This past weekend friend and photographer Eric Good and I headed out to the Eastern Sierra with high hopes of photographing Mt. Whitney in its early winter glory. The weather, however, was not terribly kind to us. While the temperatures were only supposed to drop to 8 degrees F, the blowing winds were going to reach 65mph where we planned to camp. We ran into another adventurous fellow who was on the way out – his tent had been flattened by the winds. As we made it out of the gully to lower boy scout lake, we saw the menacing winds for ourselves, furiously whipping snow into the air. As much as it pained us, we decided this really wasn’t the time to camp up there… I’ll have to return some day for another go. It’s always better to admit defeat and live to see, adventure, and photograph another day, than to throw in all your chips for one reckless gamble. As hard as it is for a driven nature photographer…

Winter winds on Mt. Whitney (right most peak).

Fortunately, Mt. Whitney isn’t far from some other incredible places, so we still managed to get some photography in, in addition to our chilly adventures. The incoming storm, predicted to arrive on Sunday afternoon, didn’t quite show up on time, but it did provide some inspiring lenticular clouds – the famous Sierra Wave, which often forms over Owens Valley.

“Alien Signals” ~ Alabama Hills, CA
The Tech: Canon 5D2, 16-35mm mkII, tripod
Exposure: iso 400, f/16, 30 sec
Processing: two exposures blended, the foreground was shot earlier in the evening under more light at iso 100 to maximize detail and minimize noise.

“Sleeping Stones”~ Alabama Hills, CA
The Tech: Canon 5D2, 16-35mm mkII, tripod
Exposure: iso 400, f/16, 10 sec

We also made a stop in Death Valley to explore a remote, and pleasantly lush canyon. Green rushes, brilliant fall colors, and gushing waterfalls – it was hard to believe this was Death Valley! On the way in we ran into a group of Wild Burros, no doubt frequent visitors of this desert paradise. Burros were introduced in the 1500’s by the Spaniards, originally coming from Africa where they were known as Wild Asses. I’ve seen Burros in Death Valley several times, but never this close and cooperative, even the light couldn’t have been better! It must be a rough life out there for them.. not much in the way of food or water, and plenty of hot sun.

“Wild Burros” ~ Death Valley, CA
The Tech: Canon 5D2, 100-400mm, handheld
Exposure: iso 400, f/13, 1/125th

The canyon wasn’t all pristine and paradisaical, no… there was a burned down ore processing area with singed and bulging batteries. Plans had been made for one of them, but the rest of the mess, I’m not sure about.

“Removal Planned” – An abandoned battery awaits the clean up crew… 10 miles from the nearest hard road.

It’s been quite a while since I posted a black and white, no reason really, it just hasn’t happened. Ironically this trip my three keepers were all best suited to monochrome – I hope you enjoy the change. If you must get a color fix you can see another Burro here. I’m sure more colors will be on the way, though with winter approaching and fall just about behind us (yes, in California fall lasts well into December!), it might not be until spring (which of course starts in late February, here at least) that I’ll find some truly colorful scenes again.

If you would like to get either prints or calendars in time for the holidays, don’t delay!

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