Ansel Adams Wilderness

In July I revisited one of my favorite places in the Ansel Adams Wilderness of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. To get here requires backpacking about 8 miles. For this trip, I brought my good camera and tripod, adding about 8 pounds to my 3-night backpack. I timed the trip for dark nights in order capture the Milky Way rising over the mountains. I would take my photo in two parts. Before the moon rose, I would capture the Milky Way in the dark sky. After it rose, I would take another shot with the moon’s light illuminating the landscape. I got was I was looking for on this trip and more – waterfalls, afternoon storms and beautiful sunsets.

We had a perfect campsite on the lake. Directly up the hill, I could see the places from which I wanted to capture the Milky Way. It was a high prominence along the John Muir Trail. My route to get there, however, would not be on a trail, but straight up the steep hillside in the dead of night. I made the journey in the the afternoon to check things out.

Stormy Afternoon

Back in camp, I took some rest and missed most of a lightning storm. The storm cleared out as sunset approached, leaving just enough clouds to create an amazing sunset! I wandered around the shore of a small cove on the lake in bliss, soaking in the warm colors. After most of the color passed, I looked at my friend perched nearby on a rock. We nodded agreement that it had been an amazing scene.

Creamy Golden Sunset
Giant Toes

Around midnight, I woke to my alarm and headed up the hill. I got to the viewpoint by 12:30 and set up for my shot. Focusing at night is a challenge. Even knowing what is in the camera’s viewfinder at night is a challenge. To solve this I take test shots, reviewing the shot on the back of the camera, and then re-adjusting where the camera is pointing. Check and re-adjust until I like what I see. Eventually, I took a series of twelve 13-second shots to capture the Milky Way. Next, I had to wait for over an hour for the crescent moon to rise. Luckily it was a warm night (around 45° F), …warm when wearing a down jacket, beanie and gloves. It was so peaceful sitting quietly under the stars. At 3 am, the 17% moon was finally high enough to cast a soft light on the landscape. I took a 4 minute exposure for this shot.

Moonlight and Milky Way

The next day, after staying up most of the night, I was ready to take it easy. We took our time, photographing scenes along the shore of the lake. It was wonderful to have no destination – just a camera and a sense of exploration. The falls below are part of a creek that runs into the lake. When I arrived the skies beyond the falls were mostly blue with scattered clouds. I took a rest in the trees and when I got up, dark clouds filled sky. I took some more photos of the falls and continued up the river toward the pass. Such a beautiful area!!! It was hard to turn around, but with thunder rumbling and a light rain falling, I decided to head back to camp.

Thunder Falls

Click here to see more photos from this trip.

Joshua Tree Nights

Last week I visited Joshua Tree National Park overnight to photograph the Milky Way and the comet Neowise. Though the days were in the high 90s, it was comfortable in the evening, getting as low as 70° overnight. The sky was completely clear.

Galactic Tourist
Crescent Moon
High Desert Camp
Light in the Desert

Click here to see more photos from this collection.