Lee Vining Canyon and Mono Craters, Morning
Lee Vining Canyon and Mono Craters, Morning. Eastern Sierra Nevada, California. July 14, 2012. © Copyright 2012 G Dan Mitchell - all rights reserved.
Morning clouds and haze over Mono Craters, as seen from the upper elevation of Lee Vining Canyon.
East of Tioga Pass, highway 120 (a.k.a. "Tioga Pass Road") descends relatively gently past Tioga Lake and then Ellery Lake before it drop precipitously down the eastern escarpment of the Sierra Nevada through Lee Vining Canyon on its way to the junction with highway 395 just south of the town of Lee Vining. I've driven over it for years, going back and forth between my home in the San Francisco Bay Area and the east side of the Sierra, so I should be fairly nonchalant about it by now - but every so often as I pass over the route (most often looking down into the canyon from above) I wonder whatever possessed people to think that it would be a good idea to route a road across the talus fields and across the steep headway of this canyon.
During last week's photographic trip to the Tuolumne Meadows area of Yosemite National Park I went over the pass twice. The first time was to scout out some possible shooting locations around Mono Lake - OK, and to get an espresso at Latte Da in Lee Vining - and the second was the following morning when I returned to shoot one of these locations. The night before I had moved my camp to Ellery Lake (it is a long story), which put me a bit closer to Mono Lake, so I was up well before dawn and at the lake before sunrise. After photographing my primary subject there right at dawn, I stuck around long enough to photograph the early morning light and haze above the lake, then headed back to break up my camp before heading home. As I crossed that headwall high up above Lee Vining Canyon, I looked east toward the Mono Craters. Looking that way is pretty much a habit, but I rarely find it to present anything that I want to photograph. This morning was different. I quickly found a turn-out and drove back to this spot. A nice haze filled the air (I like atmospheric haze for photography!), a few clouds clustered around ridges just beyond the volcanic Mono Craters, and a high line of clouds from monsoonal flow were in the far distance, with the steep walls of Lee Vining Canyon backlit and almost seen entirely in silhouette.
G Dan Mitchell is a California photographer whose subjects include the Pacific coast, redwood forests, central California oak/grasslands, the Sierra Nevada, California deserts, urban landscapes, night photography, and more.
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