Mt. Shasta Photography Workshop - June 2014

Mount Shasta Photography Workshop Students

Mt Shasta is an relatively isolated peak in the middle of the Shasta-Trinity National Forest, a sprawling 2 million acre wilderness of pine, cedar, fir and oak. This area has seen some major volcanic activity over the eons, and the Mt Shasta volcano is the centerpiece of that evolution. At 14,179 ft, Mt Shasta is a massive icon, which can be seen for miles due to its prominence at nearly 10,000 ft above the surrounding terrain, making it an ideal subject to photograph from nearly all angles and perfect for Aperture Academy Workshops!

Jean and I met up with our 13 new photographic friends in the little town of Mt. Shasta, CA, which is right in the middle of the greater Shasta area. We spent the next hour getting to know everyone a little better, although this felt like an All-Star event. It was nice to see so many return students! The weather forecast was looking great, the temperatures were low, which is great this time of year, trying to hike in hot weather is nightmarish. Anyway time to get some sleep for our 4am departure!

Day One

We begin with a 45 minute journey out to Trout Lake. The small fishing lake is relatively protected from the winds in the valley to the north of the mountain, which means the water can get glassy, with a perfect view of Mt Shasta in the background. We had a little bit of high clouds in the sky, which provided a little color during sunrise. We spent the next hour working compositions around the north shore until it was time to move on to our next stop. Little Shasta is a small farming town which was settled in 1853, it has an iconic church which was erected in 1878 for $3,250. This little church has a big neighbor behind it: Mount Shasta. Jean and I spent time helping the group with compositions using the church as a foreground and the mountain as a background. Its really quite striking how perfectly you can align them and still be in the same shot, especially when using a zoom lens and standing further off. Coffee time!

After a short break, we headed to the Mt Shasta Lavender Farm. On a hill on the north side of the mountain, the lavender farm has sprawling rows of English and French lavender, all leading to a beautiful view of Mt Shasta! The weather was cooperating nicely, giving us just a few clouds over the mountain, with some patches of blue. Okay, now its time for a serious break.

We met up again after a couple hours to drive to Faery Falls, a quaint little 40 foot cascade along Ney Springs Creek. There are tons of photographic opportunities here, especially for such a small waterfall. We spent some time walking everyone through using their polarizers, and if need be, to use some neutral density filters as well, to slow down their shutter speeds to allow the water to look more glassy. After the hike out, we headed north again to take a look at an old house. There are a ton of old abandoned houses, barns, vehicles, etc, as much as youd expect with a very old remote community. These old icons are quite photogenic, especially when you have a 14,000 ft mountain in the distance. Our last stop of the evening was an old barn. Placed perfectly in the background was Mt Shasta, and we all gathered there and waited for the sunset colors to illuminate the sky in beautiful reds and purples. But it wasnt to be. Too much cloud cover in the suns path blocked the last light of day from lighting up the sky. There was some fantastic light on the barn before sunset, but that was all. Better luck tomorrow!

Day Two

We decided to give everyone a little respite today, and instead headed out at 5:30am. Our first stop was MIddle McCloud Falls, a 60 ft high block waterfall. The numerous rock and tree falls over the years make for perfect hiding spots for photographers! Theres so much to shoot here, so many vantage points, so many students to keep track of! Jean and I hopped around to make sure everyone was doing okay, and we spent nearly 2 hours shooting the waterfall from every angle! But as the sun rises, it creeps ever closer into everyones frame, so it was time to hit up one more spot before our midday break. Lake Siskiyou is a manmade reservoir in the shadow of Mt Shasta. You could have fooled me, it looks completely natural and blends in perfectly with the surrounding terrain. In 2010 they built a beautiful footbridge over Wagon Creek, which is perfectly situated in front of the mountain. So we walked out to a vantage point on the lake to shoot the lake, bridge, and mountain. The scene was perfect; calm waters, blue skies, and puffy clouds! We taught the students about using neutral density filters during the day, to slow down their shutter speeds, which in turn slows down the water, making it look more glassy. Anyone feeling hungry?

After a midday break filled with food, a nap, and some post processing care of Jean and I, we headed out on our last journey of the workshop. Our first stop was Burney Falls. This monster of a segmented waterfall, dwarfs all the falls in the area by a landslide. At 129 ft tall, easily 200 ft across, and plunging nearly 400 million litres of water per day, its easy to say that its a monster! Burney, like most of the waterfalls on our trip, has many vantage points both along the trail and in and around the pool at the bottom. We helped the students locate the many interesting compositions up and down the trail, and the closer they got to the bottom, we made sure they were wiping their lenses, because this waterfall has a lot of spray! After our group shot, and short hike out, it was time to head over to Redding for our last spot of the night. The Sundial Bridge is an iconic footbridge that spans 700 ft over the Sacramento river. Its large spire, or gnomon, can be seen for miles and is one of the largest sundials in the world. With the river running beneath it, this beautiful bridge is the perfect spot for a sunset shot. And it did not disappoint! For about 20 minutes, the crimson color ebbed and flowed over the skies in perfect symmetry with the bridge. Everyone was giddily running around trying new spots while time just seemed to stand still for us. It was breathtaking, a perfect way to end the workshop.

Until next time,

Scott, Jean and the rest of the Aperture Academy team

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