Here’s a little quiz for you geography geeks….where is the highest and lowest point in the continental United States? Well amazingly, they’re within 100 miles of each other in eastern California. Mt. Whitney is the tallest mountain in the lower 48 states and of course, Death Valley is the lowest spot in the U.S.
In January, along with six other folks, I joined a photography workshop in California led by the superlative professional photographer Marc Adamus. In the course of a week we covered several thousand miles of California splendor as Marc continually put us in position to capture iconic images.
The Alabama Hills are a legendary set of rock formations in Lone Pine, California and were the location of virtually every western movie (and many TV shows) made in the 1950s and 1960s. A local road called “Movie Road” meanders though the hills and the sites of some of the most renown western movies. John Wayne, Robert Mitchum, Lorne Greene, Tom Mix, and Roy Rogers were regular visitors to Lone Pine (could this town have a better name?). Their photos and hundreds of others are hanging in many of the town’s restaurants.
The Owens River flows through the Owens valley in eastern California and was the target of the fierce California water wars in the early 1900s. Facing an increasing population and decreasing water availability, the city of Los Angeles bought up land in the Owens Valley and constructed an aqueduct to carry the water out of the Owens Valley into Los Angeles. By 1920 the city had completely drained Owens Lake and valley farmers were irate that their agriculture businesses were in danger of collapsing. This led to years of years of resistance and accompanying violence (farmers blew up the aqueduct repeatedly). Aspects of the conflict were the basis of the Jack Nicholson film Chinatown
The area around Bishop California is prime photographic territory. Galen Rowell, one of photography’s luminary figures was based in Bishop and although he passed away years ago in a plane crash, his Mountain Light Gallery in Bishop is a must see for everybody. His work is an inspiration to all aspiring landscape photographers.
This day there were intermittent storms and cloudy conditions that obscured the mountains but occasionally there would be a luminous shaft of light that would strike the landscape. My goal was to find something photogenic and wait for that shaft of light to make some magic.
I found this curved fence line leading to this lone tree with blue toned clouds obscuring the mountains in the background.
These stalagmite structures called “Tufas” sprout up in heavily carbonated Mono Lake as a result of underground springs rich in calcium rising in the lake and interacting with the carbonated water with the resulting calcium carbonate material incrementally forming these spires (Wow! heavy science info!). The water level has receded significantly in the past 50 years leaving many of the largest Tufas on the shoreline where photographers photograph them incessantly.
Mammoth Lakes resort is on the northern portion of the Sierra Range and like much of California in the past few years is experiencing severe drought conditions with the natural snow pack on the mountain being much smaller than normal. One third of California’s water originates from this snowpack.
Because of the hilly terrain and high altitude, the area is a mecca for athletes, particularly long distance runners, who like to train at high altitudes.
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