East of the Sierra, October, 08 – October 21, 2018

It has been a difficult summer and early fall for us as we lost in July the last remaining founder of Two Lab Photography, Abigail “Nibbles and Kisses.” Her “puppy,” Miss Molly, was having a hard time accepting her loss so we decided on a camping trip to get us out of the doldrums, and a trip east of the Sierra Nevada had been in the back of our minds for some time.

We have been wanting to try some star photography so we had to go someplace that was away for any light pollution. The three of us traveled over the Tehatchapi Pass to Red Rock Canyon State Park, Alabama Hills, Bishop, and finally Mono Lake. There was still some light pollution at Red Rock Canyon so we spent our evenings watching and enjoying the night sky and spotted some of the small night critters that come out after sunset such as the California Kangaroo Rat which amazingly approached us closely.

After two nights at Red Rock Canyon we moved north to the Alabama Hills. The night sky was perfect the first night so we sat under the stars and planned our shoot for the next evening. We had perfect sky conditions with no light pollution, it was the dark of the moon, and the Milky Way stretched above Mt. Whitney. However, we should have done our shoot the first night because the remaining nights were cloudy and windy.

After four nights in the Alabama Hills we headed north to Bishop for some autumn color. It had turned cold and very windy as we left Lone Pine and I was expecting a storm to move in on us. But the storm never came and the winds died. The following days were warm and the nights very cold. We found fall color in the mountains to the west of Bishop, but were about a week late because most of the tress had already dropped their leaves. There were patches of trees still in their prime, but you had to hunt for them.

We spent three nights in Bishop then moved north again along US 395 to Lee Vining and Mono Lake for our last chance at star photography. We learned our lesson and headed to the “South Tufa” area of Mono Lake for a sunset shoot and another attempt at some star photography. After sunset we headed back to the truck for warmth, munchies, and some reading while waiting for complete darkness. About 90-minutes later we walked back to Mono Lake. The stars were bright with minimal light pollution but a waxing crescent moon had risen in the western sky limiting our camera directions to north and east.

We met a couple of photographers while shooting the stars who told us about wild horses in the area. They gave us some general but vague directions. The next morning we stopped at the Mono Lake Visitors Center and they would not comment on the horses as there had been some automobile accidents involving the free ranging horses. So we decided to hunt for the horses using the general directions provided by the people we met the previous night, and found them a bit further out than the directions indicated. We did not bring any of our long lenses on this trip and had to stalk the horses to get close enough to make good compositions.

We headed home bright and early on Sunday morning over Tioga Pass and Yosemite National Park. A trip enjoyed by all.

We hope you enjoy the photographs from this to the east side of the Sierra Nevada Mountains.