Wilderness

Flat Top: First light in the wilderness is something special since its much easier to wake up when you go to sleep at 9:00. Hiking in a range of elevations means you can almost always find wildflowers in the summer months. –John Muir Wilderness, California

Cyclops Skull: Decomposition can take a good long while in the dry air and soil of the Sierra, but this tree stump seems well on its way. This stood right by our camp and made for quite a subject. –John Muir Wilderness, California

Deep in the Glacial Recess: Carved out by a glacier, this lake complete with a waterfall and bog laurel. You have to head into the Sierra to get last light at sunset, where the roadside will only get last light on clouds. –John Muir Wilderness, California

Coloring Inside the Lines: Red Mountain Heather seems to climb any available granite rocks, but this plant looks like it was paying close attention to the quartz line in its trellis. –Kings Canyon National Park, California

Eroding Future: Whatever earthquakes and rock falls brought these granite boulders to their current position will only be temporary as they work to slowly fill in the alpine lake they surround. –John Muir Wilderness, California

Night Shine: The moon is one of the most important elements of a night scene image for me. The moon rising or setting highlights peaks in similar fashion to a sunrise or sunset, and brings the ground attention. –Hoover Wilderness, California

Mining Stream: This stream had a dozen turns in it as it came off the mountain, and the golden light coming in from sunrise helped to highlight each turn. –Hoover Wilderness, California

Walking Over the Pass: Erosion eventually exposes the roots of trees on hillsides, and this relatively young pine looks as though its ready to take a stroll over the snow fields. –John Muir Wilderness, California

Presiding Judge: A stately healthy white pine growing out of the top of some granite with a thunderstorm in the background brought out the sense of judgment. With looming climate change and recent droughts, its hard to know how far these delicate ecosystems can be pushed before they collapse. –John Muir Wilderness, California

Quartz Ladder: The formation of granite hundreds of millions of years ago came with all kinds of cracking and impurities creeping in. These veins of quartz are the most well ordered set of lines I’ve seen. –Hoover Wilderness, California

Atmospheric River: The peaks that run the border of Kings Canyon are stately, and the last glow of the setting sun on the thunderstorm that forced us to set up camp was a lovely end to a day in the backcountry. –John Muir Wilderness, California

Ladling Light: The Big Dipper spilling the light of Mammoth Lakes onto the horizon is buoyed by the rising moon lighting up a nearby peak. –John Muir Wilderness, California

Accents: The crags still standing in the Sierra stand in defiance of weathering and erosion. Cracked into millions of pieces by freeze-thaw weathering, erosion will eventually bring it down. Meanwhile the perennial mountain heather flowers for another year in the brief spring of the Sierra. –John Muir Wilderness, California

A Brief and Colorful Reign: A little bit of water reflecting the sunrise can go a long way, even if the effervescent glow is short-lived. –Kings Canyon National Park, California

Keep One Eye on the Storm: A storm is preferable to a blue sky to me every day of the week. This hammerhead cloud reflected in the enclosed pool looks onto some of the highest peaks in the Sierra. –Kings Canyon National Park, California

Granite Garlands: Flowers burst into bloom all at once on the shore of this alpine lake with red mountain heather, white mountain heather, and indian paintbrush. –Hoover Wilderness, California

Beachside in the Basin: This trip was a little different and involved bringing my friend’s thirteen-year-old son along. This sunset, was among the most spectacular I’ve ever witnessed with low clouds over the peaks and high clouds catching the color of sunset. Hopefully, this will stay with him forever. Images and actions can often do more to speak for conservation than words can, so I’m hoping that this stands as a reminder that “for the enjoyment of future generations” requires that we continue to lay groundwork to meet that. –Kings Canyon National Park, California

Flickering Light: Near one of the snow depth survey spots (current snow levels were zero) the trees grow as shrubs due to the harsh winters and low nutrient soil. This vertical cloud shape was unusual and gave the look of a candle. –John Muir Wilderness, California

Coupled: This wide stream was flowing strongly out of the lake above matched up well with the twin peaks lit by sunset. –Hoover Wilderness, California

A Tale of Two Falls: Two streams follow slightly different paths off of a rock, and are met with vastly different outcomes. –Hoover Wilderness, California

To the Spine of the Sierra: The nice thing about the Sierra Nevada is its seemingly inexhaustible supply of mountain peaks. One stately looking peak can lead your eye to another set of dynamic peaks. –John Muir Wilderness, California

Pointing the Way Home: The first wilderness hike of the season gave a sunrise with clouds telling the story for me as fifty mile per hour winds and a thunderstorm moved in that evening. –John Muir Wilderness, California

A Place in the Universe: Kings Canyon National Park has some of the most beautiful scenery within the Sierra and seeing it lit up by a setting crescent moon is an experience that makes lugging 15 pounds of camera equipment worth it. –Kings Canyon National Park, California

From the High Ground: The passes of the Sierra differ in many ways, but Paternoster lakes are typical for the glacial history of the region. As the glaciers moved out and melted, they often leave behind basins that were filled with snow melt, and the lakes end up connected through a series of outlets. –John Muir Wilderness, California

Alpine Outlet: King’s Crown (alternative name ledge stonecrop) overlooks an outlet from one alpine lake to another in King’s Canyon. Somehow both names are on the nose. –Kings Canyon National Park, 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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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