Mammoth

Crystalline Reflection: Crystal Crag stands as one of the most recognizable features of Mammoth Lakes, but finding a perspective that makes it stand out in a photograph is difficult. This lake is our favorite spot to view it. Mammoth Lakes, California

Mountain Traveler: The last comet we imaged was Pan-STARRS in 2013, and it was tiny in comparison to NEOWISE. This was my first time seeing NEOWISE, and the moonlight, town lights, and dawn sky make everything about this image glow. –Mammoth Lakes, California

The Next Generation: As a child, cones were just an object to kick, but observing the differences between them, and learning their purpose gives them greater depth. It’s rare to spot a cone with seeds still in it since they’re picked out so quickly for food, but this cone sitting at the base of a tree has one remaining visible seed that very well might give rise to a sapling. –Inyo National Forest, California

Revolutionary Thinking: The mountains named of two of the most important thinkers in Biology sit below a gathering storm in the high Sierra. Mount Mendel stands high on the right and Mount Darwin at the left. Though they did not correspond, Mendel’s “factors” (now called genes) showed how advantageous traits can be passed on. –Inyo National Forest, California

Backcountry Seasoning: Wild onions have such a delightful pink spray in their flowers, and if you enjoy onions, the smell is heavenly. –Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest, California

Evolving Storm: Though most summer days are marked by endlessly blue skies, occasionally some warm fronts can cause evaporation from lakes, which can lead to thunderstorms. This storm gathered over the course of the day and began spitting lightning deep in the cell as we finished our hike. Peaks named for scientists who furthered the theory of evolution silently observe. –Inyo National Forest, California

Seeking Order: The jumble of chaos from a volcanic eruption can be overwhelming visually. Even though the date wasn’t recorded, detective work can reveal information that soothes the human desire for order. The trees downed in this eruption tell the history with their ring pattern, and it takes us back to the geologically very recent 1350. –Inyo National Forest, California

Tear Drop: The lakes and streams that exist in the Sierra were mostly the action of glaciers, but the Long Valley Caldera formed this lake much more recently than the end of the last Ice Age. This crater about 200 feet deep is filled with rain and snow melt tinged with minerals from the surrounding volcanic rock that formed at the same time as the crater in 1350. –Inyo National Forest, California

Be Fruitful: Humans have one of the highest reproductive costs between length of gestation and helplessness of newborns. Cone bearing plants (gymnosperms) are towards the opposite end of the spectrum giving out great plumes of pollen from their male cones, and dropping hundreds or thousands of female seed bearing cones in their lifetime. At least a few of these seeds will turn into a sapling. –Inyo National Forest, California

Green Valley: While the Owens River remains beautiful with its green banks and S-bends, it has a sad history. The development of Los Angeles in the early 1900s brought a desire for more and more water. William Mulholland championed an aqueduct that diverted water from the Owens Valley ultimately draining Owens Lake completely. Most of the lake is surrounded by signage that the land is owned by the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power. –Lake Crowley, California

Returning to the Mountains: The peaks and spires rising above this valley typify the Eastern Sierra with snow into July and beautiful streams and reflections heading out. –Inyo National Forest, California

Magnetic North: North Peak sits towards the northern border of Yosemite, but this is outflow is to the north of North Peak. Naming conventions of mountains and lakes in the Sierra range from dead white guy, to specific location, or shape. In this case following directions would be very unhelpful. –Inyo National Forest, California

Making My Way: Trees are hard to find in this volcanic blast zone more than 600 years later, but this hardy specimen is doing its best to make a living in the small amount of soil it has. –Inyo National Forest, California

Major and Minor: Rainbow Falls can be very crowded in the summer time, but arriving at sunrise will usually mean having the place to yourself. The small falls spilling over the rock in the Middle Fork of the San Joaquin River is below the 101 foot drop of the Rainbow Falls. The perspective can be a little disorienting. –Devils Postpile National Monument, California

Imposing: The mountains make their own weather, and evening thunderstorms often build during the day only to dissipate over night to a blue sky in the morning. This was our greeting upon our arrival to the Eastern Sierra. –Inyo National Forest, California

Duo: Mammoth Lakes is often just called Mammoth, but the Lakes part of the name makes a lot of sense once you get to explore the region. Mamie and Mary reflect a colorful sunset. –Mammoth Lakes, California

Soothing the Wounds of Volcanism: These volcanic fissures surfaced after some geologic shifting, and sit like an open wound from 13,000 years ago. Though this storm cell is looking fiery, it is dumping water that will eventually fill the cracks through weathering and erosion. –Mono Lake Basin, California

A Story of Spring: Most of us see the temperature ramp up in June, and even though most of June isn’t summer, we still usually call it that. This is among my favorite creeks flowing out of the east side of the Sierra, and it was showcasing everything I associate with early spring, but just before the summer solstice: green grass, fresh green leaves, a more present sun, and flowing water. –Inyo National Forest, California

Standing Post: Among the best examples of basalt columns in the world, Devils Postpile doesn’t cover a huge area, but there are many offerings other than the front face. This mountain pride penstemon grows out of one of the cracks formed to relieve the pressure as the basalt cooled. –Devils Postpile National Monument, California

Scarred Colosseum: The grooves, striations, and impurities found in granite give each section their own unique geologic story and tell the history of the mountains. –Inyo National Forest, California

Stadium Seating: The reeds growing along the Owens River begin their expansion in the spring as the snow melt swells the banks. A last bit of light from the setting sun gives them a glow. –Lake Crowley, California

Slip Back Into a Dream: Clyde Minaret stands taller than the rest of the Minarets, but it was hidden in the fog shortly after this image was taken at sunrise. –Mammoth Lakes, California

Fresh Smile: The road to Devils Postpile opened during the busiest time in the summer, yet we were among the only people there in the evening. Just us and the swarming mosquitoes. This section of the wall looks relatively fresh with the broken columns joining the talus pile. The geology makes for a beautiful story for those willing to observe. A reminder of this is necessary when one reflects on the history of the area. The first idea for the postpile was to blow up the entire structure and dam the river for mining interests.–Devils Postpile National Monument, California

Resilient Perennial: The White Mountains of California are not named for their snow since they oftentimes don’t get very much. The Sierra gets the lion’s share of precipitation, but in 2019 the Whites were uniformly blanketed. This group of arrowroot flowers will wait, buried in snow, to emerge from the ground as soon as the thaw comes. A glorious display of flowers attracts pollinators to aid in reproduction. They will gather as much sunlight as possible to store energy for the winter only to repeat the process once winter grips the mountains once again. –Inyo National Forest, California

Last Breath of the Sun: Searching in the rain, snow, and fall colors doesn’t always produce interesting results. The aspen lining June Lake Loop were not quite ready yet, so we decided to leave for more interesting areas. On our way out we saw light coming through the swirling clouds, so we waited to see what would come of it. “Fire in the Sky” is so often used in landscape photography, but this has a stronger case for fire without smoke. In a state that has developed a year round fire problem as climate change progresses, this view was much more welcome.–Inyo National Forest, California

Portal from Fall to Winter: Weather in the mountains is notoriously unpredictable, and this sunrise brought temperatures below freezing. The clouds were swirling and the warm light breaking through didn’t last very long. This hole in the cloud bank made for a good focal point as the sun briefly lit up the golden leaves of this stand of aspen, the whites of a light snow fall, and the cloud bank itself.–Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest, California

Autumnal Mask of Tragedy: The warm colors of fall against the cool colors of Sierra granite is well worn territory. However, cracks that form in the granite are infinite in their ability to tickle our brain’s desire to find patterns and faces. The grim face looking on has a strong resemblance to Buskin the Greek mask of tragedy. —Inyo National Forest, California

Ere the Red Sun Rises: The alien formations of tufa form from minerals rising to the surface from vents in the lake floor. They were exposed after water was diverted from Mono Lake to southern California for drinking water. As a result these tufa will not grow again until they are under water. Smoke from a nearby fire made the sunrise much redder than normal. —Mono Lake, California

Sunset Rain and Tufa Towers: A storm always makes for interesting conditions and the waves, distant rain, and imposing clouds made this evening at Mono Lake special. The water level appears to have risen quite a bit since the precipitation of 2016-2017 was on a melt delay, so new compositions opened up, and old ones disappeared.–Mono Lake, California

Meandering Hot Creek and the Minarets: This photograph of Hot Creek, which is heated by a still active caldera, was made during a stormy beautiful weekend out near Mammoth. Regardless of its temperature, the classic S bends make for a beautiful foreground to the peaks of the snow-covered Minarets. A small window of low density clouds showed off the rich reds of the sunset.–Inyo National Forest, California

Pearlescent Postpile: I’d been planning this image for months, but needed to be local during the correct moon phase. The last light of the moon is similar to sunset light since bluer wavelengths are filtered out. The way Devils Postpile suddenly materializes from its average pine forest surroundings is surprising to visitors, and this feeling is amplified in the night.–Devils Postpile National Monument, California

Ice Crown: The spires and crags of the Sierra Crest leave one in awe. As the light dances over the peaks in silence, it gives a sensation of the volume being turned up, but only faint sounds of the forest can be heard. Experiencing one sunrise is never enough for the calm it instills.–Mammoth Lakes, California

Alpine Aspens: Aspens changing their leaf color results from reabsorbing all of the chlorophyll before shedding their leaves so that the only pigments left are secondary yellow carotenes. The trees go on their own schedule and change from year to year based on temperature changes and water availability.This aspen grove lies at the foot of a mountain lit by sunrise alpenglow, which occurs just before the sun rises or just after the sun sets. —Inyo National Forest, California

Ruined Kingdom: I’ve driven past Obsidian Dome more than a hundred times, and finally decided to make an effort to get out there. It isn’t a dome per se; it’s more of a rise and a mishmash of pumice, and obsidian. I imagine slipping and falling around here would lead to ghastly injury due to all the sharp rough edges, so I made sure to be extra careful. This looked to me like the smoldering remains of a once great building.–Inyo National Forest, California

Sunrise Light and Stormy Skies: The rich turquoise color of Convict Lake is only enriched by the waves and ripples of Mt. Laurel. Sunrise is spectacular when Mt. Laurel lights up a rich orange. Spring had just arrived and the distant fresh green from the aspens invite you in.–Inyo National Forest, California

A While Yet Until Spring: Minaret Vista is only a mile and a half from the Mammoth Mountain Main Lodge, but it still has the air of open wilderness. Over the Memorial Day weekend it snowed at the higher elevations and extended an already snow-laden winter. This was the morning after the storm cleared, and the sun rising revealed the Minarets freshly covered in snow to the west. –Mammoth Lakes, California

Bracing for the Storm: The junipers and granite around hot creek stand above volcanism beneath the surface. Magma chambers feed super-heated water up to the creek bed from below, but the dramatic weather patterns of the mountain ranges in eastern California roil above. This forming cumulonimbus cloud was pouring rain down on the White Mountains as the sunset light touched it. –Inyo National Forest, California

Here Comes the Sun: Not all tufa makes it to tower status, but these small tufa made an excellent lead to tease the rising of the sun. —Mono Lake, California

Mono Lake Moonrise: Earth’s shadow is a phenomenon where the sun below the horizon can reach the higher atmosphere and light it up a rich magenta while the earth itself blocks the lower atmosphere to make a darker blue color. Meanwhile a full moon rises above Mono Lake at dusk. —Mono Lake, California

Scarlet Sabrina: Sabrina Lake during the autumn can show some high quality fall color, but this scarlet colored sunset overshadowed it. Mount Mendel named for the famed father of genetics is visible in the back center. —Inyo National Forest, California

Silver Lake Curves: This handsome branch echoed the reflected shape of peaks surrounding Silver Lake. The yellow and green grove of early Autumn aspens give a light a color contrast to the late sunset light. —Eastern Sierra, California

Silver Lake Fireball: Sometimes clouds can overshadow the landscape and this intense sunset lit up this cloud to look like a fireball burning up in our atmosphere. —Inyo National Forest, California

Thunderhead and Tufa: A thunderhead loomed in the distance over this stand of tufa while the sunset painted the wispier clouds pink. Meanwhile the green alkaline water rippled and lapped at the shore. —Mono Lake, California

Vertical Brush Strokes: Looking for the smaller details can put a photographer into a different mode of seeing. The details of the granite were crisp, while the wind had enough strength to remove this detail into a watercolor style. However, the wind was not strong enough to eliminate the thread of vertical tree trunks that can be found real and reflected throughout.–Inyo National Forest, California