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Thousand Steps Sunset

Thousand Steps in Laguna Beach

The clouds looked promising last Friday, so I decided to get out to the beach for some sunset pictures. I'm a little bit burned out on Crystal Cove and my other usual spots, so I went to Thousand Steps to see what I could get. I hadn't been to this beach in awhile, but I really do love it there. The single staircase of 223 stairs makes it more difficult to access than the usual Laguna beaches, which sucks for carrying 30+ lbs of camera gear (mostly on the way back to the car) but it's great for keeping the crowds away.

The sunset was, well...I'll let the pictures speak for themselves.

Thousand Steps in Laguna Beach

Thousand Steps in Laguna Beach

There's a weird illusion going on with this last picture where the horizon looks crooked, but definitely isn't. Strange...

Trip to Sierras – Part 4

Finally, the last installment of images from my recent trip to the Sierras! This covers our last day there, which was really just a half day as we left town by about 2:00pm. To view the previous installments of images covering days 1 and 2, click the links below:

- Part 1
- Part 2
- Part 3

Click any of the panoramas to view larger versions.

Mono Lake Sunrise

We got up before sunrise again and I decided to hit Mono Lake for the second time. I really just wanted to redeem my first trip there (see Part 1) and I thought sunrise and a little change in location might make the difference. My plan was to first try the main parking lot. If it was packed, I'd turn around and head down a side road to a different, lesser-visited area. Well, surprise surprise...it was packed.

With more than a hint of exasperation, I flipped the car around and headed down that side road where I found a little clearing along the brush. Apparently this was the overflow parking area for the South Tufa main lot. We were the only car there, it was well detached from the busy main lot and boardwalk, and I could see some tufas beyond the brush that looked promising. Added bonus: didn't have to pay for parking.

So I parked the car, got my gear, strapped on my headlamp and started hiking into the brush towards Mono Lake. My lady stayed back in the car to enjoy the sunrise from the comfort of heated seats. Since I hadn't scouted this area yet and there was no clear-cut trail, it was a bit of a chore getting down there. I found myself losing the "trail" quite often and having to push my way through some tall brush. But, that's part of the adventure and I couldn't complain!

After about 10 minutes of bushwhacking, I made it to the shore and looked around. Perfect. Not a soul in sight. It was the solitude I'd been itching for since day 1. Also, the tufas down here, although not quite as stunning as the main area, were still very gorgeous. The banks were much more muddy and harder to navigate, but that was a small price to pay for the privacy.

As I started planning my shots, I could hear the crowds from the main South Tufa Reserve. They were far enough away that I couldn't see anyone, but I could definitely hear them. I could also see the dirt road off in the distance that lead to the South Tufas. Every time I looked back, I'd see headlights from about 3 cars making their way towards the lot. One right after the other. Car...car...car...car. It seemed to never end.

All I could do was shake my head. There still wasn't another tripod in sight for me, though, so I was happy. I could only imagine how crowded it was getting out there. But anyway, enough about the crowds, here are my shots from the morning:

Mono Lake Panorama

Mono Lake

Mono Lake Sunrise

Mono Lake Tufas

Mono Lake Reflections

Mono Lake Panorama

Mono Lake

Mono Lake Tufa

Mono Lake

Mono Lake Panorama

After Mono Lake, some breakfast, check-out and a browse through the local stores, we headed out of town. On our way out, we took a drive through June Lake Loop. Wow. I really wish I had seen this place earlier in our trip. It was stunning. Silver Lake was so picturesque I just had to break my general rule of not shooting in the middle of the day. Luckily, this type of scenery does okay with midday light (although still not as pretty as sunrise or sunset).

Silver Lake

Silver Lake

So there it is! All 4 installments of images from my trip! I hope you enjoyed the pictures as much as I enjoyed taking them (that's a tall order). I can't wait to go back. This place is absolutely jam-packed with photo ops and I can't wait to add some more of them to my portfolio.

Thanks for following along!

Trip to Sierras – Part 3

Dana Mountain and Gibbs Mountain

Time for Part 3 of my 4 installments of pictures from my trip to Lee Vining a couple weeks back. (Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 4). This post covers the second half of day 2 - my favorite time from the entire trip. Click any of the panoramas for larger versions.

Picking up from the previous post, we had just finished up some quick pictures at Lee Vining creek. Well-rested, rejuvenated and excited about the sunset, we headed back up Tioga Pass to visit a gorgeous meadow I'd seen earlier that day. It would be the perfect place for sunset. But we still had several hours before the light was right and I saw a stretch of birch trees I wanted to check out for some possible fall color. Although the fall color wasn't phenomenal, the thicket of birch trees turned out to be lush and beautiful to venture through. A little creek winding its way between the trunks served as a great foreground subject for one of the shots. My favorite is the panorama below.

Birch Trees

Birch Trees

Birch Trees and Creek

After the birch tree forest, we made a quick stop on the side of the road to capture some better fall color and a rare black and white of a mountain peak.

Fall Color in the Sierras

Mountain Peak

Then it was off to the meadow...

We first stopped at Tuolumne Meadows in Yosemite. My original plan (from scouting the spot earlier that day) was to stick around in Tuolumne Meadows until sunset. We got there early, claimed the spot I'd scouted earlier that day and then I started planning my shots. It was gorgeous for sure - Tuolumne River flowed gently through the meadow and mountain peaks stood majestically in the background. Only problem was...I just wasn't jiving with it. The compositions just weren't working no matter how hard I tried to troubleshoot them.

Good thing I had a plan B.

I decided we should ditch Tuolumne Meadows and make our way back up Tioga Pass to the lesser-known Dana Meadows. Covered in snow and with Dana Fork winding perfectly through the foreground to reflect the stunning Dana and Gibbs Mountain peaks in the east, I knew this spot was what I was looking for. I swear, this meadow was so picturesque that if you asked a hundred people to imagine a mountain landscape, 99 of them would be picturing this spot.

All I needed was a gorgeous sunset and, thankfully, nature served up some amazing light absolutely drenched in color. The snow picked up all the pink and purple just as I had hoped and, with my trusty split NDs in hand, I was able to walk away with my favorite pictures from the whole trip. You can tell how much I loved this spot by how many damn similar pictures I took of those same mountains and creek!

Dana Meadow

Dana Meadow

Dana Mountain and Gibbs Mountain

Dana Mountain and Gibbs Mountain over Dana Fork

Dana Mountain and Gibbs Mountain

Dana Mountain and Gibbs Mountain

That's the end of Day 2! Just one more post to go!