Thursday, October 13, 2016

Photographing fall colors in the California Sierras and Mammoth Lakes

Yikes! It has been two weeks since my last blog post. Sorry about that everyone. I promise you I was not slacking, I just have been shooting so much lately that I have not had time to sit down and write. the last blog post was all about the Canon 5D Mark IV and this blog post includes all photos taken with the new camera.

Early last week, I did take 4 days away from work to head to Mammoth, CA for a little rest and to celebrate my birthday. Some people might think that taking time off from my photo business, means that I put my camera down for those days and don't think about photography. But for me, it is just the opposite. One of the ways that I relax, is slowing down and taking photos just for the love of it. This is exactly what I did on this last trip.

I was driving with my wife and my mother-in-law and as we made our drive through the Lake Tahoe area we saw our first bit of fall color. We stopped and i grabbed the 5D Mark IV. I only brought a couple of lenses with me on this trip, and ended up using the Canon 28-300mm for almost every photo. I like that this lens gives me so many focal range options in one lens. For this first photo, I walked to a position where this rock would be in the foreground of my image. Even thought the mix of green and yellow trees was my subject, I wanted to include more in my image than just the trees. By moving to this position, I had a strong foreground, middle ground and background (skies).

As we continued driving, we came across numerous other spots of color. I liked this cluster of trees with the Sierras in the background.

This area had a large cluster of fall colors, but I decided to zoom in and isolate just these trees. I liked the way that the one dark green tree popped out amongst all the other lighter trees. I used the rule of thirds to place the dark tree off to the right side of the frame.

As you can see, I like photographing both tight and wide shots. They offer completely different views, but both have their own unique qualities.

Some people might avoid shooting photos which include these barren Aspens trees, but I liked the juxtaposition of the leafless trees and the colorful foliage.

For this photo, I did something completely different. I brought the photo into Google's NIK ColorEfex Pro software and added some effects to bring out the colors in the trees.

On our second day, we were out for a hike when I came across these flowers. They were far enough from the background that I could photograph them showing separation from the tall grass. I zoomed the lens all the way to 300mm and shot this at f/5.6 to have only the flowers in focus.

As I was hiking farther up the McGee Canyon trail, I could not help but be amazed by the scenery. At this point, I put on my Tiffen HT Circular Polarizing filter on the 28-300mm lens to help boost the color in the sky.

The hiking trail took me right up against the trees and I looked up to see the sun coming through the branches. I changed the aperture of the Canon 5D Mark IV to f/18 to give me a starburst effect from the sun. This is a simple shot, but one of my favorites from the trip.

Speaking of favorites, I really love this shot. I had hiked higher along the trail and wanted to get a shot of the colorful tress and mountains in the distance. But I also wanted to have something interesting in the foreground. I saw this patch of flowers off the trail. I went over to the flowers, got down very low and shot this to include all three in one photo. I took this photo at f/13 to have all elements in focus.

The next day, my wife and I decided to visit Devils Postpile and Rainbow Falls. We stopped along the drive to get this photo of the Minarets.

If you have never seen Devils Postpile before, you will be amazed by this site. These are 60 foot high columns of volcanic basalt rock that were naturally formed more than 100,000 years ago. I am amazed, not only by the large wall of columnar rock, but by the mass of rock columns that have broken and fallen to the base of the rock wall.

I climbed up a rock opposite of Devils Postpile to get this more distant view of the formation.

And then we continued the 2.5 mile hike to Rainbow Falls...

We have done this hike a couple of times before, and made it part way there about 6 years ago. Unfortunately, at that time,  I was walking with our large dog and did not see a step down with a rock in the pathway. I rolled my ankle and ended up breaking my right foot. That was the end of that hike. I had to be taken off the path on horseback. That sucked. So this was my redemption hike!

Good news. This time I made it to Rainbow Falls without incident. I carried my Gitzo travel tripod with me so that I could take some slow shutter shots. I set the camera to ISO 100 and an aperture of f/22 to get a shutter speed of 1/4 second (with the polarizing filter turned as dark as I could get it). I started with a wide shot...

...and then zoomed in tight to isolate some of the water falling across the rocks.

We mostly visit Mammoth in winter time for skiing, and it was a really great to see this amazing area in the fall. After shooting the Olympics for a month and then coming home to shoot numerous events in the SF Bay area, it was really nice to get a way and relax for a little bit. It was also fun to take photos strictly for the pleasure of taking them. That is my way of relaxing, and it worked.

If you live somewhere with nice fall colors, make sure to get out and capture some nice photos for yourself!


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Michelle M. said...

My grandmothers lived in Jamestown and Sonora respectively, I was born and raised in the SF Bay Area and my dad now has a cabin at Tahoe so I've visited this area often over the years. Funny how when people think of fall foliage the Sierras aren't the first area mentioned but your shots are proof there is gorgeous color in those mountains. Thanks for sharing - makes me homesick!

Unknown said...

Awesome photos! I feel exactly the same way - I need to get away for a couple days and just take some relaxing pictures.

Fouve said...


When were you there? I hiked Rainbow Falls and did Devil's Postpile on Monday afternoon. I got shots very similar to yours. Interested to see if we maybe crossed paths at some point!

Jeremy said...

Gorgeous photos!! I'll be going up that way next week and hope to see some of that beautiful color. Thanks for sharing.

Unknown said...

Great captures jeff, I think Ansel would approve of these . Terry

Jeff Cable Photography Blog said...


We were there last Wednesday (about a week ago). :)

D. Balding said...

Thanks for the photography suggestions/ideas. Sierras have been part of my life since childhood.

FYI. Was at Eagle Lake (east from Mt. Lassen) a few days ago. Right now there is an amazing concentration of birds there. A population explosion of small minnows in the lake has attracted vast numbers and species of birds from western N. America. Pelicans, loons, grèges etc. Great photo opportunity both on the water and from shore. When wind not blowing...early morning fog on lake surface enhances scene as it lifts and burns off in sun.

Jorna said...

Given Idea is helpful for begineer, I meen this all technique is necessary who want/hoop to start photography.

Sue Carter said...

I was beginning to worry - no blog for so long - but great photos - love the colours!!