Tuesday, December 28, 2010

2010 Fall Color Tour

This years fall color tour found me traveling to the Eastern Sierras, the White Mountains and Zion National Park. With colorful leaves the quest of my tour, I scoured the famed Bishop Creek drainage for some high mountain autumn scenery. The North Lake area was at or near peak fall display as was Sabrina Lake and the South Bishop Creek water shed the first weekend of October. Friday afternoon and Saturday morning I was able to get some awesome images of this area before moving on to the June Lake Loop area. Although mostly green still, I drove the loop and looked for pockets of color but with the cloud deck dropping lower each hour that afternoon I decided to look elsewhere. The winter storm bearing down on the area forced me to retreat to lower ground and I decided to try my luck at Mono Lake for sunset. Mono Lake is a large saltwater lake in the lower elevations of the Eastern Sierra. Known for its tufa formations which were created by freshwater ground seep and have since been exposed as lake levels have dropped creating an otherworldly landscape. Unfortunately, the heavy cloud cover to the west obscured the sunset and made for a less than spectacular photography session. I decided to come back at sunrise hoping the heavy clouds would not be factor in the eastern sky. As luck would have it, this turned out to be a good decision as the sun cleared the White Mountains to the east and illuminated the tufa formations, darkening the lake waters and reflecting the light under the cloud canopy to the west I was able to capture some once in a lifetime images. The light quality was special that morning as it began to sprinkle, a rainbow appeared...then a second...and finally a faint third. Only for a few short minutes did the entire rainbow become visable from end to end. By mid-morning I was exploring a few other Sierra drainages hoping to find some more fall color. I checked out Lundy Canyon, Convict Lake and McGee Creek with not much luck as the cloud deck was too heavy and visibility began dropping as the morning turned to afternoon. When it began to rain I packed it up and headed south to the town of Big Pine before heading east to the Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest in the White Mountains. Check out all the new fall color image additions now in my Eastern Sierras gallery. By mid-afternoon I was walking among the oldest living things on earth. The Ancient Bristlecone Pines are upwards of 4800 years old. Although it was still cloudy with occasional light sprinkles I hiked one of the Schulman Groove loops and was able to capture a few good images when a break in the clouds drifted by and provided a dramatic back drop the rocky mountain peaks and weathered wood of the pines. The next morning, I returned to the Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest only to retreat as the brunt of the winter storm was now upon me so I headed for home. You can check out these new images in my California gallery. Zion National Park would be my next fall color photo destination the first week of November. Located in southwest Utah this area tends to have the best fall color in late October and early November. My first fall sunset in the park would be at a bridge over the Virgin River featuring yellow Fremont Cotton Woods in the foreground and the Watchman slopes drenched in golden warm light of the setting sun in the background. The next day I went to the Towers of the Virgin, a chain of peaks best viewed from behind the Zion Museum, at sunrise to capture these peaks as the sun begins to illuminate the mountain peaks form the east. The remainder of the day was spend up and down the canyon photographing the area and I returned once again to that bridge for sunset over looking the Virgin River. The next morning I was up before dawn and on my way to the Subway. The Subway, located in the east central part of Zion NP, is a bend in the Left Fork of North Creek, a tributary to the Virgin River, that has carved out a tunnel like subway channel in the sandstone creek bed. This 9 mile round trip hike is mostly uneventful until you are within a half mile of the Subway portion of the creek. As the creek widen, waterfalls and wide cascades become more common and just before the Subway a very photogenic crack that channels the water for about 50 feet comes into view. Finally, the Subway appears, punctuated with blue-green pools of water that cascade form one to another highlighted by soft reflective light from above. The rounded side walls channel the light through the subway tunnel in a magical kind of way. Not to mention the bright yellow and red leaves on the trees above as well as on the creek bed add to the magic of this mysterious place. I spent the majority of the day here before hiking back out but I still had time to go to that bridge again in hopes of capturing some color in the high serous clouds stream overhead at sunset. The next morning after trying my luck at the Towers of the Virgin at sunrise, I made my way out the east entrance of the park stopping to photograph more fall color along the way. Once out of the park I headed over to the Coral Pink Sand Dunes SP and then on to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. After spending the night at the Grand Canyon I made my way back toward home with one final stop at the Valley of Fire SP in Nevada. You will find all my images from this trip in my Utah Gallery, enjoy!

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