Midnight in the Garden of Good and Tufa

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Behind the scenes of this photo


Taken at Mono Lake South Tufa, Eastern Sierra Nevada, on September 26th, 2013

Well, it was more like 9:30pm, but who’s counting? Most of the Eastern Sierra can be relied upon to provide the nocturnal photographer with extremely dark, clear skies. Mono Lake is no exception to that rule and on a night in late September my camera and I spent some time wandering among the tufa. The stars blazed brightly above and the Milky Way could be seen easily with the naked eye. The tail end of a Sierra snowstorm lingered to the west and those patchy clouds provided additional depth to the scene. After wending my way to my favorite patch of tufa I set up right under two prominent towers, using their dramatic, looming forms to create a window into the stars beyond.

View more breathtaking Sierra Nevada photos here.

Aspen Embrace

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Behind the scenes of this photo


Taken in an aspen grove in Lundy Canyon, Eastern Sierra Nevada, on October 16th, 2013

There is nothing quite like standing in an aspen grove being hugged by yellow leaves while golden light pours through the air around you. If you’ve never done this you owe it to yourself to experience it at least once.

View more lovely Sierra Nevada photos in this gallery.

Afloat

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Behind the scenes of this photo


Taken at Island Pass in the Ansel Adams Wilderness, Eastern Sierra, on July 4th, 2013

This photo was taken on my lone backpacking trip in the summer of 2013 before I severely injured my left big toe and was left unable to hike for months. The view from the summit of Island Pass is nothing short of fantasy-esque in its beauty. Even though I got to the pass around noon, I decided to wait and see if the July thunderstorms would build up as they had every other afternoon. Sure enough, at about 2pm huge cumulus clouds began forming over the Sierra crest. By 4pm hail was falling, and I retired to my tent for a nap. The storm broke at 5:30 and I whisked my camera out to this tarn to photography the clearing storm as it billowed and blew over Banner Peak.

View more spectacular Sierra Nevada photos here.

Forest Yoga (Downward Dogwood / Sun Salutation)

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Behind the scenes of this photo


Taken in a grove of dogwood trees along Highway 120 in Yosemite National Park on October 20th, 2013

On the way home from an Eastern Sierra photography workshop in late October I drove through Yosemite National Park. Having just spent the past six days on the go, I was eager to get home and hadn’t planned on stopping along the way. But as I neared the Big Oak Flat entrance station I came upon a grove of dogwoods at the peak of their fall color. The late afternoon sun was peeking through the grove as well, lighting up the beautiful trees with bursts of light. Even though I hadn’t intended to stop, the flaming dogwoods were too pretty to pass up. I found a composition I liked then waited for the sun to slip into a crack between the trees to give me this dynamic burst of light.

View more beautiful Yosemite photos here.

Fall Into Winter

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Behind the scenes of this photo


Taken along the Merced River in Yosemite National Park on October 28th, 2013

In late October 2013, a decently-sized storm hit the Sierra, bringing cold, wet weather to the area. Where I live this manifested as an series of rain showers. But in Yosemite Valley, which is higher and colder, the precipitation came in the form of snow. The Yosemite Conservancy webcams showed a winter wonderland, with the Sierra high country covered in white. Even Yosemite Valley was getting dusted. With the weather forecast predicting the storm breaking up around sunset, I put my butt into high gear and drove to the park. Once I got inside Yosemite’s borders the rain I had been driving through turned to snow and my windshield was getting plastered with thick, fat flakes. Amazingly, despite the unequivocally wintry conditions, the park’s dogwood trees were still resplendently displaying their vibrant fall foliage. Everywhere I looked I saw bright pinks, reds, and oranges. One of my first stops once I hit Yosemite Valley was a bend in the Merced River which boasted this amazing view of El Capitan and a the clearing storm. And while the snow on the Valley floor had already melted off, the storm itself was still swirling around El Cap, creating a beautiful contrast between fall and winter.

View more beautiful Yosemite photos here.

Frame Up at Convict Lake

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Behind the scenes of this photo


Taken at Convict Lake in the Eastern Sierra on October 16th, 2013

Here’s a shot I took while doing the final scouting for my Eastern Sierra Fall Photography Workshop. It’s a different take on an iconic eastern Sierra location, Convict Lake. Believe it or not, my camera was less than 12″ off the ground for this shot -it was the only way I could get some separation between the golden tree leaves and Laurel Mountain in the distance. Often the most interesting vantage point is anywhere other than eye-level. Don’t be afraid to get low to get a unique view!

View more stunning Sierra Nevada photos here.

Home Stretch

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Behind the scenes of this photo


Taken at Tioga Lake just outside Yosemite National Park on November 12th, 2013

I love all kinds of landscapes, from the coast to the desert, but the truth is that I am a mountain boy at heart. Because I live in the Sierra Nevada foothills I get to pass through some of the most beautiful mountain terrain in the world, including the wondrous scenery along Tioga Pass. Even though this spot, Tioga Lake, is a good 2 hours and 45 minutes from where I live, it still feels like it’s close to home. And it’s tough not to feel incredibly fortunate when you have a backyard this beautiful.

View more stunning Yosemite photos here.

Weak Spot

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Behind the scenes of this photo


Taken during a clearing storm at Tunnel View, Yosemite National Park, on October 28th, 2013

If you ask me about shooting the classic photography icons, 99 days out of 100 I will rail against it. “No!” I will shout, “they are beautiful but boring! You can find so much more interesting and unique stuff just by taking a look around and gambling with uncertainty.” In other words, 99% of the time I’m a vociferous proponent of making your own tripod holes. But I have my weak spot. My kryptonite, if you will. If you don’t know this spot, it’s known as Tunnel View in Yosemite National Park, and on any given night you might find 80 photographers lined up cheek to cheek to photograph the incredible view. In most cases I’d avoid a scene like that like the plague. But when it comes to Tunnel View, I just can’t resist. It’s too dang awesome. It’s also one of the best places in the world to watch a clearing storm, so a few weeks back when a snowstorm dumped fresh white goodness in the park, I cruised up to the View to watch the coincidence of sunset and storm. And I’m glad I did because the light at sunset was quite lovely, plus I ran into a few other photographers I’m fans of but had never met. It turns out sometimes there are perks to shooting the icons.

View more stunning Yosemite Photos here.

Exfoliation

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Behind the scenes of this photo


Taken at Hole in the Wall Beach near Santa Cruz, California, on October 10th, 2010

Santa Cruz has one of the most beautiful coastlines I’ve ever seen, with dramatic seastacks, interesting geology, and easy access. This shot is from my favorite spot in the area, Hole in the Wall beach, which is chock full of rocky shelves and lovely features.

Eye of the Beholder

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Behind the scenes of this photo


Taken in the Cottonball Basin, Death Valley National Park, on November 14th, 2013

This evening was a great reminder that beauty is all around us. Sometimes to find it all you need is a different perspective. Or maybe you just need to look at things in a different light. After all, when I took this shot I was standing ankle-deep in pond scum, mud, muck, brine, and other bizarre goop and it was the most stunning thing I’d seen in a long time.

The Brainmelter

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Behind the scenes of this photo


Taken in the Cottonball Basin in Death Valley on November 14th, 2013

In November 2013, on the night just before our Death Valley photo workshop began, my workshop partner, Jim, and I decided to visit one of our favorite places in the park, [location redacted to help preserve its fragility]. Not only is this area full of psychedelic forms, colors, and geology, but that night we were also treated to a mind-bending sunset, with undulating layers of pink, purple, and orange. The scene, with all its blobs, shapes, and colors, was so unreal that it actually melted my brain a little.

Synaptic

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Behind the scenes of this photo

Taken in the Cottonball Basin, Death Valley National Park, on November 14th, 2013

You guys remember those old commercials: ‘This is your brain…THIS is your brain on drugs…”? Well this is your brain on Death Valley. What a trippy, amazing, photogenic, otherworldly place.