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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"]http://vimeo.com/36318005[/vimeo]

[vimeo width="550" height="309"]http://vimeo.com/36318730[/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...

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!

A Year in Review – Best of 2011

Happy New Year!

The holidays are over, the new year is upon us and tax season is right around the corner. But before we leave the stress of the holidays and return to the stress of the daily grind, I'd like to look back on the past 12 months and all that happened in 2011.

I'm happy to say that 2011 was a year of major growth for me personally and in my business. With a completely redesigned website, the launch of 2 new online courses, 4 online course discount packages, my first ever wall calendar and the continued success of my private lessons and group classes, my numbers were nearly twice that of the previous year! My private lessons saw a 31% increase and my online courses grew an astounding 161% over 2010! Plus, my work appeared on 2 magazine covers this year (Coast and OrangeCounty.com), I was published in Travel + Leisure magazine for the first time ever and my fine art was on display at the high-end Bistango restaurant in Irvine.

All in all, it was a fantastic year and it's going to be tough to top it in 2012. Thank you all for your continued support, whether it's by enrolling in a class, taking private lessons or just visiting my site and enjoying my work, I truly appreciate your contribution. I am very grateful to have so many followers, fans, viewers (or however you want to word it)! Thank you!

I thought I'd start 2012 with a blog post featuring my 5 favorite pictures from 2011, my top 5 trips and my top 5 blog articles. Enjoy!

My 5 Favorite Pictures from 2011

Click any photo to view it larger

Spruce Trees in Fog - Cleveland National Forest, CA

^ Taken in April along the Trabuco Canyon Trail in the Cleveland National Forest. I chose this photo as one of my favorites from 2011 for a few reasons. First of all, this photo, for me, signifies the start of new possibilities for local photography. Having just traded in my sedan for a 4x4 Toyota 4Runner, I decided to hit a trail that was previously off-limits to me due simply to an inability of my car to get me there. So this photo reminds me that hardly any location is off-limits to me now. Also, this was the first time I ventured deep enough into the Cleveland National Forest to see all the huge spruce trees out there. This photo is my introduction to a world of hidden beauty that was previously unknown to me. And finally, I just love fog.

Nurse Log in the Hoh Rain Forest - Olympic National Park, WA

^ Taken in the Hoh Rain Forest on my trip to Olympic National Park in May, this photo pretty much sums up the Pacific Northwest. Although the sweeping vistas and picturesque mountains are the more common postcards of the area, I feel the real foundation of what makes the Pacific Northwest so breathtaking is the sheer abundance of life. Organisms are packed so tightly in this wet region that plants grow out of plants and death is nothing more than a new source of life. This nurse log and its colonnade of trees growing from it illustrates that idea perfectly. Click the photo for a larger view so you can enjoy the details in all their glory.

Bunch Falls in the Olympic National Park, WA

^ Also taken on my trip to Washington, this vertical pano of Bunch Falls is one of my favorites from the year. It reminds me of the 2 joyous hours I spent photographing these falls and the solitude I experienced in that time. The falls themselves are so beautiful and grand that I really could have spent an entire day in its presence. Looking at this photo, I can still hear the roar of the water and feel the cold touch of the air. I can't wait to go back. This photo also looks gorgeous framed up real big (check that out here).

North Lake at sunrise in Autumn - Sierra Nevada Mountains, CA

^ From my recent trip to photograph the fall color in the Sierra Nevadas, this photo of North Lake at sunrise was one of my all-time favorites from the second I clicked the shutter. I love the composition, but I loved the experience even more. The lake was beautifully devoid of any signs of human activity and the calmness of the scene on this freezing morning instilled a deep sense of serenity in me. I did some clever use of filters in this shot to get the perfect exposure across the entire scene, and I'm quite pleased with the results. 

Bishop Creek in Fall - Sierra Nevada Mountains, CA

^ Also taken on my trip to the Sierras in autumn, this picture of Bishop Creek has gotten a great response from my viewers. I love it, myself, because it is the result of a pre-visualized shot that I really wanted to get, but failed miserably at executing the first several attempts. From the very start of the trip, I envisioned a photo of the rich fall leaves enshrouding a rocky creek as it passed between the aspens. I tried 3 or more times to get what I envisioned, but faced poor lighting, impossible climbing and imperfect conditions. Finally, though, I took a chance on this location not knowing what I'd find once I got to the creek's edge. My persistence and determination ultimately paid off in the form of the photo above. 

Bonus:

2000 Toyota 4Runner with Gobi Stealth Rack and Off-Road Lights

^ Alright, this isn't really a favorite photo of 2011, per se, because it's not one of my usual scenics, but I love this photo because I love my truck and I put a TON of work into it this year. I undertook a huge project to install a heavy-duty roof rack and 8 auxiliary off-road lights - a project that was exhausting, frustrating, difficult, frustrating, fun and...frustrating.  The hard work and frustration, though, was ultimately well worth it. These lights have come in handy a lot already and I'm proud to say I installed them myself. You can read a little more about this project here

Top 5 Trips from 2011

5. Lunar Eclipse - view
Aside from the fact that it was an ultra-rare celestial event, the solitude at Torrey Pines was unforgettable.  

4. Corona Del Mar in February - view
I didn't have to travel far to get there, but shooting the beach during a rainstorm was so much fun that I just had to put it in my top 5.  

3. Death Valley Trip - view parts 1 & 2
First time to Death Valley. The surreal experience of being on the Badwater salt flats in gale-force winds was utterly amazing. 

2. Autumn in the Sierras - view parts 1, 2, 3 & 4
My timing couldn't have been better - I hit the Sierras at the perfect time to capture the color at its peak. Just beautiful. 

1. Washington Trip - view parts 1, 2, 3 & 4
I still think back on this trip and it just blows me away. I love me some Pacific Northwest!

Top 5 Blog Articles from 2011

5. Why Other People's Pictures Are Better - view
Technically from the fourth quarter of 2010, but such an important post that I wanted to share it with you again.  

4. Photo Books: Blurb vs. Adorama - view
See my in-depth side-by-side comparison of photo books from these 2 manufacturers. You won't be disappointed with my recommendation.  

3. Dealing With Criticism - view
We all have to deal with criticism at some point in our photography. Hopefully this post will help you keep criticism from affecting you. 
Full Frame Sensor Size

2. Tips & How-To: Do I Need a Full-Frame Camera? - view
Boy do I love talking people out of unnecessary equipment! This post sets the record straight on full-frame vs. digital format.

1. 5 Quick Bits of Advice for Beginning Photographers - view
Whether you're a beginning or advanced shooter, take a look at this post covering some advice I've cultivated from 12 years of shooting.