New Releases - Sierra Nevada Summer and Spring (Part 1)

Sierra Nevada, California

This New Releases Gallery titled "Sierra Nevada Spring and Summer," celebrates these seasons in the Sierra Nevada backcountry, Mammoth Lakes, Yosemite National Park, and Lake Tahoe.

As I am writing 100+ Mph winds are gusting above Mammoth Mountain as we brace for a historic storm right before Thanksgiving. Several feet of snow is expected in the Sierra Nevada Mountains with the possibility of snow accumulation in the Owens Valley! Winter is officially upon us and I for one could not be more excited. I have spent the last few weeks organizing my photographic goals for the upcoming winter and cant wait to see what possibilities it brings. And what better way is there to welcome the cold than to reflect on the warmth of Spring and Summer?

As many of may know or may have heard California received record snowfall last winter (See my last New Releases Gallery - An Unforgettable Winter) which ushered in an equally impressive and beautiful spring. Poppies fields began to bloom in areas that had not seen them in a decade and the whole state glowed green in the winters aftermath. As news outlets and social media recklessly funneled tourists and flower seekers into areas not prepared for the amount of traffic, I had my attention poised elsewhere.

Mammoth Lakes Spring
Looking down onto Highway 203 and the Town of Mammoth Lakes below Mammoth Mountain.

Mammoth Lakes is only roughly 45 Miles from Yosemite Valley as the crow flies so to say, but in the spring and early summer there is no easy was to get there. Until Tioga Pass opens, which is the only vehicle access to the park from the Eastern Sierra, the best option is to head north and drive for about 8 hours over Carson Pass near Tahoe. Eight hours is a stark difference compared to about 45 minutes to the park entrance in the summer. But knowing how great the wildflower season had been in the rest of California the extended drive was worth it for a blooming tree that I had never photographed before... Dogwoods.

El Capitan Dogwoods
Dogwood tree covered in flowers along the Merced Riveras El Capitan catches the afternoon spring light.

One of my close friends and fellow photographer Michael Ambrose confirmed to me that the Dogwoods were in full bloom and he graciously agreed to join me for a few days in the park. The dogwoods were absolutely spectacular and seemingly everywhere in Yosemite Valley along the Merced River. With its large bright white flowers dangling ever so delicately from the slender branches of vivid green leaves it was easy to see why dogwoods are considered by many to be the most spectacular of the native flowering trees on earth.

Delicate Dogwood
The delicate flowers of the Dogwood tree laying along the Merced River in Yosemite Naitional Park.
Dogwood Flowers
An intimate view of Dogwood flowers against the bark of a ponderosa pine tree.

While the main goal of the trip was to photograph dogwoods we were also treated to a powerful spring storm that not only slammed the park with rain, hail, and thunder but allowed me to capture the most unique sunset I have ever seen over the famous Tunnel View. This view, made famous by Ansel Adams and is the parks for visited vista, has always held a special place in my heart. To me it is truly the most beautiful overlook in the world as Yosemite Valley's granite walls skyrocket upward and Bridalveil Falls, El Capitan, and Half Dome steal the show. While I typically tend to avoid overcrowded views like this when photographing nature this area is an exception. On every visit the park I make a point to photograph this location at least once. This evening as the storm cleared incredibly rare mammatus clouds formed and caught the light of the setting sun illumining its undulating forms.

Tunnel View Mammatus
Incredibly rare Mammatus cloud at sunset over El Capitan, Half Dome, Bridalveil Falls, and Yosemite Valley.

Also, to our good fortune, the Glacier Point Road happened to open for the first day of the year while we were photographing the park. Capitalizing on the opportunity we decided to photograph sunset from the point and were some of the first people there. When we first arrived it was clear and not particularly photographic, but as the afternoon went on clouds began to form and fog began to engulf the valley below creating moody and eerie conditions.

Half Dome
Clouds beginning to build around Half Dome.
Shrouded Yosemite
Eerie conditions over Yosemite Valley as the fog below mixes with the clouds above at twilight,

I cant thank Michael Ambrose and his wife Kristen enough for their generosity and all the laughs. Michael has been photographing Yosemite for years and is an outstanding photographer as well. If you are ever visiting the park be sure to stop by the Tenaya Lodge to see his beautiful prints decorating the walls.

On another small trip with my workshop attendee turned great friend Elsie Rodgers and her husband Colin joined my wife and I for a long weekend to photograph Lake Tahoe. I began photographing Lake Tahoe a number of year ago and now make an annual pilgrimage there. On this trip we stayed at a nice resort close to Stateline that had a perfect pier to use for our subject matter. Most of the days were cloudless, but we did have two nights that provided some great conditions to photograph the pier reaching out into the lake and pointing to the snow covered mountains.

Tahoe Pier Panorama
The sunset illuminating a cloud wave over a pier on Lake Tahoe.

Not only did we photograph the pier but some abstract images as well as light glimmered across the beautiful blue waters of the lake. These abstract light and water images are something I have been trying to pay closer attention to in my field work ever since photographing them in Zion National Park in the summer of 2018. The textures and colors resemble more of a painting than a photograph which is an aspect I have become increasingly attracted too.

Gilded Glow
Golden light of the setting sun reflecting on the beautiful waters of Lake Tahoe.
Fire on the Water
An abstract view of the colors of sunset creating interesting textures on the water of Lake Tahoe resembling flames.

Thank you all for taking the time to check out the new work and reading my thoughts behind the images. Be sure to check out the rest of the photographs from the New Releases and let me know what you think!

This is the first two part series I have ever written about the new photographs and I will be releasing part 2 next week. Stay tuned.

For all my fellow Americans have a wonderful Thanksgiving and safe travels. Dont forget to check the weather and plan accordingly! Stay safe!

Posted in New Releases.