Eclipse and Split Mountain

As the totality phase of this morning’s eclipse was ending, the moon set behind 14,065′ Split Mountain in the Sierra Nevada:

Split Mountain Lunar Eclipse

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Favorites of 2017

Happy New Year! 2017 was a very good year for me photographically. I managed to visit some long-desired locations and I had some fine spontaneous discoveries. Most wonderful of all was enjoying the amazing winter and spring conditions at home in Deep Springs Valley – amazing winter weather and snow followed by amazing spring wildflowers. This is a rather generous collection at 20 images (plus a bonus honorable mention), but hey, it’s my website and it was a good year! Best wishes for all my readers in the year to come!

January: Winter dawn, Deep Springs Valley.

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January: Morning of mists, Deep Springs Valley.

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January: Deep Springs Valley and Split Mountain in snow.

Split Mountain over Deep Springs

January: Snow-covered desert, Deep Springs Valley.

Storm Shadows

February: Lithograph, Death Valley National Park.

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February: Dawn on Walker Lake and Mount Grant, Mineral County, Nevada.

Walker Shoreline

March: Green Gully, Riverside County, California.

Green Ravine

March: Poppy field, southern California.

Purple and Orange

April: Sea to summit, Big Sur coast.

Broken Coast

May: Sunrise garden, Deep Springs Valley.

Sunrise Garden

May: Amargosa River canyon, Inyo County, California.

Amargosa Canyon

June: Ramparts of Mount Williamson, John Muir Wilderness, California.

Williamson Buttresses

July: Glass and white, Tuolumne River, Yosemite National Park.

White and Glass

August: Sierran Treefrog (Pseudacris sierra), Golden Trout Wilderness, California.

Round Meadow Sierran Treefrog

August: Alpine reflection at sunrise, John Muir Wilderness, California.

Tree Glow

Bonus: It would be remiss not to mention one of the outstanding events not only of the year but of my entire life. Though I don’t believe my photo (or any photo) comes close to doing the event justice, the total eclipse in August was one of the most amazing things I’ve ever seen.

End of Totality

September: Evening light and metamorphic rock, John Muir Wilderness, California.

Red Slate Evening

October: Snow squall, Great Basin National Park, Nevada.

Wheeler Cloud Cap

October: Desert autumn, eastern Sierra.

Fish Slough Autumn

December: Towers and shadows, Steens Mountain, Oregon.

Steens Towers and Shadows

December: Dawn light with fresh snow, Warner Valley wetlands, Lake County, Oregon. Though I suspect many will find it rather understated, this image may well be my absolute personal favorite of 2017, a fine gift to round off an amazing photographic year.

Winter Wetlands

 

2017 Favorites: Eli

The annual collection of Eli photos for friends and family:

Eli also did quite a bit of his own shooting in the last year or so, mostly with his own point-and-shoot, though I sometimes let him compose and shoot with my camera and tripod. Here are some of his keepers:

Green Slopes

Green Ravine

Late December is the time when I look back and recall all the images I have not gotten round to posting earlier in the year. This set is from a beautiful evening with Greg Russell as he showed me around his home turf in the Box Spring Mountains of Riverside County, California. The luxurious green grass following a wet winter was a delight for the eyes, but rather nerve-wracking to walk through, inasmuch as it was excellent concealment for the areas prosperous rattlesnake population. Fortunately, we avoided the venomous reptiles, though we did see an impressively massive migration of millipedes on our dusk hike out.

Box Spring Green

Real southern California is fairly exotic terrain for me and always feels a bit surreal. Greg Russell is currently working on a fascinating project to photograph the designated wilderness areas of Riverside County, most of which don’t receive much attention. Check out the Riverside County Wilderness Project!

Box Spring Boulders

Photographing so close to a major urban area was a little odd for me, but I love the feeling of being high above a big city, and the L.A. haze can be rather atmospheric.

Riverside Sunset

 

Seasonal Colors

Baker Creek Red and Green

Technically these are autumn images, from October rather than December, but they seem appropriate for the season. Both are from Great Basin National Park in eastern Nevada: Streamside foliage and a snow squall over Wheeler Peak.

Wheeler Cloud Cap

Joyous late December to all!

Geologic Scale

Great Fold

It’s rather traditional in photos documenting geologic features to place an object in the frame to provide a sense of scale: a wristwatch, a geologists hammer, a water bottle, whatever’s handy and familiar in size to compare with the featured rock. But sometimes this practice just isn’t feasible, as for instance in the above photo of a fold in metamorphic rocks in the Sierra Nevada.

Perhaps zooming out will give us a better sense. Better, but the feature’s size is still somewhat ambiguous beside the tree:

Fold and Tree

These areas of red and white banded and folded rocks are known as roof pendants. They’re regions of ancient sedimentary layers that were pushed around, twisted, folded and baked when vast bubbles of intrusive magma muscled upward into their midst. The magma later cooled and hardened into the famous Sierra granite. The less durable roof pendants then mostly eroded away, but some hang on here and there.

Zooming out further (and at a different time of day) for better scale yet – now we’re talking!

Folded Stone and Light

Small roof pendants are pretty common in the Sierra, but no other examples compare to the massive and dramatic canyon walls in the northeastern edge of the John Muir Wilderness. The wide view, with full context and, I hope, a proper sense of scale:

Metamorphic Sunset

Ramparts of the Sierra

Williamson Creek Morning

The giant escarpment where the Sierra Nevada plummet from their crest into the Owens Valley is one of the most amazing mountain walls in the United States. I managed to spend a little time with it up close and personal last summer.

Williamson Buttresses

Though this photo doesn’t begin to do them justice, the canyons coming off Mt. Williamson (California’s second-highest) are amazing. From the summit to the creek at lower left is a drop of over 7,000 feet in 3-1/2 miles:

Williamson Canyon View

These rocks like to keep their hard edges:

Granite Edges

A gentler detail in this forbidding landscape:

Symmes Saddle Sapling

Looking north up the Sierra front into Owens Valley:

Sierra Scarp

As I hiked out, I stopped for a quick breather and saw the moon setting between these granite fins. With no time to set up a tripod before the moon went down, this image isn’t as sharp as I’d like, but I’m fond of it anyway.

Moon Spires

Fall in the Rain Shadow

Fish Slough Autumn

I’ve seen and photographed some bright and lush fall color scenes this season, but the brilliant gold of aspens in the mountains did not resonate for me emotionally this year. More and more, I love the Great Basin desert for its pockets of surprising beauty set in austere surroundings. I saw much “better” expanses of fall color in October, but the only scene which really moved me was this oasis of dry country cottonwoods glowing under the moisture-blocking ramparts of the Sierra.

Runoff

White and Glass

Early 2017 saw record-breaking snowpack in the Sierra Nevada, and by June that began to turn into incredible runoff. Even here on the Eastside, where the waterways are comparatively modest, the creeks and waterfalls were amazing throughout the summer and even into the fall. Even the little Owens River is still running high as I write this in November. As usual, summer flew by all too fast, and as winter approaches I’m looking back and wishing I’d found even more time to spend watching the snow melt.

To me, running water is the real magic of the Sierra, even more than the lakes, sharp peaks and massive granite.

Rush Creek Power

Good News for the Confluence

 

We got some much-needed good news yesterday as the Navajo Nation Council voted 16-2 to reject the appalling Grand Canyon Escalade proposal. I have watched this proposal fearfully and advocated against it for years. It would have turned one of the most beautiful, isolated, biologically significant and culturally important corners of the Grand Canyon into a heavily commercialized, motorized, overcrowded tourist attraction. The proposed tramway and other infrastructure would have destroyed the wilderness and scenic values of a large portion of Grand Canyon National Park, and would have been an affront to both local Navajos and regional tribes, many of whom consider this location highly sacred. I have visited the Little Colorado Confluence numerous times by raft and on foot, and the place stands out for its unique beauty even in the spectacular context of the larger Grand Canyon region.

For background, please see my earlier writing on the Confluence and the Grand Canyon Escalade proposal.

I am very grateful that the Navajo tribal government saw through the developers’ rhetoric. I am left wondering what will come next, however. The Grand Canyon’s east rim will always be a tempting target for such proposals, and I hope that local Navajos will work together with other tribes and conservationists to introduce their own legislative proposals to the tribal legislature so that a more responsible and far-sighted vision of the areas future may be enshrined in the Navajo Nation’s laws.

But for now, it’s time to celebrate a bit! Many thanks to the local people at Save the Confluence, who have been fighting an uphill battle for years now, to the Navajo Nation Council members (16 of them, anyway), to Grand Canyon Trust and all the other organizations and activists who have worked on this!

Solitude Morning