Eastern Sierra Fall Colors Peaking Now in Mono County

Eastern Sierra landscape photography

Mono County fall colors are peaking now!

If you’ve been waiting to head to the Eastern Sierra for fall colors, wait no longer!  These photos were all taken yesterday afternoon.  The spectacular color could last through the weekend, but maybe not: the forecast warns that Thursday could bring stormy weather that might knock a few leaves down before the weekend.

West Walker River in October

West Walker River October 15

Topaz Lake Cottonwood Trees

Topaz Lake October 15

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Photograph the Moon Rise at Sunset Tonight, October 4, 2017

Mono Lake Tufa State Natural Reserve: Super Moon Rise

The moon will rise shortly before sunset tonight, providing a perfect opportunity to photograph the moon near the horizon at sunset.  Here are 38 degrees north it’ll rise about 15 minutes before sunset, and be about 1.6 degrees high, or three moon widths, above a zero-degree horizon at sunset.

Mono Lake Moonrise (Re-edit)

About ten minutes later as you may start to see the earth’s shadow rise above the horizon, its blue color contrasting against the adjacent pink-orange last light of the sun in the “belt of Venus” effect, the moon will be about 3.5 degrees high, seven moon widths.

Super Moon Reflection

In apps such as The Photographer’s Ephemeris and PhotoPills you can fine tune the times and moon direction and elevation for any shooting spot you might want to plan for.  Plan well enough, and you can anticipate compositions that place the moon reflecting in lakes, or beside or just over natural or man-made landmarks.

Moon Rise Behind Half Dome

Similar opportunities present themselves on the opposite horizon with the moon set at sunrise, so look at your favorite astrophotography app and start planning! You can combine opportunities, such as catching a moon coming out of eclipse, as it sets behind a nearby ridge.

Partially Eclipsed Moon Setting, October 8, 2014

Or place the moon on a man-made structure like the tip of the Transamerica building in San Francisco.  I started shooting this sequence of images about 15 minutes ahead of time to show how the placement of the moon can be accurately planned in advance, and rendering the images as a time-lapse video lets you see the entire sequence:

Plan to Shoot the April 14/15 2014 Lunar Eclipse: Example Landing on the Transamerica Pyramid
As calculated, the moon ends up centered on the tip of the pyramid!

For a discussion of advanced considerations, read the article, “I’ve planned my supermoon eclipse shot: what could possibly go wrong?

For a bonus on the tomorrow morning, I see in my SkyWeek+ app that the planets moonVenus and Mars will be within 1/4 degree of each other before dawn on October 5.  The StarWalk+ app shows me that they will be rising by about 5:10 am roughly due east.  Photograph them on and close to the horizon, then conditions should continue to improve improve by around 6 am as they’re rising out of the thicker air and haze close to the horizon.  At that point they are still low enough to be captured in landscape shots as the oncoming twilight increasingly illuminates the landscape.  The sun rises close to 7 am, so they may fade as the sky brightens, and Mars in particular may be long gone by 6:30 am.

Venus Jupiter Moon Conjunction

You never know what you might come up with.  A while back I shot the moon with Jupiter and Venus rising nearby, and my photo was used in an article by astronomer Don Olson of the University of Texas, in an article in the August issue of Sky & Telescope Magazine!

I haven’t looked up the phase that Venus is in, but if you have a strong enough lens, youc an see that it’s illuminated in a crescent phase.

Multi-Colored UFO?

The first step is to anticipate and plan for some great opportunities with the moon and/or planets. Then get out there and shoot! Tonight at sunset and tomorrow before dawn offer you a couple of good ones to start with. You never know what you might discover!

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5 incredible stargazing spots in California’s Eastern Sierra

stargazing locations

Night photography locations in California’s Eastern Sierra

Thanks to the San Jose Mercury News for using several of my photos to illustrate their article on viewing the night sky in the Eastern Sierra!

Here’s another location covered in the story.

For the rest, read the article at the San Jose Mercury News:

5 incredible stargazing spots in California’s Eastern Sierra
http://www.mercurynews.com/2017/08/03/5-incredible-stargazing-spots/
by Jackie Burrell

#astrophotography #astronomy #nightphotography #easternsierra

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Eastern Sierra Photography Workshop in June: What’s in Store?

Eastern Sierra landscape photography workshops

Eastern Sierra wildflowers, late May

“The Traveler sees what he sees. The Tourist sees what he has come to see.” G.K. Chesterton

North Peak Sunset AlpenglowUpdate 1, May 31: Tioga Pass opened in Mid-May, so we can include Yosemite”s Tioga Pass area in our workshops starting this Thursday.  I’ve already been up there three times in the past couple of weeks to assess and monitor conditions.

Update 2, May 31: One of my customers has asked to extend the workshop with a few days in Yosemite Valley, so we’re adding June 6, 7, and 8 next week to the schedule!

The first week of June is amazing for the Eastern Sierra for so many reasons. Some snow remains on the Sierra Nevada (and possibly the White Mountains) to catch alpenglow, and there can be a fresh snowfall around the end of May to refresh that surface. Several species of wildflowers are starting to bloom, profusely in some areas.

This year the new moon and Milky Way shooting timing coincides with this week, and we have the possibility of a late spring storm from the northwest for interesting sunrises and sunsets, or warmer monsoon moisture from the Baja coast that could bring dramatic afternoon clouds, showers and rainbows, or evening thunderstorms.

I used to be nervous about the thunderstorms interfering with night photography, but I’ve learned through experience in Bodie and the surrounding area that convection-driven storms tend to break up or blow east by the time the sky is fully dark around 10/10:20, so they’re really just bonuses for sunset and twilight shooting, even when rain showers interfere locally for an hour or so (and even then they often give way to rainbows).

We’ll start with a sunrise on Thursday, pursue wildflowers and weather during the day, have an early dinner, and head back out for sunset at Mono Lake.
Entering the Earth's Shadow

We’ll pick from a number of spots for Milky Way shooting, and arrive by the time it’s fully dark at 10:07, when the galactic center of the Milky Way has already risen 6 degrees, perfect for placing it in our compositions.

Mono Lake Milky Way Panorama

Friday we’ll catch sunrise at Mono Lake before the weekend crowds arrive, shoot different wildflowers, maybe explore some interesting geology or head up to Tioga Pass if its open for snowier views. Another sunset spot, More night photography, and turn in not too late since most of us are continuing on to Bodie the following night, and Bodie interiors the following morning.

Storm Over Mono LakeWorkshops take me out of the field as I work on permits, itineraries, write descriptions, set up payment / registration buttons, and I perform a some kind of marketing to get them seen, if only a mention or two on social media. I’m not going for volume, and I personally lead all of my workshops, so they are designed to place you in a stunning place, in a peak season, as the exact best time.

Eastern Sierra Mules EarsI have to be efficient and pack as much opportunity as I can into my time in the field. Every day has the sun rising and setting. Some weeks have wildflowers. Fall colors may be peaking in a given location for only a few days to a week. The Milky Way is available during a few weeks of the year, a moon rise at sunset or moon set at sunrise about a dozen times each. So I am careful to hold my workshops in a prime season, and I then select the most likely peak days and times, including astronomical considerations.

Along Yosemite's Tioga Pass Road

Tioga Pass Road sunset reflection, May 2016

Plans are all well and good; I frequently plan something as simple as a sunset moon rise composition weeks in advance.  But landscape photography is about light, so if you’re on a workshop, you want a leader have enough depth in detailed regional knowledge to be ready to ditch all plans and react to the weather and light if there’s more potential 20 or 30 miles from where you are.  So leave the tourists behind who are stuck to their fixed agenda, and rather than a traveler who reacts to the weather and looks for a place to shoot it, you can travel with a local who knows the opportunities in every direction, and anticipates the conditions before you pick the next destination and hop in the car to arrive there just in time.

Sunset Rain Clouds Over Mono LakeEarly June in the Eastern Sierra offers an annual convergence of so many factors which could make photography conditions stunning.  Photography is more fun shared, so I can’t wait, and all the better that I get to share all of this bounty with old and new friends!

Spring is Coming to the High Sierra!

Most of the participants are returning customers, but we have room for one or two more if anyone’s interested!

Bodie's Standard Mill

Milky Way Arch Over Standard Mill

Connect with me in all of the usual places for photographers: Flickr, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Google+YouTube, 500px, Tumblr, or my Web site.

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Top 10 Travel Photos: 2014

Milky Way rising behind the Standard Mill in Bodie, California

Continuing the retrospective look at my last decade of travel and landscape photography, 2006 – 2015, here are some of my favorites from 2014.

Sierra Crest Sunset Layers
The Minarets and Sierra Nevada at sunset
Snowy Day at Mono Lake
Mono Lake tufa rock formations selectively lit by the sun
Bodie Sunset Re-edit with HDR
Sunset in Bodie State Historic Park, California
SUCCESS!
NASA’s Orion EFT-1 launch at Kennedy Space Center, Florida
Sunrise Yesterday Morning
There’s no place like home.  A rock sheep enclosure at sunrise, Topaz Lake (on the California/Nevada border).
Revisting an Old Friend
One of the Death Valley slot canyons disclosed in my “Photographing California – South” guidebook
Partially Eclipsed Moon Setting, October 8, 2014
Moon setting over the Sierra Nevada, while emerging from the earth’s shadow during a lunar eclipse!
Wild Mustangs
Wild mustangs in the Eastern Sierra

Bristlecone Pine
Playing with depth of field in the Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest (iPhone 5S)

This was a selection of a few of my favorites from an album of over 45 photos from 2013, so there are many more that you might prefer over these. To see more of them, click on the link or album photo below.

More of my favorite photos from 2014:
https://www.flickr.com/photos/jeffreysullivan/albums/72157650285822751

2014 Favorites
#landscapephotography #travelphotography #photography #top10

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Sunset Moon Rise Coming December 24

Mono Lake moon rise November 16, 2013

A few times each year, the moon rises at just the right time to be visible during sunset, while there’s enough light on the landscape to capture that in the photo as well.  That will happen this month on December 24, Christmas Eve.  I’m not suggesting that you ditch the family to go chase the moon, just step outside at sunset, look to the east, and you’ll have one more reason for the night to be a particularly memorable one.

If you might also want to photograph the moon, I’ve collected some notes on this blog post that I started in 2006:

How to Plan Great Full Mooon Rise and Set Shots
http://activesole.blogspot.com/2006/11/plan-ahead-for-great-full-moon-rise-and.html

I’m not sure if we’ll head down to Mono Lake.  I’ve been going there for decades and my kids have been going there for all of their lives, so it holds a lot of sentimental value for us. It’s pretty close by, so if the weather is nice, we may head down there.  The light could be particularly nice around: 4:35 – 4:55 pm.  Ping me on social media if you’re down there, in case we’re standing a few feet down the shore from each other!

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Meteors with Venus, Jupiter & Mars in Zodiacal Light

Meteor with planets Venus, Jupiter and Mars

Meteor with Venus, Jupiter & Mars rising in zodiacal light during the Orionids, October 22, 2015

Who saw or photographed some Orionid meteors over the last night or two?  In the photo above, a meteor crosses over the path of Venus, Jupiter and Mars, rising in zodiacal light during the Orionid meteor shower around 5 am this morning, October 22, 2015.

Although the streak is clearly a meteor (note the characteristic green color), technically it’s not an Orionid, since the radiant point for the Orionid meteor shower is out of the upper right corner of the frame.  So this meteor is traveling at nearly a right angle to what its trajectory would be if it were one of the Orionids.

It may however be a Leo Minorid meteor, since its radiant point is to the left of Venus Jupiter and Mars this morning.  The Leo Minorid meteor shower peaks the morning of October 23, but it is a minor shower with an estimated 2 meteors per hour, but minor showers sometimes have an unexpectedly high rate, so tomorrow morning could offer a surprise from the Leo Minorids along with after-peak Orionids.

There are also random, sporadic meteors, particularly in the early morning, as your position on the earth rotates to the leading side of the earth as it travels through space rotating around the sun.

The Zodiacal light is sunlight shining off of dust in our solar system, the light tilted up from the lower left in the photo above.  You can experience the Zodiacal light, or false dawn, this time of year when a a pyramid-shaped glow can be seen in the east an hour before dawn’s first light (or 80 to 120 minutes before sunrise). This light is caused by sunlight reflecting off of dust particles in space in the same plane as earth and can resemble the lights from a city. It is tilted to follow the same ecliptic plane that the planets travel in.  Zodiacal light is best seen under dark skies, in places with minimal light pollution.  You can catch the Zodiacal light for another 2 or 3 mornings this month, but after that the moon will be too full and it will no longer set early enough to leave you with a dark enough sky to see this pre-dawn light.

You can see the Zodiacal light as the planets rise in this time-lapse video captured this morning before and twilight light started to brighten the sky:

Venus, Jupiter and Mars in Zodiacal light during the Orionid meteor shower this morning

#orionids #meteorshower #Canon #astrophotography

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Orionid Meteor Shower Peaks Tonight!

An Orionid meteor next to the constellation Orion

The annual Orionid meteor shower is created when Earth passes through trails of comet debris left in space long ago by Halley’s Comet as it orbits around the sun. The meteors, or “shooting stars”, develop when pieces of rock typically no larger than a pea, and mostly the size of a grain of sand, vaporize in Earth’s upper atmosphere.

The constellation Orion rises to the east in the 11-11:30 pm timeframe.  The sky above you on the earth will encounter more meteors after midnight, as your position on the earth rotates around to its leading side as it moves through space rotating the sun.  For 2015, in mid Northern latitudes the first quarter moon (50% full) will set around 12:30 am early in the morning of October 21, so the sky will be darkest for seeing or capturing meteors in photographs from 12:30 am until morning twilight starts around 5:45 am.

This is a composite shot of the best meteors that I caught during the Orionid meteor shower in 2014, over the course of several hours in Central Nevada:

2014 Orionid meteor shower in Central Nevada.

 

Orion is roughly in the center, but you’ll notice that not all of the meteors radiate out from Orion as you might expect.  There are actually additional meteor showers active at this time, including the Northern Taurids and Southern Taurids, rising about 3 hours earlier than the Orionids, so they’re higher in the sky when Orion rises.

I used a star-tracking mount to follow Orion and produce that 2014 composite image, so when I created a time-lapse from the same footage, it turned out like this:

 

For a perspective fixed on the ground with the sky moving, here’s a time-lapse video from chasing the Orionid meteor shower in 2012 in the Mono Basin in the Eastern Sierra:

Where will you pursue this year’s Orionids?

#Orionids #meteorshower #astronomy #astrophotography #nightphotography

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Ghost Town Photography on a Stormy Night

Main Street Bodie under moonlit clouds

After our last sunrise and interior access session at the old mining ghost town of Bodie State Historic Park on Memorial Day Weekend, we headed out for lunch and rest before we’d return at 6 pm for sunset and night access.  The park isn’t open at night, but we had an arrangement with the Bodie Foundation to provide funds for the park’s preservation of buildings in “arrested decay”, so they provided monitors to accompany us around town after hours.  

Rain showers were moving through the area throughout the afternoon, and we had varying degrees of cloud cover for our first two hours in the park. At 7 pm big, puffy clouds looked like they’d let some sunset light through about an hour later.

At 8 pm however, it started to rain.  Hard.  This was right when we should be out shooting sunset, but we had to take cover in a meeting room.  We watched an informative video on Bodie, but that wasn’t what we were there for, so watched to see if the rain would subside.

 
Fortunately Bodie is located in a high desert ecosystem, and much of the 0.7 inch average precipitation for May falls in a storm or two, like the one the night before.  Other rain events are just a passing shower, and the cloud which had dumped on us had moved on by 9, and we went back out for amazing blue hour light.  The clouds were still moving fast, and they blurred in the sky as we set our cameras for 30 second exposures at Bodie’s Methodist church, built in 1883.  There wasn’t much light on the landscape, but a little light painting on the church helped that show up nicely. 
The moon was nearly a quarter moon, so as the clouds began to break up, it was backlighting them as the stars started to peek through.  We went to Bodie’s classic, rusty 1937 Chevy and did some light painting to give it a little extra character in the moonlight.  People say that it may be the most photographed car in the world.  It is certainly the one that I have photographed the most!  The clouds started to break up as we were shooting the Chevy, so we decided to go see how conditions were after the rain down on Main Street.

We walked down Green Street to Main Street, and found that the puddles we had seen earlier in the day had been refreshed by the passing storm.  You don’t find standing water in the high desert very often, and it doesn’t last long, so we were lucky to have just followed a passing storm, twice now in the same day!

We captured a variety of buildings in various puddles, and the sky gradually cleared and showed more stars as the moon neared the horizon.  We moved to capture the green truck downtown, which I understand is a 1940 Ford commercial vehicle, before starting to head back towards our gear and our vehicles.  With the moon now out of the sky, many of the participants had time for one last shot of the Milky Way by the mining headframe up by the parking lot before we hit the road.


Having started the drive to Bodie at 3:30 am to get there by 5, I had some coffee at 10 pm to keep energized, but now I was too tired to sleep, so I just drove home, arriving around 2:30, 23 hours after I had left.  


It was a long day, but we enjoyed two of the best and most interesting special access sessions that I’ve experienced, in the 20+ that we’ve arranged over the past 4 years.  They just keep getting better the more we do it.  I can’t wait for the four more dates we have scheduled in Bodie from June through October this year!

I didn’t have room to include all of the photos that I wanted to show you in this blog post, so I’ll be publishing more via 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 (http://bit.ly/1dhaequ), and you can connect with me in the community to see more of my photos from my road trips: https://dripthat.com/pr?id=jeffsullivan

Shooting Bodie’s Wheaton & Hollis Hotel and reflection

 Our next night photography workshops in Bodie will be June 13, July 11, August 15, and October 11-12, 2015

This information is on behalf of dripthat.

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Eastern Sierra Named a Top Ten U.S. Travel Destination for Photographers

Three - Dawn Alpenglow Over Mt. Dana from Navy Beach

The secret is out!  Lonely Planet named my home, the Eastern Sierra region, as one of their top 10 U.S. travel destinations for 2013:

This year, hop past Yosemite – just beyond lies the secret California dream: the Eastern Sierra, the overlooked flank of the Sierra Nevada range, with other-worldly natural attractions and surprises (Basque culture?), not to mention far fewer visitors.”

Among other sights, they recommend visiting Mono Lake, the ghost town of Bodie State Historic Park, and Devil’s Postpile National Monument.  Of course we’re arranging special privileges like night access to Bodie, and many other local secrets we can show you… once I have permit confirmations from the 6-7 state and federal agencies I work with for authorization to run photo workshops around here.

You can read the full Lonely Planet article here:

Top 10 US travel destinations for 2013
http://www.lonelyplanet.com/usa/travel-tips-and-articles/77583#photo-14848-11

Lori Hibbett and I are working on a schedule for 5 different flavors of Eastern Sierra photography workshops, two for the High Sierra, 2 for Death Valley, and several for Yosemite National Park.  Contact me for further details, so I can let you know when they’re announced and you won’t miss the ones which fill up quickly.

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