Mountains

Tranquil Heart: After a banner snow year in 2019, Mount Shasta was still showing plenty of snow in July. This small lake gives clear views to the east and minimal wind at sunset gave a clear reflection of the shapely clouds. There weren’t even any mosquitoes to dull the peacefulness of the view.–Shasta-Trinity National Forest, 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

Crashing Wave: Gem Lake doesn’t have high peaks surrounding it, but it does have a contingent of interesting trees if you look for them. In the early afternoon a massive cloud bank parked itself to the north of our campsite. As the hours passed, it didn’t move, but the wind shaped it into the more and more interesting patterns of a Sierra Wave. The sunset color didn’t look like it would happen, but after ten minutes of resistance, the red turned on like a switch.–Ansel Adams Wilderness, California

Nocturnal Frozen Islands: Thousand Island Lake touts Mount Ritter to its south and Mount Davis to its west, and many small islands within its bounds. A waning crescent moon was rising just below a massive cloud, so this light only lasted about 10 minutes. The core of the Milky Way coincided with Ritter during this brief window. –Ansel Adams Wilderness, 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

Strata: A steady stream of fast moving cirrus clouds ripped through the sky and left us with blue skies in a matter of two hours. The crags slowly being eroded by freeze-thaw cycle can stand for an entire human life, but are no more permanent than the clouds that move overhead. –John Muir Wilderness, California

Wetland Layers: Tule Lake has altered and shifted west even as the human history of the area with terrible treatment of the Native Modoc people, and the harshest Japanese concentration camp in the country. The landscape does not tell of these horrors. –Tule Lake National Wildlife Refuge, California

Written in the Mountains: The exposed rock outcroppings that are too steep to hold snow appear to me to be letters arranged in a language I do not know, but can still intuitively grasp. This group below Mount Ritter stands above the Jackson Pollock like spread of Thousand Island. –Ansel Adams Wilderness, California

Above the Shadows: Shadow Lake is beautiful, but it is lined with so many trees that it’s difficult to take in the wider scene. I solved this by going up the southern side of the lake and the Ritter Range of the Sierra made itself known. This rock bound tamarack pine and I viewed the sunrise together.–Ansel Adams Wilderness, 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

Eruption at Fifth Lake: Since clouds are a rarity in the Sierra during the early summer, and my hike was surrounding the new moon, I decided to bring my astrophotography lens with me. Mount Robinson and Mount Gendarme balance each other out very well at Fifth Lake, but figuring out what to do with the Milky Way was a challenge. Putting it behind Mount Robinson seemed to fit the best since dawn would fade the Milky Way before it reached the saddle between the two peaks.–John Muir Wilderness, 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

Cracked Beach: Diablo Lake is fed by the Skagit River and glacier melt. This gives it the characteristic vivid turquoise color. This muddy beach cracked with repeated drying from the summer sun and contrasts with the glassy water. —North Cascades National Park, Washington

First of the Thirteen Moons: The Thirteen Moons petroglyph stands as a record of human understanding going back more than a thousand years. The January moon marks the first of our calendar and it coincided with a lunar eclipse. The moon disappeared before totality was reached, but the moon lighting up the petroglyph told a complete story. –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

Accurate Calculation and Incomparable Beauty: A total eclipse is difficult to convey through a photograph (or so goes the refrain). Experiencing it first hand with your own eyes leaves an indelible mark. We had the good fortune to witness totality for the first time together and with Tim’s dad. The ability to predict the path of a solar eclipse and understand why it is able to happen only on our planet speaks to the power of accumulated understanding, but pales next to the awe of witnessing it. For those of you who have had the privilege of being in totality and seeing the unique blue light and floating ring of corona, we hope this can bring you back to the moment. For everyone else, 2024 is waiting. —Detroit Lake, Oregon

A Fresh Coat of Snow: Bad weather is the photographer’s friend. Fresh snow is worth waiting in the car for days of storms just to capture the pristine view of the mountains. —Lassen Volcanic National Park, California

All Lined Up: This view looking west into the Sierra foothills is lovely to behold, but the tilt of the Earth means this only lines up perfectly with sunset for less than a month out of the year. —Sequoia National Park, 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

Temple and Worshipers at First Light: Temple Crag really stands out as it rises sharply above the turquoise glacial waters of Second Lake. These Tamarack pines growing in the cracks of the granite appear to prostrate themselves before the natural temple at first light.–John Muir Wilderness, California

The Face of Banner: Sunrise light is always nice, but lone mountain peaks don’t often make for compelling photographs unless you are in the right frame of mind. However, when that sunrise light is partially blocked by eastern clouds a band of light like this is created. The dappled light is that much richer because the shadows created by clouds and mountains together allow your eye to flow within the frame. –Ansel Adams Wilderness, California

Glacier Lily Flow and the Tatoosh: Paradise is known for its record snowfalls. In the winter of 1971-1972 more than 93 feet fell completely burying the inn that stands there. As the snow thaws out, glacier lilies are one of the first flowers to poke out. The green fields and lilies made an excellent foreground subject as the last light from sunset lit the Tatoosh which is a smaller range of mountains south of hulking Rainier.–Mount Rainier National Park, Washington

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

Foxtail Territory: A close cousin of the Bristlecone Pine, the Foxtail Pine also grows slowly in extreme high elevations at the tree line, but it owns the Sierra Nevada as its habitat. This remote lake is deep in the backcountry and can only be accessed after several days of hiking. The craggy nature of the peaks are characteristic of the Sierra crest. —Kings Canyon National Park, California

Golden Sweep at Manzanita Lake: A special evening where a thin layer of clouds to the west filtered the light to give a golden last light to these trees on the shore of a rippling Manzanita Lake. A geologically young (formed about 1,000 years ago) Chaos Crags stands tall in the background. —Lassen Volcanic National Park, 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.–Inyo National Forest, California

Layers of Different Ages: The white dolomite soil of the White Mountains lack nutrients, so the few trees that do manage to eke out a living in it are almost exclusively Bristlecone Pines. No other trees can compete in such poor growing conditions. Even with their extreme age, the mountains are hundreds of millions of years old, and the moon is billions of years old. However, the transient clouds lit up by the setting sun are mere hours old. —Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest, 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. —Eastern Sierra, California

Bumpass Hell: Lassen has all five kinds of volcanoes represented within the park boundaries. Bumpass Hell is heated by lava below the surface and it produces visible fumaroles and bubbling mud pots of boiling water. The smell of sulfur is strong in the air, but it is a small price to pay for the vivid yellow and orange rocks, and turquoise pools. It is named in honor of its white discoverer Kendall Vanhook Bumpass who had a leg sink through the thin crust into boiling water. —Lassen Volcanic National Park, California

Painted Brush, Sky, and Minarets: It’s always nice when a group of clouds move in at the last moment. These clouds over the Minarets were hanging out in the west not making themselves known until the light started showing up on the peaks. Then the clouds in the east moved in front of the sun and the first touches of light on the Minarets were lost. I decided to showcase the calm wind and near perfect reflection for this sunrise.–Ansel Adams Wilderness, 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

Sky Reflects Land: The outflow from Second Lake to First Lake was roaring and I decided to focus on catching the last bit of light that would hit the trees. Fortunately, one of the rare clouds during the trip was moving east. I was doubly fortunate that it resembled the outflow itself (if I positioned myself correctly), and gave the appearance of sky acting as a reflecting pool.–John Muir Wilderness, California

Spring Below the Glaciers: We made our first photographic trip up to Mount Rainier National Park (which means we have now photographed the National Parks of California, Oregon, and Washington). Paradise (on the south side of Rainier) had just recently thawed at the lower elevations, but the 25 glaciers remain (for now). Since there weren’t any clouds I focused on a smaller scene that shows the sharp contrast between the rich spring greens and the permanent ice on the volcano. –Mount Rainier National Park, Washington

Streak of Light at Minaret Lake: This was from my first night of a three night backpacking trip into the Ansel Adams Wilderness. The Minarets are breathtaking and its eponymous lake reflects them so well. Everything came together for this image. I found this composition and moved on to see if there was anything else as the sunset approached. The color of sunset seemed to be fizzling from the northwest side of the lake, so I moved back into position as these clouds began to glow. –Ansel Adams Wilderness, 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

Moonset over Sky Rock: The moon sets on one of the most impressive displays of petroglyphs with a fresh dusting of snow on the eastern escarpment of the Sierra. —California

Young Pine in the Rockies: Our first trip to Rocky Mountain National Park was just before the winter chill. Fall color had passed but this lone pine tree, soon to be buried in snow, was collecting sunrise light to prepare for the long winter. —Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado

Making a Point: Human nature leads us to point out whatever is interesting or important, and these wallflowers seem to be making a point about Mount Ritter. No other flowers around Thousand Island Lake appeared to be blooming so shortly after the snow melt, so they stood out in the difficult environment. This fragile ecosystem is in danger of collapse as extinctions may soon begin to mount. –Ansel Adams Wilderness, 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. –Inyo National Forest, 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

Golden Thaw: A thawing lake requires good timing and sometimes snow shoes. Sunrise reflecting off a mountain gave the thin clear ice a rich golden glow that the fish beneath could enjoy. —Lassen Volcanic National Park, California

Granite Splitter: An acorn landing in a crack in the granite has no choice but to do the best with what it is given. Over time its roots found their way to nutrient rich soil and it split the granite to make room for itself. –Kings Canyon National Park, 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

Igneous: The volcanic formations of the pinnacles are akin to the hoodoos of sedimentary red rock in the American Southwest. However, their dark coloring shows a much different origin. Nature developed flight in insects, mammals, birds, fish…just like erosion of water and wind against rock can make beautiful towers. —Pinnacles National Park, California

Lake Crescent Rainbow: Rainbows form opposite the sun and this sunrise rainbow also came packaged with rich golden sunrise light on this storm over Lake Crescent. Shortly afterwards the clouds brought an intense rainstorm. —Olympic National Park, Washington

Mammoth Head Sunset: The fusiform face area of the brain can help us find order in just about anything. Clouds and rocks become recognizable with a little bit of brain processing. A gray pine looks across the way to this mammoth head of a giant pinnacle with rich clouds reflecting sunset light. —Pinnacles National Park, California

Waves in the Mountains and Sky: The layers of the mountains at sunset look like waves of increasing distance ending finally in the Sierra Crest. In the sky, a Sierra Wave cloud that stretched for about a hundred miles light up with the gold of sunset. —White Mountains, California

Pool on a Lake: Chaos is apparent as energy returns to the mountains, since the ice does not melt evenly. This aquamarine pool sat on the surface ice of Thousand Island Lake as the shoreline ice thinned. The red glow of first light touched Ritter in stark contrast. –Ansel Adams Wilderness, California

Monkey Flowers: Monkey flowers have carved out quite a niche for themselves on the west coast. They can survive in the wet cooler Pacific Northwest down through California to make it in the 100 degree summers in the sandy soil of Pinnacles. —Pinnacles National Park, 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

Painted Dunes Overlook: The volcanic Painted Dunes lie at the base of the Cinder Cone which last erupted in the 17th century. From one volcano to another, this was taken from the slope of the Cinder Cone with a view of the Mount Lassen plug dome volcano getting a last bit of sunset light. —Lassen Volcanic National Park, California

Royal Gates: The glacier carved valley of Kings Canyon is a close cousin of Yosemite Valley. This large thunderhead lit by the sunset briefly passed between these two peaks on either side of the valley while the Kings River winds its way through the valley. —Kings Canyon National Park, 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. —Eastern Sierra, 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. —Eastern Sierra, California

Snags and Rugged Peaks: Foxtail pine snags look very much related to their bristlecone pine cousins. The Sierra peaks deep in the backcountry continue the theme of ancientness standing against the elements. —Kings Canyon National Park, California

The Wizard Opens the Sky: The rich blue of Crater Lake is striking in its saturation. A summer storm battered the surrounding region for two days until this small break cleared right over Wizard Island. —Crater Lake National Park, Oregon

Thresh: The farm fields of the Palouse are many varied in color, but the classic golden color of this wheat field blowing lightly in the wind caught our attention. Rapid moving clouds brought dappled light and gave a beautiful natural contrast to the scene. —The Palouse, Washington

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

To the Last: The last bit of sunset light at this time of the year was reserved entirely for this lone tree in the backcountry of Kings Canyon. —Kings Canyon National Park, California

Tales of Survival: The Paiute of Owens Valley had to contend with extreme weather conditions with summer highs over 100 degrees Fahrenheit and winter lows below freezing. The Sierra Crest puts it in a rain shadow and produces desert conditions that make survival incredibly tough. Petroglyphs from thousands of years ago are spread around the area telling lost tales in an unforgiving landscape that would provide for only those who knew and loved it well. —Volcanic Tablelands Wilderness Study Area, 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

Green Algae, Sunrise Reflections: This creek mixes with boiling springs heated by what remains of a volcanism still bubbling below the surface. The snow melt that feeds this would keep the water just above freezing year round, but the mixing with heated water produces happy green algae that doesn’t make a much of an appearance in the mountains. These greens contrast beautifully with the reflected warm glow of sunrise off of the cliff side. —Hot Creek Geological Site, California