Trase Bell - Paradise Valley, NV
I have always appreciated people that display a sense of brutal honesty in their lives both in their words and actions. It is a rare quality in this world that has my utmost respect. It takes a lot of courage for people to simply live their lives without filters or excuses especially while doing something they love. It turns out the perfect examples of this are the Nevada Ranchers.
Several months ago I decided I wanted to take on a human driven portrait project. I don’t photograph portraits very much and I was looking for a challenge. I wanted the project to focus on real people doing real things with a sense of grit. Luckily I live about ten miles from the Nevada border and if you are looking for grit you need look no further.
While driving through the fields of the Carson Valley one afternoon the idea for a portrait of the ranchers in Nevada dawned on me. Not soon after, I contacted my friends over at Nevada Magazine to see what they thought about the idea. Immediately, the editor turned me on to a program called the Nevada Centennial Ranch Program. The program is facilitated by the USDA and the Agricultural Council of Nevada. To be inducted a ranch must be in the same family for 100 years or more. You couldn’t ask for a better set of parameters to build a story around.
I knew the biggest challenge shooting this project would be getting access to photograph the families. A lot of the ranches are fairly off the grid, aren’t used to outsiders and asking a family to simply let you into their lives is anything but easy. Luckily the folks over at the USDA were thrilled about the project and offered to help make introductions. Within several weeks there were five ranches willing to participate and it appeared that the project would come to fruition.
The first ranch I traveled to was the Dalton Ranch in the Clover Valley just south of Wells, NV. As I pulled onto the property I was welcomed with beautiful snow capped peaks towering over endless miles of pasture on the valley floor. It truly defines the term, “wide open.”
Brad Dalton manages his herd of cattle at the Dalton Ranch in the Clover Valley, NV
I got out of my car and was greeted by Cameron Dalton and two of the ranch hands Trevor and Payton. With a quick hello they pointed me towards Brad and Dani Dalton the owners of the ranch (Cameron is their son). With a firm hand shake and a smile Brad introduced himself and his wife Dani. “I’m going to do my best to make you guys look good” I said. “Good luck!” Brad said with a boisterous laugh. I knew immediately I was in the right place.
Cameron Dalton rides his horse through his pasture at the Dalton Ranch in the Clover Valley, NV
The day’s activity was a spring branding. We went out into the fields to herd the cattle that were being branded that day. Walking out into the pasture I was overtaken with how vast the landscape was. I asked Brad how many acres encompassed his property. “About 15,000,” he said, “30,000 if you include the BLM land that we use.” “Oh, I said” trying not to let my jaw drop, “is that all?”
Cameron Dalton and Trevor Zimmerman brand cattle at the Dalton Ranch in Wells, NV
The day progressed as calf after calf was branded, earmarked, vaccinated and castrated. The tasks were carried out with an efficiency that could only come from the tradition and knowledge passed down generation after generation. After the branding I was invited into lunch and got to chat with the Dalton’s a bit about their lives and what ranching means to them. What became immediately clear, and remained clear with all of the families that I met over the next several weeks, was that ranching isn’t a job; it’s a way of life. The Dalton’s don’t ranch because they have to; they do it because they love it.
A cowgirl and her horse hold a calf while it is branded at the Dalton Ranch in the Clover Valley, NV.
After lunch it was time to shoot everyone’s portrait. The key with these portraits was that no one was allowed to clean up from the day’s activities before being photographed. Ranching is hard dirty work and the photos really needed to convey that sense of emotion. I also envisioned all of the portraits being in black in white from the get go. The idea was to strip away any distracting factors from the images so that it was all about the people.
Brad and Dani Dalton - Dalton Ranch - Wells, NV
Trevor Zimmerman - Ranch Hand - Dalton Ranch - Wells, NV
After the portrait session it was time to part ways and head for Paradise Valley to shoot the Stewart’s Ninety Six Ranch and the Ferraro Cattle Company. I arrived in Paradise Valley the next day and waited for Fred Stewart to meet me at the local bar. For this leg of my journey the Stewart’s were kind enough to offer up a cabin for me to stay in that they keep way up in the mountains north of Paradise Valley. After a quick beer and introductions Fred jumped in his truck and asked me to follow him up to the cabin. We wound up the mountain side on a fairly well-maintained dirt road and after about 30 minutes arrived at one of the coolest places I have ever had the pleasure of staying. The cabin was nestled in a beautiful aspen grove next to a small creek and looked down several thousand feet to the valley floor. It was incredible.
The next morning I awoke early and made my way down to the Stewart’s Ninety Six Ranch; where they too were conducting a late spring branding. What differed from the branding I had just photographed over at the Dalton Ranch and this one was the amount of kids involved. The Stewarts invited several other families to participate in the day’s events and all of the roping was being done by the kids.
Two cowboys brand cattle at the Ninety Six Ranch in Paradise Valley, NV
Branding irons sit in the fire during a branding at the Ninety Six Ranch in Paradise Valley, NV
It was wonderful to see how involved the youngsters were in the branding process. Several things were clear. Firstly, there was a lot of history and tradition being passed down to the next generation of ranchers. Secondly, all of the kids loved every minute of it. You just don’t see this kind of practice and pride very much anymore, especially in the United States.
Fred Stewart - Ninety Six Ranch - Paradise Valley, NV
Paul T. Herrington - Ninety Six Ranch - Paradise Valley, NV
The Bell Family - Friends of Ninety-Six Ranch - Paradise Valley, Nevada
After another amazing lunch I drove back up to my mountain retreat to gear up for the next shoot at the Ferraro Cattle Company.
Steve Ferraro feeds his cattle at the Ferraro Cattle Company in Paradise Valley, NV
I met Steve Ferraro early the next morning to start shooting. He greeted me in front of their house, invited me to jump in his truck for a tour of the property and off we went. Immediately I knew that this day would be much different from the last two shoots I had just completed. Steve was a lot older than the other ranchers I had dealt with and I could tell things moved a bit slower for him. It was actually a really nice change of pace.
Steve Ferraro stands in an old shed on his ranch, Ferraro Cattle Company, in Paradise Valley, NV
He showed me around the property where part of the land is dedicated to raising cattle and the other part to alfalfa production. Underneath one of the largest Cottonwood trees I have ever seen we chatted about the history of Steve’s ranch and his life in Paradise Valley. “If you could sum up your time in Paradise Valley what would you say?” I asked. “Paradise Valley is one of the best places in the whole state of Nevada in my books! If you need help in this valley, you’ve got it.” Steve replied.
Steve Ferraro - Ferraro Cattle Co - Paradise Valley
I finished talking with Steve and made the long drive to my home in Lake Tahoe to reset and shoot the last two ranches on my list, the Snyder Livestock Company in Yerington and Ranch #1 in Genoa.
I left before sunrise several days later for my shoot with the Snyder Livestock Company in Yerington. The Snyder Livestock Company is not your typical ranch. It is a feed lot.
I thought it was important to try and see all the different sides of the ranching industry for my portrait of the Nevada Ranchers. Feed lots are an integral part of the beef industry and I was curious to see what they were all about.
I pulled into the dirt parking lot and was greeted by one of the owners Lucy Rechel. She introduced me to her brother Jim Snyder and explained that Jim would be showing me around their operations for the morning. I hopped in Jim’s truck and off we went.
The Snyder Livestock Company actually isn’t all about livestock. They also deal in onion, garlic and alfalfa production. Jim’s role in the company is to oversee all of the farming aspects of the business. We spent the morning taking a tour of the fields. He was a great insight into learning about the ins and outs of the modern farming industry; a separate subject that I hope to spend more time capturing one day.
A cow is weighed at Snyder Livestock Co. in Yerington, NV
After the morning with Jim I met back up with Lucy to get the tour of the feed lot. It was fascinating to see the process of modern cattle production. From weighing, branding, inserted magnets into the stomach, artificial insemination and tracking each cattle’s food consumption using ultra modern technology and techniques, I was fascinated. The folks over at the Snyder Livestock Company really have their business down to a science. The thing that rang true with the folks at the Snyder Livestock Company that was similar to my experiences at all the other ranches was the love for what they do.
Eddie Snyder - Snyder Livestock Co. - Yerington, NV
The last ranch on my list was Ranch #1 in Genoa. I was especially excited to shoot this ranch because I had been told that the owner, JB Lekumberry, was quite the character. From the brief phone conversations that I already had with him I knew it was going to be a fun day.
Getting out of the car and meeting JB it was clear that he was a lively guy, full of energy, ready to take on whatever challenges the day had to offer. In this particular morning’s case it was the slaughtering of about a dozen rabbits for his local restaurant clients. From there it was a quick change of clothes and off to herd some cattle. Throughout the day it was great to talk to JB about the ranching industry as a whole and the small intricacies of his business. He has carved out a really great niche for himself in the Carson Valley. All of his cattle are 100% grass fed organic and he handles all of them from birth to the dinner table. It is clear this is something he is very proud of.
Knowing this was the last ranch I would visit, I was really looking to get a sense from JB about the future of the ranching industry and where he believed things were headed. I asked him what he thought about the topic and I think his comment summed up the beliefs of all the ranchers I encountered in the great state of Nevada. He said:
J.B. Lekumberry - Ranch #1 - Genoa, NV
“I think the future of agriculture in the Carson Valley has a great chance of continuing. There is a younger generation of kids that are ready to take the reins. If you had asked me the same question in the 80’s I would have told you it was all going to hell. Now I am optimistic.”
This story appears as a feature in the Sept/Oct 2012 issue of Nevada Magazine
Watching the sunrise from the Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes in Death Valley National Park, CA.
It is almost the middle of January in Lake Tahoe and by now I should have a ton of new ski and snowboard images under my belt. Unfortunately this season Mother Nature has other plans. We are currently experiencing one of the driest winter seasons on record and it looks like it is going to last at least another week. It feels more like May than January. There is no snow on the mountains and to sum it up in a word is “depressing.”
To curb my overwhelming desire to bundle up and cram myself into my refrigerator with a few cold ones and pray for winter, I grabbed my fiancée and we headed down to the Eastern Sierra and Death Valley National Park to brighten our mood.
My first goal of the trip was to photograph the Bristlecone Pine trees high in the White Mountains near Bishop, CA. I have photographed the Bristlecone Pines in Great Basin National Park quite extensively, but have never had the opportunity to visit the groves in the White Mountains of California. I wasn’t sure if the road would be open (it usually closes in October after the first snow) but I figured I would give it a shot. Luckily, and completely abnormal for January, the road was good to go.
We got a later start than I wanted to leaving Lake Tahoe and didn’t arrive to the Bristlecone Pine Forest until just after sunset. At first I was upset that I hadn’t given myself time to find some proper compositions but there was still some ambient light left. I did some quick exploring and came up with a few ideas. I knew I would have some moonlight to work with once it got dark and I was counting on using that to make some compelling imagery.
Once the sky was dark enough I began shooting. I shot a few exposures using the available moonlight but after previewing a few, something was missing. I decided to try something new, at least for me. I have shot under moonlight and played around with light-painting quite a bit with great success. I hadn’t however, combined the two. This was the perfect opportunity to give it a try!
An ancient Bristlecone Pine tree in the White Mountains, CA
I put together a composition of an impressive gnarled Bristlecone that I really liked. I set the camera to Bulb mode and opened the shutter for 160 seconds. While the shutter was open I used my headlamp to paint the tree from the side for about 45 seconds. I painted the tree from the side to give it some added depth. If I had lit the tree head on it would have given it a flat effect. After the first exposure I checked my preview and was thrilled with the results! I was really pleased with the combination of ambient moonlight and artificial light from my headlamp. The Bristlecone pines are such an oddity in nature to begin with (they are the oldest single living organisms on earth) and I have always wanted to make an image that really conveyed that. I finally felt like I succeeded.
With a winner in the bag, we made our way back down to the valley floor and headed for the Alabama Hills outside of Independence, CA. There, we set up camp.
I awoke early the next morning below the shadow of Mount Whitney and hiked over to Mobius and Lathe Arch to photograph sunrise. Both provide an excellent feature to photograph at sunrise. In the case of both arches it is possible to frame Mount Whitney (the highest peak in the contiguous US) and Lone Pine Peak perfectly in the negative space of both arches. As the first rays of light spill over the horizon lighting up the entire Eastern Sierra, it is truly a site to behold.
The Mobius Arch frames Mount Whitney and the Eastern Sierra Nevada at sunrise in the Alabama Hills, CA.
After shooting for about an hour I had everything I needed. We drove down to town, grabbed some breakfast and continued on to Death Valley National Park.
Having photographed in Death Valley before, I had a good idea of what I was looking for. On my previous trip most of my time was concentrated on photographing the famous Racetrack and the Zabriskie Point area. My goal with the limited time I had on this trip was to put my efforts towards creating some fresh imagery of Badwater Basin (the lowest point in the North America) and the Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes.
Regina (my fiancée) was really excited to do some yoga in a spectacular location and I thought a late afternoon photo shoot in Badwater Basin would be perfect. I could photograph her in a variety of poses in a surreal setting and could then switch gears and photograph some dynamic landscapes once the sun set. We styled her out in some clothing that I liked and off we went.
Regina performing Lord of the Dance Pose (Natarajasana) in the Badwater Basin area of Death Valley National Park
The shoot went better than expected. The white salt surface of Badwater Basin provided the perfect natural reflector (similar to snow) to soften the harsh shadows of the late afternoon light. It balanced the scene out perfectly. The combination of the surreal landscape and yoga made for some great imagery that will surely sell in the commercial stock photography market.
Regina performs the One-Legged Inverted Staff Pose (Eka Pada Viparita Dandasana) in the Badwater Basin area of Death Valley National Park
After the sun set I stayed out on Badwater Basin for another hour composing a variety of landscape images. What a dreamlike place! Absolutely spectacular!
Badwater Basin at sunset
The next morning Regina and I awoke early and made our way over to the Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes. We arrived early enough to give ourselves time to hike out a good distance on the dunes and scout a location to shoot before the actual sunrise.
We found a few spots we were happy with and began shooting. Early morning and late afternoon are the ideal times to shoot on the sand dunes. When the sun is high overhead it illuminates all sides of the dunes and it doesn’t translate very well photographically. The drama of the shadows at the beginning and end of the day provide the best chance to create dramatic imagery. We shot for over an hour until I was happy with a variety of different scenarios. It was a really fun morning.
Running down the sand dunes at sunrise in Death Valley National Park
After photographing on the sand dunes it was time to drive home. For two days of shooting I was extremely happy with the results. I was the most pleased with my frame from the Bristlecone Pine Forest. I am excited to use the technique of combining moonlight and artificial light in more photo shoots down the road. There is a lot of possibility for unique imagery using that technique and I’m excited to explore it further.
Once again I sit back in my office in Lake Tahoe getting all of these images out into the market. As much as I enjoyed this trip I would really like to start seeing some snow fall in Lake Tahoe. If any of you readers out there have some free time be sure and wash your car, do a snow dance and PRAY FOR SNOW! Until next time…
Ascending Cirque Pass looking down towards Lower Palisade Lake in Kings Canyon National Park
Earlier this year, my adventure partner Sean Cronin and I were looking to do an extended trip in the backcountry and any location in the world was fair game. After much deliberation we chose to forego an exotic overseas destination in favor of our backyard, The Sierra Nevada. The obvious choice was to tackle the John Muir Trail, the famous 211 mile path stretching from Yosemite Valley to the summit of Mount Whitney.
Several weeks of planning went by and I walked out to my mailbox on a sunny July afternoon to find the latest issue of National Geographic Traveler Magazine. In it, I found an article that was about two guys who had just completed the JMT by headlamp in the middle of the night. The premise was that the JMT was so over traveled that the only way to gain a true wilderness experience was to hike it at night. My decision was made right then and there. We were scratching the trip. If I have to hike something in the middle of the night to find solitude in the mountains the rest of the general public can have it.
Immediately my brain started churning on what trip we should undertake instead. Sean and I still really liked the idea of doing something in the Sierras, but what would it be? Several years ago I had heard about an alternative to the JMT called the Sierra High Route. From what I understood, most of the route was completely off-trail, stretched 195 miles from Kings Canyon National Park to Twin Lakes outside of Bridgeport, CA, traveled mostly above 10,000 feet crossing 33 mountain passes, had less than 20 people a year thru-hiking it and to sum it up in a word, was “burly.” I ran the idea by Sean over the phone and he said he would start looking into it. Five minutes later my phone rang. “Why didn’t we think of this in the first place!” he said, “I’m in!” And that was that. The second week of September we got dropped off at Road’s End in Kings Canyon National Park to start our journey.
Descending down to Upper Glacier Lake in Kings Canyon National Park
While the beginning of the route started on a trail, it was immediately apparent that it was going to live up to all of the hype. By the end of the first day we had reached Grouse Lake and had already climbed over 5500 feet. As we set up our first camp in a hail storm I started laughing. “This is going to be awesome,” I said to Sean. “Yep!” he replied.
Upon waking up the next day we began our first big day of cross-country travel. After leaving Grouse Lake we wouldn’t see a single soul until three days later when we joined the John Muir Trail for a brief stint to get us up and over Mather Pass. The scenery was spectacular.
Hiking from White Pass to Red Pass in Kings Canyon National Park
Over the course of those three days we traveled through one pristine valley after another in the heart of Kings Canyon National Park. Many of the lakes we encountered didn’t even have names, even though they were some of the most beautiful bodies of water I have ever seen. It became extremely obvious that if there isn’t a trail to a location, people aren’t going there. We were in heaven.
A beautiful unnamed lake near Frozen Lake Pass on the Sierra High Route in Kings Canyon National Park
On the morning of the fourth day we awoke at the base of Frozen Lake Pass (12,400 feet). Considered to be one of the hardest passes on the route we weren’t really sure what we were in for. We stared up at the steep endless field of boulders to a small notch on the horizon. At first glance it looked intimidating but as are with many things in the mountains, whenever you’re looking across at something it always looks worse than it is. Our ascent was tedious but in the end we cruised up and over with little difficulty. The route was steep, mostly Class 2 and 3.
Holding an altimeter on the top of Frozen Lake Pass in Kings Canyon National Park
After descending Frozen Lake Pass we arrived at the John Muir Trail. While the Sierra High Route travels mostly off established trails, it piggybacks on the JMT and several other trails out of necessity for short sections. This is simply because it is the most efficient way to navigate the landscape.
Within a half hour of being on the JMT we began running into things we hadn’t seen in awhile, people. After a short period of time we climbed up Mather Pass. Thanks to the extremely well constructed switchbacks, the pass turned out to be trivial compared to several of the mountain passes that we had already tackled. From the top of Mather Pass we gazed down on Palisade Lakes and in the distance was our next obstacle, Cirque Pass. After a little over an hour on the JMT we were at the outlet of the Lower Palisade Lake and ready to leave the trail once again.
Collecting water from a small tarn
We ascended a few hundred feet in elevation to a small tarn below Cirque Pass and made camp for the evening. Our camp site was magnificent. To the south was Lower Palisade Lake and Mather Pass and to the east was the impressive Palisade Crest (a series of peaks all over 13,000ft). The best part about our view was being able to see the difference between the Sierra High Route and the John Muir Trail. If we had stayed on the JMT we would have been forced down into a valley with less than spectacular views. Instead we were headed up and over 12,000ft Cirque Pass back into the true Sierra high country. Again, we were the only people around.
Our tents are illuminated at dusk near Cirque Pass
The next day we climbed up and over Cirque Pass, Potluck Pass and Knapsack Pass ending up at the top of Bishop Pass amidst a typical fall afternoon thunderstorm. While it was uncomfortable hiking through the hail and rain at the end of a long day, as a photographer I couldn’t have been in a better situation. Upon reaching the top of Bishop Pass and making camp the storm began to break and Sean and I got to witness one of the most spectacular sunsets I have ever seen. The light hitting the clouds was so intense that it literally illuminated the entire landscape. I always feel so lucky to be in the right place at the right time when Mother Nature decides to put on her show.
A spectacular sunset from a clearing storm lights up the peaks surrounding Bishop Pass
While Bishop Pass isn’t technically on the Sierra High Route it was a necessary stop for us. We had a resupply waiting down at Parcher’s Resort we had to retrieve so we could continue our journey. The next day we descended several thousand feet down to the resort and began sorting through the resupply. After organizing our gear more weather began moving in. We had a decision to make. Pack up everything and head back into the high country in extremely bad weather or get a cabin for the night and have a couple of beers. We chose the cabin and the beers.
The next day, after climbing back up and over Bishop Pass, we began our next section of the High Route. Rejoining the JMT we traveled through Le Conte Canyon, crossed Muir Pass, and descended into Evolution Basin. At the end of Evolution Basin we finally left the trail once again and began climbing towards the next major High Route obstacle, Snow Tongue Pass.
Walking by the famous Muir Hut on the top of Muir Pass on the John Muir Trail
We had heard a rumor over the course of our travels about Snow Tongue Pass. We ran into one guy who claimed that it would be impossible to descend without ice axes and crampons. The guy claimed to be a Mammoth local and gave us advice on Snow Tongue Pass and about every other location in the Sierras, most of which I’m pretty sure he had never actually been to. We quickly realized it wasn’t a wealth of knowledge he possessed but a strong will to impress his buddies that he was guiding aimlessly into the wilderness. Needless to say we took his advice with a grain of salt.
Luckily, and not to my surprise, our Mammoth “local” turned out to be completely wrong. After cresting the top of the pass and looking down, the descent looked discouraging but was far from impossible. After several hours we made our way safely down, completing another one of the formidable barriers of the High Route.
Navigating using a topographic map from the top of Snow Tongue Pass looking east towards Mount Humphreys
The next day of the trip was probably my favorite. We had the extreme pleasure of traveling through Bear Lakes Basin, one of the most remote locales in the Sierra Nevada. After a long and trailless climb over Feather Pass we descended into Bear Lakes Basin. We were immediately greeted with babbling brooks, cascading waterfalls and 360 degree panoramic views of spectacular Sierra Nevada scenery. Mark Twain once wrote that Lake Tahoe was the "fairest picture the whole world affords.” I think if he had the opportunity to travel to Bear Lakes Basin he may have changed his mind.
A spectacular afternoon view overlooking Bear Lakes Basin
As the days went by we crossed pass after pass through one amazing valley after another, finally descending down to Red’s Meadow Resort and Pack Station where we picked up our final resupply. Again, lured by the comforts of civilization, we grabbed a cabin for the night to recharge our batteries for the final leg of the journey.
Ascending back into the high country we made our way towards the Minarets and camped at one of the most dramatic camp sites of the trip, Iceberg Lake.
A beautiful sunrise over Iceberg Lake and the Minarets
The following day was, by far, the hardest of the trip. Making our way around the Minarets, Mount Ritter and Banner Peak we hiked towards the boundary of Yosemite National Park. The terrain was so rough that in the afternoon we were only able to move a little more than a mile over the course of four hours. It was frustrating to say the least, but with one foot in front of the other we pushed on.
Navigating through one of many endless fields of boulders
A mandatory stream crossing at Twin Island Lakes
The next day we crested over Blue Lakes Pass and into Yosemite National Park. For both Sean and I it was the first time either of us had entered the park without using a car. It was a pretty cool feeling.
We descended cross-country finally picking up a series of trails that pointed us in the direction of Tuolumne Meadows. Little did we know that Tuolumne Meadows would be the termination of our journey.
Taking a rest in the grass next to Rosy Finch Lake
The night before reaching Tuolumne Meadows the wind really started to pick up. Sean and I are very familiar with high winds in the Sierra and it usually means one thing - a big storm is on the horizon. When we arrived in Tuolumne Meadows the next day, we began asking around about the status of the weather. A ranger informed us that there was in fact a big early winter storm on the horizon that was supposed to hit in the next several days. We got on the phone with some of our friends in Lake Tahoe to verify the information. All of them had the same answer - bail out. So at mile 167 we had to pull the plug.
As it turns out we definitely made the right call. Two days later an unseasonable winter storm hit the Sierra with a vengeance and dropped over a foot and a half of snow in the high country. If we had decided to continue we would have been hosed. That much snow would have made travel pretty much impossible and put us in a very dangerous situation. One thing I’ve learned over the years is that you can only take what the mountains give you. When Mother Nature decides to put the hammer down it is best not to be in the impact zone.
Getting a much needed drink of water near Feather Pass. We didn't purify or filter our water for the majority of the trip.
Relaxing at camp at White Bear Lake
Even though we were unable to complete the last twenty-eight miles of the route, I don’t really feel cheated. On a previous climbing trip I had traveled on some of the terrain that we would have encountered. The scenery and terrain is impressive but, in my mind, doesn’t compare to some of the earlier sections of the route we had already completed. We definitely experienced the best the Sierra High Route has to offer.
In the end, the Sierra High Route lived up to all the hype. The country is huge, the terrain is rough and the views are spectacular. Almost every day we were tested with our physical ability, route finding skills and mental fortitude. I feel so lucky to have been able to experience such a grand adventure. Now only one question remains, what’s next?!
A silhouette of Sean next to one of the Minarets
Last week I was driving home from a great hike up Mount Tallac and noticed Lower Glen Alpine Falls was really pumping. I came back several days later and shot a few landscape images of the waterfalls. They turned out ok but I felt like something was missing. The next morning my fiancée was walking out the door to her yoga class and the idea dawned on me for a photo shoot. Originally I was thinking about putting a hiker in front of the falls to give them some scale but I realized that a person doing yoga would compliment the scene much better.
The next evening we styled out Regina (my fiancée) in some proper yoga attire and headed down to the waterfalls. The clothing was really important in this shoot because she needed to wear something that would make her “pop” in front of the falls. We settled on a bright red top and gray tights.
The time of day was also extremely important for this shoot. The waterfalls needed to be in the shade. Long exposures would be crucial to blur out the water and give the images an ethereal effect. From my previous shoot I knew that the waterfalls stopped getting sun after 6pm.
We got to falls around 7pm and began shooting. I think the hardest part about this shoot was in Regina’s hands. All of my exposures needed to be just shy of a second to produce the ethereal effect I was looking for. This meant that Regina had to remain perfectly still for each exposure. Taking into account the difficulty of some of the poses that I wanted her to perform, this was no small feat. Any movement at all would render the image unusable. After we shot a couple test images, it was clear that she was more than capable of holding all of her poses without moving a muscle. What a rock star!
I am really happy with this set of images. It was such a fun project to shoot. I don’t always like putting people in my landscape images but this seemed like the perfect scenario to implement the idea. This shoot has opened my eyes to some really cool possibilities for future projects. Did I mention that I LOVE WHAT I DO!
When I think of an iconic image of Lake Tahoe, Emerald Bay is it. This glacier carved masterpiece on the southwest corner of Lake Tahoe is truly a site to behold. No matter how many times I visit the bay I am always awestruck by its sheer beauty and prowess. The sound of Eagle Falls echoes off the canyon walls cascading down to the shoreline with Fannette Island situated perfectly in the center of this natural wonder.
Admittedly, I don’t go to Emerald Bay as much as I used to. I have photographed the bay countless times, in each season and in all different types of light. It’s not that the mystique has worn off; I just feel like I have a solid portfolio of the bay and should concentrate my creative efforts elsewhere.
A few days ago a good friend and fellow photographer Brad Beck happened to be passing through Lake Tahoe and wanted me to show him around. It was his first visit to the lake and he only had one day to photograph before his departure. “Where should we shoot sunrise?” he asked. “Well, that’s easy,” I said, “if I take you anywhere but Emerald Bay you’ll probably never forgive me.”
An early wake up at 4:45am and we were at the first overlook by 5:15am photographing the bay with ambient light pouring over the horizon. After five minutes of shooting I told Brad we should head over to Eagle Falls. The large snow pack from a record winter was still melting and the falls were pumping in mid-July, which is very rare. The sunrise turned out to be spectacular. Clouds on the horizon illuminated and the light was incredible. I could tell Brad was really stoked on the situation.
We photographed until a half an hour after sunrise and then called it quits. “What did you think?” I asked. “Incredible!” he replied.
It was great to revisit Emerald Bay with a photographer witnessing it for the first time. His enthusiasm definitely rubbed off on me and the images I came away with are the proof. It just goes to show that sometimes no matter how many times you photograph something you can still create images that are fresh and rewarding. Cheers to that!