Journal Launch – Sonora Pass, July 2008

For the second summer in a row I went on a camping/photography trip up to the Sonora Pass in the Central Sierra Nevada range in California. I don’t necessarily enjoy sleeping on the ground or going without a shower for four days, but the rejuvenating effect of being in the mountains far outweighs the comforts of home. It was the second of such trips that I will long remember and cherish. I take that back – I actually love camping and don’t mind getting dirty at all. 🙂
Children of the Corn - Lilies

Children of the Corn - Lilies

For the most part, nature photography is a solitary endeavor. It gets back to the pure enjoyment and rejuvenation of being in the wild and refreshing your soul. Yet it is photography that allows us to bring home those “moments in time;” sharing the images with family, friends and yes, selling prints, publishing a photography article, a book, calendar or even sharing that passion in a blog.Despite the solitary nature of photography, there is a common element that is shared in most other avocations; and that is the sharing of your passion with friends. Some may be content to capture images of nature alone on a mountainside or on an ocean bluff, but in the end, sharing experiences with those who have similar passions is something that often gets overlooked.And it is for those friends that I write this first post in the journal. These friends might be life-long buddies, or new acquaintances you’ve met along the way who have that common thread of enjoying the great outdoors with a camera. We may come from many different backgrounds, ages, cultures, political beliefs and yet can share in the enjoyment of an alpine wildflower or a patch of commonly photographed corn lilies.

Alpine Lily

Alpine Lily

Gathering and photographing with friends has its challenges as well. Few want to photograph the same scene (or at least not while someone else is standing there!) and for the most part, nature photography is a personal journey. So what do you do with a group of photographers? Well, the same thing you do on your own. You wander about, absorbing the wonder of nature and seek out that “wall hanger,” while at the same time, remembering why you enjoy being out there in the first place. Most of the time even though you may start out as a group, you eventually end up on your own….And so it was up on the Sonora Pass this past July. A small group of newly found friends, up to the mountains to refresh their souls, capture some natural beauty on film and enjoy the company of friends around a campfire.The images captured from these times are simply icing on the cake. I felt fortunate to have come home with some pleasing scenes; ones that will remind me of those moments.The first image showing the patch of Corn Lilies was an image I was not originally searching for. Honestly, I was looking for a more intimate portrait. You know the graphic, evocative image of the graceful curves of just a few broad leaves. I struggled in finding that scene. But with that struggle emerged new ways to see things. I stepped back and discovered the beauty in the slightly wider view. I’ll still be searching for the other perspective, but my vision was expanded on this day.

Lupine over Deadman's Creek

Lupine Lush

The Tiger Lily turned out to be more about technique and logistics than it did about vision. The challenge began with capturing a close-up image with a large format camera. The next challenge was the lighting. Luckily this nice specimen was found close to camp but the harsh sun had already flooded the scene. Improvising, I borrowed a bed sheet that one of the guys had brought along to use as a seat cover and blanket for his traveling canine pal Maggie. I draped the sheet over a large willow to diffuse the light. Simple, straight forward image, but I like it. Honestly though, I think I was more proud of the effort.The Lupines along Deadman’s Creek on the Sonora Pass were prolific the last two summers. Many flower species could be found, but the Lupine thrives on the moisture found alongside the mountain streams and they put on a grand show. I returned to this little scene multiple times before I finally decided the light and wind were about as good as they were going to be. I wanted to showcase the flowers, but still put them in a place where the creek was visible, yet sufficiently out of focus to keep the attention on the flowers.

Lodgepole Glow

Lodgepole Glow

I am perhaps most proud of this last image. It doesn’t show well at this web size and might not even be recognizable (you can see a larger size by clicking on the image.) I’m happy with this because it’s different and something that most folks would pass on by without a second look.

I had spotted this scene on last year’s trip, but for whatever reason, I passed on it. The small stand of lodgepole pine stood on an exposed bluff near the top and most narrow portion of Sonora Pass; somwhere about 8,000ft. The trees were a good 100 yards from the road and even at that distance I could see the reflected glow between the two trunks. This time around, something told me it was the right time to capture this.

I don’t think I can finish this journal entry without mentioning the friends who helped make this trip to the Sierra a complete one. And despite what you might hear about their campfire etiquette, they are all gentlemen and fine photographers. Please feel free to visit their websites: Dan Baumbach, Preston Birdwell and Harley Goldman. Michael Reynolds also attendend, but his trip was cut short by a unfortunate case of contact-rolled-up-in-the-back-of-the-eye syndrome – not fun. Thanks guys! Let’s do this again next year.

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