Fall Colors and Mono Lake, October 3-6 2013

Field Trips

Holly Peskin

Led by Sue Craft & David Wilkins

I started this write up on the last night of our field trip because, well, frankly, I was feeling inspired! This was officially my second “far from home” field trip with 10 other like minded LPA members. People motivated to drive hundreds of miles up Hwy 395 to Bishop and beyond to capture the gorgeous fall foliage of aspen and cottonwood trees, as well the mysterious techniques of “Star Trail” shots at Mono Lake.  The trip was everything I hoped it would be, and then some! Investigating “new territory” was thrilling, and of course learning from our resident expert David Wilkins on how to execute a great star trail shot is something every inspired photographer needs to get under their belt!

Sue Craft

I started my journey one day earlier than the pack on Tuesday October 1st, with my first stop at the famed “Alabama Hills” in search of the “Mobius Arch”. An easy drive to Lone Pine, and a short walk from the parking lot, and boom, there she was! A beautiful arch that when looking through to the west, perfectly frames majestic Mt. Whitney. I would really like to return to that very spot one winter or spring day to get the perfect shot when the mountain is snowcapped and enticing. Upon departing, I decided to head up Highway 168 East to re-visit the Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest which was a long, steep, and windy 24 grueling miles to get to! Once there, I hiked only a portion of the 4 mile hike in to see the ancient trees. I would’ve stayed longer, but I wanted to leave time to get to Bishop and up Bishop Creek Canyon while there was still enough light to see all the fall color allure. As promised, it was exploding with color! The town of Bishop seems to always greet people with its distinctive vivid yellow rabbit bush everywhere!

Ronald Yagi

Next day came, and I met up in Bishop with Sue Craft, my scout buddy, and she drove us north past Bishop to McGee Creek and Rock Creek, to either rule in or out, as “must see” for the group. Both places I had never been to. Both were very beautiful, buy they lacked the vibrance of color that Bishop Creek Canyon had that I had seen the day prior. We drove back up the canyon together to scout out more spots in preparation for the other members arrival the next day, all the while snapping shots of terrific scenery. We went to South Lake and Lake Sabrina, which were dreadfully low this year, and to North Lake, which proved to be healthier, fuller, and the surroundings quite colorful.

Thursday came, and Sue I awoke early to scout yet more areas including very pretty Big Pine Creek. We met up with rest of the field trippers at noonish at the prestigious Mountain Light Gallery in Bishop. David & Chris Wilkins, Dale & Pat Ware, Ron & Linda Yagi, Ron Smith, Sandi Lieder, Sue Craft, and I made up the group of 10 for this trip. That day was actually a crazy day, as it was horribly gusty and horribly dusty! Reminiscent of some days in the Antelope Valley! Anyway, the troops decided to head up into Bishop Creek Canyon, where they spent the day shooting fall color around each bend in the road, wind free! We then met up again at Denny’s for dinner, and to strategize Friday’s agenda.

Holly Peskin

Friday morning early we all headed north, caravanned through the June Lake Loop, which was chock full of glorious color around each of the lakes. We then checked into our hotel rooms in Lee Vining in the afternoon, and met up again for dinner at the Whoa Nellie Deli at the Tioga Pass road right off the 395. Now I’ve been to a lot of gas stations, but this one serves amazing gourmet food, and what a welcome surprise that was for us all after so much driving and shooting! We discussed how the whole star trail thing would go down that night. There had been mixed reports on whether or not the South Tufa at Mono Lake  would even be open because of the governmental shut downs in the area like Yosemite etc…We finally did get the confirmation that indeed we would be able to go ahead as planned and shoot there. Phew! I was a little nervous and even heartbroken that we might not have been able to go to that spot. You see, I missed the field trip last year, and I saw everyone’s South Tufa star trail images, and I was so excited to finally be in a position to make my own first star trail picture with such a magnificent backdrop. At about 6pm we drove out there, fully layered in clothing knowing it would be cold, all geared up, and made our way down to the beach at Mono Lake. The tourists had shuffled away for the evening, and it was mostly hardcore star trail enthusiasts that remained. We composed, focused our lenses and taped them in place before dark, and basically hung out until the moment of truth at 8pm, when our cable releases would go to work! There were of course the “predictable” mishaps, such as intervalometers forgotten at home, intervalometers that worked in the hotel room but not when ya needed it, and a couple of other little snags. Different people tried different techniques to achieve the shot, but basically we all strived to get the North Star with the mesmerizing circles around it, and low and behold, success ! We also managed to snap a few 30 second exposures of the Milky Way. While waiting approximately the hour and a half for completion, we froze our tootsies off! It was way colder than expected and we were even jumping up and down to stay warm. Dale Ware reported temps of 19 degrees!!! When all was said and done, we high tailed it back to our cars, and arrived back at our hotel rooms at 10:30pm. I had a new found level of respect for these people! Especially the Wares, being the elders of the group. I decided if they could do this, then certainly I could! But truthfully, I have a much higher regard for them after this trip!

P. Dale Ware

Saturday morning came, and after coffee, breakfast, and more strategizing, we all went around Lee Vining Canyon to shoot more foliage and creek shots. The Yagi’s even explored a reservoir off the Tioga Pass where they snapped shots of translucent icicles.  This day, essentially the last day of the trip, turned out to be the highlight for me! I was kind of dragging at this point because I had been going all day and night since Tuesday, not to mention having to endure the frigid, frost bitten fingers and toes from the night before! Sue mentioned she wanted to check out the Lundy Lake Canyon area which is about a 15 minute ride north of Lee Vining. Ok, I had been to Lundy Lake before, but never in the fall. I was almost ready to say nay, I’ll pass, but she coaxed me into it, and for that I am so thankful! We saw the largest trunked aspens on the trip that literally glowed like tall kings in the sunlight. Forging further down the road we saw the lake. It was a bit low, but lined with spectacular colored trees. I always thought the road basically dead ended at the lake, but she assured me there was more! We continued down the dirt road to where there is a whole area of ponds with several beaver dams. This particular area was so special to me; it actually brought a tear to my eye. I felt blessed to be in this small canyon area, framed by mountains lightly dusted from the last snow a week ago, aspen trees that were electric and crazy gorgeous reflecting in the beaver ponds, and graced by Mother Nature herself. We took many shots and finally headed back where we would have our last group meet up at the Whoa Nellie Deli gourmet gas station. We had another night of star trails planned out, but everybody was so fatigued from days of driving and shooting, that we all copped out. Only the Wilkins braved it out and went to Navy Beach to do a long exposure over the Salt Tufas there. Sorry to disappoint you David!

Sunday, we checked out, and headed home to reality. Our most delightful colorful trip was so nourishing for our souls, as we photographers seem to have a thirst for nature’s bounty and glory. Many thanks to the people who were patient in teaching me new things and introducing me to new places. Also, a special thank you to Sue Craft for being such a super buddy on the trip!  I think it’s safe to say that a great trip was had by all! Even more important than the many photographs I took, were the relationships I’ve made and strengthened on this trip with other LPA members. They are young at heart, healthy minded, and special people that I’m proud to call my friends. If you’ve never been on a field trip with LPA, I highly recommend you do! Memories are created that will stay with you for a lifetime…longer than any photograph!


“...I really enjoyed the field trip and one of the major reasons for this was the hard work both Sue Craft and Holly Peskin had put into scouting locations. All of the places were well worth visiting with many picture opportunities. I also really appreciated David’s patience in working with us, teaching the technique of shooting star trails. I’ve got a good foundational starting point, but I’m pretty sure that when I try to do it again, it’ll be in the summer. That was a really cold night.  Anyway, had a great time and look forward to doing it again of we go. Thanks, Ron Yagi…”

“…The Fall Colors and Star Trail s trip was amazing. As a novice, I’m just beginning to learn about photography techniques and how to use my camera.This trip gave me the opportunity to use my camera in different situations under the guidance of Holly Peskin, Sue Craft, David & Chris Wilkins, and of course , my husband, Ron. I truly appreciated their patience and willingness to share their love for photography and knowledge. This was really a great opportunity to become friends with other members of the LPA. Linda Yagi…”

“…I am so glad I joined the group on this trip. The weather was perfect, the locations were colorful, and I learned quite a lot from the others. The more experienced photographers were very helpful. It was also enjoyable having time to get to know more about the other members. Sandi Leider…”

“…While star trailing, Pat and I felt like we were freezing. It was 19 degrees. We didn’t sleep much that night because we were so excited and having fun. I really want to thank David Wilkins. He spent a lot of time helping Pat and me with shooting star trails. It’s a wonder he had time to do some himself. We thought Mono Lake South Tufa area would be closed, but David  checked it out, and everything was ok. Pat and I had lots of layers of clothing on, but we still got cold. Chris Wilkins gave Pat a hand warmer, which really helped. Thanks to Sue Craft and Sue Liberto for putting together a very successful field trip. It is one of the best Pat and I have been on. Loads of great fun and fellowship. Sorry Sue Liberto got sick and couldn’t make it. Dale & Pat Ware…”

“…Thank you David Wilkins for stepping in as co-leader when Sue Liberto couldn’t make it, and thank you to the group for being so flexible (with weather, unknowns from government shutdowns,etc…) and delightful to photograph with. It was nice to see everyone sharing information and photo ops and especially nice to have newer members join us. Sue Craft…”


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