Alabama Hills Field Trip November 2014

The Landscape Class at City College took its second field trip, this time to Lone pine, CA and nearby Alabama Hills and Whitney Portal.  There is never enough time!  We have Friday for a few hours, then Saturday, then morning on Sunday and must head back south. Whatever the weather is we must deal with it. Of course we all had to appear at dawn to view the colorful sunrises that often turn the Sierras, and Mt. Whitney a rich salmon color.  This one was interesting: we did get the color but only for an instant and then it was lost to a more typical golden sunrise hue.  But since it is THE ICONIC event in the area, here is this year’s version

Iconic view of the sunrise on Mt. Whitney over the Alabama Hills.  Canon 1Ds MkII with Sigma 50-500 f4.5 at 50mm.  You can click on this or other images to see them enlarged.

Iconic view of the sunrise on Mt. Whitney over the Alabama Hills. Canon 1Ds MkII with Sigma 50-500 f4.5 at 50mm. You can click on this or other images to see them enlarged.

You may notice a marked similarity to the background shot for this blog’s banner.  This year’s shot was done from a slightly different angle and instead of the more typical (for me) wide angle view, this was shot at 50mm. As a last field test of the big Sigma lens I wanted to try and shoot EVERYTHING on this field trip with it.  I did manage to do that except for a few done with the little Canon 120S.  In fact here is a shot of the Sigma lens mounted on a Canon 1Ds MkII which was the camera and lens used for all of the landscape shots.  Here it is racked out to about 350mm.

The big Sigma 50-500mm F4.5 mounted on the Canon 1Ds MkII looking out over the Alabama Hills.  Shot with Canon 120S.

The big Sigma 50-500mm F4.5 mounted on the Canon 1Ds MkII looking out over the Alabama Hills. Shot with Canon 120S.

Because I have been here quite a bit, I am way beyond the slack jawed stupor at the fantasy, otherworldly sense of this place and so can concentrate of specifics.  It has been quite a while since I was here this time of year; I usually am here in the Spring or summer. So this time I wanted to concentrate on subjects that indicated the onslaught of winter. To my surprise, however, there was still a lot of Fall Color that I could not ignore.  I got quite a few very colorful images but no better example was this shot of a lone tree growing from a small opening in the rocks.  If you look through the branches you can see Mt. Whitney in the background.

A brilliant golden tree and Mt. Whitney among the rocks of Alabama Hills.

A brilliant golden tree and Mt. Whitney among the rocks of Alabama Hills.

As kind of a sidebar, I am also now always on the lookout for strange clouds for my friend Jeff who teaches earth sciences.  Here, Jeff, is one from this trip you might find interesting.

Strange cloud for Jeff's earth sciences class.

Strange cloud for Jeff’s earth sciences class.

Mt. Whitney dominates the valley with its rocky saw tooth crags.  I shot this at 500mm from the Tuttle Creek Road and the haze turned it all blue so making it a grey scale images seemed like a natural.

Late afternoon light sculpts the crags on Mt. Whitney.

Late afternoon light sculpts the crags on Mt. Whitney.  It looks like a perfect location for a Dracula movie…

The Whitney Portal Road goes up to the base of Mt Whitney and the trailhead to climb the peak from this eastern side.  Near the parking lot is a picnic ground, a small normally stocked fishing pond, and a wonderful waterfall (which according to the genuine USGS topographical map is actually a rapids…  I’ve done a lot of whitewater rafting in my time but THIS is not something I would ever consider going over… Anyway, the temperature up here was very chilly and nights were well below freezing.  So the little pond had a good crust of ice and some interesting patters from the early freezing/thawing sequences.

A crust of ice on the little fi.shing pond at Whitney Portal

A crust of ice on the little fi.shing pond at Whitney Portal.  This would have been the place for the tilt-shift lens but I had promised myself to only use the one lens…

In the reflection are the slopes of Mt Whitney.  The waterfall itself had a seriously diminished flow from normal due largely to the drought we have been experiencing.  As each trickle froze on the rocks, the water had to find a new channel and by the time we were there, frozen icicles made it look almost normal.

Frozen waterfall at Whitney Portal.

Frozen waterfall at Whitney Portal.

But what really got my attention was further down the little creek.  The Water spray had formed ice on the branches that brought my memory around to a Fall and Spring horror in the west and Midwest: “Ice Storms!”  Freezing drizzle would coat and encapsulate everything with ice.  It was really quite beautiful in its own way but it was deadly.  Cattle and horses would slip and fall on it, we often would run ropes from outbuildings to anything we could find to help us hang on and not fall ourselves.  And driving was a truly terrifying experience as it became what was euphemistically called “Black Ice.” But here, along this little creek, all that remained was the beauty.

water spray encapsulates the branches and twigs in ice over the Whiteny Portal creek below the falls.

water spray encapsulates the branches and twigs in ice over the Whiteny Portal creek below the falls.

One shot I will have to show later was a night shot combining painting with light and the milky way to illustrate one of the student’s new Range Rover.  It is really his shot but another student and I were the “gaffers” lighting the car so when he gets it together hopefully he will let me show it here.

There was one weird thing… another photo group was up there staying at the Dow Villa as were we.  But the leader, whoever he was, seemed most unsocial.  When asked where they were from he said “Southern California.”  Well that covers some territory.  Then he added the participants were, “from all over — ALL over.”  But he never introduced himself.  Most of the other instructors I meet along the way, may of them pretty well known, are quite interested in chatting about their group or themselves, but this guy was borderline rude in his attempts to turn away any conversation.  Oh well…

Meantime this will be a busy week.  I accepted a nomination for the B&W Challenge to put up 5 B&W shots on FaceBook.  I make it a rule to never post my photos on FB because it is simply turning them over to the application to rip off and use as they want.  But this seemed like good natured fun and since I rarely show B&W anymore I decided to do it.  When it is done I’ll add them all on a post here.

Oh, and yes, I go in Wednesday to have surgery on my wrist to relieve a bone-on-bone with spurs situation and let me use the wrist without pain.  I never look forward to the hospital but I am very much looking forward to losing the pain.  Next then will be the other shoulder…

And finally, yes, I am officially totally supportive of the new Sigma lens!  I do wish it was a lot lighter but otherwise it has worked quite well for me.

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About ndking

Commercial Photographer and Professor of Photography at San Diego City College
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