Tuesday, October 07, 2014

Published 11:50 AM by with 2 comments

Splendor in the Sierras

As mentioned previously, I am studying the work of Ansel Adams in great detail and have been fortunate to be able to trace some of his travels through my own adventures on the road. I am continuing my exploration of landscapes in the black and white medium and hoping his influence on me is strengthening my photographs and not turning me into a second rate imitator. Either way, it's stimulating and inspiring me to appreciate the experience of being there, not just pressing the shutter.

I recently visited the quaint town of Lone Pine just off Highway 395 in California. This is Sierras country and Adams took several of his most well known photographs there. My main stomping ground during our stay was an amazing drive right up to Lone Pine Peak itself called Whitney Portal Road. The views are breathtaking and I kept pinching myself to make sure I wasn't in a dream. 

During our stay at Lone Pine, Linda and I visited the Manzanar National Historic Site. It was quite a moving experience. This was one of several relocation centers set up when the US declared war on Japan in World War II. What was unique for me was the abundance of personal stories and anecdotes. It was as close to being there as is possible for someone like me. Of course I could never even imagine what it was really like but the visitors center wasn't just about statistics and facts. This old truck was eye-catching to me against the drama of the mountains.

I love horses and will stop to photograph and hang out with them whenever I can. These two were hanging out in the middle of what seemed like nowhere. They were friendly and we had a nice few moments together.

There are lizards everywhere in this part of the country and I have to get used to this new precedent. They are to California what squirrels are to the Northwest.

One beautiful morning, I found a place not to far from where we were staying that had wonderful views of the mountains after the first dusting of snow for the season. I shot this as the sunrise crept over the peaks.

Movie Road is a right turn off Whitney Portal Road and is home to many famous westerns and modern blockbusters alike. Examples include: Around the World in Eighty Days, Django Unchained, Gladiator, Gone in Sixty Seconds, High Sierra, The Lone Ranger, North to Alaska and many more.

Another view of the Sierras with some dramatic clouds for good measure. 

While staying at the spectacular Tuttle Creek Campground, we had an unobstructed view of Lone Pine Peak and surrounds. I had the opportunity and privilege to watch the movement of the sun and how it affected the shadows and character of the mountain over the course of the day.

As the sun sank lower and lower in the sky, it created layers and separation between the various peaks.

The sun sank behind the mountains and gave off one last beacon of light before it finally disappeared.

I have never seen so many stars in my life, at least not consciously. Astrophotography is a whole science and art unto itself but I tried my hand at it to capture some of the essence of what I saw.

One of my favorite Ansel Adams photographs is called Winter Sunrise and it was shot in Lone Pine. I did some research on the Web about Ansel's exact location when he shot it but came up empty. It took me a few days driving around but I finally managed to figure it out. Ironically, it wasn't in some remote place, it was right on the side of highway 395, just north of Lone Pine. I wanted to make my photo as close to the original as I could just so I could feel what it was like to be there in his shoes in 1944. Of course, it wasn't winter when I was there so the angle of the light was different and the clouds were obviously very different too. I couldn't stand in exactly the same place, however, because a huge tree was obscuring the entire scene but what I got was close enough and I felt touched by the spirit of the master as I clicked the shutter.

You can see Ansel's original photograph by clicking here.

We will return to this area whenever we get a chance. We have tentative plans to be there in March of next year. At that point, there will be a healthy dose of snow on the peaks. Until then, this experience will stay with me as one of the most important places I have ever visited.


Fred Wishnie said...

Your photos are amazing. The take on the AA pic is almost dead on, and in many ways more dramatic. Can't wait for more.

Steven Dempsey said...

Thank you Fred, that means a lot.