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Winter Dusk and Inyo Mountains

Posted by
Don Smith (California, United States) on 12 March 2010 in Landscape & Rural.


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Dusk light in the high desert can yield spectacular light, especially after a clearing storm. Such was the case this past January as a warm pink hue enveloped the sky over the Owens Valley looking east past the tiny town of Lone Pine. Owens Valley sits between two parallel mountain ranges: the Sierra-Nevada to the west and the Inyo Mountains to the east.

This area was home to the the Great Lone Pine earthquake, one of the largest earthquakes to hit California in recorded history. The quake struck on March 26, 1872 and its epicenter was near Lone Pine. Researchers have estimated the size of the quake to be in a range of magnitude 7.6 - 8.0 (or greater) similar in size to the 1906 San Francisco earthquake. The quake hit at 2:35 am and leveled almost all the buildings in Lone Pine and nearby settlements. The magnitude of the quake caused massive rockslides in Yosemite leading naturalist John Muir to run out of his cabin shouting, "A noble earthquake!"

I captured this scene from the nearby Alabama Hills. The other-worldly rock formations served as a contrasting foreground to the silky-smooth snow-covered mountains. As sunset neared, the clouds began to dissipate and rise, leaving this pristine dusted mountain range in their wake. The pink hue served to tied the scene together.

As far as technique goes, this image was fairly straight-forward. I did use a Singh-Ray 2-stop soft-edge split Neutral Density filter to hold the exposure on the sky. My 300 mm f/4 lens compressed the rocks and the mountains and at f/16, I simply placed my focus on the foreground rocks.

By 9:00 am the next morning, most of this snow had melted from the mountains leaving just the tips covered.

Canon EOS-1Ds Mark III 1 second F/16.0 ISO 200 300 mm

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