Where almost nothing else thrives in the high White Mountains of Eastern Sierra California is a forest of ancient trees, bristlecone pines, that are among the oldest living things on earth. The first night of our eastern sierra adventure, we slept under these ancient trees, to prepare our spirits for the challenges that follow.
To see the living bristlecones is to be struck by their beauty, but also by their strangeness. Of the many I had seen, no two were alike. Some stooped, some twisted, some tall, others had multiple trunks and intricately spiraling body. They are so ghostly, gnarled and ashen that they almost speak about their 4,000 to 5,000 years of age.
I think of time in terms of experience, and a life spanning thousands of years can seem alien or even eternal to our mind. It is hard to picture what it would be like to witness hundreds of generations flow out from under you in the stream of time, hard to imagine how rich the mind might become if seasoned by five thousand years of experience and culture. To them ancients, we are merely two kids standing in front of them for the time of a glimpse.
It is hard to resist the cliché to find the oldest standing tree and snap a photo. The most ancient, called Methuselah, is estimated to be more than 4,800 to 5,000 years old located somewhere in the Methuselah Grove. This grove is accessible to hikers, but the tree is unmarked. We are guessing it is the one in the below picture.
Enough of the ghost trees? How about this abandoned ghost town called Bodie. I had a feeling this place could be a perfect spot for a fine art or concept photo shoot. Let’s find a girl who has a kind of innocent and lost look, put her in a worn-out but blowy cotton maxi dress, and then have her wandering around in the emptiness among those strangest wood houses…
If you ever want to see the whole beauty of Big Sur, definitely go there in the Spring time, for that Spring turns Big Sur into a wildflower garden. We have hiked the trails of most state parks dotted along the coastline, Garrapata SP is the best bet to look for blooming flowers. I have always wondered where they got their colors and how they got their life. Each of them was once a seed, no man had attended them, yet they blossom unexpectedly and boldly. The perfection of shapes and colors make them the most precious gifts from the nature. They don’t seem to belong anywhere, because they belong to where they feel live and free.
From a distance, the Bay Bridge turns into a shimmering dancing sculpture after dusk. Have you spot the passing traffic, the moving clouds, and the shifting weather in the light pattern racing across the span? It’s hard for me to resist capturing this beautiful light patterns painted with 25,000 LEDs, even if it involved making a trip up to San Francisco among traffic and coming back home an hour and half past midnight.
To get it right is a bit tricky and I want share a little bit my thoughts to you if you ever want to visit the Bay Lights and have some pretty light patterns taken. It’s a different ballpark in terms of night photography. Night landscapes are usually shot with a relatively slow shutter speed accompanied with small aperture and low iso. But if I apply the normal ways of shooting night landscape, the Bay Lights would then turn into a bunch of boring white straight lines. So in order to freeze the motion of the light pattern, the key is to start with a faster shutter speed such as 1/30 to 1/20 second, still on the tripod though, then try to find a balance among the trade-offs between wide aperture and high iso (in plain words: between what’s in focus and digital noise). Fortunately, with a little post noise reduction, these pictures turned out not too bad, plus the grain looking residue noises make the black and white photo look a little vintage-ish.
I have always been grateful that we live just a few hours away from the beautiful Yosemite. The past few weeks has been tough for me. Life has taken me through miracle, hope, anxiousness, hopeless, and emptiness, as if nothing happened. Have you ever been through this feeling before? Something happened and you feel like your pray was answered but the next minute you were completely drowned and forgotten. The worst of this is you can do nothing about it. Some things you just cannot control at all. However, what’s done is done and I want to leave things behind. So, we spent the last weekend in Yosemite to getaway from the mundane of life, and to heal.
Although the meadow hasn’t turned green, the spring breath has melted the frozen streams of falls. This time of the year, Yosemite is a quiet and blue dreamland. I can hear only the sound of water. I loved walking along the Merced River in the rainy morning and stopped wherever spirit moved me. As I stood in front of the tunnel view, watching Bridalveil Fall and Cathedral Rocks looming through the veil of misty fog, just for a few seconds I wanted to become one of the pine trees. How could I ask for more? Nowhere is it easier to settle for the scene right in front of me. This view is going to be the most enduring memory of Yosemite for me.
These orange pink “asparagus” looking rock pillars are called the Hoodoos of the Bryce Canyon. They are sculpted by million years of freezing and thawing water. Just like the name implies, these hoodoos will cast a spell on all who visit. It did on me.
[ Hoodoos lights ]
The first rays of light bring Hoodoos’ amazing formations life. These hoodoos are beautiful at any time of the day, but at sunrise the color seem to glow from within. When I arrived at the Bryce Point, the cloud covering the east was thick and I felt the sunrise won’t be as dramatic as I had imagined. However, I’ve learned to not give up on days like this with the ever changing weather in the canyonlands. The sun came up behind the thick clouds and nothing happened, but a few minutes later it broke through a stream of the cloud, hitting the top of the hoodoos in the canyon valley. The light lasted only for about a few seconds, then the rest of the day was completely overcast and later followed by a snow storm. I love when I happens, to be surprised by Nature! Bryce Canyon is a place that must be seen in person to truly gain a sense of scale and oddity.