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Challenging Sierra Photographic Locations

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Challenging Sierra Photographic Locations

Postby Wandering Daisy » Sun Mar 18, 2012 11:43 am

There are locations in the Sierra where try as I may, I cannot get a good photo. Does anyone else have these problems? Here are a few areas that I have failed to get good photos.

1) Keweah Basin. Shooting into the sun. I cannot seem to get around this. Plus the north faces are always in the shadows. I was there in September, which may have added to the poor photos. Lighting is bad, everything looks dull and tired. A bit of lingering forest fire smoke in the air did not help either.

2) Kern River Canyon below Junction Meadow. Tight canyon. All I get are unimpressive foreshortened views.

3) Valhalla. Three attempts and no good luck. The valley smog seems to seep into the area and all my photos look like they were taken in LA.

4) Ritter Lakes. Very dark rock and bright white snow. I have yet learned to handle this high contrast.



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Re: Challenging Sierra Photographic Locations

Postby maverick » Sun Mar 18, 2012 7:47 pm

WD wrote:
1) Kaweah Basin. Shooting into the sun. I cannot seem to get around this. Plus the north
faces are always in the shadows. I was there in September, which may have added to the
poor photos. Lighting is bad, everything looks dull and tired. A bit of lingering forest fire
smoke in the air did not help either.

2) Kern River Canyon below Junction Meadow. Tight canyon. All I get are unimpressive
foreshortened views.

3) Valhalla. Three attempts and no good luck. The valley smog seems to seep into the area
and all my photos look like they were taken in LA.

4) Ritter Lakes. Very dark rock and bright white snow. I have yet learned to handle this
high contrast


Hi WD

Kaweah Basin tends to best at sunrise, especially if there was thunderstorm activity the
evening before or during the night. This will give you not only the soft light that you
get during the magic hour, but some vibrant colors that make Kaweah Ridge sing with
color. As discussed before one needs to time the trip around such meteorological events
otherwise you will not get much color in the ridge or clouds in the sky.
Here is a color photo taken in the upper part of the basin, there were some clouds to the
east that helped with color, but not clouds in the vicinity:
http://WildernessApertures.com/img/s9/v ... 0982-6.jpg
The best place to take the ultimate photo, would be from the ridge between Peak
12972 and Peak 12457 western end in Kaweah Basin. This would grant an encompassing
view of the entire Kaweah Ridge, but one would need to be up there before sunrise, or
if a storm has cleared some, than for sunset, if safe.

When thinking about Kern Canyon you have to either showcase the river or the canyon.
For me the canyon is about towering cliffs on both sides, and a view that goes on for
miles. The best place for this is near the top of HST as it climbs out of the Kern going
west. It affords a dramatic view that is unparalleled from any other spot along the Kern.
Staying at Upper Funston the night before, where I got rain, and hail for a couple of
hours, this set up for the possibility of getting the right atmospheric conditions. Had to
get an early start to find the opportune spot, and wait till the sun rose a bit so some of
the rays would hit the cliffs on the western side of the canyon. With all the thunderstorm
activity the night before, some haze had formed miles down the canyon, which added some
depth to the shot, and some color.
http://WildernessApertures.com/img/s10/ ... 4759-6.jpg

Valhalla is not easy to photograph because as you mention conditions may not be right.
Also personally the best spot to photograph it would take a some effort, if at all possible.
The location would be from the peak right across from it, south of Valhalla, and it would
take more effort than I think it is worth.
Also when there is haze present, even though you said you do not like to do it, but black
& white lends itself to these conditions sometimes, like here:
http://WildernessApertures.com/img/s3/v ... 3469-6.jpg

Unfortunately my Ritter Lake photo's where part of the major collection accidently
discarded years ago during a move. :mad:
Very dark rock, and bright white snow are way beyond a camera's dynamic range.
Here are 3 articles that will give you an explanation on how to deal with this sort of
situation, and they work extremely well in most landscape when there is no movement
(clouds or water).
http://www.luminous-landscape.com/tutor ... tion.shtml
http://www.luminous-landscape.com/tutor ... ures.shtml
http://www.luminous-landscape.com/tutor ... ding.shtml
HST= Wilderness Adventurer who knows no bounds, except for their own imagination.

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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Re: Challenging Sierra Photographic Locations

Postby SSSdave » Mon Mar 19, 2012 1:36 pm

By "good photo" am guessing you mean reasonably technically captured as well as is potentially practical. In other words an image that is as well captured as one would expect a pro photographer to produce given the task. That doesn't necessarily mean a relatively strongly aesthetic image because there are simply vast numbers of landscapes and subjects that have low potential regardless of conditions or who is taking the shot. There are also a minor number of subjects one could categorize as having potential of reasonably good aesthetic images. And there are relatively few numbers of Sierra landscapes and subjects that potentially might result in strongly aesthetic images. So start with a boring subject and its difficult for anyone to produce something special.

Brought up the mapper.acme.com topo and agree with Maverick's Kaweah assessment although climbing any higher than 3700 meters is likely too steep. That is a good perspective because KPR has a number of pinnacles that are best separated from that direction. Hardly anyone has visited there with a camera of course. It is not a place one would expect really early warm orange red light lower in the basin because the main Sierra Crest in the Whitney region is higher just a few miles east, but rather good gold phase light. Generally for the most intense early light color one needs to be positioned near the sun axis. However too in line lacks shadowing so one needs to be a tad off axis. I'd consider looking at setting up about the little round pond below peak 3797.

In any case one is likely to be able to capture a nice image even in sunny blue skies about 8am PDT. The ponds just below 3200 meters, late August would likely be optimal if air was calm. Summer comes late in such high basins as does its wildflowers. The higher no name ponds might lack greenery while those lower ponds show areas of forest and willow that can add color to an image. Likely foxtail pines which can make for nice foregrounds. So maybe a mirror reflection from one of those. Do recall seeing some images of that basin that tended to make the place look like a big talus rock bowl.

The peaks on the northern half of Kaweah Peaks Ridge within that basin are the most interesting. Thus to get a better angle despite possible not as good separation, one might climb around just south of the basin and climb up past the several lakes up obviously easy gradients to the notch between points 3912 and 3823. Camping at the no name lake at 3340+ looks most pleasant central within that zone. Would get up about 5:00am in dimmest dawn and headlamp hike the mile to that position. Then afterwards scurry on back down to work the various no name lake reflections pics.

Personally I don't expect to ever backpack into that area because it is simply too far carrying a large format camera at my advanced age. The western perspectives I have captured before, are within my backpacking range, and I have plans in the can I might some day revisit. Many more foxtail pines on that side of course.
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