Rising 11,500 feet above sea level, Mount Shasta is the fifth largest, and youngest volcano along the Pacific Cascade Range. But don't let that fool you...Mount Shasta is a stunning example of mother nature's craftsmanship and the vast region that surrounds Mount Shasta provides many stunning vantage points, making this an ideal location for a summer photography workshop.
Beyond the stunning Mount Shasta vistas are many lush waterfalls and on our first morning an early waterfall visit was on the itinerary. Middle McCloud falls spans nearly 100 feet and drops 50 feet into a teal green pool below. The shore is lined with giant boulders and lush plant life, which provides many great vantage points and an excellent opportunity to introduce additional color into this already beautiful scene.
We made the short walk down to the falls and spent 90 minutes working with our group to find strong compositions and shutter speeds that would draw out the silky details of the fresh mountain water as it cascaded over the dark volcanic and moss-covered rocks.
With many great images we returned to the Aperture Academy Mercedes passenger van (ApCab) and drove to the hotel for a quick breakfast and coffee break before heading out again for some mid-morning light on Lake Siskiyou. Along the east shore we found a nice location that included the towering Mount Shasta in the distance. It was a nice location to play with white balance and work on a variety of compositions to help capture the scene true to our vantage points. After everyone was pleased with their results we returned to the town of Mount Shasta for lunch and a mid-day break.
With recharged camera batteries and some naps, we headed out into the late afternoon. Our first stop was a very picturesque church, built in 1878. Some high, wispy clouds created some excellent texture in the sky and the snowy peaks of Mount Shasta acted as the perfect backdrop to this timeless scene.
As the afternoon drew to a close it was time to find a location for sunset, and we knew the perfect location -- Trout Lake. The lush reed lined the banks, the mountain towered large in the distance, and the high clouds began to thicken up...the group's energy was high as the sun began to set and pinks and purples exploded across the sky. The sunset lasted about 10 minutes which allowed everyone to capture a good variety of exposures and compositions before the colors faded giving way to the night.
The summer evening temperature was very pleasant, with just a light breeze, so we continued into the night to photograph the Milky Way. Some homework by Ellie and I concluded that the Milky Way would rise that night just behind Mount Shasta, and that it did. By 10pm everyone's screens were filled with epic scenes of Mount Shasta surrounded by a bright blanket of starlight. It was so dark we could easily see the Milky Way with our naked eye, and of course that meant our long exposures were soaking up all that heavenly light too.
By midnight we had more than enough images to work with so we loaded up and returned to the hotel in the town of Mount Shasta for a some much earned sleep.
After such a long day (and night) we all slept in, meeting for breakfast at 7:30am and then departing at 8am for the crystal clear waters of Castle Lake. We arrived to her shores to find the most beautiful glassy reflections and everyone quickly spread out to take advantage of the great conditions. Ellie and I worked with each person in the group to use neutral density filters to balance out the morning light striking the distant granite mountain side with the darker foreground of water, logs and rocks.
With Castle Lake a photo success, we returned to the hotel where we downloaded images and had a post-processing lesson, teaching many simple techniques to really pull the most out of the images we had taken. After this 3-hour post processing session, and lunch, we departed for the last stop of the day -- Burney Falls.
Burney Falls is one of the most stunning waterfalls...not only is it fed from Burney Creek but also from underground springs that create a massive 200 foot wide span of cascading falls that looks more like it belongs in Hawaii or New Zealand rather than the forests of Northern California.
With so many fantastic compositions we spent nearly 90 minutes working the banks of Burney Falls. Not only was the photography excellent, but at the base of the falls it was a good 20 degrees cooler than the trailhead, giving us some great relief from the afternoon summer temperatures.
We said our goodbyes and we'll see you again soon, and everyone was off to make their return journeys home...some from the San Francisco Bay area, one from Hawaii and others from the East Coast.
Ellie and I want to say a very big thank you to our 2015 Mount Shasta group...you guys were a lot of fun and we really enjoyed working with you!
Until next time,
Stephen, Ellie and the rest of the Aperture Academy team
If you'd like to join us at one of our workshops, you can find the schedule/sign up here.