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Eastern Sierra Expedition, 2008

I had visited the Eastern Sierra a few times, but without a photographer’s viewpoint.

As the Fall approached in 2008, the talk on the photo forums quickly turned to discussion about when the colors would peak.  Several posts showed the vibrant colors of the Aspens. I knew I had to check this out.

Photo Trip Madness!

My first plans were to spend a week & visit dozens of locations. The original itinerary was more than a bit ambitious. I would first visit Yosemite, then Mono Lake.  This would be followed by blasting down to Lone Pine & Alabama Hills. Then of course back to Bishop, but only after stopping at the Bristlecone Pines on the way.  When finally in the Bishop area I would explore the Aspens. After all of this stopping in Yosemite again would be a must

This was clearly a frenetic insanity.   This venue packed trip would give me little time to enjoy the scenes, let alone arrive at many of them at a decent time for the light.  Fortunately was gently chastised for this fools approach and encouraged to cut my “bucket list” to a third as many venues.  After some consideration, I paired it down to Mono Lake, Bishop, Bristlecone Pines, Bishop, then Mono again.  You get the picture (no pun intented).  This arrangement allowed me to explore each place more than once. While still tiring, it was a satisfying & productive trip.  Here are a few images from that time.


A Path Through The Apens –

This one deserves a little introduction. I knew from the theme of some of the paintings my wife liked, that pathways were a stong element. Probably something deeply spiritual in that..  Before I had even left on my trip, I wanted to find a scene that not only was appealing to me, but would also be an image she woud like. Several places I stopped at had some of the elements, trees, paths, etc.  But nothing compelling, no special light.  This was taken early afternoon on a hike near Lundy Lake.  I really was attracted to the verigated light along the path. It really gives a sense of depth and invites the eye to explore the trail

Mono Lake, “a Tufa island

Taken after sunset as there was little cloud drama that night.  It does seem cast adrift in the salty lake

Intimate with Aspens

I came upon this late morning when returning to the parking lot. The side/back light really highlighted the way aspen leaves manipulate the light with their translucence

Eastern Sierra Pallette –

This again was one of those “grab shots”  that only later seemed to get my attention.  The pallette of  fall colors of the brush, subdued yellows of the aspens, the evergreens and of course the slightly hazy blue/gray granite.

Young Bristlecone Pine, up close

It is young in a relative sense, maybe only a few hundred years!  These trees are amazing to see up close. Their twisted and colorful look,  evidence of the struggle to survive at 9000ft with little water. The harsher the climate, the longer they seem to live. This was taken about 5pm after I arrived at Schulman Grove. There is a short trail near the parking lot that allowed me to explore easily before the sun went down. This was taken with a 10-20 wide angle on my 40D. I was right at the base of the trunk. This perspective makes the tree look larger than it really is.

A Gift from the White Mountains.

After I had visited Schulman Grove, I stayed at Grandview Campground, just below the grove. While leaving the next morning, to continue my exploring of the Bristlecone Pine groves, I glance to my right and immediately stopped.  I backed up, and took out my gear.  Layered scenes, especially in morning light have always been a favorite. This was a gift.

Mid Morning at North Lake –

I really had missed some sunrise opportunities, but this scene was a classic Eastern Sierra scene in a Fall morning. The Aspens at this lake at 9500 ft were fully turned.  My visit here had been perfectly timed.

Golden Aspen at Lake Sabrina Exit-

This was just below Lake Sabrina, at a creek (name?) that drains it.  Lake Sabrina is one of three lakes in this area that include North Lake and South Lake, that offer colorful views of the Aspens.  This was a great place to be late morning as the sun would finally peek over the canyon wall, back lighting the aspens in many colorful ways. I have returned to this spot on a recent visit and was not disappointed.  The one thing I don’t like about this image is the brightness of the water. A circular polarizing filter would have done wonders to make this a keeper.

Sunrise at Mono Lake, west shore.

Remember what I said my travel plans were, “Mono Lake, Bishop, Bristlecone Pines, Bishop,  Mono again”? Well I actually stayed with that plan. I was able to get basically almost 2 opportunities/days at each location. This is a great way to get not only multiple opportunities, but times of day and lighting.

This image was taken on the morning I was leaving.  While I like the light, it would have been better to get  the more interesting tufa formations the have an almost animated look.  The more southern shore locations might be a better choice.



About Dan Swiger Photpgraphy

Enthusiastic Amateur Photographer Landscapes, child photography & events


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