Photographing the Deepest Valley in the US (Owens Valley Adventure, Part 1)

In photography. It’s easy to focus on the results and to forget about the process. It’s easy to see the pretty picture and not have any sense of what actually went into creating it. Those early wake ups, the cold, the wind, but the truth is every photograph is like an iceberg. There’s this pretty little tip sticking up out of the water. The only part that’s visible, but down below that’s where everything else lies that gives the photo substance. Good morning, everybody. And a very good morning. It is in fact, it’s Josh cribs here, and I am out this morning at a wonderful, fantastic, beautiful place. The Owens river here in the Owens Valley in Eastern California. And the beautiful thing about the Owens river is that it is a serpentine river and it bobs and weaves and it zigs and zags through the entire Valley floor running for a total distance of, I have no idea how many miles, but it is quite a few.

And the cool thing about that is, as it goes through all these neat little Oxbow bands, all over the place, pretty much any mountain that you could want to compose on with a little Oxbow bed in front, you can find it. If you just look hard enough. And one of the most striking mountains along the three 95 corridor is called split mountain named because it has these two very distinct bands of color that run across the top of it. And it’s one of California’s, fourteeners, it’s one of the highest peaks in California, but it’s relatively overshadowed by Whitney and Williamson, which you can actually see just down the way over here and this morning, something that’s really special. That’s going on here in the background that you can see is there’s actually a little bit of a Sierra wave cloud lenticular cloud. That’s been running along the top of the mountains there and catching that morning sunlight and the colors out here this morning, spending a whole spectrum, the whole rainbow from blue and green and yellow out on the horizon to the East, to the reds, purples and oranges here, looking to the mountains to the West.

So I’ve set up a couple of different compositions here. I’m shooting a vertical right now, and I have a horizontal as well. So let me show you what these compositions are looking like here. Here’s my vertical, a nice, simple little S curve where the mountains in the background, I’m at F 11, I associate 64 and uh, about half a second to get some of that smooth glossiness in the water. Look at that light on those

Swap out off my wide angle here and go for a little bit more of a mid range telephoto the 24 70, because right now the lenticular cloud is basically, there’s no light on it. It’s been snuffed out by the clouds to the East, but there’s a lot of really dramatic, strong light on the mountain range itself. That’s reflecting fantastically here in this Oxbow, Ben, so you have these beautiful blue and golden tones in the water that are complimenting so lovely. The blue and golden tones they’re in the sky and the wide angle is just including way too much. So I’m going to go for a little bit of a tighter shot to really just call out those particular elements. Photography is so much about what you exclude as what you include, and you really want to distill the scene down to its very essence. And so the essence of this scene, as I see it right now is the repetition of those blue and gold tones. So let’s grab this lens, see what we can do.

Oh, it’s no, just get a little bright up there. Fill out snow who wore this? Try to expose a photo here. You don’t need it.

The blow out my eyeballs. Oh yeah, that’s nice. Okay.

It’s nice. I’m going to move over a little bit. Try to get a little more separation in the colours.

Here between the two sides of the bank of

River. I’m losing a lot of the smoothness

Point in the water. The light has come up a lot. It’s a lot brighter out here.

I still really want that flow. That smoothness.

To the mirror, that peaceful feeling that I’ve got out here this morning. So I’m going to grab a six stop filter, throw it on the camera here. A 10 stop would be way too overkill at this point. I’m at a fifth of a second. So that means a 10 stop filter would put me up at about a 202nd exposure, which is absolutely unnecessary right now. All I need to do is get about one to two seconds and the sixth stop is going to be perfect for that.

It’s going ahead and giving me a three second shutter speed, which is going to glass out this water beautifully. Now the only downsides, there’s a little bit of a breeze out here this morning. And so the reeds on the far side of the bank are moving a little bit. They’re going to be a little bit wibbly wobbly in the final shot, but if I can get a nice little stillness.

There should still be enough detail in them to make a nice contrast with the flowing motion of the water. Oh, that’s nice.

That is nice. All right. Let’s just make sure these details are sharp. Oh yeah. Razor sharp. You could cut yourself on those details.


It is changing here by the minute. So it’s gone from this beautiful rosy purple light to this bright red vivid Ruby light splashing across the peaks right at sunrise. And then it turned orange. And now it’s started to enter that more daylight phase. It’s still very yellow and nice right now, but it’s changing, changing, changing, and just bring out this complete suite of colors. As you can see, there’s just blues and reds and tans and greens and oranges. And then you have that lovely cloud formation there with that deep blue sky. These are the kinds of mornings here, the Owens Valley that make it so much fun to be a photographer, especially when it’s blow and howling wind all night. That’s what tends to bring out these crazy cloud formations. These beautiful skies is all worth it for this kind of a scene.

It’s getting cold out here. There’s a wind blowing and it’s flowing from a weird direction. It’s coming from the South. It’s usually doesn’t make sense. It’s usually coming from the West over the mountains or from the North, the frigid blast, but it’s coming from that way and it should be warm. Why aren’t you warm? It’s called that. All right. So I think I’m just about done here. I’m going to pack it up because as fun as this is, and as beautiful as this is, this is not the reason that I’m actually out here this weekend doing photography. No, I I’m headed to the Alabama Hills because there’s a specific arch that I want to go fine. It’s an arch that I uncovered a few years ago when I was out scouting and it’s fairly remote. It’s deep into the rocks. It’s way up on top of one of the Hills and it’s a huge art, but it’s in this gigantic egg-shaped Boulder.

And the beautiful thing about this arch is the portal of the arch looks directly out on lone pine peaks, really unique view. It’s a perfect alignment and I want to get back there for a sunrise, do some more photography. So that’s my goal is to redefine that arch market on the GPS and see if I can get some good shots of it. And the only thing I’ve got going for me right now in terms of locating it again is a clue. And I remember very distinctly that this arch is located near a gigantic dead pine tree on the top of a Hill. So if I can find that dead pine tree again, I can find this arch let’s back it up here. I’d get on out last time I was here, I just stumbled across it. And honestly, I don’t really remember about how to get there. You even get within an inch of them. They somehow magnetically shoot out of the cactus and land inside of your skin. I found this clue, this tree that’s the big X marks, the spot point for this adventure here. I realized that I, I think I made a fatal miscalculation that where the arches is not here at all, but way over on the next rise and look at this rock up here. Oh, look at this guy. If anybody’s watching this video and you know the name of this arch, let me know.

Come take a look.

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