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Author Topic: Eastern Sierras in early February  (Read 2579 times)
GeraldB
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« on: November 01, 2012, 09:35:54 PM »
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My wife is at a conference in Las Vegas in early Feb next year. So I've decided to tag along then we'd like to do some photography in the Eastern Sierras. What is the area around Lone Pine, Bishop like at that time of year? We'd probably drive in through Death Valley and spend a day or two there then follow the Highway 190 through to Lone Pine. Will the passes over the mountains be open or could they be snowed in? What are the recommendations for photo highlights in that area? I'm planning on getting California's Eastern Sierra: A Visitor's Guide - Sue Irwin. Has anyone got it and is it any good.
thanks
Gerald
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Frank Sirona
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« Reply #1 on: November 02, 2012, 03:01:08 AM »
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Early February is a great time for visiting Death Valley. Also, if you are planning to explore the Valley around Bishop / Lone Pine (e.g., the area of Owens Lake etc.), conditions will be OK. However, only few of the mountain passes will be open at that time of the year. The 120 will definitely be closed, the 108 most probably too. You might be lucky with either the 4 or the 88, though. Also, during winter time itīs always possible that the 395 north of Bishop is snowed in for some time.
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Frank Sirona. Large format photography of the Desert Southwest.

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GeraldB
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« Reply #2 on: November 02, 2012, 07:03:24 AM »
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Thanks Frank for the info. If I restrict myself to the stretch between Lone Pine and Lee Vining, is there enough to see there for say 4 days of shooting? It would be mostly using the 395 which I guess is open except when there is a large snow storm.
I really like the images on your site - I bet the prints are much better than what I see on my screen.
cheers
Gerald
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Frank Sirona
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« Reply #3 on: November 02, 2012, 03:57:11 PM »
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Well - there are some things to see, although certainly the most spectacular place will be at the northern end of the range you mentioned, namely Mono Lake. In early February there is almost certainly a lot of snow, which will allow for some great shots of the lake and the area around. These have been taken there end of January:

Crystal Lake
Mono Skies
Ghost Ship

If temperatures of down to zero degrees Fahrenheit during the night and still way below freezing during the day are alright for you, go for it and spend at least one or two days up there. Solitude and great photo opportunities are almost guaranteed! But make sure to bring snow shoes or at least a pair of (more or less) waterproof hiking boots, because you canīt expect any of the footpaths there to be cleared of the snow.

Then, there is a number of hot springs in the area. One of them is accessible via the Owens River Road. This road forms a loop, starting and ending at the 395, on the eastern side of the highway. Take the southern junction (between the Convict Lake Road and the 203, which both are on the opposite western side of the 395) and go east for maybe 1.5 miles or so.

Finally, all the way between Lone Pine and Lee Vining there are many roads towards the Sierra, and why not checking out a number of them and simply see how far you can get there? Iīm not too familiar with the Eastern Sierra, but I would expect you find lots of wonderful spots there. When coming through Lone Pine, you can start with the Alabama Hills, which are not far away from the town.
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Frank Sirona. Large format photography of the Desert Southwest.

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Frank Sirona
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« Reply #4 on: November 02, 2012, 04:03:16 PM »
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Oh, and make sure to stop at Galen Rowellīs Mountain Light gallery in the centre of Bishop. They have a lot of good photography there, with a focus on the Eastern Sierras. Besides Galenīs work, they do represent a number of additional photographers such as, e.g., Jim Stimson.
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Frank Sirona. Large format photography of the Desert Southwest.

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Frank Sirona
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« Reply #5 on: November 02, 2012, 04:07:42 PM »
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I really like the images on your site - I bet the prints are much better than what I see on my screen.

Thank you, Gerald! I guess they are - and I have to admit that Iīm not too happy with the quality of my photographs on a computer screen. The difference between what you see on a screen and what you see on a large exhibition print is such that you would not want to believe that itīs the same photograph.
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Frank Sirona. Large format photography of the Desert Southwest.

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Paul Sumi
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« Reply #6 on: November 02, 2012, 10:45:30 PM »
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A lot depends on what kind of winter we have.  Last winter, we had  50% of normal snowpack in the high Sierra, and you could drive to the top of Tioga Pass (Hwy 120) in early January.  Hopefully, we will have a wetter winter this time around.

If you are in the Lone Pine area, there are the Alabama Hills outside the town.  Many old Westerns (not to mention a number of well-known movies) were made here, and there might be some opportunities for sunrise or sunset photography.  It's accessed by dirt road and its condition is variable so a high clearance vehicle is helpful.

At the north end, Mono Lake will definitely be the major attraction. The South Tufa is the default location, but there are other vantage points as well.  I've never been there in winter (but there was that snowy zero degree morning a couple of falls ago...).

Also, the elk come down for the winter, and there are a couple of wildlife viewing locations (signed) along the western side of 395 south of Bishop.  Not a sure thing and long tele recommended.

Paul
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GeraldB
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« Reply #7 on: November 03, 2012, 12:39:36 PM »
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Frank and Paul thanks for your suggestions.

What sort of distance does one have to walk from where the car is parked to Mono lake under winter conditions assuming one get get there at all.
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Paul Sumi
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« Reply #8 on: November 03, 2012, 10:51:20 PM »
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Frank and Paul thanks for your suggestions.

What sort of distance does one have to walk from where the car is parked to Mono lake under winter conditions assuming one get get there at all.

Google Maps says that the road down to the South Tufa is closed during the winter.  So it looks like you are SOL for that location.

However, the Mono Lake Committee has a storefront in Lee Vining and they might be able to give you better information.  Their website:

http://www.monolake.org/

Also, if you do a search here in the LuLa forums, I know that photographing Mono Lake in the winter has been discussed before.  So that might be helpful, too.

Paul

« Last Edit: November 03, 2012, 10:58:01 PM by Paul Sumi » Logged

Frank Sirona
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« Reply #9 on: November 04, 2012, 03:13:48 PM »
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What sort of distance does one have to walk from where the car is parked to Mono lake under winter conditions assuming one get get there at all.

Without snow, itīs a walk of approximately 2.79 minutes, following the boardwalk. With snow, it depends - thatīs why I said that snowshoes would be great. When I was there in January, they had ploughed the 120 from the junction with Hwy 395 to a bit past the road down to South Tufa. Back then, I just left the car on the 120 and hiked down, which - always depending on how much snow theyīve got - may take 15 to 20 minutes or so. Itīs difficult to predict which exact conditions youīll find. Actually, I would just go there and be prepared for the unexpected (including no snow at all and easy access to the shoreline).
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Frank Sirona. Large format photography of the Desert Southwest.

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matt4626
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« Reply #10 on: November 21, 2012, 12:25:07 PM »
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I've never had a problem getting to Mono Lake in the winter. The road is usually plowed. Of course just after a large snow storm all bets would be off.
If you plan to stay in Death Valley grab a reservation ASAP....the hotels fill very early FYI.
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AndrewMcD
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« Reply #11 on: November 27, 2012, 03:25:58 PM »
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Yeah, they plow 120 up to a point and then they stop. So, if you're trying to get to Tonopah and Hwy 6 from Mono Lake, the road will be closed.

Lots of Jeep trails around Mono Lake that can take you to interesting places, have no idea what the snow situation will be like this winter, should be more significant than last winter.

There are a million places to shoot along 395. South of Lone Pine, south of Owens Lake, is a really interesting rock formation. I don't know what it's called, but it's right next to 395. It's the big red hill just east of the hwy (35.977416,-117.923047).

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Frank Sirona
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« Reply #12 on: November 27, 2012, 03:59:19 PM »
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Lots of Jeep trails around Mono Lake that can take you to interesting places

Yes... read: JEEP trails. The sand is incredibly deep there in places, so you definitely would not want to go there without 4WD. Read: 4WD (and not AWD). Also, regular SUVs and pickup trucks run the risk of getting seriously side striped, because of the shrubs flanking some of these narrow tracks. So donīt bring your brand new cherry-red Ford Explorer. Or, if you do, be sure to enter these tracks in 2WD, because then youīll be stuck before having had a fair chance of scratching your doors.
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Frank Sirona. Large format photography of the Desert Southwest.

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Frank Sirona
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« Reply #13 on: November 27, 2012, 04:01:05 PM »
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There are a million places to shoot along 395. South of Lone Pine, south of Owens Lake, is a really interesting rock formation. I don't know what it's called, but it's right next to 395. It's the big red hill just east of the hwy (35.977416,-117.923047).

That sounds great - thank you for posting this! Iīll check out next time Iīm in the area.
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Frank Sirona. Large format photography of the Desert Southwest.

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Mjollnir
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« Reply #14 on: November 28, 2012, 08:59:17 AM »
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Yeah, they plow 120 up to a point and then they stop. So, if you're trying to get to Tonopah and Hwy 6 from Mono Lake, the road will be closed.

Lots of Jeep trails around Mono Lake that can take you to interesting places, have no idea what the snow situation will be like this winter, should be more significant than last winter.

There are a million places to shoot along 395. South of Lone Pine, south of Owens Lake, is a really interesting rock formation. I don't know what it's called, but it's right next to 395. It's the big red hill just east of the hwy (35.977416,-117.923047).


It's called "Cinder Cone".
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