Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Circling the Sierra Nevada: Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest

From a brisk Mono Lake dawn shoot we went for coffee and lunch in Mammoth Lakes. From there the in the Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest seemed like the next best sunset spot. When we arrived the going was a bit iffy in unplowed snow with fewer and fewer prior tire tracks in it the further we went, but we reached some of the better trees just as the light from the sun setting over the Sierra Nevada was getting really good.

This is the way to shoot Winter photos... with a heater on your toes!

This is close to where the road got too steep and shady, with deeper snow. I had been dragging the undercarriage of my AWD minivan on the center berm of snow left by a couple of previous pickup trucks already. I had already been through a couple of interesting I have no brakes moments on snow-covered descents when the anti-locck system kicked in, so the prospect of trying to also plow snow uphill though wind-blown snow drifts in low traction conditions didn't seem like a very wise move. I miss my SUV.

It's amazing to me that bristlecone pines not only live over 4500 years, but they do so in harsh conditions at 10,000 to 12,000 feet. After one Winter of wind-driven ice storms I'd be lobbying hard to get transplanted to a nice Bonsai garden someplace warmer!

It's fascinating to see a scrap of living tree, huddled downwind of its own gnarled carcass. It seems like a strange recipe for outliving every other living thing on the planet.

You can join me to visit the bristlecone pines June 3-6, 2009. We'll catch the full moon rise at Mono Lake and pursue other stunning images in exotic Eastern Sierra landscapes, with classroom sessions on photographic technique and digital imaging postprocessing. I'll also be offering an optional extension into Yosemite National Park on Sunday, June 7. For more information:

I'll also offer a Fall Colors tour of the Eastern Sierra in October (dates TBD). Contact me for details or to get on my announcement list for future workshops.