Come A Little Bit Closer

Neil Young implores his lover to come a little bit closer … “On this harvest moon” and go “dancing in the light.”

Harvest moons are the full moon closest to the autumnal equinox (in the northern hemisphere). reports that the next occurs on Sept. 13 (Sacramento), rising at approx. 7:32 p.m. (confirm for your location).

Harvest moons are called such, because they put out a lot of bright light in early evening. Traditionally, that has helped farmers bring in the harvest, the Old Farmer’s Almanac tells us.

Rising near sunset, harvest moons glow warmly from sunset light, and when the moon is near the horizon it appears bigger than usual.

Harvest moons also have the shortest difference in the time that they rise each day. Whereas in other months of the year, moons rise about 50 minutes apart on each successive day. Near the autumnal equinox, a harvest moon rises near sunset and 30 minutes later than the previous day.

The short difference in moonrise during September explains why it can appear that there are multiple full moons in a row.

A great thing about harvest moons is that leading to and following the full moon are several moons that appear to be full. So, if you miss photographing it on Sept. 13, shoot on the 11th, 12th, 14th or 15th and it will look pretty full, though not as good as on Sept. 13..

To photograph this year’s harvest moons, use your longest lens (>200mm) then zoom closest to the moon. Set the ISO at 100 and the aperture between f/11 and f/16, whichever is sharpest. Shutter speed should be between 1/60th and 1/125th. Focus manually and at infinity. Secure the camera on a tripod, and use a remote release or timer to avoid camera shake.

Before you set up, visit to know the direction from where the moon will rise. Then, consider the foreground behind which the moon will rise. Will it be buildings, hills, a lake or farmlands?

If you happened to photograph this year’s harvest moons, send images to [email protected] We’d love to share them, “’cause we’d like to celebrate, see it shinin’ in your eye.”

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The Eye of the Beholder

June Lake Loop (10/30/18) Mark Harding

A proverb restated since the third century, B.C., is that beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

One might look at Mark Harding’s photographs of June Lake, post peak, and see nothing but gray, bare limbs.

Mark recognized the beauty within the austerity of the forest.

Just because an object, a plant or a person is worn, past peak or aging does not mean it is without beauty, character or interest as Mark so artistically  depicts in his photographs. 

  • June Lake Loop (7,654′) – Past Peak, YOU MISSED IT. Or, did you?
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The Tao of Epic Landscape Photography

The Philosopher’s Art

Landscape photographer Elliot McGucken combines fine art with the Yin-Yang wisdom of Lao Tzu’s Tao Te Ching in his book, The Tao of Epic Landscape Photography.

Elliot’s photographs are well-known to readers of California Fall, as seen in his epic capture of a North Lake sunset gracing the banner of this site.

In his book he connects great landscape photography to following the teachings of Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu who authored the Tao Te Ching, a guide to life.

McGucken writes, “We artists would be wise to adopt the way of the Tao and to capture nature not by seeking to conquer or dominate her, but by adapting to her shape and form as water does and by becoming one with her.

“Via humble persistence and subtle improvisation, we too can be like water and follow the lead of her streams and rivers towards the most magnificent landscapes, on towards the ocean, which, by occupying the lowest of station, is king to them all.

“And, so too should we artists seek the lowest station as humble servants and sailors, creating art not for ourselves, but for others. For the Tao teaches that the sage grows wealthy not by accumulating wealth, but by sharing it.”

The Tao of Epic Landscape Photography includes over 100 of Elliot McGucken’s landscape photographs and inspirational guidance. It can be purchased at Amazon for $8.99 or for free on Amazon Unlimited. 

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Unbearably Beautiful

American black bear, Ursus americanus, Hope Valley (10/14/18) Clayton Peoples

Red Lake Creek Cabin, Hope Valley (10/14/18) Clayton Peoples

Red Lake Creek, Hope Valley (10/14/18) Clayton Peoples

The High Sierra is “unbearably beautiful right now,” color spotter Clayton Peoples reported.

He was in the Hope Valley over the weekend, photographing along CA-88 and CA-89.

“While taking in fall colors, I was lucky enough to spot what is probably the largest black bear I have ever seen. It was feasting along a creek that passes under Highway 89,” he wrote.

What Clayton did to get this shot was to be as unobtrusive as possible, not approaching the animal and letting it act naturally.

Should you encounter wildlife and wish to photograph it, stop and don’t move. If you run to get closer, the animal will run away. But, if you stop, wait and watch, the animal may not notice you or will become used to you and not perceive you as a threat.

As long as the animal is not bothered by your presence, he will go about his business, which makes for great fall photography.

A long lens (200mm or greater) and sturdy tripod are useful for close up, sharp images. My favorite working lens is a 28 – 300 mm, f3.5-5.6. It provides enough length and range to capture either closeups or environmental shots of mammals.

Animals are creatures of routine. They tend to return to the same locations (watering spots, food sources) at similar times of day, and forage during he first couple and last two hours of daylight.

Aspen, Hope Valley (10/14/18) Clayton Peoples

American black bears are not generally a threat to people, unless they are protecting young or sense that you have food. They usually can be intimidated from approaching by raising arms above one’s head, shouting or making loud sounds (banging a pot), but if they do not, walk away.

In addition to the bear, Clayton found more “bare” branches among the Hope Valley’s aspen, though said the trees surrounding Red Lake Creek Cabin are “still stunning, and the highway (and nearby hillsides) are still sporting a patchwork of gorgeous color. I’m not sure how long it will last, but it is still very pretty right now.” 

  • Hope Valley(7,300′) – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW!




Hope Valley (10/14/18) Robert Kermen

Hope Valley (10/14/18) Robert Kermen

Hope Valley (10/14/18) Robert Kermen

Hope Valley (10/14/18) Robert Kermen

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Eastern Sierra Portfolio

North Lake Fisheye (10/5/18) Elliot McGucken

Elliot McGucken has captured some of the most compelling images we’ve seen of Bishop Creek Canyon.

He was there on Friday and returned by way of Sonora Pass on Saturday, sending this selection of his favorites from that trip.

The intense color seen in these shots is no longer seen at the same locations. Though, there are still many great images to be captured in the canyon for another week to two weeks, at descending elevations. 

  • Bishop Creek Canyon – Past Peak (9,000’+) YOU MISSED IT.
  • Bishop Creek Canyon – Peak (8,500 – 9,000′) GO NOW!
  • Bishop Creek Canyon – Near Peak (below 8,500′) GO NOW!
  • Sonora Pass – Past Peak (above 9,000′) YOU MISSED IT!
  • Sonora Pass – Peak (below 9,000′) GO NOW!

North Lake Rd, Bishop Creek Canyon (10/5/18) Elliot McGucken

Twin aspen, Lundy Canyon, Mono County (10/6/18) Elliot McGucken

North Lake, Bishop Creek Canyon (10/5/18) Elliot McGucken

Sonora Pass (10/6/18) Elliot McGucken

Sonora Pass (10/6/18) Elliot McGucken


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Catching Attention

North Lake, Bishop Creek Canyon (10/2/18) Phillip Reedy

Bishop Creek (10/2/18) Phillip Reedy

There’s one sure way to catch attention in Bishop Creek Canyon. Cast a fly rod at the east end of North Lake. That’s where photographers stand to get the classic shot of North Lake at peak.

Earlier this week, Phillip Reedy stood “shoulder to shoulder” with about 30 other photographers there, waiting for the right shot.

Then, because he photographs a lot of cover shots for fly fishing magazines and is always looking for good backgrounds, he put on waders, picked up a fly rod and began fishing. Soon, the other photographers there wanted to take pictures of him posing in his fly gear as he fished.

Phil joked to them that he could pay for his trip if they would each pay him a $5 modeling fee. All joking aside, Phil got his compensation another way. He found, “that North Lake is packed with eager brook trout so I caught a number of those during the day while waiting for the light to get better.”

Also, one of the fishing shots he took might eventually be purchased for use on the cover of an outdoor magazine.

North Lake (10/2/18) Phillip Reedy

Phil’s humorous story leads me to suggest that fall color photography can be revenue producing, in addition to being an entertaining avocation.

If you have professional equipment and solid skills at photography, consider combining a fall photo outing with taking photographs for possible magazine covers (RV, fishing, hunting, cycling, off-roading, backpacking, hiking, etc.). Here are some tips to successful magazine cover photography:

  • Before shooting, consider which magazines you intend to “pitch” your photos;
  • Know how the magazine (for whom you’re shooting) lays out its cover. Research past covers online and shoot to fit their style;
  • Consider how much space should be reserved for the magazine’s masthead (name/logo);
  • Know whether the magazine allows images to bleed behind its masthead or whether that space should be kept uncluttered;
  • Leave space in the photo to announce articles inside the magazine (often to the left and/or right of the image);
  • Shoot images that fit a specific magazine’s focus or that illustrate a potential topic;
  • All gear seen in the image should appear to be new or not easily recognized (magazines want to appear trendsetting);
  • Outdoor models should be attractive and real (they need not be professional models, but they should appeal and be believable to readers);
  • Magazine covers are vertical, so shoot with that in mind. Shoot both vertical images for covers and horizontal images for inside the magazine. Compose horizontal shots for possible additional use as cover photos;
  • Photograph with seasons in mind. Whatever appears in the photo should be natural to that season;
  • Shoot RAW or high resolution fine images. Magazines only use images of the highest quality for their cover;
  • Models should be outfitted in contemporary clothing, shoes or gear (you’ll never sell the photo if the backpack looks like it was a hand-me-down); and
  • Be prepared for rejection. Magazine editors choose images to illustrate a story that’s already been written (the cover story), to relate to the month of issue or season and to reflect events, trends and topics of interest to readers. Even the best photographs get turned down, when they lack relevance to the magazine and its readers. 

North Lake (9,225′) – Peak to Past Peak – GO NOW as YOU ALMOST MISSED IT!

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Middle Martis Creek at Peak

M. Martis Creek (10/1/18) John Poimiroo

M. Martis Creek (10/1/18) John Poimiroo

M. Martis Creek (10/1/18) John Poimiroo

M. Martis Creek (10/1/18) John Poimiroo

M. Martis Creek (10/1/18) John Poimiroo

Aspen surrounding the decaying cabin beside Middle Martis Creek (CA-267) are at peak and will remain good, weather permitting, through this coming weekend.

On Monday, as occurs every day when the aspen are peaking, a steady stream of leaf peepers lingered at the cabin on their way to or after crossing Brockway Summit.

A well-maintained turnout provides parking for a half dozen cars, and there always seems to be one parked there. On weekends, multiple photographers try to work around one another, so a midweek, morning visit is probably best to capture the scene without having to wait for others to move out of frame.

These shots were taken in the late afternoon. By then, clouds had softened the light. I was looking for backlit leaves, but the shaded light kept the leaves from brightening, other than when sunlight would break through gaps between the clouds. I passed the meadow on my return the following morning and the frontlit scene appeared better.

Some of the aspen are dropping leaves, though under 10% of the leaves are still turning from green and lime to yellow and orange. Warm days (70s) and cool nights (30s) have intensified the orange and red tones of the groves. 

Middle Martis Creek (7,000′) – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW!

M. Martis Creek (10/1/18) John Poimiroo

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Lake Sabrina (9/29/18) Surjanto Suradji

North Lake (9/29/18) Surjanto Suradji

Surjanto Suradji submitted a heavenly look at Bishop Creek Canyon, forwarding his vision of fall color at night.

He wrote that the photos were taken Saturday night, as he was “curious to see these amazing landscape and gorgeous fall colors at night time.”

His results were better than he anticipated and truly remarkable, due to “the mystical quality of nighttime, with the milky way and millions of stars … added another level of richness to an already amazing landscape.”

Surjanto began photographing an hour after sunset but before moonrise, so that the milky way could be seen. He continued to midnight, providing for the long star-trails exposure. Heavenly. 

Note: To learn more about taking star trails timelapse photographs, CLICK HERE.

Weir Pond (9/29/18) Surjanto Suradji

South Lake (9/29/18) Surjanto Suradji

South Lake Road (9/29/18) Surjanto Suradji

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Eastern Sierra Photo Jamboree This Weekend

An Eastern Sierra Photography Jamboree will provide photographers opportunities for recognition, exposure and cash prizes this weekend in the Bridgeport Valley.

The photo exhibit/contest is open to all amateur and professional photographers with $200, $100 and $50 prizes presented for the top three framed entries in these categories: Bodie, Ranching and Western Life, Wildlife, Hunting & Fishing, and Nature & Landscape photography. A $15 entry fee applies.

The Photo Jamboree is the first of a half-dozen fun events happening this autumn in Mono County, including:


Trekking in Snow and Woods

Hillsound Amadillo XT Gaiters (file photo) Mike Crane

An indispensable item for outdoor trekking is a set of gaiters. Designed to wrap around the lower leg, gaiters keep snow and trail debris from saturating pants and out of boots.

Hillsound Armadillo LT (file photo) Mike Crane

That means you can wear cotton jeans or light pants (layering is recommended) without concern that pant legs will get soaked and become uncomfortable to stay outside taking pictures, without having to put on and take off bulky snow pants. Gaiters are also a smart addition to golden-hour photography or when photographing near streams, lakes or in woods where it’s moist.

Of course, they’re best known as gear used by snowshoers and backwoods XC skiers. So, with a major winter storm now dropping from seven to eight feet of fresh snow in the Sierra Nevada, ideal conditions were available to test Hillsound’s new Armadillo LT Gaiters.

Easy to put on and so comfortable that you’d hardly know you’re wearing them, the Armadillo LT Gaiters were so water resistant that legs and socks stayed bone-dry and warm, even in deep powder. Imagine how much more comfortable you’d be when photographing fall color at sunrise or sunset.

Hillsound makes its gaiters of 1000 denier nylon on the bottom half and breathable Flexia, a three-layer fabric, on the upper half. The 1000D lowers resist punctures (useful when wearing crampons), while the Flexia uppers provide four-way stretch and protection from the elements. Though designed for wet conditions, the Armadillo LT’s breathable fabric makes these gaiters  comfortable to wear, year-round.

There’s no wardrobe malfunction that ruins a day of winter photography more than discovering a gaiter has come loose or slipped down. On the Armadillo LT, a waterproof YKK zipper gives a contour fit that won’t fall down or need to be readjusted during outdoor activity, and a sturdy boot-lace hook adds stability and ensures the gaiter won’t shift off boot or shoe. The Armadillo LT’s durable instep strap also won’t wear out or fall off, no matter how long you stay out.

The Hillsound Armadillo LT fits men and women in all sizes, is priced affordably at $49 and comes with a lifetime warranty. They’re sold online at and at top outdoor retailers.

The Armadillo LT is an indispensable item of outdoor gear that should be in every camera bag.