Photographing Reflections in Dusy Basin, Kings Canyon National Park, California

Hey Everybody, it’s Josh Cripps here. And I’m in this place called Dusy Basin, which is in Kings Canyon National Park, my favorite national park in all of the United States, maybe even the world, and this is a place that I’ve wanted to come out for a while. So I’m pretty excited to be here Now for this video. I really wanted to try to find somewhere beautiful to film and do some photography. But unfortunately this is the best that I could find. 

I had a height to the top of Bishop pass, but I never made it any farther. So I didn’t know what to doozy basin was like. And I was always curious about it. Plus I’d seen tons of photos of the place on the internet and it looked so beautiful and so alluring. And so I decided I finally had to go as for why I wanted to take this trip now. Well, it was because of this weather, this flat gray weather that you can see above me. Typically, I like to come backpacking in early July because we get the monsoon thunderstorm kind of behavior in the atmosphere. But this year we’re getting all this late season atmospherics and thunderstorms. So it’s really exciting time to be out here. It’s the end of August, which is great. It means there’s no mosquitoes at all. Uh, but we’re getting these really epics guys.

In fact, the last couple of days where I live up in mammoth, the weather has been unreal. We’re talking crepuscular rays and lightning bolts and double rainbows. We had a full arch, double rainbow and light. They’re just a beautiful, it’s been beautiful, beautiful, beautiful. And, um, and w that pattern seems to be holding here into the trip. And so I got my fingers crossed for some really neat conditions. What’s cool and unusual about these summer storms that we’re seeing right now is that typically a Sierra thunderstorm will build up around noon or one start to rain around two or three, and that’ll last till five o’clock or so, and then it starts to break up again, but typically all those clouds just disappear. And by the time sunset rolls around the sky will be completely flawless with not a cloud to be seen. So it can be frustrating from a photography standpoint, but for the last couple of days, the thunderstorms have persisted, not only through the sunset, but on into the night as well.

And it’s made for some really exciting conditions for photography. And I think that’s going to happen today as well. There’s just fantastic, beautiful texture in the sky. You can see curtains of rain coming down over these mighty peaks, but out to the West, there’s a strip of blue sky. It gives me a lot of hope that when the sun drops into that slot, we’re going to see something incredible. I’m thinking we’re going to see light beams. I’m thinking we’re going to see spotlighting on the landscape. And I think we’re also going to see a pretty fantastic sunset. So I can’t guarantee it. I never guarantee anything when it comes to thunderstorm photography, but that’s my hope. And it’s starting to rain and hail on me here again a little bit. So I think I’m going to go hide in the tent and then go out and do a little bit scouting.

One of the problems with seeing too many photos on the internet of a place is that those photos start to infect your mind and they make you think that those are the best, or maybe even the only shots that you can take there. And as I looked online at these doozy basin photos, a specific kind of shot kept appearing over and over in the search results. It was the skyline of Dusy basin with isosceles peak, big and powerful on the right hand side of the photo and all of this reflected in a Lake. And then everything punctuated with beautiful light. Now these shots were gorgeous, but they all had the exact same composition. And so I had two simultaneous, but opposing thoughts. The first one was, I want to find that spot because it looks fantastic, but at the same time, surely there has to be board than just that one composition there.

So how do I take my doozy basin reflection shots and make them my own, this is what I was thinking about. And as I sat in my tent, waiting for the rain to stop and getting ready to shoot where the clouds pulling this disappearing act on me, I’m actually way less hopeful now about the prospects of a good sunset. So I’m going to take advantage of the light that I’ve got right now, because there are some pretty decent clouds in the sky. So nice puffy clouds, really nice textures and contrast with the blue sky. And the other thing that I’ve got going for me right now is it is dead calm. There’s not a breath of wind anywhere. And I think this is going to set me up really beautifully for some incredible reflections in these little tarns and lakes over here. All right. I got to stop grousing because it would have been amazing to have a few more clouds, a few more thunder storm, Marie cool dramatic sky stick around through the sunset, but it’s pretty hard to complain about that.

So, you know what I really like about this scene? It’s not just the reflection, because to be honest with you, I find that reflections are often a crutch in photography. They’re just an easy way to make a photo look good. And so you just see these photos of a sky and some mountains reflected in a Lake and that’s it, that’s like composition one Oh one. That’s the easiest kind of reflection composition to make. But to me, there’s always another level. There’s always another step that you can take to create an interaction between the landscape and the reflection and this spot. It’s wonderful for that because you see how you have this peak, it’s called isosceles peak and it’s coming down right into this little Tarn right here. So it’s really highlighting that one particular component. So I’m really falling in love with this scene. These big lakes are really cool and everything with these views of the mountains, but there’s a lot to explore in this place. And there’s this whole series of tarns here that flowed down the mountain. It’s really cool because right here they split. And part of the outflow goes this way. And part of the outflow goes out that way. So I’m going to keep following this stream a little bit, just to see where it goes, where the outlet takes me.

Do a drop-off here with an incredible view out over this vast Valley. And on this hillside that Heather, the mountain Heather is just vibrant red, and it’s a beautiful telephoto shot with those backlit treats. So I’m going to switch up and shoot that with my long lens.

And as I was exploring around the basin, it was a powerful reminder that those preconceived ideas of what the quote right shots are, are as temporary and ephemeral as the Sierra thunderstorm, when you actually arrive in a place there’s always a million other possibilities. And when you trust your vision as a photographer to respond to the scene with your own unique perspective, then I guarantee you are going to come up with your own personal photographs. And for me, my goal was to take this idea and apply it to the reflection shots that I was seeking in Dusy basin. And here’s what happened next. All right, enough jibber, Jabber, and monkey, and around because it is time to get down to work. You can see that a couple more clouds blue and over the top light is getting incredible over this base in here, we’ve got these amazing reflection that I’m lining up with these rocks down here on the shore of this little Tarn.

I’m having absolutely way too much fun. So I better stop logging and start shooting, but really quickly. I just want to show you one more example of how you can take your reflection, compositions and move them from a simple reflection like this to something really special. You can see that these rocks right down here on the foreground. And if I position my body in just the right place, I can get those rocks to kind of fill in the space that negative space in the reflection, kind of like that. And it makes the composition so much more powerful by using the wide angle lens and bringing this right up to you. The viewer feels like they can stand in the scene instead of just looking at this kind of two dimensional reflection shot. So keep that in mind, whenever you guys are shooting reflections and bring your photos up a notch or six. 

You couldn’t wipe the smile off my face right now with the world’s biggest eraser. I know I say this a lot, but it doesn’t get any better than this. Well, that’s going to do it for tonight, spectacular evening and amazing place with wonderful light and no mosquitoes. I think I might be in habit. I’m going to close this video out now with a couple more photos from the seasoning and be sure to stick around for the next part of this adventure until next time have fun and happy shooting.

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