Monday, November 6, 2017

Valley Spirits to Mystical Forests

Yosemite. This majestic piece of land almost untouched by man is a sight the behold. After a two hour drive up steep winding roads in the dark we arrived at our sunrise location.
Unfortunately due to the massive forest fires close by most of the valley was blocked by smoke. We got out of the car and the pungent smell of burning wood filled the air. But you have to make the best of a bad situation in nature photography. This trip taught me to go with the flow and not to get mad when things don't go as planned. So we waited for more light to appear and I took this photo of the valley.

"Smoke and Sun"

We spent the rest of the morning exploring the valley and some trails that led to beautiful sights. By September the waterfalls are all dried up so that was a bummer but we got to visit the place and gallery of a man who I (and countless others) inspired to pursue nature and landscape photography, Ansel Adams. I ended up buying a print of his of the same view above but in winter.
Now that the sun was up we could really get a sense of the size of the mountains all around us. El Capitan is famous for is size and power it gives off. I'm not a very spiritual person but you feel like these mountains are alive and are the spirits that watch over these lands.
"The Captain"

We decided to make a couple trips around the valley loop getting a few more photos before deciding the ever growing crowd was not something we wanted to deal with. Since the place we wanted to take sunset photos of was closed due to the fire we decided to leave early and head to our hotel 2 hours away.
"Valley of Life"

Along the way the beautiful green trees suddenly were getting thin and I stopped the car and got out to see this
Forest filled with ashes

As a person who loves and appreciates nature, this is hard to look at. Acres and acres of a lush forest reduced to ashes and memories. Lightning causes forest fires every year as this one did. But many times irresponsible people cause them, as the case with a teen in Oregon this year. It's sad to see the natural landscapes destroyed in any way but they will eventually return to their former glory.
We got to our hotel and I was pretty aggravated by the fact that everything that I had wanted to shoot so far had been ruined by some form or another. Mist, smoke, lack of sun, lack of decent food and sleep made me have a mini anger episode. But my wife eventually got me to chill out so we got pizza again and watched TV in the hotel (which was being renovated and made a mistake with our room, which was what pushed me over the edge)

The next morning we got coffee and muffins and made our way to a place I wasn't expecting much from. We had the whole area to ourselves and were really hoping to see one of the bears the park is known for, but no such luck. Kings Canyon is home to Grant Grove, a gorgeous area with the General Grant tree in the center. I've never felt so at peace in nature before and I'm sure this place is magical if that exists. I mean it's quiet, crisp clean air and morning birds singing is perfect. As we were shooting I heard branches and leaves cracking and I told my wife to stay quiet. I expected a bear by the sound. But then a family of deer with their young baby appeared and walked very close to us as if we were welcome in their home. We just watched them as they walked off into the thick misty forest.
Giant Sequoia Trees

So now we drove south a little ways to explore Sequoia National Park.
The sweeping mountains and valleys are so beautiful you need to see them to appreciate them.
Morning views of Sequoia

The trees here can't be described or shot in photos to get a sense of their size. One of these trees General Sherman is the largest living thing on the planet.
My wife and I for size comparison

If we could somehow build a small cabin and live here we would. It's such a mystical place that we didn't want to leave but we had a 3 hour drive to do so we reluctantly left the forest and drove to just outside LA. Leaving the forest you drive down a very steep and twisting road with some hairpin turns and cliffs that are a little nerve wracking. The mountains get more and more gorgeous as you go so it's at least an incentive to continue.
Cell phone photo of the mountains on the way down.

The next 5 days were in the cities where I'll explain more next time

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