Aspens and sagebrush, autumn, Inyo NF, CA, USA
In most people’s estimation – including mine – this year was a poor one for fall color on the eastern side of the Sierra. Some aspen groves just turned brown and dropped their leaves early, probably because they were stressed by the drought. Other more well-watered groves turned late. It was hard to find areas where most of the trees were at peak color at the same time.
And yet, despite all that, we found some wonderful color on the east side this fall. I had a great time photographing the aspens before, during, and after our workshops. I posted a couple of eastern-Sierra grand landscape scenes earlier, but here are some more intimate views of the aspens on the east side. Whether the color is early or late, good or bad, there’s always something to photograph over there in October. Nature is resilient, and ever-beautiful.
— Michael Frye
Snow-covered California black oak, late autumn, Yosemite, Tuesday morning
I’m in Dallas today teaching a Lightroom workshop for the Sun to Moon Gallery. We have a nice group of people and we’re having a great time, but meanwhile, back in Yosemite, another storm is arriving. I won’t get to photograph this one, but did get to photograph the previous one last Monday and Tuesday.
That storm featured a brief, misty clearing on Monday morning, a dusting of snow on Monday night, and a couple of surprises. It began on Sunday night, but early Monday morning the satellite and radar images showed that there might be a break around sunrise before more precipitation arrived that afternoon. So I drove up to Tunnel View early, and sure enough, it did clear. It wasn’t the most colorful sunrise, but there was plenty of beautiful mist, as you can see in this photograph:
Aspens and reflections, Uncompahgre NF, Colorado. This small, remote pond had a beautiful stand of aspens growing next to it. The trunks remind me of a baleen whale’s teeth.
As I said in this recent post, I had many opportunities to photograph aspens as part of a larger landscape this fall. But of course I photographed more intimate scenes as well, and I’ve included a selection of smaller-scale aspen photographs from Colorado here. Some of these images actually encompass a large geographic area, but I made the somewhat arbitrary distinction of defining an intimate landscape as anything that didn’t include sky.
On our first autumn visit to Colorado last year we split our time between the Kebler Pass/McClure Pass area and the San Juan Mountains. This year we spent the whole time in the San Juans, which allowed us to get to know this area better. There’s always something to be said for that. As you become more familiar with a place, you discover some of the lesser-known locations. You also start to learn the weather patterns, and know where to go at sunrise or sunset when there might be interesting clouds.
Clouds and mist from Tunnel View, Tuesday morning
It’s nice to see the Yosemite high country covered in snow on the Sentinel Dome webcam – an uncommon sight in recent years. On Monday a large, winter-like storm reached California, dropping over two-and-a-half inches of rain in Yosemite Valley, and from one to two feet of snow at higher elevations. The winter wet season is off to a good start.
I’m not celebrating too much yet, however, because I remember this happening before. During the last four water-starved winters several large, early-season storms have created initial optimism, only to be followed by months of sunny skies. Let’s hope that this is just the first of many big storms to arrive this winter.
Autumn sunrise over the Sneffels Range from the Dallas Divide, CO, USA
As I wrote in my last post, it can be challenging to process high-contrast scenes with important, colorful subjects in the shade – like aspens. You need to lighten the shadows even more than normal to bring out the color, and it’s hard to do that in a natural-looking way, while keeping contrast and depth.
This photograph is a good example. It’s from the Dallas Divide, one of Colorado’s iconic fall locations. Fresh snow on the peaks added interest, but also created more contrast. The morning sun lit the peaks and clouds, but I knew it would be awhile before that light reached the aspens in the foreground, and by that time the color in the sky would be gone. I bracketed three exposures, each one stop apart, in case I needed to blend them together later. But I didn’t need to blend; the final image was processed in Lightroom with just one frame.