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JMT(+side trip) planning for magic hour and night photos

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JMT(+side trip) planning for magic hour and night photos

Postby CharlieW » Thu Mar 19, 2015 7:15 pm

I'm developing an itinerary for a slow, solo, photography-oriented JMT hike with side trips. I've given myself a lot of time so I can go off the trail, and I'm not dead-set on "doing the JMT" exactly, so veering off and reconnecting later is perfectly fine. I have some experience navigating high Sierra. I'm comfortable with harder class 2 scrambling in daylight and willing to cover some distance at night on easier terrain.

So I want to plan my camps at or near good vantage points for magic hour and night photography. I'll have a lot of moon (for moon and moonlit landscapes) during 1st half, then good opportunity for stars, Milky Way & Perseids 2nd half. Peaks are not always the best for this sort of thing, but high ridges can be, especially if I can get info on existence of reasonable campsites.

This is filling in now, but I'm happy to hear comments and alternative ideas:

    [Starting July 26 from HI. I have 13 days to get to MTR. Moon/sun data below is for Fresno, so subtract x minutes.]
    26th. Clouds Rest (camp at Clouds Rest or just past?). Moon is waxing gibbous. Moonlit valley after sunset. Moonset at 2:42am WSW 248* over valley. Continue on via Sunrise Lakes to reconnect with JMT.
    27th. Cathedral Lakes. Moonrise 4:50pm ESE 113*. Sunset 8:10pm WNW 295*. Possible to frame rising moon & Cathedral Peak from lower lake, but peak is a better subject from upper lake. Reflected moon & moonscapes after sunset.
    28th. Afternoon-sunset in Tuolumne Meadows. Moonrise at 5:46pm ESE 113*. Night hike under near-full moon to first legal campsite at Young Lakes. Morning on the saddle SE of Ragged Peak. Moonset 4:15am WSW 247*.
    29th. [TM resupply] Lyell Canyon. Almost Full Moon (-2d) rising 6:39pm ESE 112*.
    30th. Somewhere on or near Donahue Peak north of pass (per Elizabeth Wenk's JMT side trip). Are there reasonable camp locations near (other than on the JMT trail approach)??? Full Moon (-1d) rising 7:30pm ESE (109*; 35 min before sunset), setting 6:24am WSW 252*, 20 min after dawn.
    31st. Plan A: Off-trail up to Catherine & Ritter Lakes. Plan B: Thousand Island Lake. Full Moon rising minutes after sunset at 8:16pm ESE (105*), setting after dawn 7:32am WSW 257* to right of Banner/Ritter.
    1st. Garnet Lake. Full Moon (+1d) rising 8:59pm W 100*, setting next morning 8:42am W 263*.
    2nd. Off-trail west of Garnett Lake over Whitebark Pass to Nydiver Lakes and then loop to west down to Ediza Lake. Almost Full Moon (+2d) rising 9:40pm E 94*, sets next day 9:52am W 269*.
    3rd. Off-trail via Iceberg & Cecile Lakes to Minaret Lake. 3/4 Moon rises 10:19pm E 88* (stars over moonlit Minarets). Sets 11:00 am W 274* next day, so will be high over Minarets in late morning.
    4th. [Resupply and burger at Red's] Move on and camp at Red Cone area.
    5th. Virginia Lake
    ?
    7th. Marie Lake.
    8th. MTR cabin & resuply.
    11th. Evolution Lake.
    10th. Camp near Lake 11393 (S of Helen) along route to Black Giant. 3am up Black Giant.
    11th. Palisade Lakes. Sunset 7:55pm WNW 290*. Up for morning Perseids and Crescent Moon rise 4:31am ENE 69*. Sunrise 6:14am ENE 71*.
    12th. Lake Marjorie. Early morning Peak Perseids and Almost-New Moon rising 5:27am ENE 71*, 47 min before sun at at 6:14am ENE 71*.
    13th. Dollar/Arrowhead Lakes. Peak Perseids. Sunrise 6:15 ENE 71*.
    14th. Camp at Charlotte Lake (or flattish area on Bago ascent). New Moon.Sunset 7:50pm. Sunrise 6:16am ENE 72*.
    15th. Lake at 12250 on way up to Forester Pass. Almost New Moon sets 8:22pm W 278*, 32 min behind and 10* left of sun. Visible? Sunrise 6:17am ENE 72*.
    16th. Bighorn Plateau. Tawny Point. Crescent Moon sets 8:54pm W 273*, 1 hr behind and left of sun. Sunrise 6:18am ENE 73*.
    17th. Final night on top of Whitney (weather permitting; else stop at Guitar Lake). Crescent Moon 1.5 hr behind and left of setting sun. Moonset 9:24pm W 268*. Sunrise 6:19am ENE 73*.
    [Out Whitney Portal on Aug 20 ]

I'm using Elizabeth Wenk's JMT and Steve Roper's SHR books for ideas, and this site's High Sierra Map (and I've been to maybe 20% of these places before).

Your thoughts are very much appreciated!

Other photographers are welcome to gather ideas, just don't grab the single bivy site minutes before I do.
Last edited by CharlieW on Sat Jul 18, 2015 9:52 am, edited 19 times in total.



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Re: JMT(+side trip) planning for magic hour and night photos

Postby paul » Thu Mar 19, 2015 7:46 pm

Not clear why you don't want to stay at the Tuolumne backpackers' camp? If you do I'd suggest getting to the top of Lembert dome for something - sunrise, sunset, moonrise - whatever you like but it's a great vantage point.

Top of Whitney for sure as long as no thunderstorms brewing. The sunset and sunrise are not to be forgotten. Moonlight as well - don't expect to sleep much. Another spot I would consider is Bighorn Plateau - it is surrounded by fabulous views and you may be able to get reflection off the pond there if the timing is right and no wind.
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Re: JMT(+side trip) planning for magic hour and night photos

Postby CharlieW » Fri Mar 20, 2015 8:23 am

Thanks Paul. Added Bighorn Plateau. Long day from there to top of Whitney but I think that is reasonable (stopping at Guitar Lake if dodgy weather).

TM backpacker camp may be the way to go, I just have very little enthusiasm about it. Quick question: If I do pay for a spot there early in the day, can I expect it to be vacant at midnight assuming I don't leave a tent? I'm not partial to leaving an expensive tent, and anyway my tent poles are also my tripod legs.

Given my long time frame, I've been eyeing the trail going past Dog Lake up to Ragged Peak / Young Lakes. Are there campsites along that at 4 miles? There is a ridgeline just SSE of Ragged Peak that looks good on the topo map, and just at 4 miles I think. Does anyone know about accessibility/suitability/legality of camping in that area?
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Re: JMT(+side trip) planning for magic hour and night photos

Postby SirBC » Fri Mar 20, 2015 9:27 am

Charlie, I too will be doing a solo photography-oriented JMT this summer (starting July 17th out of Sunrise Lakes) so I look forward to seeing the responses you get. One area I might recommend is Ediza Lake which is close to your Thousand Island lake stop. The lake area itself is beautiful and on the Western end you can climb up through some meadows with wildflowers where there are then a series of waterfalls leading up to the peaks. Definitely a great photo location.

Out of curiosity, what photo equipment will you be bringing? Last year I took my full tripod/DSLR kit on a 3 night trip, and well, I won't be doing that again. My plan this summer is a much lighter set of gear; Gitzo 1542T tripod, Sony a6000 with the 10-18 f/4 (15-27 mm equivalent) and that's about it.
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Re: JMT(+side trip) planning for magic hour and night photos

Postby CharlieW » Fri Mar 20, 2015 3:48 pm

@SirBC, thanks for the Ediza Lake tip (although I'm pessimistic about any remaining waterfalls or wildflowers in August this year).

On gear, strangely enough I'm considering renting a Sony RX1r. It's the world's smallest full-frame camera at only 18 oz. It has the light-sensitivity I want for night shooting, and it's light enough to mount on my modified Ultrapod (modified with some duct tape and tubing to mount on 2 hiking poles and a 3rd carbon fiber pole, and plastic grocery bag to weight it). Yeah, I know. Fixed 35mm lens. I'm trying to step up my creativity and composition. Anyway, I'm renting it all of next week so I have some time with it before deciding this summer.

Great thing about renting is that (even if I like it) I'll have no regrets when the RX2 inevitably comes out.
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Re: JMT(+side trip) planning for magic hour and night photos

Postby markskor » Fri Mar 20, 2015 8:18 pm

CharlieW wrote:TM backpacker camp may be the way to go, I just have very little enthusiasm about it. Quick question: If I do pay for a spot there early in the day, can I expect it to be vacant at midnight assuming I don't leave a tent? I'm not partial to leaving an expensive tent, and anyway my tent poles are also my tripod legs.

About getting there early, setting up, leaving/ returning at midnight...
No worries about theft at Tuolumne BP...Well, none I've ever heard of...knock on wood. I leave expensive gear/ tent/ sleeping bag there all the time. Backpackers do not steal.

I would choose a site - back-right, set up my tent, all gear hidden inside - bed ready... (with dated payment slip left on the # post)...and expect that all will be there untouched upon returning, even at midnight.

No tent? - backpack stashed in a bear locker?...a different story. Just to explain more, you do not have rights to the entire numbered site to yourself at any of the Yosemite BP camps. With only 20 numbered sites and possibly 50+ groups staying over in Tuolumne BP...any flat place in camp that can hold a tent is fair game/ could be used...always a parade of late arrivals. When you come back at midnight, your tent not yet pitched, expect to see your site (and probably the exact spot you intended to sleep on), filled with somebody's tent...sharing is acceptable, even with you not being there - makes no difference. Just set up your tent first (even without poles?) - claiming your spot - then no worries.

I would be more afraid of theft leaving my stuff unattended in a regular car-camp site.
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Re: JMT(+side trip) planning for magic hour and night photos

Postby AlmostThere » Sat Mar 21, 2015 7:05 am

The only thieves in the TM backpacker camp are the bears. They will steal food, anything that smells like it, and your empty pack. Instructions on the board at the entry tell you to put unattended backpacks in the lockers.
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Re: JMT(+side trip) planning for magic hour and night photos

Postby CharlieW » Sat Mar 21, 2015 9:10 am

Thanks all. I may very well stay at TM backpacker camp if I'm feeling tired.

I'm hoping however that I will have some extra energy on that day for something more ambitious. It's downhill from Cathedral Lakes and I will be fortified by a burger at TM and a long afternoon nap. There will be an almost-full moon up high after sunset, which you all know is like daylight. I can't think of anything more magical than hiking around Tuolumne Meadows under a full moon. So I've tentatively planned a night hike up toward Young Lakes. Official Yosemite trail map indicates legal backcountry camping just before the 2 trails merge west of Ragged Peak, maybe 3.5 miles after coming off the north side of Lambert Dome. I don't know if there are established campsites before the lakes, but that isn't much farther.

Before Young Lakes there is a saddle, SE of Ragged Peak and directly N of Dog Lake. It looks like it would have a fantastic view. I can't quite figure out if this is a legal camping area. It's off-trail about a mile and just about even with the "dispersed camping" arrows on the trails to west. (I'll probably just ask at ranger station.) Is anyone familiar with this spot?
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Re: JMT(+side trip) planning for magic hour and night photos

Postby CharlieW » Mon Apr 13, 2015 2:55 pm

OK, time for some more specific questions:

There are a few peaks or other high points that I want to be at for sunset or sunrise or likely both. So I want to camp as close as I can, to minimize night scrambling, but I'm not a big fan of sleeping on sharp rocks or at excessively exposed locations. Can anyone give me specific info on finding reasonable campsites en route to or near these places?:

* Donohoe Peak. I'll head off trail just before pass (per Wenk's JMT guide). Looks very talus-y but maybe something near the little unnamed lake en route?
* North Glacier Pass / Catherine & Ritter Lakes area
* Black Giant ridgeline.
* Mount Bago (not a big deal to hike up from Charlotte Lake if necessary)

Before you ask, I have not determined (100%) my shelter system. Maybe a ZPacks Duplex (which I already own) or maybe new tarp/bivy (if I convince myself that easier site-selection and minus 6 oz. outweighs cost of purchase and other negatives). I also should note that I'll have a DeLorme inReach so able to get daily localized weather info (I'm a coward about this sort of thing).

Also, I'm still looking for good locations to seek out between Red Cones (after Red's) and Marie Lake. Does anyone have suggestions for places to be for sunset/sunrise along that section?
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Re: JMT(+side trip) planning for magic hour and night photos

Postby maverick » Mon Apr 13, 2015 3:44 pm

Hi Charlie,

Are you using this, it is very helpful and precise: http://photoephemeris.com/
I don't give out specific route information, my belief is that it takes away from the whole adventure spirit of a trip, if you need every inch planned out, you'll have to get that from someone else.

Have a safer backcountry experience by using the HST ReConn Form 2.0, named after Larry Conn, a HST member: http://reconn.org
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