Little Lakes Valley

Little Lakes Valley is one the places in the eastern Sierra Mountains that draws me back again and again. I have backpacked through it, camped at its lakes in both summer and winter, and climbed one of its peaks. On this day I arrived in camp at about 4 PM during a typical afternoon thunderstorm. At around 6 PM, most of the rain had stopped and I hiked into the valley. I arrived on the rocky knoll below around 7 PM.

Peaceful Knoll, 7:16 PM (taken with mobile phone while scouting compositions)
Mountain Spires, 7:58 PM

The first quarter moon was setting behind the ridges on the west side of the valley. I checked the PhotoPills app which showed that twilight ended and night time began at 9:45 PM. It also showed the Milky Way would be visible over Bear Creek Spire at that time. I decided I would stay. At around 9 PM, an hour after sunset, I found a composition and started by taking several beautiful shots throughout twilight as the clouds cleared.

Twilight Stories II, 8:56 PM
Under the Night Sky, composite, landscape at 9:38 PM and sky at 9:45 PM (12 shots)

After sunset the moon was completely hidden behind the ridges on the west side of the valley, but cast a glow on the opposite ridges and the clouds (in the photo above).

Window to Forever, composite. Sky at 10:10 PM (twelve 15-second shots at ISO 10,000). Landscape at 10:20 PM, I (one long 4.5-minute shot at ISO 1600).

I found myself standing on the top of this rocky knoll in the dark with a steep drop-off a few feet away. The thought of a wrong step was sobering and made me careful with my footing as I moved in the dark. To give you a sense of how close I was to the edge, I include the shot below. My tripod was set up in front of the two small puddles.

Perfectly Misplaced

I returned on the following evening , initially checking out a different location. After spending some time there, I returned to the rocky rise above the lake to try some other compositions.

Bridge to Wild Places

In June of 1997, I climbed Mount Dade with my good friend Gary. We probably camped the night before at the Treasure Lakes. It was a snow climb up the Hourglass Couloir, which I read here gets up to a 40° angle. In the picture below, the Hourglass Couloir has no snow. Click on the photo below to enlarge and see the names and elevations of the peaks. I climbed Mount Dade again in June 2011, but only as far as the top of the couloir.

Twilight Peaks

To see the rest of the photos from this trip, click here.

10 thoughts on “Little Lakes Valley

  1. What a wonderful location … definitely worth spending time there to watch the light change, and find new compositions as well! I think your sunset shot is really nice … the color adds even more to an already fabulous composition. I also especially like the foreground in your, ‘Perfectly Misplaced’, and both night shots too!


    1. I’m glad you mention the foreground in “Perfectly Misplaced” as I struggled to find compositions with good foreground elements and eventually settled on eliminating it. I may go back and try some new compositions in a few weeks. Thank you for your comments.


  2. Dear Lawrence,

    These are beautiful. I love the way you tell a story with the images, giving the reader a sense of what it is like to be there but also the dedication it takes to get the perfect shot. So inspiring.

    Sent from my iPhone



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