Over the hill

Star Trails, Bristlecone Pine Forest, California

Bristlecone Star Trails, Schulman Grove, White Mountain Bristlecone Pine Forest, California
Canon EOS-1Ds Mark II
22 minutes
ISO 200
36 mm

Tomorrow morning I head up and over the Sierra crest and down US 395 in the shadow of the precipitous Eastern Sierra. Under-appreciated by tourists, the Eastern Sierra is no secret to photographers. It’s no surprise that Eastern Sierra fall color photo workshop, which starts Monday, has been among my most popular workshops since I started offering it nearly ten years ago.

The fall color on the other side of the “hills” is a particular highlight, but it’s by no means all we’ll photograph—of all the locations I visit, the Eastern Sierra by far offers the greatest variety of subjects. Check this out:

  • Mt. Whitney and the Alabama Hills, including Mobius Arch
  • Bishop Canyon, including North Lake, South Lake, Lake Sabrina, and lots of fall color
  • The ancient bristlecones of the White Mountains (technically not part of the Sierra, but it’s the best place for panoramic views of the Eastern Sierra)
  • Mono Lake, including South Tufa and another much more remote (solitary) location
  • Lundy Canyon for more fall color
  • Tuolumne Meadows and Olmsted Point in Yosemite

An Eastern Sierra workshop favorite each year is our trip to the bristlecone pine forest in the White Mountains, east of Bishop. Because it’s an hour drive back to civilization, and we leave dark-and-early for sunrise the next morning, I’ve never kept the group up there after sunset to do a night shoot. But last year I decided to give everyone the option of waiting for the stars—my plan was to make it optional, letting all who didn’t want to stay return to the hotel for a reasonable dinner and lights-out time. But no one opted out, and we had so much fun, and got such great images, that I’ve decided to make it a regular part of the workshop.

About this image

Eight years ago I was in California’s White Mountains with Don Smith and a couple of other photographer friends. On a chilly autumn evening we photographed sunset among the bristlecones, then stayed out past dark to photograph these photograph these amazing trees, (at over 4,000 years, among the oldest living things on earth) beneath the stars.

The others did some light painting, but I waited until the flashlights were dowsed to capture the silhouette of this magnificent tree against the celestial canvas. This was my first serious attempt at star trail photography, and after the success I had that night I was instantly hooked.

<< Read more in my Starlight photo tips article >>

As happy as I was with my results that night, nothing will compare to the experience of reclining with friends beneath a sky filled with more stars than I imagined possible, sometimes laughing and trading stories, and other times simply basking in impossible silence.


Gary Hart Photography: Moonset, Mt. Whitney and the Alabama Hills, California

Moonset, Mt. Whitney and the Alabama Hills, California

See for yourself in my next Eastern Sierra Fall Color workshop

 An Eastern Sierra Gallery

A sample of the Eastern Sierra’s varied beauty

Click an image for a closer look, and a slide show. Refresh the screen to reorder the display.

17 Comments on “Over the hill

  1. Such a wonderful collection, indeed, Gary. All the best for the workshop and, to be honest: If had but One workshop and One photo allowed to take with me to the Great Beyond, it would be this workshop and this wonderful image of the old wizard guarding the stars as they shoot by….just magical, all. Thank you for being the first to inspire me years ago and the one with visual poetry in each image.

  2. Great photo collection! I am wondering how you manage to show photo exif data with the post photos. I researched everywhere in wordpress.com, I am unable to figure out mechanism to display exif with my photos. Do you manually enter exif information for each photos? Look like it’s a limitation added by wordpress.com.

    • Thanks, Firoz. The EXIF data is a function of the theme you use. I use the Photography premium ($) theme, which does display EXIF data, but I don’t like the way it does it so I add it manually.

  3. Hi Gary, I’m not on Facebook (yet) but wanted to thank you for a great week in the Eastern Sierra. We had a very nice group of participants and it is always fun to spend time with you and Don. The bristlecone pines night shoot experience was very cool (freezing actually!). I feel fortunate to have been there as well as at the other locations-each at the perfect time-which was meticulously planned by you. We had such gorgeous light! I would do this workshop again-so much to photograph. BTW, I got bit by the Sony bug-loved using the a6000-and am now thinking of pre-ordering the Sony a7sII body for low light indoor and outdoor shooting situations. The new features are really enticing.

    Until next time…Take care!


  4. Pingback: Nature’s transcendent moments | Eloquent Nature by Gary Hart

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