We decided to go to the east side of the Sierra Nevada in search of fall color. We couldn’t go the week before due to commitments and our daughter’s wedding. It is late in the season but we really wanted to see what was left of the fall color. Our photographer friend Franka Gabler joined our ‘day trip’. She met us at our home at 3:15am. We loaded her equipment into our car and left about 3:35am, the morning air was 47 degrees. Dave and Franka talked about cameras and photography most of the time. We passed Olmstead Point around 5:40, it was 30 degrees. Without a moon, the sky was brilliant with stars, there were even a few bright shooting stars.
When we reached the stop sign at the foot of 120 and 395 it was 6:30am, 23 degrees. By the time we arrived at the June Lake Loop a few minutes later the temperature had dropped to 16 degrees. We drove past Grant Lake, then Silver Lake before we chose our first stop to photograph. At 17 degrees it doesn’t take long for the fingers to start feeling the cold, then the pain sets in.
First Stop. First photograph of the day.
Franka’s body language said, ‘it’s cold!’.
Our next stop was along the river between Silver and Grant Lakes. We had finally warmed up by the time we reached this destination. The mist was rising from the river. This side of the road was in the shadow of the mountain and wouldn’t receive sun for quite a while. Despite being 17 degrees the plants didn’t look frosty. The peak of color is obviously gone but there was still some areas with color. The bare trunks of the aspen are always interesting subjects.
David, in my photograph, geez. The white strip is a nice size waterfall.
The plants along the edge of the river were frosty.
When we got back to the car at 8:40 we were all in pain. Our fingers and toes were frozen. During the hour+ we’d spent photographing the temperature had gone from 17 to 19 degrees. Our next stop was the Mono Lake Committee Visitor Center to inquire about fall color….and to get some hot coffee.
Refueled with coffee and giant cookies from Latte Da Coffee at the El Mono Motel we were ready for our next location. As we left Lee Vining we noticed a hillside along the highway that had good color. We were on our way to Lundy Canyon. The color there was past peak but there were other nice elements that caught our eyes.
We left Lundy Canyon and returned to the hillside outside of Lee Vining. I like the airy grasses in the amber light of the aspen trees.
David photographing in the distance.
Looking out to Mono Lake from the hillside.
At 2:30, 48 degrees, we leave the hillside and drive back to June Lake Loop to explore Aspen groves on the opposite side of the road from where we photographed along the river. Dave and Franka were uninspired by the light of this time of day….I’m just a painter so I was in heaven taking reference photos and enjoying all the possible paintings running through my head.
Looking from the Aspen Grove down to the car which is near the truck that is barely visible.
Franka sitting on a rock looking through the pictures she’s taken. We were waiting for Dave who was still in the grove you see here.
At 4:30 we leave June Lake Loop and start our journey home. The light on the mountains of Tioga pass was beautiful. We were hoping for a pretty sunset from Tenaya Lake or Olmstead Point.
Near the top of the steep grade of Tioga Pass, taken out the car window.
Just inside the Yosemite Park Gate.
Looking back at Tuolumne Meadow.
Tenaya Lake. (they actually stopped the car for me)
We were very hopeful there might be a nice view from Olmstead Point. It was almost dark when we rounded the bend at Olmstead Point and could see down the valley to the side of Half Dome. Franka started squealing like a stuck pig or a kid who gets to go to Disneyland. The valley was covered in rolling fog with Half Dome poking through the fog and an orange glow of sunset laying on the horizon. Streaks of pink lingered in the sky. It was beautiful! I posted a photograph from the same area so you can see Half Dome lit by the setting sun to compare it to what we witnessed. I captured a few photographs before my battery died with perfect timing.