Alabama Hills, September 23-24 2010

Field Trips

Led by David and Chris Wilkins

Star trails in the night sky; a full harvest moon illuminating the Alabama Hills; moonset over the High Sierra…  all enticed David & Chris Wilkins to put together a LPA field trip.

David did his “prep” work and utilized technology to plan the timing, and places to be. Sunrise/set and Moonrise/set times are available at  Utilizing the program The Photographer’s Ephemeris one can determine where and when the sun/moon are going to rise/drop behind the mountains.

Alabama Hills Moonset by Sue Craft
David and Chris set out on the scout trip on Wednesday afternoon to find the perfect location for a star trails shot by moonlight.  Several promising locations were checked out and on the way back to the car from one, Chris says “that’s a Michael Gordon shot” which means a great black and white desert opportunity.  After a detour to photograph the desert scenes, David and Chris met up with Anita Kratofil and Lee Simmons.  They all staked out spots at the Alabama Arch and made their exposures.  They learned what not to do.   A forty-five minute exposure leaves the star trails too faint, but the 5-minute test shots were great.  The next morning they went out to find a  good location for the moonset the next day.   The alpenglow in the morning was terrific!  Tomorrow could be special.  They also looked for and found a more accessible spot for the night shot and marked it with the GPS.  Things look so different in the dark!

Cactus at Alabama Hills by David Wilkins
Thursday afternoon, Dave Anderson, and Wayne Staley, and myself showed up and everyone met for pizza.  Lessons learned the first night were shared, and we were inspired by the successes.  Always make sure you have a fully charged battery that you know will last when shooting long exposures.  While long 1hr exposures work well on a moonless night, short 5-minute exposures taken over an hour and then stacked, work best on a full moon night.

David shared photos of the experiments from the night before.

We were led to the perfect photo spot by David & Chris.  It was easy to get to, could easily accommodate all seven photographers, and was scenic.  David made sure everyone knew how to set their camera settings, told us how to do test shots, and waited for all to be ready, before starting to photograph for the evening.

After the eyes adjusted, it was amazingly bright out that night.  One could see better without a flashlight.  All the rocks, and valleys between us and the High Sierra ranges were brightly illuminated.  The jet pilots seemed to like the full moon too.  It was a busy in the night sky! 

Friday morning, we left at 6AM to photograph the full moon setting over the majestic High Sierra, while surrounded by the ancient Alabama Hills.  The moon was huge and full of detail!  Mt Whitney (14,505 ft) was right in front of us.  As the sun rises, the pink Alpenglow starts to show on the highest mountain ranges and works it’s way downward.  Add to that beautiful daily happening… a big huge full moon setting behind the pink mountains, and you’ve got a photo!

Alabama Hills Start Trails by Sue Craft
After our early morning photo session, the group met at the Alabama Hills Café, for a yummy breakfast, complete with homemade bread.  Photographers then scattered their separate directions before heading home.

Wayne made it to Whitney Portal, in search of the waterfall.  Dave decided to wander some more around the Alabama Hills.  The rest of the group went to see the Charcoal Kilns at Mono Lake, and some on to Fossil Falls. 

The Owens Valley is full of photographic opportunities!  If you decide to venture up that direction, the Dow Villa, in Lone Pine, is a great place to stay.  Most of the group stayed in the old historical section, and it was only $68 a night.  The “old” hotel is quite clean, comfortable, and full of character.

Thank you to David and Chris for leading another great field trip!!! 

Photo by David Wilkins


Member photos can be found in the galleries:

Anita Kratofil

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