And yet another amazing workshop has concluded. David Metcalf and I had the immense pleasure of presenting a spectacular 13 day workshop and tour commencing in Los Angeles and moving through the Eastern Sierras , Death Valley, Yosemite and winding up at San Francisco. Commencing at the Marriott at Marina Del Rey in Los Angeles our group came together for a welcoming dinner. Too many restaurants to choose from but we settled on the fabulous Canoli near Venice Beach. Superb meal and a taste of things to come.
But before we start let's wind back the clock a couple of days. Our fun had already begun.
Geoff had arrived early and hired a car and as I checked in a couple of days before the workshop he grabbed me and said, "What are we doing today?". The best cure for jet-lag is to keep moving and sleep that night to get your body in sync. Who was I to argue and so off we went on a brand new adventure. Driving on the wrong side of the road with a sat-nav that always provided a few surprises. In fact we were fortunate that we had the dodgy sat-nav as we saw many things that we were not expecting :-)
Some how we survived and we did have a great time visiting the USS IOWA, a huge battleship with massive, massive guns, Huntington Gardens, LA Zoo, and impromptu model shoot in Hollywood and much more. Over the following days Neil and Sue also popped in early and joined in our adventures.
Hera are are few images from the pre-workshop.
In fact, nothing could be further from the truth. We virtually had the place to ourselves. Having been told different stories from reception staff to other travellers we had no option but to check out the situation for ourselves. We headed off to Zabriskie Point to find it open and accessible with only a few other people around. A magic sunset and then a slightly cloudy star trails session and back to the lodge for dinner.
Day three kicked off with sunrise back at Zabriskie Point and we not disappointed. This place was fantastic with many changing colours as the sun rose. Check out and then off to the desert dunes with some stops along the way when spectacular scenes presented. Incredibly we encountered our only inclement weather for the entire trip in the desert of Death Valley where it rained. Bizarre!!!
Onwards towards Lone Pine, the home of many John Wayne movies as well as many others and again we stopped along the way to photograph fantastic landscapes. Arriving in Lone Pine we saw clouds building and thought that we may be in for a nasty change in the weather. A few of us headed off to explore the area and turned up a side street which just happened to lead into the Alabama Hills. Unbelievable as we were driving along we saw a BMW heading the other way covered in snow. We couldn't believe our eyes and as we continued on we were snowed on for the first time. Out of the SUV and into the cold as we all reveled in the white landscape.
We were somewhat disappointed that our hotel rooms faced away from the mountains that we had seen as we drove into Lone Pine. Little did we know what was in store for us in the morning.
I was dressed and out like a shot to photograph the magic vistas before breakfast, and this was the view from my window.
We began climbing and soon passed our turn around point from the night before. Snow was everywhere and we stopped many times to shoot the amazing mountain landscapes. There were fresh tracks through the snow so we continued climbing and climbing and climbing. The higher we went the more slippery the road became. We pulled over for more photos and a ute drove past so we thought, yep, no problem we can do this. One thing we had noticed in the USA so far was a distinct lack of guard rails that we are accustomed to in Australia. Here we were on slippery icy roads with no guard rails and huge drop offs to below.
After a somewhat tense drive we made the top and were rewarded with an incredible winter wonderland. Hot coffee in the warm cafe and we were set for a great shoot in the snow and ice.
We carefully made our descent and met up with the others to check out and head for June Lake and our home for the next few days, the Double Eagle Lodge. A few stops along the way and then we detoured into Convict Lake for amazing reflections of ice covered peaks and autumn colours around sunset.
That evening we made our first trip to Mono Lake for sunset and stayed on for star trails at this surreal landscape. The structures at Mono Lake are called 'Tufas' and are a type of limestone deposit. The lake was formed over 760,000 years ago and has no outlet so salinity and mineral levels continue to rise as they re deposited into the lake with nowhere to go. The lake is alkaline but stills harbours a huge brine shrimp supply and is an important stop-over for many migratory birds. We saw thousands of what appeared to be grebes bobbing around on the lake while we were there.
Our day concluded with a stunning sunset over the snow clad mountains before heading back to the lodge for dinner.
Bodie was another gem with many old abandoned buildings, cars and machinery. And then it snowed. It was all rather surreal wandering around in a ghost town in the desert and being snowed on. Wonderful.
To finish our day we headed to Virginia Lakes and Lundy Lake chasing the autumn colours. Another wonderful experience as we stopped in at the cafe on the lake to find a real character running the place. John was keen to let us know his political views and some friendly banter ensued as we discussed the government shutdown. It was also the last day the store would be open as they were 'closing for the season' the next day. They literally shut up shop and reopen in six months time when the snows melt and the lake thaws so that people can fish again.