For some people fall is all about pumpkin spice, Halloween, and getting ready for the holiday season. For photographers, Fall means color in leaves, cooler temperatures, and the chance to get out and capture some great photos. With COVID-19 putting a damper on photography for most of the last couple of years, it was finally time to get back out and see some fall.
I met my group of photographers in Mammoth Lakes for the first leg of our Eastern Sierra/Bodie Night photography workshop. The group was excited to get together, and everyone was ready for our first stop of the tour….Mono Lake. Mono Lake looks like another planet…strange tufa rock formations jut out of the earth like crazy textured towers. I got my group set along the shoreline looking out at some of the most iconic pieces of tufa. I helped point out some of the more interesting pieces of foreground and helped make sure everyone's settings were in place. After a lovely sunrise, we spent time shooting some of the fall foliage and other areas of South Tufa.
After Mono Lake, we set off for June Lakes to see some aspen groves, and work a little on panning images. These images create intentionally blurred abstract images. They aren't easy to make, and each one is different…. but eventually the technique will yield some pretty interesting and fun results.
The real star of the evening was Bodie Ghost Town. This old settlement is kept in a permanent state of accepted decay…they try to preserve what is still there but do not recreates anything new. It's so awesome to see this place in the evening then have it all to ourselves at night for some star and Milky Way photography. Our group was small so we really had a cool opportunity to move around and see everything and make some tremendous images. This high desert ghost town sure does get cold at night!
I'm a real stickler for chasing light, so even though we get back at midnight, I get the group up every morning for sunrise. Our second sunrise was spent at Convict Lake. While this place is entirely crime-free these days it still offers up a freaky good view of the Sierra range and that wonderful morning light. I helped our group find a couple of really nice foreground and vantage points and everyone had a great time shooting this beautiful lake.
That afternoon we reconvened in Bishop California for the remaining two nights together. Our first stop was visiting the oldest trees on earth. At over 4000 years old Bristlecone pines are amazing specimens. They have figured out how to thrive in areas where nothing much else grows. The gnarled Bristlecone pine trees grow at nearly 10K feet elevation. We shot sunset and stayed for a little night shooting as well. Unlike Bodie, we do not have this place to ourselves. We had other eager photographers coming and going all evening….and it was always better when they left and we were there to enjoy peace and quiet.
Once again the following morning we set out for Sunrise at North Lake. This lake offers up some of the best colors in the Eastern Sierra. I had the group brave a sketchy creek crossing, but the views we had on that side of the lake were so much better than the masses on the other side. We had vantages to see the whole lake, and beautiful reflections and foreground to use. I've been to this lake numerous times in fall, and the color this year was on par for the best I've ever seen.
It's hard to beat that bit of beauty. We spent the rest of the afternoon working on some post-processing techniques. It's great to see people's images and help them to process their night photographs in a way that really makes them shine. Processing is such a big part of digital imagery.
That afternoon we returned to North Lake to shoot the sunset from the other side of the lake, and spend some time in those wonderful aspen groves. I've not seen red leaves that intense here before in addition to the oranges and yellows. It was spectacular!
Our last morning was spent in the crazy Alabama Hills. This alien rock landscape has been used in multiple movies about the wild west, and space planets. It's also a staple in almost every truck commercial. There are sweet arches and multiple different lines and textures to put in your frame. We had some great clouds and color as well to make it a real treat. It was easy for us to spend 3 hours in this part of the high desert. But sadly, it was where our time together ended. The group set back to their cities of origin and brought home a variety of great new images to sift through.
It was a beautiful long weekend, and we managed to avoid the smoke from the nearby forest fires for all of our shoot locations and a great time was had by all!
Until Next Time,
Brian and the rest of the Aperture Academy Team
P.S. If you'd like to join us at one of our workshops, you can find the schedule/sign up here.