Travels and Stories

Eastern Sierra in Winter

Early-morning light on Lone Pine Peak and the Alabama Hills, CA, USA

Early-morning light on Lone Pine Peak and the Alabama Hills, CA, USA

Claudia and I drive over to the eastern Sierra frequently in summer and fall, when Tioga Pass is open. We love it over there. But in the winter and spring Tioga Pass is usually closed, turning a two-and-a-half hour drive into an eight-hour drive. Until recently I had never been to Mono Lake in winter except during a couple of exceptionally-dry years when the pass stayed open later than usual – which hardly seemed like winter.

Our trip to photograph the lunar eclipse gave us an opportunity to do something we had always wanted to do: visit the east side in real winter conditions. I photographed sunrise at the Alabama Hills on Sunday morning before the eclipse, and then again on Monday morning, after the eclipse, as a storm was clearing over the Sierra.

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A Lunar Experience

Lunar eclipse sequence, Trona Pinnacles, CA, USA, 1-20-19

Lunar eclipse sequence, Trona Pinnacles, CA, USA, January 20th, 2019

The weather forecasts prior to last Sunday’s lunar eclipse showed lots of clouds over the western U.S. Lots of clouds. On Thursday before the eclipse it looked like we might possibly find clear skies in southern Arizona, or around Death Valley, but the chances for either location looked slim.

By Saturday it appeared that southern Arizona would probably be covered in clouds at eclipse time. Yet computer models for the evening of the eclipse kept showing a small slot of clear sky extending from about Lancaster, California (in the desert north of Los Angeles) northeast through the Trona Pinnacles, Death Valley, and continuing into Nevada and Utah. I couldn’t think of anything in Nevada to use as a foreground, but Death Valley or the Trona Pinnacles could certainly work.

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Sunset at the Trona Pinnacles

Sunset, Trona Pinnacles, CA, USA

Sunset, Trona Pinnacles, CA, USA

Claudia and I just got back from a short road trip to the eastern Sierra and Trona Pinnacles. We ended up at Trona for the lunar eclipse on Sunday evening, as the forecasts indicated that would be one of the few places west of the Rockies with clear skies.

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A Brief Detour through the Canyon Country

Storm clouds at sunset, Capitol Reef NP, UT, USA

Storm clouds at sunset, Capitol Reef National Park, Utah

On our way back from Colorado last month, Claudia and I spent a couple of nights in southern Utah. We had dinner with one of Utah’s most talented and thoughtful photographers, Guy Tal, along with his wife Sarah. (If you’re not familiar with Guy’s photography and writing you should be!) And we enjoyed the change in scenery, going from the forested, snowy mountains of Colorado to the red-rock canyons.

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Dogwood Rebirth

Yosemite fall color: firs and dogwoods, autumn, Yosemite

Firs and dogwoods, autumn, Yosemite. Dogwoods have proliferated in this area burned by the Rim Fire in 2013. 116mm, 15 seconds at f/16, ISO 100.

One afternoon about ten days ago Claudia and I headed up Highway 120, west of Yosemite Valley, to check on the fall color. We found some colorful dogwoods between the Valley and Crane Flat, but west of Crane Flat most of the dogwoods were brown, scorched by the Ferguson Fire last summer. Or, to be more accurate, they had been scorched by firing operations (back burns) performed by firefighters along the road.

We decided to hike down to the Tuolumne Grove of giant sequoias. While the Ferguson Fire didn’t reach the Tuolumne Grove, the Rim Fire did in 2013. The media latched onto this story, with headlines about the fire threatening these ancient trees.

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Aspen Pilgrimage

Aspen kaleidoscope, Uncompahgre NF, CO, USA

Aspen kaleidoscope, Uncompahgre NF, CO, USA

Claudia and I made our annual pilgrimage to Colorado to see the aspens, with a short detour into some Utah canyons. We’ve actually been traveling for three weeks, and just got home. During our trip we got up before sunrise almost every morning, and stayed out until after sunset nearly every evening. I kept thinking that I should post some photos, but there always seemed to be some interesting weather, and photos to be made, and barely enough time to eat, sleep, and then get up at 5:30 and do it all over again.

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