June Lake Loop can be found a few miles south of the small town of Lee Vining, Some of the Sierra’s best autumn color can be found along the gravel road that follows Bishop creek. Many access points along the stream lead to colorful compositions with solid aspen groves. Quiet ponds provide yellow reflections. Every autumn is different because of changing weather conditions. A dry summer or an early cold snap will speed up the color change or push it off to the middle of October. A few days of strong winds can remove all the leaves, and a few days of snow can turn all the yellow leaves to brown or black. When all the aspens have dropped their leaves, cottonwoods start to turn color in the Owens Valley, to the south. Most of the tallest trees along U.S. Route 395 are cottonwoods. The peak of cottonwood autumn color typically arrives from mid-to-late October.
It’s time to start planning an Autumn Color trip down Highway 395 on the east side of the Sierra Mountains.
For shooting at zoos, I use a 70-300 mm telephoto on my DSLR with an APS-C sensor. For the smaller birds and reptiles, I pack a 105 mm macro lens. Keep it simple. It’s hard to change lenses when all your gear is hanging around your neck. My choice of a camera bag for this kind of photography is a sling-type bag with one strap that lets you swing a backpack around in front of you. I’ve used a LowePro Sling for several years. This sling bag hangs on your back, out of the way when you’re on the trail, but offers quick access to your camera when you’re ready to shoot. Unlike a shoulder bag, a sling bag is more secure when you’re working in a crowd.
Take a short drive to your local zoo and get some fresh air. It’s time to travel.
The Surprise Valley is in the extreme northeast corner of California on the east side of the Warner Range. Nine miles east of Cedarville, I spotted an old windmill in the distance. I pulled off the paved road and headed cross-country on the dry lakebed. A cold wind was blowing. The blades on the old Aermotor windmill were stationary. I waited for some good light on this scene, maybe a spotlight through the clouds, but the sky did not cooperate. After a thirty-minute wait, I walked around the windmill and photographed it from the other side to add some color to the clouds.
Take a photo trip to the most remote corner of California. The Warner Range has lots to photograph. My Photograph America Newsletter issue #128 - California's Warner Range in Autumn has the details you’ll need.
Notes and images from Bob Hitchman.