I'd seen many images of Mono Lake over the years and just knew I had to take my own crack at this gorgous natural lake, but I wasn't prepared for the lake to be as massive as it was, especially when California is notably in the midst of one of her greatest droughts in history. The area the famous tufa's are in is called South Tufa Overlook. It is accessed by a well maintain grated gravel road that you catch off of a scenic drive just off of I-395. There are signs for the South Tufa Scenic Drive clearly posted along I-395, but it took me a little while to find them. The road is quite a few miles south of Lee Vining which is the first little town you come to upon leaving Yosemite's east entrance.
WATER CHEMISTRY OF MONO LAKE
It contains chlorides, carbonates, and sulfates - a chloride-carbonate-sulfate "triple water" lake. It is alkaline, with a pH of 10, and almost three times as salty as the ocean. At 6,392 feet asl it will be slightly more than twice as salty as the ocean.
The salinity of the lake is approximately 81 g/l. The Outstanding National Resource Water designation requires that the salinity be maintained under 85 g/l (the concentration of Mono Lake in May, 1996 and November, 1975). The average salinity levels ranged from 42 g/l to 99 g/l since 1913. Under a full-diversion scenario, the average salinity would have been approximately 133 g/l. Click here for an analysis of mineral quality
ECOLOGY OF MONO LAKE
The primary lake life is composed of algae, brine shrimp, and alkali flies, and is one of the most productive ecosystems in the world. Nesting birds consist of California Gulls (50,000, 85% of California's breeding population and second largest colony in the world after the Great Salt Lake in Utah) and Snowy Plovers (400, 11% of the state's breeding population). Migratory birds include Eared Grebes (1.5-2 million, 30% of the North American population), Wilson's Phalaropes (80,000, 10% of the world population), Red-necked Phalaropes (60,000, 2-3% of the world population), and 79 other species of waterbirds.
The Mono Basin is a tectonic basin formed by faulting and downwarping of the earth's crust. It is from one to three million years old. The hills on the north, south, and east sides of the basin are all of volcanic origin. The Mono Craters are 24 domes of explosive rhyolite that have erupted over the last 40,000 years (as recently as 700 years ago), forming the youngest volcanic chain in North America. Black Point, Negit Island, and Paoha Island are also of volcanic origin. Paoha Island emerged within the last 350 years.
When you pull into the large parking lot, you'll feel like you are in the middle of the desert....... The road ends about a .25 mile from the tufa's that draw photographers and visitors to this area so you'll need a small bottle of water and I'd suggest carrying a whistle. There is a small possibility that you'll see a mountain lion, coyote, or bear....I am told these sightings are rare but the whistle if blown occasionally, should you find yourself out there alone, will scare off wildlife.... they are skiddish and steer clear of human activity. As you walk up the board laid path, there are very nice placards noting the history of the area, basin and lake, descriptions of the life in and around the lake, explanations of the migratory patterns of the thousands of birds that frequent the area, and
"You only live once, but if you do it right, once is beautifully enough.”
― Mae West
Convict Lake is a lake in the Sherwin Range of the Sierra Nevada in California, USA. It is known for its fishing and the dramatic mountains (including Mount Morrison) that surround the lake. Its surface lies at an elevation of 7,850 ft. It is, by a mile, my favorite lake in California. Not only because it is so grand in it majestic landscape, but it is easily accessible to a parking lot for photography, yet offers horseback riding and numerous trails for hiking in the area. The wildlife I am often fearful of encountering are not prevelant here...and it is SO QUIET..... I sat here for nearly an hour journaling and could not believe how quiet it was.... there were a few fisherman/women on the banks and in an occasional fishing craft, but they like me seemed to be deep in thought beacuse you could have heard a pin drop except for the occasional sloshing of water against the bank of the rocks along the edge of the lake. The colors in the mountains are rich and the waves cut out by water millions of years ago have left one of the most unique etchings in a rock that I can remember. It reminded me of the wave in Arizona... (which I have never visited but have enjoyed pictures of ) Bucket list.....
The lake was named after an incident on September 23, 1871, where a group of convicts escaped from prison in Carson City. A posse, from Benton, led by Deputy Sheriff George Hightower, encountered the convicts near the head of what is now Convict Creek. Posse member Robert Morrison, a Benton merchant and Wells Fargo Agent, was killed in the encounter, and Mount Morrison was named after him. It has frequently been noted on lists of unusual place names.
Prior to visiting this lake, I stumbled upon an article about a well known tragedy that siains the lake. In February 1990, Convict Lake was the site of a major drowning. Twelve teenagers and two counselors from a nearby camp were on a holiday outing at Convict Lake. At least four teenagers and both adults fell through the thin ice and into the water. By the time the first rescuer arrived on the scene, only one teenager had been able to pull himself out of the water, but the other teenagers were no longer in sight, having apparently already drowned. In all, three teenagers from Camp O'Neal, an institution for juvenile delinquents located near Whitmore Hot Springs, and four would-be rescuers drowned in the freezing water. Another youth and a volunteer fire chief were rescued. Shortly before their deaths, the youths were warned that the ice was too thin to support their weight but failed to heed the warning. As a result of the drownings, Camp O'Neal was investigated and subsequently shut down due to findings of abuse and neglect
Convict Lake is known for its fishing, including Rainbow trout, German brown trout, and a species of sucker fish. Due to the high demand of fishing in the lake and stream, the lake is stocked once a week during the summer with rainbow trout, supplied by nearby hatcheries. There is a trail for hiking around the lake and a trail that connects the lake to the Sierra Crest.
The lake is near the more popular town of Mammoth Falls, CA. This is where the Devil's Postpile Monument is.... The area was closed during my visit so I had to skip that stop, but both of these beautiful areas are worth your time...and are only 30 minutes or so up the road from the east exit/entrance to Yosemite National Park and Mono Lake on 1-395. The lake can be photographed beautifully both in the morning and evening hours due to the punchbowl shaped mountain range backdrop that allows for the sun to play against its rockface all day long...
Death Valley, California/Nevada
Hottest, Driest, Lowest
In this below-sea-level basin, steady drought and record summer heat make Death Valley a land of extremes. Yet, each extreme has a striking contrast. Towering peaks are frosted with winter snow. Rare rainstorms bring vast fields of wildflowers. Lush oases harbor tiny fish and refuge for wildlife and humans. Despite its morbid name, a great diversity of life survives in Death Valley.
EXTREME SUMMER HEAT
Death Valley is the hottest place on Earth. In July 1913, five consecutive days of 129°F or above were recorded in Death Valley. On July 10, 1913 a reading of 134 degrees Fahrenheit was taken, the world record hottest air temperature.Expect high temperatures of 100 to 120 degrees F on your summer visit to Death Valley. Heat related illness is a real possibility. Drink plenty of water and carry extra. Avoid activity in the heat. Travel prepared to survive. Watch for signs of trouble.
National Park Service links to:
Death Valley Temperatures:
Death Valley Safety:
Death Valley is a desert valley located in Eastern California's Mojave Desert, the lowest, driest, and hottest area in North America. I've had so many invites to travel to DV to photograph, but it just did not appeal to me. I'd seen a few of my peers pull off a couple interesting shots but for the most part it looked flat, dry, pale.....all of these things I am NOT pulled to. I love bold color and mountains. Changes in elevation right before my eyes, and beautiful cumulus clouds. I will say, on the day I was here..... there had been rain in the area the night before...Whether it actually drifted into the DV proper, I don't know, but the colors were bolder than I'd seen in pictures and I have to admit....I was pleasently surprised. I did add a lot of saturation to the images below in keeping with the signature look I continue to create...but the colors were quite beautiful in person....
Death Valley's Badwater Basin is the point of the lowest elevation in North America at 282 feet below sea level. This point is 84.6 miles east-southeast of Mount Whitney, the highest point in the contiguous United States with an elevation of 14,505 feet.
Death Valley's Furnace Creekholds the record for the highest reliably reported air temperature in the world, 134 °F (56.7 °C) on July 10, 1913. Located near the border of California and Nevada, in the Great Basin, east of the Sierra Nevadamountains, Death Valley constitutes much of Death Valley National Park and is the principal feature of theMojave and Colorado Deserts Biosphere Reserve. It is located mostly in Inyo County, California. It runs from north to south between the Amargosa Range on the east and the Panamint Range on the west; theSylvania Mountains and the Owlshead Mountains form its northern and southern boundaries, respectively. It has an area of about 3,000 sq mi. The highest point in Death Valley itself is Telescope Peak in the Panamint Range, which has an elevation of 11,043 feet .
Las Vegas or bust!!!
I stopped into my home base in Las Vegas. Nevada.....It always is wonderful to be in Vegas....feels like home, like warm apple pie in a way. I love visiting the extraordinary shows, the Red Rock State Park and Lake Mead. They've finally finished the suspension bridge over the Hoover Dam, its increadible....really beautiful... I didn't go out there on this trip to shoot it....had to stop in town for a few days on business to chase a project I am very passionate about supporting...... if I land the project I'll let you all know.. Fingers crossed as I am the best WOMAN and firm for the job!!! God I hope my competitors are reading this!!! :)
Valley of Fire State Park!!
Valley of Fire is Nevada’s oldest and largest state park, dedicated in 1935. Ancient trees and early man are represented throughout the park by areas of petrified wood and 3,000 year-old Indian petroglyphs. Popular activities include camping, hiking, picnicking and photography. The park offers a full-scale visitor center with extensive interpretive displays. Several group use areas are also available.Valley of Fire State Park is six miles from Lake Mead and 55 miles northeast of Las Vegas via Interstate 15 and on exit 75.
The park is open all year.
The Valley of Fire derives its name from red sandstone formations, formed from great shifting sand dunes during the age of dinosaurs, 150 million years ago. Complex uplifting and faulting of the region, followed by extensive erosion, have created the present landscape.
Other important rock formations include limestones, shales, and conglomerates. Prehistoric users of the Valley of Fire included the Basket Maker people and later the Anasazi Pueblo farmers from the nearby fertile Moapa Valley.
The span of approximate occupation has been dated from 300 B.C.E. to 1150 C.E. Their visits probably involved hunting, food gathering, and religious ceremonies, although scarcity of water would have limited the length of their stay. Fine examples of rock art left by these ancient peoples can be found at several sites within the park.
Winters are mild with temperatures ranging from freezing to 75 degrees. Daily summer highs usually exceed 100 degrees F and may reach 120 degrees. Summer temperatures can vary widely from day to night. Average annual rainfall is four inches, coming in the form of light winter showers and summer thunderstorms. Spring and fall are the preferred seasons for visiting the Valley of Fire.
PLANTS AND ANIMALS
The area plant community is dominated by widely spaced creosote bush, burro bush, and brittlebush. Several cactus species, including beaver tail and cholla, are also common. The springtime bloom of such plants as the desert marigold, indigo bush, and desert mallow are often spectacular along park roads.
Resident birds include the raven, house finch, sage sparrow, and roadrunner. Many migrant birds also pass through the park. Most desert animals are nocturnal and not frequently seen by the passing motorist. Many species of lizards and snakes are common in the park, as well as the coyote, kit fox, spotted skunk, black tailed jackrabbit, and antelope ground squirrel.
The desert tortoise is a rare species and is protected by state law. If you are lucky enough to come across one please leave this likeable and harmless creature to live its life in peace in its own environment.
I lived in Las Vegas for four years full time while working as a photographer on MGM's City Center and Cosmopolitan project. During this time, I had a number of friends tell me that i should head out to the Valley of Fire Park, but being that I was working so intimately with with project that I literally shot during all hours of the day and night coupled with the fact that I lived near Red Rock Canyon and found that canyon so easily accessible and stunning....I never took the time to drive the 45 minutes northeast outside of Vegas to see this park.
Now that I've spent the afternoon here, I could just kick myself. Being that Vegas is one place I keep a residence, and where my company is based out of...I'll visit frequently and explore every inch of this beautiful state park. It is extraordinary. I mean, it is truly extraordinary. I tried to capture some of the textures and colors in these images, but the landscape is vast, and the topography continues to change every mile....changing from deep cinnomon and reds to golds and purples. The sand is heavily mixed with rock, which in the last evening light, throws off a lot of shadows which is further enhancing the depth in the texture of the land. The distant mountains, appear to be mirages of movement, as the heat from the sand rises to give the mountains the appearance of moving waves of color... I know you all know what I am talking about... The color in the rock and sand are even more robust than that in Death Valley. The road has to have been resurfaced sometime this or last year because it is smooth and in excellent condiftion. The asphault is a dark color as well, which appears as a band of black through all of these bold fall colors. What an easy drive! I happened to come across on a Tuesday or Wednesday mid-day....and it was a bit of a toasty one...112 on this first week of June. I haven't seen many other vehicles out here, so I have been able to pull over with quite a bit of ease on this narrow two lane road...but I have seen the occasional parked vehicle without occupancy, so there are a few brave souls out on the numerous trails I have past....if fact I just saw four men with backbacks returning from what looked like it may have been an overnight trek. I saw a coyote skampering along the road which really surprised me....they are typically bedded down mid-day.... He had the coloring of a red fox, but after some reading, I know he had to have been a coyote.
Two things worth mentioning.
There are no gas stations for 50 miles around the middle of the park....so if you come for a visit be sure to gas up on either end of the park!!! Also, carry water with you..... I could see where a simple flat tire could turn into a very uncomfortable, unsafe wait....as I have been sitting here for an hour, and haven't seen a single car pass by.
Scroll down....skipped a few days here, coming back later
Zion National Park, Utah
Bryce Canyon, Utah.....
I got to visit Bryce a few times as a little girl when my family would head out on summer vacations. We even ventured into the canyon a couple of times when I was a teen.... and a few years ago...I drove through with a dear friend...but this is the first time Ihave spent any time photographing it... God it is a fun destination to photograph.
Bryce Canyon is located just south of the junction of Scenic Byway 12 and U-63 and is a series of large natural amphitheaters or valleys that are filled with hoodoos or pillar looking rock, on the eastern edge of a large plateau. You'll enter the park from the north with the option of traveling to various overlooks along the 20 mile length of the park. My favorite over look is the one below called the Sunset Overlook but I shot sunrise there and couldn't image there being a better place in the entire park to capture the beauty of the new day....and new sun. Maps and information are available at the park entrance and the visitor center. Hiking trails descend into many of the amphitheaters and are pretty easy as they switchback down with slight decreases in elevation at a time. Take water....it does get warm in the late spring and throughout the summer. I've seen images of this park in the summer; it is open year round and I have put Bryce's winter wonderland on my bucket list....
This first grouping of images are from the beautiful~
Lower Antelope Slot Canyon in Page, Arizona.
The Navajo name for Lower Antelope Canyon is Hasdeztwazi or "Spiral Rock Arches." Many years ago, herds of Pronghorn Antelope roamed freely in and around the canyon, which is where the English name for this canyon was derived from.
This incredible canyon has been created over many thousands of years by the relentless forces of water and wind, slowly carving and sculpting the sandstone into forms, textures, and shapes which we observe today. The views in Lower Antelope Canyon change constantly as the sun moves across the sky, filtering lights softly across the stone walls. These ever-moving sun angles bounce light back and forth across the narrow canyon's walls, creating a dazzling display of color, light, and shadow.
There are two entry points into this slot canyon, respectively named the lower and upper entry points; I prefer the lower because "KEN'S TOURS, my personal favorite tour company for the canyon, allows photographers to roam FREELY for two full hours, without the crowding that typically happens during a guided tour. The tours are organized and move brisky through the narrow canyon, so photographing around them was pretty easy. Antelope Canyon is only a few miles from the marinas of beautiful Lake Powell and a short distance from the world renowned majestic Rainbow Bridge Natural Arch and Horseshoe Bend Monuments. The upper and lower entries are only a 1/2 mile from one another. You must make arrangements to enter the upper (last time I checked).. the lower requires no reservation.
Antelope Canyon is located near Page on Navajo Nation land, just outside Glen Canyon National Recreation Area and close to AZ 98 a few miles east of town (at milepost 299).
Back to residing in my suped up car resort....camping is becoming a love of mine.
Bryce Canyon National Park has two campgrounds, Northand Sunset, located in close proximity to the visitor center, Bryce Canyon Lodge and the geologic wonder that is the Bryce Amphitheater. Both have restrooms with flush toilets, and drinking water. During the summer months coin-operated laundry and shower facilities are available at the general store nearby. There are no hook-ups in the campgrounds, but a fee-for-use dump station is available for RV users at the south end of North Campground. When I arrived, I actually had made a reservation at a campground 13 miles outside the park that I'd found on the nps.com website but to my surprise I found a great third party campground that had a few tent spaces left so I grabbed one. Ruby's Campground. All of the same amazing facilities..very very clean, upgraded showers and laundry facilities...my campsite was big, covered by pines and had a grill and picnic table.
All of the aforementioned campgrounds are located in Ponderosa Pine forest habitat with equal amounts of shade and sun, giving them a similar appearance.
Bryce Canyon's Campgrounds
Photography Tips: (Great tips for all carrying a camera)
As far as shooting this extraordinary marvel of nature beauty goes (and I do not say that lightly, it truly is extraordinary to experinece), I had done my due diligence and read some of the suggestions of other photographers on yelp, travel advisor and various other sites. I will share some of the tips I found most relevant, as well as a few of my own here today, as preparation goes a long way when you are that far away from "HOME". First, between the two canyon entry points, the Lower Antelope Canyon, which is quite literally just above the highway from the Upper Antelope entry point, is far more tailored to photographers. Photographers who have a DSLR AND a tripod, are invited to stay in the canyon for two full hours.... most of the upper and lower canyons tours hover right around an hour...which for a visitor simply desiring to take in the beauty and experience the canyon is long enough....but for us, adjusting camera settings to adjust for changing light conditions and playing with tripod elevations....the extra hour is needed.
I would highly suggest using Ken's Tours because they have photo monitors, which are tour guides specifically walking the interior of the canyon making sure that photographers are being respectful of the canyon's architecture. Thier prime concern is that we are not scratching the surfaces of the delicate sandstone walls with our tripods; but whats more, they are wonderful about pointing out unique areas of interest for the hours that you are in the canyon. The light is constantly changing and moving throughout the canyon and they have the canyons patterns memorized. There are times during the day when you can witness the very popular beams of light that appear as a cylindrical beam that start at the top of the canyon and perfectly land in a circle pattern on the canyon's floor.. while other areas, where curves are only enhanced with indirect light, are perhaps even more an interest to me because it becomes more about manipulating the browns. purples, and yellows to compliment the overwhelming abundant terra cotta colors. The monitors were so gracious to me, that they literally held up tours so that I could finish running my brackets or at times, simply get a shot that took me a while to frame because I was wedged into a tight space, hole, or on the ground with the tripod spread out to accommodate the low elevation. I was very impressed with their candor, professionalism, care for my safety and the care I in turn showed the canyon.
While in the canyon, it is my strong suggestion you choose one lens. You'll find the tours come through on a routine and constant cycle....with 15-50 people in each group. Changing lenses is dangerous and quite frankly in my opinion, reckless when you only have two hours to capture this beautiful space that is located so remote to other destiniations. My choice was a 15-105mm and I was very happy with the possibilities it provided me. Also, even though the sandstone walls are not reflective, I would suggest the use of a polarizing filter. The filter will add one to two stops on all of your exposures which is effective in enhancing the saturation of the rich colors.
Despite improved warning and safety systems, the risks of injuries from flash floods still exist in the canyon. Entry is heavily regulated, and is only allowed with proper permits and tour company ID tegs. The wet season is July-August in the summer months.... I was not only comfortable temperature wise at the beginning of June, but loved the position of the sun..