Bristlecone Pines Photography Trip 2019

October 3,4,5,6, 2019
(that’s Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday)

Bristlecone 03 bw-web

Ancient Bristlecone Pine in the Patriarch Grove.

We have room for a maximum of about 25-30 participants and we seem to always fill up quickly so if you want to come along you need to let me know ASAP!!!! The fee (see below) will not be due till later but I need to verify our space and food needs as soon as I can.

Join me for our sixth annual photo trip to the Ancient Bristlecone Pines.   Here is the 2019 data.  Due to a number of factors the first available weekend to reserve the wonderful White Mountain Research Station is for a fall trip, October 3-6, 2019.  We usually go in Springs but my health and heavy bookings at the station conspired to delay the trip.  This will be a new season’s experience for all of us so should be interesting and a little different than normal.

We will photograph the bizarre Trona Pinnacles at twilight and get in some deep-sky shooting as well.  Then we will shoot at the beautiful waterfall at Whitney Portal and the other-worldly Alabama Hills.  The highlight of the trip will be spending Friday through Sunday at UCLA’s  Crooked Creek High Altitude Research Station at 10,000 ft in the White Mountains.  This station has dorm style rooms and provides home-cooked meals for the guests.  Here is the URL for the Station so you can see what it is like.

Here is the full itinerary for the trip:


Before the Trip:  We will schedule a preliminary orientation meeting a few weeks before the trip to provide more information and to answer any questions.  Your payment must be made by this date.  At this orientation I’ll provide handouts with maps, directions, info on equipment, clothing, etc. to help you plan for the trip.  I will have waiver forms for both UCLA (who runs the WMRS) and City College (whose Photo program is hosting the workshop) for you to sign.

Thursday:  Travel on your own to Ridgecrest, CA. and rendezvous at a site to be designated in the late afternoon. (See map)  We will have time to stop on the way in Randsburg for some shooting in this living western mining “ghost” town.   After checking in to the motel and having an early dinner we will drive to the strange Trona Pinnacles for a night time/painting with light shoot.

Friday:  After breakfast we will drive to Lone Pine and then up to Whitney Portal (about 8,000 ft) where there is a great waterfall and fast flowing creek to photograph.  Late morning we’ll return to Lone Pine through Alabama Hills then travel north to Big Pine where we’ll turn east to start the climb up to the Crooked Creek Research Station (10,100 ft).   We’ll check into the Research Station mid afternoon then spend the rest of the afternoon relaxing and getting a little better used to the altitude.  Trust me, coming up from sea level you will need to do this.  We will probably have a presentation from your friendly instructor or a guest before dinner. At dinner we’ll get our first home cooked meal prepared by the inimitable Station Master, raconteur, and cook, Tim.  After dinner (actually after all meals), we are responsible for cleaning up the dining hall  including dishes and area.  Then, unless the altitude sends you off to bed, the evening and night skys can be spectacular from this location since the “seeing” is crystal clear (assuming no clouds are overhead) so bring equipment for some night shooting.  Weather permitting I’ll demo and talk about both deep sky/Milky Way photography and painting with light shooting techniques to capture the unique character of this wild scenery. We can discuss this more in depth at the orientation.

Saturday:  After breakfast we’ll travel UP another couple of thousand feet to the Patriarch Grove of Ancient Bristlecone Pines.  There is an abundance of shooting opportunities at the grove and all along the road with its many overlooks over the valley to the Sierras in the west… and of course, lots of these incredibly ancient trees.  We’ll take our time here since your body will still be trying to adjust to the altitude.  We’ll need to slow down, stop and relax often in this oxygen challenged place. At the orientation we’ll cover some things you might do to prepare for this in advance,

In the afternoon, you will have your own free time where you can drive down to visit the Schulman Grove where the Methuselah tree (the oldest in the region) is located and stop both coming and going for other views and vistas along the ridge.  There are also overlooks here of the Sierra Nevada Range that are truly spectacular as well as detail/macro shots of the flora and tree patterns.  Before dinner we will again meet in the station’s classroom for presentations.  After dinner and into the evening we will have a chance for another evening’s shoot, perhaps painting with light of some tree you picked out during the day.

Sunday: After our morning breakfast and area cleanup, you can make preparations to return to San Diego at your leisure.  You are free to roam about and shoot on your own but we must do our house keeping chores at the Station first and then check out by noon.

After the Trip Meeting:  A few weeks after the trip (so you have time to work on some of your images, we will schedule a “show and tell” to see and critique the work produced on the trip.  This meeting will probably be on the City College Campus.

FEES and other trip COSTS

Workshop Fee is $300.00 per person and includes the pre and post meetings, plus the meals and lodging at the Research Station.  This fee must be paid no later than the orientation meeting to guarantee lodging at the Research Station.

Guests:  You are welcome to bring along a guest (spouse, friend, etc.) but they too will need to pay the fee.  UCLA requires a fee even if you come up in your camper but join us for activities at the station.  Trust me on this, you will WANT to sample Tim’s cooking at the lodge.  Not only is it great but its included in the fee.

Additional Costs.  You will be responsible for your own transportation, and the first night’s lodging and meals in Ridgecrest, CA.   Ride sharing and room sharing at the Motel in Ridgecrest can substantially lower those costs.

Road Conditions

Approximately the last 10 miles of the road into the Bristlecone Pines area and the research station is unpaved dirt.  However, virtually any car with normal ‘sedan’ clearance (no low-riders or close-to-the-ground sports cars) and good tires can easily and safely negotiate the road if you drive slowly and carefully. The dirt portion is graded but if the grader has recently been at work it is often lined with pointed  and sharp newly chipped off rocks anxious to eat a tire.  I will be leading the convoy up so there is slim chance of getting lost or off into rough stuff.  But YOU NEED GOOD TIRES!  So far after doing this trip for over 5 years we’ve had one blown tire and it was pretty worn to begin with.  But still, it is no fun changing a tire at 10,000 feet in elevation.


The Crooked Creek Research Station where we will eat and sleep is at about 10,000 ft in elevation.  The available oxygen is far less than you are used to here at sea level. Do NOT exert yourself, especially this first day, it will almost guarantee some altitude sickness symptoms such as headaches, shortness of breath, fatigue.  Especially early in your stay, exertion can make any symptoms you might have much worse. As you hike around looking for a shot, take your time, DON’T PUSH IT?  When you feel winded or tired, STOP, pull up a rock and sit for a moment or two. Dehydration is also a problem so bring and drink plenty of water!!! Most people have few problems with the altitude except being tired or lacking energy and sometimes a headache.  But a few others experience severe headaches or other symptoms.  Trust me, altitude sickness is no laughing matter and can become quite dangerous!   Bring your favorite headache meds and consider bringing an anti-acid since in addition to requiring more red blood cells to process the thinner atmosphere, the altitude creates a chemical imbalance and high acidic state. OR ask your doctor about Diamox to start taking before the trip.  On the advice of their doctors we’ve had a few participants bring a small oxygen tank to take a whiff now and then if needed.  But I don’t know for sure of anyone who has ever had to use it.

And, again, whenever you feel the need, stop, sit down or lay down and relax even if that is every few steps.  Its OK.  We are not planning any major hikes on this trip (though there are trails all over the place) so there is no need to rush about.   At the orientation meeting we will discuss this in some detail (since it is very important) and also mention some other remedies to chat with your doctor about.


I’ll have the latest weather forecasts online for you as it gets closer but be prepared for very cool nights at that altitude although the days might be anything from hot to cool.  Weather predicting in the mountains at high elevations is still more art than science.  The mountains themselves sometimes change the effects of systems flowing over and around them.  Plus the mountain traveler often cannot see major weather moving in until it is on top of them.  At the orientation I’ll have a handout about clothing and other issues.  However if it is sunny or even partly cloudy, regardless of the temperature the thin atmosphere can leave you with a stunningly uncomfortable sun burn in a very short period of time so wear a hat and bring plenty of sunscreen.

Still on the fence?  Well here is a promo video I made for last year’s trek.  The dates are wrong (that was in July and this will be in October) but otherwise will give some visuals to what we are talking about.


If you are interested in participating contact me via email so I can get your name and contact data on my list.  Send the following information in an email to me:

  1. Your name
  2. The name of anyone you are bringing (spouse, etc.) since they will need to pay the same rate.
  3. Your email address
  4. Are you driving your own car?  And if so can you ride share and if not do you need a ride? (I’ll try to connect drivers with room with riders but cannot guarantee it.
  5. Do you require special food service or prep, e.g. vegetarian, Kosher, etc.?

Send this data to me: with the subject line: “Bristlecone Pines Trip”

Here is a previous year’s poster (so ignore the dates on it)… REMEMBER…


THE DATES FOR 2019 ARE OCTOBER 3-6, 2019!  Otherwise nothing has changed from the poster below.

Flyer for the Bristlecone Pines Trip.  Click on the image to enlarge it to make it easier to read.

Flyer for the original Bristlecone Pines Trip.

23 Responses to Bristlecone Pines Photography Trip 2019

  1. Kevin Parish says:

    I don’t have any experience in landscape or night time photography I would enjoy learning and doing

    • ndking says:

      That is why many people do workshops like these — to learn and then hone their skills with practice. And though good images can be found anywhere, it is always fun and exciting to be able to go to places where iconic photographers have produced major work. Sometimes the environment itself is inspiring and helps the educational experience.

  2. Paul Ingham says:

    Please sign me up..

  3. Anthony Drake says:

    I.m a friend of Luke Cessna . And I would like to set up a reservation one of the spots that you have available for the trip. I plan to be driving up with Luke. If I can get the spot that would be great.

  4. Anthony Drake says:
  5. ndking says:

    Thanks, I’ll add it to the list.

  6. Plase add my to the list – ready to sign up 🙂

  7. Bob Hartman says:

    I have sent an email to you with the information. Hope there is space available

  8. Jay Styron says:

    We’re interested. Me, and my wife Liz.

    • ndking says:

      Great. I have added you two to the list. I’ll have an orientation meeting in a couple of weeks and will send you the notice for it. The fee will be due then. It should be a fun trip.


  9. GG says:

    Which motel will we be staying at on Thursday night? Is it the Best Western at Ridgecrest? Thanks

    • ndking says:

      There are several motels in Ridgecrest. I’ll be in the Best Western, but I know some are staying elsewhere. I’d go for price. We’ll establish rendezvous points for the evening trek and then leaving in the morning.

  10. Dean Williams says:


    I am delighted to learn of this trip. My name is Dean Williams and I am a photography enthusiast. My wife, Carissa Williams, not a photo enthusiast, would be joining me on this trip.


    We will be driving our own vehicle and not ride sharing.

    My wife, Carissa, requires diabetic/low carb diet.

    Thank you and look forward to hearing back from you.



    • ndking says:

      Great, welcome aboard. I’ll get your data on the list. As we get closer and/or as I have more information for you I’ll email you. You didn’t say where you were from. I’ll announce an orientation meeting in San Diego as we get closer. For participants not able to attend I’ll have handouts and data sheets to send to you electronically.


  11. Carole says:

    I’d be interested in singing up for your Bristlecone Pine Trip. Not sure how to proceed as I am not a student and live quite a fair distance from your campus, (Campo).

    • ndking says:

      Carole, it is quite simple. Send me an email to and include full name, email address, number in party (and their names and emails) whether or not you have any food issues to alert the cook at the research station concerning, and I will add you to the list. More information will be sent out as we get closer to the actual orientation meeting. If you can’t make that meeting I’ll send out electronic versions of the handouts and forms and waivers I’ll need from all participants. THe fee will not be due until the orientation meeting.

      Welcome aboard, it is always a fun trip.


  12. Taylor Moses says:

    I would love to go! I emailed you through your school email but if you didn’t get it I can email u again on a different email

  13. I want to do it, I’m just don’t want to drive. I’m not familiar with the road but I’m willing to paid for gas and lunch and I can be a good copilot

    • ndking says:

      There are alwaysd some participants that would be glad to have someone to ride withthem and share expenses. I’ll send out word about it shortly. Welcome aboard.

  14. i’ll talk to ya in class thank you

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