Need Advice on High Sierras - Lone Pine area
I have a week available, and am toying with the idea of spending it in the High Sierras of California. I reside in the Southeast, in the Atlanta area. I've been thinking some wide open spaces out west would be a nice change for me. I have been to yosimite before- driving out from San Fran, and am not really interested in re-visiting this area. In particular, I was thinking of the Lone Pine area. I typically shoot 4x5 black and white.
Here is some things that I hope maybe some people can give me advice on: particular sites of interest- best/worst times of the year to travel to this area, lodging/camping, other things I might consider in the general area, advice as to maps and navigating, and maybe any other tips you would like to share.
If the trip comes about, hopefully I can reciprocate by sharing some photos here. Thanks for taking the time to comment.
Lone Pine and Bishop are great base locations to visit a wide variety of sites. Best time of year depends on what you are looking for. Here are just a few ideas that barely scratch the surface:
- Alabama Hills with Sierra mountains in the background. Best time of year is winter, when the Sierra is covered with snow and the air tends to be clearer. Contact the Interagency Visitor Center in Lone Pine for more information; they have a map of the Alabama Hills among other goodies.
- Death Valley is also nearby, best visited during the winter.
- Further north in the Bishop area you have Devil's Postpile and Bristlecone Pine forest (best visited in summer and fall); Mono Lake (all year, although winter visitation requires good snow management skills); Bodie (late spring, summer and fall are all good); and fall colors (typically October, June Lake loop is a good place to start).
Of course there are a hoard of guidebooks written about all of these places. Photographically I would suggest reading several issues of the Photographing America newsletter that cover the area, i.e.:
Alabama Hills!! When you think the sun has gone down, stay another hour and just observe..BEAUTIFUL light...EC
I plan to be in the Eastern Sierra in early September. Mammoth, Mono Lake, Bishop, Lone Pine, etc. Should be beautiful! But be prepared for sudden electrical storms in the mountains.
Everything is analog - even digital :D
What they said. DO NOT miss the Ancient Bristlecone Forest. Be prepared for some light you've never experienced and pray for clouds. In bright sunlight at 10,500 feet with 8% humidity the differece between sunlit and shadow areas is the most extreme on earth. If you shoot color you'll need an 81C and a polarizer.
Contact our own Death Valley Phil and get his input. He's a very nice guy (but he needs more LF gear.) His Sierras' site is: http://www.mtwhitneyphoto.com/
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I visit this area frequently due to the fact that I live a couple of hours to the south of Lone Pine. Everyone has already given most of the best locations, but I would also throw in Onion Valley (Independence - north of Lone Pine), Big Pine (south of Bishop), and also Horseshoe Meadows (south of Lone Pine). There are trails leading to several lakes in all these areas.
But be aware that this time of year most of these locations are very popular, worse of course on the weekends. But there is so much to see, you shouldn't have trouble finding a treasure-trove of photographic possibilities waiting for you.
Good luck and enjoy your stay.
South Central Sierras
This is a pretty good description so you can choose your base camp. Pleased to answer any unanswered question.
[FONT=Times New Roman]MAC[/FONT]
Just a couple of comments.
First be aware that snow can affect your ability to get around until late spring in the northern Sierra and even close to Lone Pine. I travelled this area in late April/early May this year and was unable to access Bodie, and several higher roads that would often be open were closed. Of course this might not happen again ( and of course snow on the Sierra might enhance the photography), but certainly in the spring the window between wintry conditions and too hot can be short and unpredictable. If I visit there again it will likely be in fall.
I would not, personally, want to spend a week photographing out of Lone Pine. I do like the Alabama Hills, but a couple of days will do it for me. Even adding in a bit of time round the Owens Dry Lake and around downbeat, quirky little places like Keeler if I were you I'd fix at least one, maybe two other bases. If you haven't photographed Death Valley before it would be a pity to miss it.
I won't make suggestions a long way up the 395 since thats going to take you close to areas you might have seen already, but I would mention Convict Lake, a little to the south of the June Lake loop. If you do happen to be round there in late spring, with snow on the Sierras a still morning there can be very productive. Finally, I visited the Trona Pinnacles for the first time this year and if you get to walk amongst them with a decent sky there will be some fine photographs. I haven't seen many shots from there that haven't been rather dull long distance views of a row of rocks of uncertain size. Much more impressive close -up.
Another place worth visiting, even if not the most productive photographically-
the Manzanar internment camp. It gives you a whole lot to think about, especially in this post- 9/11, Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib world.
There is also Manzanar a little north of Lone Pine, which was one of the Japanese Internment camps from WW II (http://www.nps.gov/manz/). Fossel Falls (www.blm.gov/ca/ridgecrest/fossil.html). The Pinnacles near the metropolis of Trona, just west of Death Valley (already mentioned, but worth a 2nd). Red Rock Canyon on highway 14 north of Mohave. Generally the high passes (4000 + feet or so) will be closed from October through the winter. If you'd rather be in high mountains, there is Kennedy Meadows, and Sequoia Nat. Park on the other side of the mountains that run to the west of Highway 395
For semi-ghost towns there are Johannesburg and Randsburg on highway 395, touristy in summer, but not so bad in other months. This time of year, daytime temperatures are 100+ (more like 110+), cooler in the mountains. Other times of the year daytime temps in the desert are generally 60 - 80, and as low as 'teens and twenties at night. For places to stay, in addition to Lone Pine, consider Ridgecrest, about 60 miles south, or perhaps Mohave, about 100 miles south. Best airfares are probably to Las Vegas, otherwise Ontario is the closest large airport, and of course L.A. Las Vegas and L.A. are roughly equadistant from the area, 150 - 200 miles. From Las Vegas, the shortest path takes you through Death Valley.
The west is famous for sunsets of course, but sunrises looking across the high desert are stunning too.
Be prepared for long driving distances, and carry water.