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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!

Monache Meadows

Over the weekend, my brother and I took a short camping trip to the Kern Plateau in the southern Sierra Nevada Mountains. The place we chose was into Monache Meadow where the south fork of the Kern River makes its way through beautiful mountains and forest.

Monache Meadow and Olancha Peak at sunset

We chose this area to visit because it is only accessible by 4-wheel drive vehicles by way of the Monache 4-Wheel Drive Trail (Road 34E38). I wanted to put my 4Runner through its paces and really test out the new auxiliary lights. Other bonuses to this area of the Sequoia National Forest are that it's dispersed camping, campfires are allowed and there are no fees required to camp there. I'm used to campsites where you have to pay a $15-per-night fee, you have to supply all your information short of a urine sample, the campsites are pre-designated and your only scenic view is of the back of a Winnebago. That's why I've always preferred backpacking over car-camping.

But with a little bit of research, I found Monache, which I figured would carry all the benefits of seclusion that backpacking brings with all the convenience and fun of having a car with you. And it definitely delivered. It's a great place to camp if you have a 4x4 to get you there.

After getting settled in to our campsite along the Kern River, we headed out to the huge Monache Meadow to catch the sunset. I played with some lichen-covered rocks, reflections and the river in the foreground of my shots with the gorgeous Olancha Peak in the background to catch the sunset colors.

Monache Meadow and Olancha Peak at sunset

Monache Meadow and Olancha Peak at sunset

Monache Meadow and Olancha Peak at sunset

We stayed until twilight before heading back to camp...

Monache Meadow and Olancha Peak at twilight

After some grub, we were in for a cold night. It got all the way down to 27 degrees. Some of you out in the midwest may be chuckling right now, but that's pretty damn cold for this Southern California kid! But despite the painful cold, I got up before sunrise to catch the morning light on Bakeoven Meadow. I was pleased to see the entire meadow was covered in frost, which made for some real fun subject matter.

Bakeoven Meadow at sunrise

Frosty Plants in Bakeoven Meadow at sunrise

Frosty Plants in Bakeoven Meadow at sunrise
^ Click for a larger version

Frosty Plants in Bakeoven Meadow at sunrise

Fence in Hessian Meadow at sunrise

Fence in Hessian Meadow at sunrise

Overall, the trip was a fantastic experience and I'm pretty pleased with the shots. Feels like it was a productive 2 days. I'll definitely be returning to this area in the future. I'd really love to see it in the springtime.

Washington Trip: Part 4

Ruby Beach in Olympic National Park, WA

I finally made it through all my Washington pictures! So, now it's time for the 4th and final entry showcasing my images from my recent trip to the Olympic Peninsula. This entry covers the second half of the second shoot day plus a couple shots from the morning I left for home.

But before we start, I want to share one picture that should have been included in the "Part 3" post. I didn't include it in that post because I included another picture that was very, very similar. But on second look, I think this is the better of the two (click it to see a larger version):

Olympic National Forest, WA

Now that that's out of the way, let's move on to some brand new pictures of Bunch Falls, a beautiful little set of cascades on the side of the road, Ruby Beach and some wildlife.

First off, on the way to Bunch Falls after shooting the hell out of Merriman Falls (see previous post), I was lucky enough to spot a Bald Eagle picking at a carcass on the banks of the Quinault River! I very quickly and very quietly stopped my car, strapped on my telephoto lens and started snapping. Unfortunately, the eagle was very far away from me, and as a result I had to use my 2x teleconverter and crop the resulting images quite a bit. This is a recipe for poor image quality and low resolution. Oh well, I was just thrilled to see a Bald Eagle in the wild - it was my first time.

Bald Eagle on the Banks of the Quinault River, WA

^ Bald Eagle eating

Bald Eagle on the Banks of the Quinault River, WA

^ Raven getting all up in Bald Eagle's business

Bald Eagle on the Banks of the Quinault River, WA

^ Bald Eagle fed up with Raven's shenannigans

After this rare-for-me encounter with such beautiful wildlife, it was on to Bunch Falls just up the road. Much like Merriman Falls, Bunch Falls was much, much more impressive than I imagined. It was tall, it was gorgeous and it was easy to access. I enjoyed photographing these falls so much that I completely ignored the hunger pangs starting to plague my stomach. After all, "I can eat anytime...but the light is perfect now."

I particularly like the vertical panorama shown below. As always, click any of the panoramas for a larger version:

Bunch Falls - Olympic National Park, WA

Bunch Falls - Olympic National Park, WA

Bunch Falls - Olympic National Park, WA
Bunch Falls - Olympic National Park, WA

Bunch Falls - Olympic National Park, WA

Bunch Falls - Olympic National Park, WA

After getting my full share of Bunch Falls, I packed up my gear, stuffed my face with some trail mix, got in the car and started back towards some civilization. But only about 25 feet down the road, a little cluster of cascades caught my eye. With bright, vivid green moss covering the rocks and perfectly placed drops in the falls, I couldn't not take pictures of it.

And that about sums up the whole trip: "Woah! That's gorgeous", photograph the hell out of it, get exhausted, pack up my gear, drive 25 feet down the road, "Woah! That's gorgeous", unpack all of it and start over. It got to be exhausting, but in the best kind of way. Anyway, here are the pictures from that set of cascades - lots of similar shots here, but I felt they were different enough to post each:

Moss-covered rocks and cascades in Olympic National Park, WA

Moss-covered rocks and cascades in Olympic National Park, WA

Moss-covered rocks and cascades in Olympic National Park, WA

Moss-covered rocks and cascades in Olympic National Park, WA

Moss-covered rocks and cascades in Olympic National Park, WA

Moss-covered rocks and cascades in Olympic National Park, WA

Moss-covered rocks and cascades in Olympic National Park, WA

Then it was a quick bite (of some delicious battered fish) before hustling out to Ruby Beach. I didn't exactly luck out with the sunset because it was pretty much overcast, but I was able to make it work by utilizing a heavy magenta white balance on some of them to mimic the magenta color correcting filters of old. By the way, this technique is covered in the Filters for Nature Photography Online Course. Similar compositions here again, but I was playing a lot with the wave patterns.

Ruby Beach in Olympic National Park, WA

Ruby Beach in Olympic National Park, WA

Ruby Beach in Olympic National Park, WA

Ruby Beach in Olympic National Park, WA

Ruby Beach in Olympic National Park, WA

And finally, on my way out of the Olympic Peninsula as I started my journey home, I came across a herd of Elk grazing in a meadow. It was a nice little cherry on top to this fantastic trip.

Grazing Elk - Olympic National Forest, WA

Grazing Elk - Olympic National Forest, WA

Well, that's all of 'em, folks! If you see any you'd like hanging on your wall, drop me a line! Thank you for letting me share this experience and these pictures with you.