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Granite Paradise (Milky Way over the Sierra Backcountry) | by landESCAPEvisuals | jeff lewis
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Granite Paradise (Milky Way over the Sierra Backcountry)

As many of you know, I'm a backcountry ranger in the Sierras. I just spent an absolutely amazing night in the wilderness at one of my favorite lakes, 8 miles and 4000 brutal feet of elevation gain into the backcountry. The best part is...I was paid for it* ;)


After being treated to a gorgeous high cloud sunset with just one other party around, I set up my camp and cooked dinner. When I was done, it was just about 10PM and the Milky Way was shining brilliantly above a peak to the left. I fired off a few shots that I was really happy with, but I knew that ultimately I was going to have to wake up in the middle of the night if I wanted to line up the galaxy with this iconic Sierra peak.


So I set my alarm for 1:30AM... and this was the scene I woke up to. Not only had the Milky Way aligned itself with the peak as I'd hoped, but the moon was just beginning to rise, casting a sort of nocturnal alpenglow onto the peaks as well as color onto the clouds. Beautiful masses of clouds had formed on both the left and right sides (and anyone who knows the High Sierra will appreciate how rare clouds at night can be!).


This lake is a granite paradise, and in addition to this shot and several other comps, I was able to capture the 13-shot panorama of a lifetime. It's called "A Night in the Mountains" and I will release it soon. In the meantime, I hope you enjoy this one. Being able to shoot the Milky Way is relatively new for me because my old gear really wasn't capable of taking good shots in such low light, so thoughts and suggestions are very welcome.


*Oh, yeah, a disclaimer about the "getting paid to hike" part... I saved at least two visitors' lives on this trip, which made everything even more worthwhile. :)



- Jeff




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Taken on July 1, 2013