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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!

Trip to Sierras – Part 2

On to the second installment of pictures from my recent trip to Sierra Nevada Mountains (View Part 1 | Part 3 | Part 4)... This post covers my pictures from the first half of day 2 on our trip. Click any of the panoramas for larger versions.

Lee Vining Creek

I decided to wake up before sunrise and hit Ellery Lake up off Tioga Pass. My beautiful girlfriend joined me (the good sport that she is) and we had the entire lake to ourselves. It was so peaceful being among that beautiful scenery as the sun rose. Breathtaking, really. Freezing, too, but very peaceful.

Based on its position on the map, I thought the morning light would hit the mountain peaks and reflect beautifully in the lake... I was a little bit off on that prediction. I didn't study the topographical map well enough to see that the sunrise would actually be blocked by some tall peaks off to the east. That's what I get for not scouting it beforehand. Oh, well. Before ditching this spot realizing the light wasn't going to go where I wanted it, I was able to get a few good images.

Ellery Lake at Sunrise

Ellery Lake at Sunrise

Near Ellery Lake at Sunrise

We stopped next at Tioga Lake. The scenery was stunning, as usual for this area, but I was getting really frustrated with how many signs of human existence were crowding my shots. I had to work quite hard to frame out the dam, the road, the cars parked off to the side, etc etc. And even when I did frame that stuff out, I still couldn't avoid those damn contrails from jets flying overhead. They didn't completely ruin the shot(s), but I would have preferred all air traffic just waited a few minutes, just until I was done with my pictures. So selfish...

A couple of the shots are quite similar as I working with "variations on a theme" (nice way of saying "almost the same composition") and the second shot below just looked too good in black and white to not share with you. I can't decide if I like the B&W or color version better.

Morning at Tioga Lake

Morning at Tioga Lake (Color)

Morning at Tioga Lake (b&w)

Morning at Tioga Lake

Last stop on Tioga Pass was a little creek off the side of the road in Yosemite National Park. The light was a little bit too harsh by this point for my taste, but I got a couple good shots nevertheless. I particularly like the vertical panoramic.

Creek in Yosemite National Park

Creek in Yosemite National Park

Next up was...a nap. Boy, do I hate naps. It's literally impossible for me to sleep after 10:00am without getting a pounding headache when I wake up, but I didn't want to be falling asleep at sunset. So it was either have a headache and get some sunset shots, or pass out at 6:00pm and miss the sunset. Now what kind of photographer would I be if I chose comfort over pictures?

After the nap and before our venture out for sunset shots, we went back down to Lee Vining Creek just below our motel for some quick pictures (and to wake ourselves up a bit). The shot at the top of this post and the following panorama are from that spot.

Lee Vining Creek Panorama

So there's just the first half of Day 2. Stay tuned for Part 3!