As I said in my last post, we had remarkably clear skies during our recent Starry Skies Adventure workshop, despite the proximity of the Walker Fire. But 24 hours before the workshop started the situation was uncertain and changing quickly. We didn’t know what would happen with the fire, and whether we’d see any stars through the smoke. Some workshop participants decided to take a rain check (smoke check?), which was completely understandable under the circumstances. But most people chose to come anyway and take their chances. In the end we had a great time. There were moments, while standing under the stars in the clear, cool, night air, when the fire seemed like a vague, distant memory.
Archive for the ‘New Images’ Category
Our Starry Skies Adventure workshop turned out to be a little more adventurous than we thought. Just before we left our home in Mariposa last Saturday to head for the workshop I checked the satellite photos online. The Rough Fire near King’s Canyon National Park had been sending smoke north, so I was keeping an eye on it. But my last-minute check revealed a new smoke plume just to the southwest of Mono Lake. Uh oh. Our workshop was based in Lee Vining, on the west shore of Mono Lake, only a few miles from that smoke plume.
I could see the smoke from this new fire on one of the Yosemite webcams. I found that it was called the Walker Fire, and that it had started the night before near Walker Lake, but I couldn’t find any up-to-date information about the fire’s size and location. When Claudia and I left home about 3:00 p.m. the Tioga Road (Highway 120) through the park was still open. But when we got to Tuolumne Meadows we found that the fire had closed the road between the eastern entrance of the park and Highway 395. What do we do now? We decided we had to drive around over Sonora Pass and check out the fire in person. That meant five extra hours of driving, and a long night ahead of us.
This summer I’ve often heard my fellow Californians making comments like, “Weird weather we’re having,” or “Interesting weather, isn’t it?” Yes indeed. Typically most of the state receives no precipitation from May through September, but this summer we’ve had lots of subtropical moisture drifting northward into the state, triggering showers and thunderstorms. The rains have mostly been light and scattered, so haven’t made any real dent in the drought, but have created interesting conditions for photography.
Last Thursday forecasters predicted another subtropical surge approaching, but we didn’t see much sign of it at our house. Then Claudia and I got into our hot tub around 10:30 p.m. (our nightly ritual before going to bed) and immediately noticed distant flashes of lightning. We couldn’t figure out where they were coming from at first; maybe the west? So I got out of the tub to check radar images, and saw that the nearest storms that could possibly be creating lightning were near the coast! That seemed impossibly far, but then last summer at Mono Lake, during our Starry Skies workshop, we saw distant flashes of lightning, and they turned out to be in eastern Nevada, 200 miles away. So yes, it was indeed possible to see flashes from lightning in the coast ranges, only 80 miles from our house.
I love mirror reflections. The symmetry they create, with the bottom of the photograph mimicking the top, almost automatically adds repetition and creates patterns, helping to unify the image and give it rhythm.
The photograph above is a good example. I made this about two weeks ago near Tioga Pass, with some fantastic clouds passing by late in the afternoon. It’s not a perfect mirror, as the water is slightly rippled, but it’s close enough. The clouds and their reflections form a big X through the picture, a pattern that echoes some of the diagonals in the mountains. This design draws your eye from the middle of the frame out to the corners, giving the image a sense of dynamic energy. None of that would happen without the mirror reflections.
On the other hand, I love rippled water too. (more…)
Last week I mentioned that the weather forecast called for monsoonal moisture to move up into the Sierra Nevada from the south, with possible showers and thunderstorms. And sure enough, things unfolded pretty much as predicted. Rain was very localized; we got sprinkled on a couple of times at our house in Mariposa, but other nearby areas got dumped on when they received a direct hit from a thunderstorm.
Wednesday night brought thunder to the foothills near our house – that’s when I made the lightning photograph from my last post. But we saw interesting clouds all week. Claudia and I made two trips to Glacier Point, and I also photographed some beautiful moonlit clouds from our driveway, and made a trip into the lower foothills, where I found some striking, colorful sunbeams.
What do all these photographs have in common – aside from clouds? Patterns. All of these images have some kind of repeating pattern or design in the clouds.
We had some pre-Fourth-of-July fireworks here Wednesday night. At about 11:00 p.m. I let our dog Rider out before going to bed, and noticed flashes in the sky to the south. Sleep could wait! Claudia and I headed to a nearby viewpoint on Triangle Road, and saw lightning in three separate storm cells to the southeast, south, and southwest.
When watching thunderstorms you often only see cloud-to-cloud lightning, but on this night we could see some distinct bolts hitting the ground. I watched closely to try to determine where the most lightning activity was taking place. My first try didn’t work, but then another spot further to the right seemed to become more active, so I pointed my camera there, locked the tripod, and captured a series of 30-second exposures (each at f/9.5, 800 ISO). This photograph is a blend of five separate frames capturing seven or eight lightning bolts.
Today is the solstice, the official start of summer. It’s felt like summer for weeks here in the Sierra foothills. It’s been hot, and dry. Four (!) fires broke out near Mariposa and Oakhurst Thursday; fortunately they were all subdued quickly.
As promised, here are some more images from our time up in the redwoods. I just love this area, with all its damp, primeval moodiness. Claudia and I were there for almost two weeks, and experienced a great variety of weather, including fog, overcast, sun, clouds, and some colorful sunsets. And on the last day of the workshop we went to a beach near Trinidad during a minus tide, where we found some beautiful pools and reflections, and easy access to starfish and other tide-pool creatures.
The variable weather required flexibility. Anyone who’s taken a workshop with me knows that I rarely tell the group very far in advance where we’ll be going. I’d rather wait until the last minute to assess the weather, then go where conditions seem most promising.
Claudia and I did head up to the high country yesterday afternoon, and found some great clouds. We drove through a nice downpour near Crane Flat, then continued up to Tuolumne Meadows, where I photographed a beautifully-shaped cloud reflected in one of the ponds (above). Later a storm cell formed over the peaks to the east, creating another dramatic cloud formation (below). That cell gradually dissipated, but some clouds still lingered until sunset (the last photo below). It was a really fun afternoon – I’m glad I finally made it up there!