Overall, the color looks pretty typical for mid-October. The higher elevation aspens are mostly bare, but the lower-elevation trees are a mix of green, yellow, and orange. The color progression might be a little earlier than average, but not much. If there’s anything unusual, it’s that some typically early-changing groves are still mostly green, while other groves that usually turn later have progressed further.
It’s been a long-time dream of mine to photograph aspens in Colorado in the fall, but various obligations and commitments kept me from going. This year, however, Claudia and I found a brief time slot and decided to go. And we’re so glad we did, as it’s just beautiful here. Some high-elevation areas, like Crested Butte, are past peak, and others seem to be turning late, but we’ve found some wonderful color in several places, and an endless supply of great photo subjects. Here are a few images from the past few days, and I’ll post more when I get a chance.
We’re all going to get another chance at photographing an eclipse soon: a total lunar eclipse will be visible throughout North America early Wednesday morning, October 8th.
In the western half of the U.S. the entire eclipse sequence will be visible, from full moon, to partial eclipse, to total eclipse, and back to full again. In California the moon will be high in the sky to the west-southwest at the beginning of the sequence, then sink near the horizon to the west by the end of the sequence. The moon’s path will actually be somewhat of similar to path in this photograph, except that the eclipse will be higher in the sky and a bit further to the right, and the angle of the moon’s path will be steeper.
On the east coast the moon will set when its fully eclipsed, so it won’t be visible as its coming out of the eclipse. But that means the moon will be near the horizon when its fully eclipsed, where you might be able to photograph it next to an interesting foreground object as the dawn lightens the sky. It should be just north of due west as it sets.
And there were clouds – almost too many. Another small rain squall was moving up from the south along the Sierra crest, approaching Bishop Creek Canyon just as the sun was due to rise. There were enough clouds to the east that I thought they might block the light. And I think some clouds lingering over the White Mountains did block the very first sunlight, but just after sunrise some clouds started to turn color overhead, and soon the peaks began to light up as well.
It evolved quickly into a dramatic scene. It was a little breezy, rippling the water surface, but there were still nice reflections at first. Then the wind increased, so I climbed up the ridge along the eastern shore of the lake to get a different perspective, one that didn’t depend as much on reflections.
The land around Bishop is semi-desert, so it doesn’t get much rain. We’ve been sprinkled on a couple of times at Millpond, but had never experienced any serious rain – until Saturday.
A weak low-pressure system pulled some remnants of Hurricane Odile up from the south. Clouds and thunderstorms developed over the mountains, but missed Bishop and the Owens Valley until Saturday evening. As the second-to-last act of the day was performing, a few raindrops fell. I looked at radar images on my phone, and saw some serious-looking storm cells moving right up the valley from the south. I estimated that we had an hour or two before we got dumped on. Figuring that the last performance would be cancelled anyway, I decided to try and get some lightning photographs.
The origin of this fire is officially under investigation. The park service has been letting the lightning-caused Meadow Fire burn for awhile, and it’s likely that embers from the Meadow Fire were picked up and blown into an area with heavy fuels, then were fanned by the wind. But it’s also possible that this is a new fire with an unknown cause.
In either case, the winds caused this fire to blow up suddenly Sunday at about 12:30 p.m., closing all the trails in and around Little Yosemite Valley, and forcing the park service to evacuate 50 hikers from the top of Half Dome by helicopter! A big news story, as you can imagine. As of yesterday, the fire was estimated at 2,600 acres. They’re using helicopters, air tankers, and ground crews to contain it. All the park roads and facilities are open, and fortunately no one has been injured by the fire.
There were quite a few photographers at Washburn Point Sunday night, and no wonder – the fire was a spectacular sight. Moonlit clouds kept streaming in from the south, and several times we saw lightning in the distance. Two separate rain showers just missed us, but passed directly over the fire. The first shower seemed to noticeably dim the flames. After the second, heavier shower, a large bank of fog rose up, obscuring the fire and Half Dome. The fog may actually have been steam, created by water hitting the fire. These brief showers didn’t put the fire out, but they probably slowed it down.
Okay, escaping the crowds wasn’t really the motivation for going to Death Valley in August. I had an idea for making a photograph with low-angle moonlight illuminating the sand dunes, and the Milky Way above. The moon had to be in the right phase: too much moonlight and the sky would become washed out, obscuring the Milky Way and most of the stars; too little and you wouldn’t see the effect of the moonlight on the dunes.
The moon also had to be far enough from the Milky Way to keep the moon itself out of the photograph, as it would be impossible to properly expose both the moon and the landscape in the same frame. The moon also needed to be close to the horizon, and off to the side (with the camera pointed at the Milky Way), as that low-angle sidelight would emphasize the form and texture of the dunes.
Not long ago I wrote about two apps for forecasting the position of the Milky Way and moon, PhotoPills and Star Walk. Consulting both of these apps I had figured out that the moon and Milky Way would be in the right position for the photograph I had in mind on the Friday and Saturday before Labor Day. And the next time the moon and Milky Way would be in a good position for this would be… next April, or even May. I decided to brave the heat rather than wait.
I had initially planned to go to Death Valley on Friday, but a thick bank of high clouds moved in – the remnants of Tropical Storm Marie. Since the skies looked clearer further south, Claudia and I kept driving and headed for the Trona Pinnacles.
In the early 2000s, my wife Claudia – then manager of The Ansel Adams Gallery – saw the need for small, inspirational books for the Yosemite visitor. She worked with Steve Medley, the president, publisher, and editor for the Yosemite Association (now Yosemite Conservancy), to find meaningful quotes about nature, conservation, and Yosemite, and pair those quotes with my photographs to create the original Yosemite Meditations book. Since then, Yosemite Meditations has gone through several reprints, and spawned two companion volumes: Yosemite Meditations for Women, and Yosemite Meditations for Adventurers.
Now the Yosemite Conservancy has released the Tenth Anniversary Edition of Yosemite Meditations. Again, Claudia did a great job of finding and pairing new quotes and photographs, mixing them with favorites from the first edition, and keeping the spirit and flavor of the original book.
If you order the Tenth Anniversary Edition of Yosemite Meditations directly from us through the “Add to Cart” button below, Claudia and I will both sign the book. You can also order directly from the publisher, the non-profit Yosemite Conservancy. In addition, the Conservancy has a 10% discount on Yosemite Meditations for Adventurers as their Retail Item of the Month (enter the code ADVENTURE on checkout).
There’s a nice review of the new edition of Yosemite Meditations on VividLife. Also, if you’re on Goodreads, we’re giving away (through the generosity of the Yosemite Conservancy) ten copies of this tenth anniversary edition.
A few years ago I was able to photograph Bodie on a moonlit night with Lance Keimig and Scott Martin during one of their workshops. Then, earlier this summer, Claudia and I went to Bodie on one of occasional evenings when the park stays open until 10:00 p.m. This was a moonless night, but since it didn’t get completely dark until about 9:00 p.m. that left only an hour for true night photography. It was still fun, but much too short.
Luckily I would have another chance soon. We had managed to secure a hard-to-get permit to take a workshop group there at night, and added that evening to my Starry Skies Adventure workshop. We had so much fun there with the group. This time we were able to stay until 1:00 a.m., but it wasn’t long enough!
Here’s a selection of both daytime and nighttime images from those recent trips to Bodie. I tried many different ideas, but had to leave other ideas still percolating in the back of my mind, as I just didn’t have time to execute them all. I think there’s so much potential there for creative lighting of both interiors and exteriors, and working with reflections in the old windows. I certainly look forward to going back. If you haven’t been to Bodie, I highly recommend it, even during the middle of the day. And if you get a chance to go in the late afternoon or at night, take it!
— Michael Frye
One of the highlights of the workshop was viewing and photographing a dawn alignment of Venus, Jupiter, and the Moon over Mono Lake last Saturday. It’s hard to convey how gorgeous this was in a photograph, but you’ll find my best attempt above.
We also photographed star trails and the Milky Way, and went to Bodie on our last night. I’ll save the Bodie images for a later post, but you’ll find a selection of other images from the workshop below.