Photos from the Washington Fire Near Markleeville, California

Smoke from the Washington Fire obscures the sun, as seen from Topaz Lake Sunday afternoon

It’s always interesting living in the Eastern Sierra, perhaps never more so than when you wake up one morning and discover that a wildfire is heading your general direction.  That was the situation yesterday as the Washington fire burned near Ebbetts Pass and Silver Peak in California’s Sierra Nevada.  The fire started Friday, and by Sunday morning it had grown to 350 acres.  But the forecast for Sunday was dry and windy, so it had been identified as being a “red flag” day with the highest possible fire danger.

Washington Fire near Silver Peak

Washington Fire near Silver Peak

Heading up on Highway 89 over Monitor Pass, the fire could be seen near Silver Peak, still fairly well localized, but with growing winds sending the smoke towards the Double Springs neighborhood and Simee Dimeh Summit.  Highway 4 was closed from Ebbetts Pass to its intersection with Highway 89 over Monitor Pass.

Washington Fire from Monitor Pass

Washington Fire from Monitor Pass

Depending upon the wind direction, the fire could head towards the town of Markleeville in Alpine County, California, over Monitor Pass towards Topaz Lake on the California/Nevada border, or towards neighborhoods in Nevada along Highway 395 between the two.  The most immediate concern was the town of Markleeville if the fire spread north, but with trees dry from drought and two days of high winds in the forecast, the fire could easily jump the East Carson River and head into Nevada.

Washington Fire from Topaz Lake

Washington Fire from Topaz Lake

Early in the morning the smoke was a gray color and not too dense, although it spread over the landscape for many miles.  The winds grew quickly though, fanning and spreading the flames, and the smoke spread higher and became more thick. By mid-afternoon the wind had shifted to center the smoke plume between Simee Dimeh and Topaz Lake, and the color had turned more orange-brown.  The light filtering through the smoke turned the landscape orange.  Winds were gusting over 45 MPH, and the fire was reported as spreading quickly through 6500 acres, jumping forward via wind-carried embers.  Highway 89 over Monitor Pass had closed, residents south of Markleeville had been evacuated, and residents in town were put on notice.

Washington Fire from the north

Washington Fire from the north

By early evening it seemed like a good idea to get an update on the fire’s location and direction, but online updates can be sparse and vague.  With the high vantage points around Monitor Pass closed, the next best option would be to see what could be seen from the north/northeast.

Leviathan Mine Road departs Highway 395 at Simee Dimeh Summit and heads to Highway 89 on the west side of Monitor Pass, but it crossed directly under the dense, now tobacco-brown smoke.  But the road entered into the smoke that showed the fire’s path in the wind.  Without better information on the fire’s location and speed, it would not be wise to enter the area. I captured some photos and video clips from a safe distance north of the smoke, then returned to Highway 395.  Heading south from Simee Dimeh to Topaz Lake, the smoke had darkened to dark brown.  It was so dark, vehicles had their headlights on.

The wind died down in the evening, so the spread of the fire slowed and the smoke less dense.  As of Monday morning, the acreage of the fire hasn’t been updated since yesterday afternoon, but the fire has been reported in Bagley Valley south of Highway 89 and Heenan Lake, so the fire has crossed the East Carson River.  It has also been reported north of Highway 89, so it has also crossed the only paved roads between the original fire location and the neighborhoods along Highway 395.  With another day of wind gusts up to 40 MPH in the forecast, we just have to hope for a wind direction which will not bring the fire too close to homes before the wind subsides and the firefighters can work on the advancing edges. The +Pacific Crest Trail Association published this map earlier today showing the extent of the fire:

I’ll upload more photos to DripThat, a new app and community which facilitates the telling of stories through pictures, video and text.  You can find the DripThat app in the Apple App Store (Android soon), and you can connect with me in the community to see more of my photos from my road trips:  

This information is on behalf of dripthat. 

Washington Fire Sunday Evening

The smoke continued to thicken over our home as the Washington Fire spread to over 6500 acres in high winds yesterday, so +Lori Hibbett and I headed north of the fire to see if we could see how close it was getting.

#washingtonfire #alpinecounty #Markleeville #California


In Album Washington Fire

Venus, Jupiter and the Moon Will Line up in the Evening Sky Tonight

Then form a triangle in the sky tomorrow night, and draw closer together until a particularly close conjunction June 30:

#astronomy #science #astrophotography #nightphotography

Moon, Venus Jupiter Will Line Up Tonight

Catch the 10% Crescent Moon Setting Tonight

Astronomers are looking forward to the end of this month when Venus will appear in the sky very close to Jupiter. But the two bright planets will be dancing with the crescent moon for the next three nights. Tonight in mid northern latitudes the crescent moon of about 9% full will be best caught to the west during twilight around 9 pm, right before it descends into the thicker air and haze by the horizon.

For the following two nights, the moon will be brighter and set increasingly later, forming a triangle with Jupiter and Venus.

I photographed a similar event earlier this year, when the moon set with Venus and Mars nearby. I posted a time-lapse video and photographs of that event to my blog:

#science #astronomy #photography #astrophotography

Applause for the Appulse: Moon, Mars and Venus

Ancient Turkey

I added a dozen photos to my Ancient Turkey album on G+ to help illustrate my recent blog post on a visit to Lake Bafa:

Ancient Turkey album:

#traveltuesday #travel #photography #Turkey #turkeytravel


In Album Ancient Turkey

From The Early Days of G+

This album first shared on August 11, 2011 only received 51 +1s, but it had 58 shares! Now an album is lucky to get 1/4 of the distribution of a photo post, and photo posts do not get full distribution to your contacts who opted in to see them.

The site seemed to be much more interesting under the original algorithms. Perhaps human brain chemistry favors the unexpected, the pleasant surprise which is more likely to come form people NOT related to you as a previous friend? That would be terribly inconvenient for a network being designed to determine and mainly distribute content to your friends and social connections that they feel you can market to.

#landscapephotgoraphy #hdrphotography #HDR

Originally shared by +Jeff Sullivan

In honor of +Trey Ratcliff's photowalk 6:30pm at Stanford tonight, I'm sharing around 200 HDR images I produced in 2009. (Thanks in advance for shares!)


In Album HDR Photos from 2009

How to find moonbows in Yosemite

Blog post:
Chasing Moonbows in Yosemite Valley at Night

Trying out the new Collections feature…

Originally shared by +Jeff Sullivan

I should explain a bit more about how you can find the Yosemite night "moonbow" conditions depicted in this image I referenced yesterday. Since rainbows occur with consistent and predictable geometry, astronomer Don Olson of the University of Texas is able to predict the days and times when the full moon will be in the right place to create night rainbows (lunar rainbows, "moonbows") in the mist of Upper and Lower Yosemite Falls:

For a few more examples of Yosemite moonbow photos, here are the posts on my blog from moonbow photo shoots I pursued in 2008 and 2009: My shooting and post-processing tools have come a long way since then, but at least you can see some of the angles and compositions available if you run around the Valley on a moonbow night.
I've used this image to start a Night Photos album, which I'll add to as time permits and as I capture new shots. These first 7 shots in the album were all taken with my Canon 5D mark II using the EF 16-35mm f/2.8 lens (at 6400 ISO for dark sky Milky Way shots, as low as ISO 800 for landscape shots lit by the full moon). My Canon 40D only shoots well up to ISO 1600, so on that I have to use the 24mm f/1.4 lens, which effectively offers a much more limited 38mm field of view. One of the shots is another moonbow photo, formed by the full moon shining on rain shortly after sunset, captured when I visited California's Anza Borrego State Park earlier this year to catch the moon rise.

Don Olson already has his predictions up for 2012, so you can plan ahead for a Yosemite trip to capture this unique spectacle.


In Album Night Photos: Light Painting, etc.

Remember when albums used to get a fair shake on G+?

They seem to get greatly demoted distribution now. That's a shame, since that punishes and discourages the sharing of content to G+.

Trying out the new Collections feature…

Originally shared by +Jeff Sullivan

My first upload of a sizable batch of my better recent photos onto Google+. (Out here in the boonies in the Eastern Sierra my only Internet connection is a slow Sprint cell phone, so I've been avoiding it!) Enjoy, and thanks in advance for any +1s and shares!


In Album New Photos Spring 2011 (29 photos)