Posts Tagged ‘Eastern Sierra’

Autumn Landscapes

Sunday, November 1st, 2015
Sunbeams, San Juan Mountains, CO, USA

Sunbeams, San Juan Mountains, Colorado. Driving over Lizard Head Pass we came around a bend and spotted these sunbeams coming through the clouds. Claudia found a place to pull over, and I scrambled to set up my camera as quickly as possible. Wind was blowing rain right toward the camera, so it was a challenge to keep water drops off the lens. I stayed for at least 20 minutes capturing images of the sunbeams as they moved and changed, but this was the very first frame. A challenging photo to process!

With their straight, white trunks and colorful leaves, aspens are great subjects for intimate landscapes. But in both Colorado and the eastern Sierra this fall we had lots of interesting weather, with great clouds, which created many opportunities to capture images of aspens as part of a larger landscape, with mountains in the background. I’ve posted a couple of these photographs already (here and here), but I’ve included a few more in this post.

These images were sometimes challenging to process. Often the aspens were in the shade, with sunlit, sometimes snow-covered peaks above, creating a lot of contrast. Yet all of these images were processed in Lightroom, with just one Raw file – no exposure blending or HDR. I used Lightroom’s wonderful Highlights and Shadows tools, plus some dodging and burning with the Adjustment Brush.


Eastern Sierra Fall Color Update

Sunday, October 18th, 2015
Carson Peak and aspens during a clearing storm, June Lake Loop, Inyo NF, CA, USA

Peak and aspens during a clearing storm, June Lake Loop, Friday morning

The past week has been very warm, so there hasn’t been a big color change at the lower elevation aspen groves in the eastern Sierra during that time. But there’s definitely more color in those areas, and some great spots, although much of the June Lake Loop and Lee Vining Canyon are still green. Conway Summit, which is a little higher, has some very colorful groves, although it also has some bare trees, and green ones as well. Several spots in the greater Lee Vining area seem to have more oranges and reds than usual.

We also found some beautiful color in Bishop Creek Canyon. North Lake is past peak, though there was still some nice color along the shore. But lower down we found lots of colorful trees, especially along the road to South Lake.


Fall Color in the Eastern Sierra

Monday, October 12th, 2015
Aspens and lodgepole pines, Lee Vining Canyon, Inyo NF, CA, USA

Aspens and lodgepole pines, upper Lee Vining Canyon, yesterday afternoon

After returning from Colorado, and spending a couple of days at home, Claudia and I are back in the eastern Sierra. Yesterday we scouted areas around Lee Vining, and most of the aspen groves here are at about the stage you would expect for the second week of October. That means that the lower-elevation aspens still have a lot of green, and more color can be found in the mid- and high-elevation areas. The best color we saw was in Warren Canyon (in upper Lee Vining Canyon), around Conway Summit (including the lowest part of the road to Virginia Lakes), and Dunderberg. The June Lake Loop and lower Lee Vining Canyon still show a lot of green. We didn’t visit Lundy Canyon yet, but heard there was some nice color there.

We also found some aspen groves that seem to have lost their leaves prematurely. These tend to be in drier areas, so that might a sign of the drought. But these places are a minority, and most of the aspens look healthy and are changing according to their normal schedule.


Early Fall Color Report

Monday, September 21st, 2015
Quaking aspens, autumn, Lee Vining Canyon, Inyo NF, CA, USA

Quaking aspens, Lee Vining Canyon, October 24, 2003

Claudia and I just returned from our annual trip to the Millpond Music Festival and (as Joe Craven puts it) “consciousness-raising event.” We had a wonderful time, as usual. The festival may or may not have raised my consciousness, but it sure was relaxing and fun.

Since the festival takes place in Bishop, on the eastern side of the Sierra Nevada, the trip gives me a chance to check on the early fall color over there. Every year, it seems, some early-changing leaves lead to online predictions that the aspens will turn early. This year I’ve also heard a lot of speculation about the effect the drought will have on the autumn color, and even seen a few actual reports of aspens turning brown and dropping their leaves early.

Driving down to Bishop last Friday, the color didn’t look early at all. There were some yellow and lime-green aspens at the mouth of Warren Canyon (along Highway 120 in upper Lee Vining Canyon), and some lime-green trees on Parker Bench, but everything else looked dark green. Warren Canyon and Parker Bench are both high-elevation, early-changing locations, so that all looked pretty typical for this time of year.


Autumn Light

Wednesday, October 29th, 2014
Late-afternoon sun in an aspen grove, Toiyabe NF, CA, USA

Late-afternoon sun in an aspen grove, Eastern Sierra. Backlight makes autumn leaves glow, but to avoid lens flare you have to either shade the lens (if the sun is out of the frame), or partially hide the sun behind a tree, as I did here.

Light is a vital aspect of any photograph, and always the first thing I think about when deciding where to go with my camera. The more you understand light, the better your photographs will be.

Any kind of light can work for fall color – under the right circumstances. But some kinds seem to work better than others. While photographing and leading workshops in the eastern Sierra, I was usually looking for backlight or soft light on the aspens – or best of all, soft backlight.


Back in the Sierra

Tuesday, October 14th, 2014

Aspen-covered hillside, autumn, Toiyable NF, CA, USA

Aspen-covered hillside, yesterday afternoon, near Bridgeport, California

I’m back on the eastern side of the Sierra Nevada, my home mountains, getting ready for our upcoming workshops. There’s some great color over here. I made this photograph yesterday afternoon up near Bridgeport, and especially liked the mix of colors on this hillside, with yellow, gold, orange, and green.

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.


Aspens in the Snow

Thursday, December 5th, 2013

Aspens and pines in an autumn snowstorm, Toiyabe NF, CA, USA

Aspens and pines in an autumn snowstorm, Toiyabe NF, CA, USA; 1/8 sec at f/22, ISO 50

In October I fulfilled a long-time dream: to photograph autumn aspens in the snow. I posted one photograph from that snowy day here, and two more from the following morning here. But I made a lot of other images during that storm, and now finally have a chance to show you some of them.

On that snowy October day it was a challenge to keep my camera dry, keep snow and water drops off the lens, and stay warm myself. But it was a rare opportunity, and I didn’t want to wait until the snow stopped, because the falling snow itself gave the photographs an ethereal quality, almost like fog.


A Few Spots Left in the Eastern Sierra Fall Color Workshop

Monday, January 14th, 2013

Aspen grove, late afternoon, Lee Vining Canyon, Inyo NF, CA, USA

Aspen grove, late afternoon, Lee Vining Canyon, Inyo NF, CA, USA

If you’re not subscribed to my email list you missed the announcement of my Eastern Sierra Fall Color: Composition and Creativity Among the Aspens workshop next fall. We had such a great response to this offering that it sold out the first day! But the good news is that we decided to run a second edition of this course from October 20-23, 2013, and there are still a few spots available.

I made the accompanying photograph during the first edition of this workshop last October. We photographed this aspen grove late in the afternoon as the lowering sun backlit the yellow leaves. This was my favorite image from that spot, but I saw many interesting, unusual compositions by everyone else that afternoon, both on the back of people’s cameras and later during image reviews. You can see some of the participant’s photographs in this Flickr group.


Eastern Sierra Fall Color Workshop

Wednesday, October 24th, 2012
Backlit aspens, Saturday afternoon

Backlit aspens, Saturday afternoon

Mike Osborne and I just completed our Eastern Sierra Fall Color workshop this past weekend. It was a lot of fun—wonderful people, beautiful weather, and lots of color.

The focus of this workshop was composition and creativity, and it was great to see the participants growing and learning during the class. I saw a lot of beautiful compositions and imaginative ideas on the back of people’s cameras and in the evening image-review sessions.

One of the things we talked about during this class was the creative process. This process varies from one person to another, of course, and can also change depending on the situation and subject. Sometimes—especially with my nighttime work—I plan out every detail in advance. At other times—particularly if I’m in what Mike calls a “target-rich environment,” with interesting subjects and light—then I tend to work quickly, reacting to the changing light and photographing whatever catches my eye at that moment.

The accompanying photographs show a small demonstration of that “reactive” process in an aspen grove on Saturday afternoon. When we first arrived at this spot the trees were in the sun, and the backlit orange leaves against the blue sky were a striking sight. We all tried different compositions—looking up, looking into the sun, using both wide-angle and telephoto lenses. Of my own images, I ended up liking the wide-angle frame at the top of this post the best, with the sun about to dip behind the background ridge.