Mount Shasta is the largest mountain in Northern California, and one of the largest in the state. It sits isolated from other peaks, so unlike other tall mountains in the Eastern Sierra where the looks are deceiving, Shasta LOOKS big. When it comes to photography, the area isn't all about the mountain. There are plenty of lakes, waterfalls, and other little gems throughout the area that make this region a blast for landscape photography. Mike and I met a group of 8 photographers for a fun weekend of exploring the north. While this time of year is typically very hot in the northern valley...a recent wave of cooler temperatures has rolled in, bringing with it a bit of dramatic weather and rain. Our plans for the first morning was to head to the picturesque Trout Lake. Here we have a beautiful reflection of the mountain, and it's always a great way to start off a workshop, especially when you've woken up at 3:00am to get there for sunrise.
Unfortunately the weather has decided that today we should not start at Trout Lake, but we should opt out and head back down the road to the middle falls of the McCloud River. This beautiful curtain falls sits on one of the clearest and most pristine spring fed rivers in the area. We always start our second day photographing area, but today given the overcast and drizzly weather...we decide to start off here. After a short hike, our group of photographers is situated at the base of the falls where Mike and I help them to get their settings dialed in, and work the rocks and rapids to find the best compositions. There's plenty of green foliage to help give some blasts of color to the scene. Waterfalls are always awesome to photograph, so we're going to keep this going by heading to Hedge Creek Falls after. This little gem sits in a basalt canyon. While not your typical overpowering falls, this little falls looks almost like a beam of light when photographed for longer exposures. We help the group one by one to get right in the creek to use some nice moving water as a dynamic foreground. This little spot only holds one at a time, so while one is in the creek the others are working with me or Mike to shoot from the left or right sides of the falls to get a wider angle.
With our waterfall adventure mostly wrapped up, it's time to head back north towards the mountain, which has become visible again after the morning storm. We stop at the lovely Lake Siskiyou so we can shoot some close ups of the fog and clouds as they break from the mountain. Mike and I like to point out that while the color isn't very dynamic this time of year, the tonal value is quite amazing, and when converted to black and white they images look very moody and dramatic. It's been a long morning, so everyone is ready for a little nap, before our afternoon adventure...a hike up to heart lake.
Heart Lake is one of my favorite vistas in the area for Mount Shasta. It sits about a mile above the other local alpine lake, Castle Lake. The view from the ridge offers up a stunning view of Shasta, Black Butte, and Castle Lake, all with the luxury of some amazing late afternoon clouds. The hike up to this vista isn't the easiest, but it's always worth it. Once atop the ridge we're greeted by a cold, cold wind. Mother Nature sometimes doesn't give up the good without a little suffering. Shasta wasn't too visible when we arrived, but over the course of 2 hours on the ridge, the mountain became more and more visible and eventually we had a pretty dramatic sky, and nice light on the mountain. Mike and I helped provide some different options for composition, and settings. The images people got were AWESOME...but as soon as the light was gone, they were ready to get out of the cold!
If ever a first day ended where the folks deserved a warm shower and sleep...it was today! What an epic day.
Day 2 we head back out at dark to set up for a second try at Trout Lake. Trout Lake, is amazing, and it's worth heading to. The storm has mostly moved out of the area, and it looks like this morning we're going to get something awesome. Everyone sets up in the cold, still morning, and waits for the light. When it comes...it's AWESOME. Clouds catch the light turning shades of pink and orange, a cool mist raises from the lake as the first light of the sun warms the cool surface. There's reflections for the first part of the show, and as the mist overtakes the lake, that reflection turns into a moody, atmospheric scene.
Everyone is stoked on the morning shoot for sure, and we head off to some old pieces of Americana afterwards to work on some more shots. The little Shasta church is one of the best one room churches around, and with a stunning backdrop of the mountain it's even more impressive. We love to take people here as it's a relatively under-photographed part of the state. The rest of our morning sees us shoot some old barns, and an abandoned house in the area. Each of these locations has a different texture, or personality, and most offer a way to incorporate Mt. Shasta in the frame as well.
The second part of day 2 is processing, It's always awesome to see the work of the group brought to its best look. Everyone has a different approach to the processing, but many get stuck with this as well...so it's great for Mike and I to offer up new ways to make those images shine. When our processing session is done, we're off again to get more photographs. Burney Falls is another spring fed, giant waterfall in northern California. This baby flows like a champ all year long. We arrive mid afternoon as the sun has almost dropped behind the cliffs and the falls are in shadow. I love this falls because there are options for larger wide angle shots and plenty of little sections of the falls that offer up an enormous amount of shooting options if the close up photography is more your bag. There's so much to see here.
While we focused on nature for the majority of the workshop, it's hard not to come all the way to Northern California and not see the famous Sundial Bridge. We pass through Redding on our way back to Mt Shasta, so we stop here for some sunset, and blue hour photography. This Calatrava bridge has a glass bottom, and very cool designs that are lit up at night to give cool colors to the reflections in the water, and the surface of the bridge. We shoot it from the side, and from the top...everyone getting a different bit of exposure. Some are experimenting with very long exposures, while others are trying their hand at the 20-30 second range. TH sky has been fantastic all weekend, and the clouds are really helping create a nice, dramatic mood.
Time sure does fly, even when it doesn't get dark until 9pm. It seems like we were just waking up to go shoot Trout Lake on the first, day, and here we are headed back to Mt. Shasta cameras full of a diverse set of new images. Mike and I had a lot of fun with this group, showing them the area, and helping to give them plenty of processing to do when they get home!
Until next time,
Brian, Mike, and the rest of the Aperture Academy team
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