight-seeing, mountain biking, photography, shopping, hanging out and a whole lot of driving. Good quality time with the brothers, parents and sister-in-law - my favorite people in the world. I had a lot of fun and I even got to see the Grand Canyon for the first time!

One of my brothers and I went to Oak Creek on our first day to enjoy the scenery and get some pictures. There was some great fall color to work with, fantastic reflections and the temperature was mild. I could have stayed down there all day. Here are the pics from that first day:

The second day was with my two brothers and sister-in-law for a full day of sight-seeing and hiking. We checked out Slide Rock in the morning where it was just us 4 out there for quite awhile until a Japanese tour bus unloaded. No pictures from Slide Rock because the light was ugly, but we did some exploring and even found a tarantula, which, I must say, was both disturbing and fascinating.

For sunset, we headed out to Red Rock Crossing for stunning views of Cathedral Rock. I originally intended to get pictures of Cathedral Rock at sunset with Oak Creek in the foreground - real picturesque stuff. I ran into a problem with that plan when I couldn't find a single composition that fit the order. The water level was too high, making it impossible to get the angle I needed without crossing the creek to the other side, which wasn't going to happen.

Sometimes you just have to play the hand you're dealt. Luckily I've made enough mistakes in my years of shooting to know that making a plan B should be step 1 when you arrive. So I moved to a meadow I'd scouted earlier and had deemed my "in case things don't work out" spot. I'm actually glad things didn't work out with shooting the creek because I really enjoyed shooting in this meadow and I think I got some great, unique shots of Cathedral Rock - even some panoramas.

Here are the results (click the panos for larger versions):

The following day's agenda would consist of a sunrise shoot in Sedona and the Grand Canyon at sunset. The Grand Canyon is about a 2 and a half hour drive from Sedona - one way. I don't know what the hell I was thinking. I guess that's why only my sister-in-law was game for the sunrise. But in the end, it worked out great anyway. The sunrise was stunning, the Grand Canyon was worth every minute of driving and we'd still have a couple more days of vacation to catch up on sleep.

For the sunrise, we went to a high spot overlooking Cathedral Rock and Courthouse Butte in the distance. There weren't too many clouds and, thus, not much color in the sky, but the sun illuminated the air in a beautiful golden glow. The layers were amazing. The following 3 shots are practically the same (subject-matter at least), but I was just diggin' the vibe and color too much to not share each composition. Click the pano for a larger version.

Once that color faded away, I turned my attention to a beautiful Utah Juniper and played with the shapes of the branches and trunk.

Then it was off to the Grand Canyon. Thank God it wasn't peak season for the Grand Canyon, because it still got a little *ahem* cozy where I'd set up for my shots once sunset rolled around. For the most part, though, the whole place felt pretty empty (uh...no pun intended).

To put it succinctly, I was blown away by the Grand Canyon. Its size is hard to grasp even when it's right in front of you. My eyes were seeing it, but it somehow felt like I was just looking at a painting, like nothing could actually be that vast. Absolutely amazing. I'll let the pictures speak for themselves:

Loved the way the light hit the very tip of this tree

And last but not least, my favorite panorama from the trip - one compiled from 5 separate vertically-framed compositions. You'll wanna click this one for the bigger view...

Thank you so much for stopping by, everyone. It brings me so much joy to share these with you and know other people are lookin' at 'em.