Friday, February 27, 2015

Mono Lake

After the photo tour ended in Death Valley (I will get to some images from there eventually), I made my way up the eastern side of the Sierra Nevada range. I arrived at Mono Lake mid afternoon to scout around for some possible compositions. I literally blew into the Visitor Center looking for direction to get to the tufas (the formations seen on the foreground), only find the center closed for the winter. I had passed signs saying the highway was closed to trucks and RVs due to high winds just north of here. As I got out of my car, I could not stand up! It was blowing that hard. The last time I encountered winds that high was during Hurricane Isabel some years ago. I found a note saying visitors could get information downtown. The town is about two blocks long, so finding the place was not hard. Armed with a map and directions I made my way to the lake's edge.

Thankfully, the wind was not so bad at the water's edge. My initial reaction was that finding a composition I might like was going to be challenging. Mono Lake is perhaps the oldest body of water in the US and has no outlet. The water is twice as salty as the ocean. The tufas are carbonate formations made from fresh water bubbling up from the lake bottom over long periods of time. Over the years, much of the flow of water into the lake had been diverted to cities in southern California. As a result many of the tufa formations are now on dry land instead of in the water. After a large environmental fight, more water is now being allowed to flow into the lake and the water level is to rise back to levels in the 60's (as I recall). With the ongoing drought in California I guess it is going to take longer to refill than some would wish for.

I had hoped to perhaps do some star trails at night but the moon was near full, eliminating that option. The high winds were associated with a front that insured cloudless skies.  As is often the case with landscape photography, one must make the best of what is offered. So I hit the rack early in order to get up early in hopes of some early morning color. Perhaps less than 2 or 3 minutes of this color was it before the sun edged over the horizon with harsh light.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Eureka Outhouse

Recently while on a photo tour/BW workshop, we were taken to the Eureka Gold Mine. Leaving the lodge at Stovepipe Wells, we took a left and drove west up out of Death Valley. We easily gained two or three thousand feet in elevation in short order before taking another left into the hills. Soon the pavement ended and the washboards and dust began. After a few miles of teeth rattling we arrived in a sort of plain with a couple of hills in the middle, surrounded by mountains. The caravan came to a halt and our leader basically said we are going to take pictures here until sunset.

The park service had erected a info sign, thankfully, explaining what the story to this place was. I say thankfully because at first glance it looked more like we had stopped at a dump than any photographic place of interest. The vandals had been at work on the small house the minor had lived in, punching holes in the walls. The long and short of it was shortly after 1900 a prospector has identified the aforementioned hill to be quartz and therefore a potential gold mine. The guy toiled away for 40 some years until he died around WWII. Gold he did find. Reportedly, about $150,000 worth at $20 per ounce, as I recall. I kept thinking for all that much time and effort the amount of tailings left over seemed rather small.

As it neared time to leave and light was failing I spotted this outhouse out back, still standing after a century.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Valley of Fire

Earlier this month I had quite the trip out west, mixing business and pleasure. It wouldn't be much of a trip if I left my camera behind, would it? I had signed up for a Black/White Photo Tour with John Barclay and Dan Sniffin that featured renowned BW photographer Chuck Kimmerle. You would be hard pressed to meet another who can match Chuck's zesty zingers. BW is not something I naturally lean toward so this photo trip was meant to stretch me out of my color box.

While I did capture many color images I am happy with, the BW process has been a fun challenge. This isn't quite the composition I wanted. After at least a mile hike in over pretty rough country I found myself alone with this rock called The Wave. Wishing I had a 14mm lens, I set out to make due with my widest at 17mm. No sooner than getting all set up and waiting half an hour for the sun to set, another workshop group tromped in. So much for the solitude. I knew if I stayed put no one else would get much of a shot with me in it, so I moved to the second best spot to share. As a result I was contorted around my tripod, unable to move for over half an hour. I finally got the kinks out of my back three days later. On the other hand, I was fortunate to have these wispy clouds move into the frame at the last minute to lend some interest to the sky. It was dark by the time I trudged back to the car and the rest of the waiting group. "Did you get it?", they asked. I'll let you answer the question.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Alabama Hills

I have been nearly two weeks on the road: New Mexico, Nevada and California. Business stops have book ended a photo tour in Valley of Fire and Death Valley (more on that soon). After leaving Death Valley, I stopped in Alabama Hills, just outside of Lone Pine, California. Another place with unique rocks!

Just beyond lies the Sierra Nevada range including Mount Whitney (out of the frame to the right), the tallest mountain in the lower 48 states at 14,505 feet high.