Sunday, January 3, 2016

My Best 10 Photographs from 2015

I didn't wander far from my El Portal home during 2015.  The drought on top of preparing for a wilderness adventure took much of my time away from photography until summer.  My first backcountry adventure of the year started out with balmy spring weather soon followed by about a foot of heavy wet snow.  It made for amazing photography and some cold feet.

This summer My wife, my friend Dave, and I spent our entire summer vacation in Yosemite's Wilderness.  We spent most of our time in the more remote northern end of the park where we explored wild flower filled canyons and pristine lakes while getting our share of rain and even a little snow.   I  finished spending 54 nights in the wilderness only coming home for one night to eat pizza and drink a beer. 

This fall Mara and I got out to explore some areas of Yosemite Valley that I can only get to while being in good physical shape.  

Finally, I couldn't resist trying to get one last photograph over New Year's Eve.  Lucky for California, Yosemite is slowly building a snow pack but we have a ways to go before getting out of this drought.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Summer 2013 White Mountains and the Sierra Nevada

Mara and I took the summer off from volunteering with the Park Service. Instead we used the time to visit with our families and explore the wilderness.  As the Yosemite Rim Fire burns into Fall, it is refreshing to look back at our trips when it was not as dry.  Our first backpack of the season was of course with Dave Dahler who always motivates me to explore and photograph for hours on end.

Not long after this trip, I washed up, slept on our bed for the night, and left for Lee Vining. to assist Michael Frye with his Hidden Yosemite Workshop.  The group was enthusiastic and worked well together. And it was clear that they were passionate about nature photography and the landscape.  Despite having a dry year, I still came back with some keepers.
 We weren't planning on going to the White Mountains of California, but a broken stove made us decide to abandon a trip through northern Yosemite and head to Bishop for repairs.  About five years ago Mara and I explored the bristlecone pines of the White Mountains but vowed to come back and spend more time.
From the White Mountains we drove down east through Big Pine up to the Palisades.  This region of the Sierra Nevada is known for some impressive 13,00+ foot peaks and the largest glacier in California. Since the turn of the century the Palisade Glacier has receded at an alarming rate. Mara and I never actually saw the glacier up close because the recessional moraine was steep and unstable. Other hikers had witnessed large rocks rolling off making the crossing dangerous.  Instead, I enjoyed the turquoise glacial water that flows from under the moraine.  This rock flour is just suspended fine particles of smashed rocks.  Late day and early morning light made this place photographically outrageous.

Our last trip of the season was down the Grand Canyon of the Tuolumne where at lower elevations, the weather was luckily quite comfortable as opposed to scorching hot. We took our time, taking five days to only travel 30 miles.  This approach gave me time to discover some strong compositions under very good light. 

 The forest close to the horizon is still smoldering from the Rim Fire.  This photograph of Hetch Hetchy was taken about a week before.  The California landscape is always changing.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Winter Storm at Ostrander Ski Hut and Badger Pass

For the last ten years my wife and I have been making an annual ski to the Ostrander Ski Hut located about  10 miles out from Badger Pass ski area.  Most years we have been caught in the middle of fierce winter storms. Still we continue this tradition because it brings together a diverse group of like minded individuals who are infactuated with winter, backcountry skiing, and Yosemite.  Our last trip on the third week of March brought more snow to the area than some can remember in over 50 years making our departure from the hut very difficult. The snow was quite deep and heavy making it hard to break trail.  After a long day of trail breaking we made it to Badger Pass ski area where we knew that we would be spending the night.  A good description of our ordeal can be read here

During the trip we had a short break between storms.

Next came a system that closed the park.

When we left the cabin we knew that we would probably be spending the night at the Badger Pass ski area.  The roads were already closed.  The prudent thing to do would have been to stay at the ski hut, but we had a strong crew who were physically capable of breaking trail.  These images show what Badger Pass looked like after we dug out our cars the night before!

Later that afternoon a plow made it in and we convoyed back to El Portal along a single lane.  And no we were not rescued.  We could have stayed for days and been just fine.

When we arrived in El Portal, we had no power for the week.  El Portal received more snow than anyone can remember toppling oaks everywhere. Luckily we still got our organic veggie delivery despite some dangerous obstacles. 

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Winter in Yosemite's High Country

Wind Lee Vining Canyon from Hugh Sakols on Vimeo.

In mid February a group of us set out for Tuolumne Meadows on skis.  During the summer months my wife and I volunteer for the National Park Service and live in the historic Macauley Cabin next to Parson's Lodge.  We thought it would be interesting to see the area covered in snow. The only problem was a storm was coming our way bringing even more snow.  This was a welcome relief after about 6 weeks without any storms.  This year I think California is OK.

After surviving the wind we continued up the road from Lee Vining to what was surely a winter landscape.

The morning after we arrived, the snow came.  So much that we were worried about getting out before spring.

We made a dash for it to Tioga Pass where we were trapped for the next three nights. On the first day at the pass we had a short break between storms which was spectacular yet mighty cold.  I've never been able to handle a camera well with any type of gloves.

There was no shortage of snow at Tioga Pass - elevation 9943 ft.

Once again we had to break trail back down the Lee Vining Canyon.  However, we were rewarded by a thick coverage of snow on everything.

At Ellery Lake the wind picked up.  Gusts on the ridge tops were impressive!

Ever wonder why trees at the crest grow bent over in clumps?  The wind was quite intense blowing snow and quickly making my hands and face feel as though they were frozen.  No one wanted to stop with me when I took this photograph.

We were on extra alert entering areas of avalanche potential.  Luckily some of worst areas were scoured free of snow thanks to the wind.

Looking back up at the crest it was good to be back at our cars.  We spent the following eight hours driving back around to El Portal.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Yosemite Winter 2011

Winter in Yosemite began with a blast of cold air and plenty of snow. These are my first images of the year taken in January. The short days and low angle of the light is a welcome change from summer's blazing bright glare.

Yosemite Falls on a chilly winter morning. I can't remember if it was 9 AM or 10 AM.

I made this photograph of Half Dome by blending two differently exposed images, a darker top and a lighter bottom. I like the way I have kept detail in the snow covered foreground. 

This year I skied into the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias but there are also white firs.
Copyright © Hugh Sakols Photography