Well, I hit the half century mark. 50 years on the planet. And to celebrate, my family allowed me to drag them out for some high altitude camping to a place I've wanted to visit for many years, the Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest. Located in the White Mountains of California between 10-11 thousand feet in elevation, the most ancient trees on the planet are amazing. It was well worth the trip.
Now, our first day was primarily a driving day. We left Lake Tahoe (our home) and drove for almost 4 hours to our camping location at 8,500 feet. After setting the tent up, we quickly drove another 5 miles up to 10,000 feet, and the location of the Schulman Grove of Ancient Bristlecones. Given our late arrival, we hustled along to the four mile loop trail hike, which ended with the last mile of hiking in the dark...cool adventure.
The highlight of our hike was the section of "forest" which contained the eldest of the trees. We were literally able to FEEL the energy in this place. The trees are gnarled, twisted, mostly without bark, and just hanging on to life. The oldest of these amazing beings is over 4,500 years old. I actually felt young here:) This type of experience, where I literally feel the power of nature and its ability to endure, is where my passion for photography was born. It also happens to fuel my passion for life. This emotion is why I do what I do, and share it with the world.
After our late adventure, we returned to camp, had a quick dinner and happily crawled into our sleeping bags for the night. The following day was spent exploring at a relaxed pace. We drove up to 11,000 feet and casually explored the Patriarch Grove of Ancient Bristlecone. It was beautiful, a bit cool, and a nice escape from "the world" we've created back in civilization. The family time was fantastic. We followed this up with a lunch excursion in the town of Bishop at the world famous Erik Schat's Bakery. I recommend the stop if passing through.
After lunch we returned to camp and relaxed for a short while. Then, it was on to my desired photo location to scout for the evening shoot. We all did the short walk to the trees I wanted to photograph. I hadn't had enough time to find any distant lone trees on this first visit, so I chose a well known, and still extraordinary pair of trees for the occasion. I then took everyone back to camp to relax and sleep while I ventured back to my photographic subject. The plan was to capture a Milky Way image with my Nikon DSLR, and an all night exposure with my large format film camera.
I had my spot picked and composition set up long before dark. This gave me plenty of time to focus, strategize and plan. For the shot you see above, I took one shot during the blue hour of light while there was enough ambient light for a low ISO, small aperture shot. This provided great detail in the trees and foreground with no noise, and just enough soft light to intimate that this was nighttime. 45 minutes later I took a second exposure for the sky. Here I used a very high ISO along with a wide open aperture in order to "collect" enough light to define the Milky Way. I processed each image in Lightroom CC 2018 and blended them together manually in Photoshop CC 2018. The result is a dramatic, harkening back to a time when these ancient trees were able to soak in the starlight in complete solitude. I believe the resulting image is a fitting tribute to that time, and perhaps to my short 50 years here with them.
The Plot Thickens:
Well, just after I made my (would be) final exposure of the night, I heard my 13 year old son's voice calling to me in the dark, "Jon Paul, are you there?". While my wife can hammer the trails at high altitude, she occasionally has trouble sleeping up high. While I was shooting, she became extremely ill. Altitude sickness is horrible! Nausea, splitting headache, and progressive loss of rationale. Louise knows how to handle bad situations, and to act before they become very bad. She and Toby hitched a ride up to the trailhead we had scouted earlier and hunted me down in the dark at over 10,000 feet. I packed my gear, and down the mountain we went. After breaking camp in about 4 minutes, we headed back to the valley and made the long drive home. I can happily report that Louise felt much better by morning. Amazingly, her only concern was cutting into my birthday celebration and photography experience.
Needless to say, I never had the opportunity to capture my all night film exposure. I'm extremely pleased with this new Ancient Bristlecone & Milky Way image, I had a wonderful time with Louise and Toby, and I look forward to another visit in search of my next film image. This experience embraced "The Fine Art of Nature", for all of us.
This image is ready to be released and is available for your collection! Please contact me directly and I will help make your purchase possible. Click Here for assistance!
Note: I am not sharing specific details about this location. Although it is no secret, it takes some effort and time to get there, which made it one of the cleanest natural areas I've visited. There was no trash, no graffiti, no loud radios, no noise, no crowds. As it should be. I was pleased and impressed. So, don't go:)
Camera: Nikon D800 DSLR
Lens: Nikon 14-24 f2.8 Shot at 14mm
Image: 2 image manual blend (as noted above)
Tripod: Gitzo 1325 Carbon Fiber
Tripd Head: Really Right Stuff BH55 Ball Head
Don't miss out on what I have to share. Here are some helpful links:
Subscribe to My YouTube Channel: https://goo.gl/dJXMUQ
My Free Fine Art of Nature Newsletter: https://www.jonpaulgallery.com/newsletter/
My website: https://www.jonpaulgallery.com/
Photography Workshops / Tours: https://www.jonpaulgallery.com/tours/
My Blog: https://www.jonpaulgallery.com/blog/