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Clearing Winter Storm, Eastern Sierra

Posted by
Don Smith (California, United States) on 14 February 2011 in Landscape & Rural.

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I love clearing storm days! Freshly coated mountains of snow reveal themselves for the first time as the clouds begin to dissipate. It's akin to a print revealing itself in a developer tray for the first time (remember those old darkroom days)?

Hopefully by the time this image posts, California's absent winter will return. As I write this narrative, I am looking out my office window at yet another spring-like day. Sounds rather trivial doesn't it? I'm complaining about Chamber of Commerce weather while most of the United States is in a deep freeze! But cut me some slack, I'm a photographer.

Today's image was captured this past October (yes our season's are really screwed-up in California) as I was leaving Bishop, California. I remember an overnight storm had forced the closure of Highway 120 (Yosemite's Tioga Pass), my normal route home; thus, I was forced to take the southern route towards Tehachapi. Somewhere south of Bishop while driving south on Highway 395, I saw this scene begin to reveal itself. It was somewhere near mid morning and all my camera gear was packed, but I hit the brakes when I saw a gravel road to my right.

I quickly swung off the busy highway and grabbed my 70-200 mmL and my Canon 1DMKIV camera. My full-frame 1DsIII had gotten soaked in an early morning rain storm near North Lake and had shut down. I actually hand-held this image as the clouds and light were changing so quickly I did not want to miss the moment trying to dig out my tripod and switch the L-bracket from my other camera.

I was able to shoot at f/11 (enough to hold depth from the foreground hills to the mountains) at 1/400th of a second. I got off three or four frames and the cloud again started to envelope the peak and the show was over (and I had a 7-hour drive ahead of me)!

Thinking nothing more of this than a simple grab shot I re-packed my gear and headed home. It wasn't until my edit a few weeks later that I discovered my hidden gem! I had been on the trip to photograph fall color and help Gary Hart teach his fall workshop. Never in my mind did I think I would return with a winter scene, but that's the mountains for you, storms occasionally do arrive early.

Canon EOS-1D Mark IV 1/400 second F/11.0 ISO 200 200 mm

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