Fall in the Eastern Sierra
On my way to a loooong planned photography workshop. A buddy from high school and I have been trying to make this happen for three years. Photography has been the common thread that reconnected us after that period when we were focused on family and career.
The US Government had shut down the day before, which left the workshop in a lurch -,most of the venues were National Park or US Forrest Service lands, and it was nuclear if we could shoot in those iconic spots. In fact, since Yosemite was closed, I was unsure I could cross Hwy 120, the Tioga Pass, which is the closest and most beautiful pass through the Sierra Nevada mountain range.
I had wanted to avoid the Bay Area morning commute traffic and give myself some time to do some relaxed shooting if the opportunity presented itself. My gear was all prep'd and the car was gassed and packed the night before. I was out the door at 5:00 am and had a smooth ride all the way accross California. The one unknown was if I would be let through the Tioga Pass. (The Tioga Pass cuts through Yosemite National Park.) IF I couldn't pass there, I would have to drive north to catch another mountain pass - a long way out of the way, and hours more driving. Hence the early hour departure.
Turned out that Hwy 120 was open (maintained by CalTrans - Ca State and not federal) but there were no rangers except for those at the gates. They discouraged stopping, but didn't have manpower to enforce that. Lots of folks pulled over, many hiking and even setting out on backpacking trips. The greatly reduced traffic made the drive truely enjoyable, and I did make several stops to, uhm, er, stretch. I may have snapped a few photos, but I was really stopping to alleviate driver's fatigue - safety first!
Selfie at Olmstad Point. Commission of a Federal Offense.
The first morning we had our meet and greet and then got started. After grabbing a sack lunch we headed up 10,000 ft to our first venue - Little Lakes Valley. Down the mountain to the Owens Valley floor and Red Rock canyon to build upon what we had learned earlier. We kept this pace for the entire workshop - up at 4:30, meet at Starbuck's at 5:00, hit the road by 5:30 sharp. Tripods up at 6:30 and commence shooting! Move on to a different location, new exercises to build. This continued to sunset and beyond, shooting the Milky Way and stars after darkness set in.
Each venue was terrific, but the night astrophotography was, well, stellar! It was cold, but what a blast. High Sierra Workshops had gathered special permission to photograph at the Deep Dish Space Array Complex at CARMA - Combined Array for Research in Milimeter-wave Astronomy: http://www.mmarray.org While my fingers got numb from the cold, and I was bone-tired, I think we all had the most terrific time - I was gigglin' with Mike the whole time. And, by this time, classmates would see how everybodie's doing, and would help when problems needed to be solved. The camaraderie and the content were fantastic!
I hope you enjoy these photos - and if you get the impression that I was blissed out every moment, then my photos indeed captured the experience...
Keywords: Eastern Sierra Nevada, High Sierra Workshops, astrophotography, autumn, fall
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