In such a beautifully colorful world, I’m still so memorized by simple black and white. In this photo, sharp early morning light finally arrives over the first snow covered hillside of the Patriarch Grove and delivers some rather stunning contrast to these stark incredible aliens happily scattered about clinging to old white sea bed. Their defiance to live is overwhelming. Their presence undeniable. Their medieval twisted forms and fingers tear into the dark blue sky. The recent storm is over I suppose. What can you say that hasn’t been said or felt before by other life seekers who before me excitedly traversed the kindly state managed bumpy wagon road to such ancientness. It’s as thought the shaky wheel clenching swerve fest is in itself somehow part of the initiation for the special few who have dared to go the distance. Spare tire anyone? As breathtaking a site as they are, I myself feel sudden swells of emptiness wandering these hills, mixed with a little glory of course like an invisible Frodo Baggins wandering middle earth, or maybe it’s just my shallow perception of time on earth in huge contrast to what these creatures have and will still endure long before and long after I’m gone. Maybe I have tree envy. We human flesh puppets are like interstellar mosquitoes in the cosmic pond. We come and go in a spring week. Cry, crawl, walk, run, fall like a simple passing spring storm. I thanked them for letting me watch and carry their silhouettes back with me to grace my home and share with my fellow mosquitoes. They don’t answer back, but I know they hear me.
I daydream about this place a lot. I feel like it’s somewhat of a landscape photographer’s playground. Obviously I’m not alone. 24 hours a day, with enough quiet contemplation and enough gear to cover the 24 hour cycle of light, you could muster a winning image out from within these ancient hills.
A story: I was shooting star images recently one night and left my fog lights on a bit to long.. 7 miles or so in along the dirt road to patriarch. As the stars dimmed I hurriedly packed up my night gear to make the mad morning dash only to find my car battery was dead. Huge bummer. And so in the lifting darkness I sat a moment… unable to scurry to my predestined location… completely GROUNDED. I wasn’t exactly in a location for sunrise. It was a valleyish shadowed spot and cluttered with uninteresting chaotic brush void of any faraway views. The thought of sitting there and having to watch this morning light creep up and over my dead car, not to mention the location I was now unable to get to, was a sadness only a landscape photographer could fully understand. Let’s face it, we thrive on micro moments laced in luck and glory. The tiny fraction of planning, more planning and did I mention MORE PLANNING that we actually do control is very important. A simple dead battery really isn’t fair. It’s a frustrating line of work, this landscape light hunt thing, that can be both incredibly rewarding and utterly depressing all in the same day. Occasionally I do a bunch of “the right things” in a row on a lucky day and I walk away with my head up, but I must say it doesn’t come easy. I have so much to learn still and I don’t mind learning it. So, back to my story, I mention all this because sitting there in my dead car stranded in the ancient forest, I was able to calmly watch the morning unfold in quiet unhurried stillness. Something I rarely do. I wasn’t thinking about shots or fumbling with tripod legs, I wasn’t zoned into one frame or feeling my pockets for spare batteries and SD cards, I wasn’t looking ahead and adjusting camera settings, wasn’t trying to guess or 2nd guess or plan or think. I just watched the cycle of morning arrive as light spilled out up and over the mountain top. I watched in complete quiet as it softly flooded the forest floor… as it painted every crevice shadow, hidden nook and unseen cranny that lie in its relentless path. I’ve had this simple understanding before, but perhaps it took on a new meaning to me this day, yes, Light is a thing. It doesn’t just illuminate a subject, it is the subject. Reading it in a book, or hearing someone else say it is one thing, awakening to your own meaning of it is something completely different.
I know, I know, deep thoughts the day after a blood moon. Anywho, that’s my very own personal Ancient Bristlecone Light subject Forest story. Feel free to leave your fog lights on at your own discretion. Happy awareness hunting.
Oh yeh, this story has absolutely nothing to do with this image. I took this in broad daylight hand held, 2 exposures and stacked for sharpness throughout the image. I’m a huge fan of the classic window frame landscape. Hardly a technique I’ve mastered but “It’s a long road to the top if you wanna rock n roll.”
It snowed most of the night. I couldn’t really sleep. But around 1:00 AM or so, as our web weatherman predicted… clear skies would in fact prevail. I have to say, I was starting to think they had the whole thing wrong. Stars glimmered thru my little FJ window, as the bitter cold swiftly crept into my little traveling hotel in the mountain tops of Inyo. I had woke to start the engine and heat the cabin a few times during the long night, but It was now time to venture out under the disappearing stars and into the dawn. The fresh snow that fell the last few days would soon melt away in the predicted sunny blue monday skies, so I had maybe 2 or 3 hours before my eastern sierra back drop dripped away. I did have to search out a near “thing” thru the softly powdered ancient hills, careful not to walk in places that might be used inside a future foreground. It does pain me to disrupt the beauty of freshly fallen snow for any reason. It’s as though no human on earth could ever lay it down in more a perfect and random way. Just as it should and foreve will be, without apology… without conscience. It didn’t take long to find a subject, as these hills are literally scattered with subject matter. A wide angle put me to close to this fella, and with my small 5’ 7” perspective it’s limbs obscured my softly packed sierra backdrop. Sometimes I choose to break a solid line through an image with the subject, however I really didn’t like the effect here. I chose to stay back with a telephoto… back back way back… just until the snow capped peaks shinned a little in the sharp morning light now painting the hills to light and dark contrasts of golden wow. It all happens so quickly doesn’t it. Replaying it in my brain now feels like one giant stream of thought happening over eons of time, yet the entire process was about 10 minuets long. Once I had this shot, I played with some various comps, close and far, broken and not broken, wide and long… until the big blue sky finally invaded my tranquil snowy hill. Trust your instinct but plan to be surprised I always say. Happy mistakes happen at the most unplanned moments and there is no rhyme, reason or rule book to accommodate or calculate for those moments. I traversed the snow covered hilltops well till noon gathering every star flare thru ancient limbs that I could, I even watched some afternoon football on my ANCIENT ipad. Soon after the game, I planned to venture to the hilltops above the ancient groves. somewhere off the beaten path with a far away view. Twilight approached and I suspected a giant earth shadow would soon creep over these ancient hills. I could hardly wait. I find it’s always best to be the first in line. Random happenings seem more vibrant and exciting from the front row.
North Lake Matinee, Ca 2014 on Flickr.
I traveled through a rather treacherous snow storm Sunday night along the Patriarch Grove dirt road in foggy white out conditions hopeful for a late day lifting of the clouds. Couldn’t help but stop on route for a few misty images of spook and wonder. The storm didn’t lift, but I woke Monday to a beautiful snow covered backdrop of the eastern sierras. Trust me, you don’t want to run into this little fella in a dark alley.
Sandstoned, Malibu Ca 2014 on Flickr.
I’ve been a wandering.
Here in Malibu, 2000ft peeks seem mighty nice some nights.
Hardly a rocky mountain high, but still worth a puff or two.
Late light scraped some sandstone peaks on the tippidy top of Corral Canyon a few nights ago.
What can I say, I love rocks.