The Great (Hybrid) American Road Trip – Yosemite to Big Pine


Our first view and experience of Yosemite was perhaps not the most surprising but was certainly alarming for a couple of guys who spend 90% of their time in a big city. I am, of course, referring to bears!

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Although whilst we had actually been quite looking forward to spotting and snapping a grizzly in Yosemite, it was unfortunately not meant to be with not a single one coming across our viewfinders during the entire trip!

Having eased our way through the entrance to the Park though (and paying $30 for a 7 day pass privilege) we were once again awed by the sheer size and expanse of….. well, everything! The trees, the lakes, the views, everything seemed enormous and it was an absolute feast for the eyes!

One thing that struck me as we drove around was something that we hear and read about, fairly regularly unfortunately, in the news back in the UK but rarely get to see the aftermath of is forest fires. Luckily for us, we didn’t witness any first hand but what we did see was the devastation left behind by these (mostly) natural disasters. Despite shrubs and greenery beginning to grow back around some areas, it was clear from the trees that many areas had been decimated, with only charred, black reminders of their former glory. A very sad sight!

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Again, being pushed for time, we made our way through the park having in mind a handful of destinations that we wanted to shoot. The first of which was the view of Half Dome and El Capitan from Tunnel View. We knew it would be busy and we knew that we would likely be getting the same shots as thousands of visitors prior to us, but we didn’t care. There was no way we were going to be visiting Yosemite without seeing it!

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Pushing off from there, we told each other that we had to push on, in order to make it to our next overnight stop in time…. but we just couldn’t do it, as seemingly every turn of the road brought another fascinating sight in to view. As we arrived at Olmsted Point, a huge, almost 45 degree, sloping, rock formation, I just had to climb it to grab a picture of the single tree growing from it at the very top. How it was able to survive with apparently no earth beneath it, no water and in the heat of the park, I shall never know!

Naturally, there were a number of people around (literally hundreds!) wandering around, sitting under and generally admiring the tree, so I found I had to deploy the most well used piece of kit in my camera bag to enable me to get the shot…. patience! Something that was running short given our need to moving on. After a good 15 minute wait though, I had about a 10 second window, when one family moved off and another couple began moving towards it. Luckily I’d already set my exposure and composition long ago, so rattled of a few shots before the scene was invaded again. I think it made for a very striking image!

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Weaving our way through the remainder of the park, the scenery changed again as we exited with the trees giving way to larger, open spaces and suddenly appearing ahead of us, the vast expanse of Mono Lake!

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We unfortunately didn’t have time to stop and walk down to the amazing Tufa rock formations that line the lake, which is itself between 750,000 and 1,000,000 years old! That’ll be on the agenda for the next trip!

What we did have booked in to the schedule though, was the ghost town of Bodie, just North of Mono Lake. Originally a mining town established around 1859, the town had initially flourished with the discovery of gold beneath its soil but after only 60 or so years, it fell in to decline, eventually becoming the abandoned site it is today. It’s a fantastic insight in to a bygone era though and the buildings that remain (of which there are surprisingly many) offer glimpses in to the daily lives of the occupants who lived and worked in the town.

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For a history nerd like me, it was amazing to stand at the threshold of this church and imagine the feet of the people that had walked the boards under me, decked in their finest, Sunday best to attend service some 150 year ago.

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Similarly the remains of this huge, wooden lift mechanism, which would have transported the workers from the surface, down to the depths of the mines. I wonder what the health and safety laws looked like back then!

Leaving Bodie behind us and eventually arriving in Big Pine, our destination for the night, we found ourselves in yet another classic Motel attached to a Gas station and having dumped the heavy bags from the car, we again made our way out in to the darkness to catch some stars. We were still getting problems with the darn man in the moon, but a bigger issue this time were the Mosquitoes! So after a quick dash back to the motel for some Mossie repellant and some anti-histamine tablets to stave off the bites we’d already sustained, we were back out in the darkness firing off the shutters.

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After a good, but short, night’s sleep then, we were back up and on the road again, destined for what we were sure would be the single longest and hottest stretch of our trip… Death Valley to Las Vegas!

We were sad to be leaving the Californian wilderness behind us, as it had afforded us some absolutely amazing shooting opportunities but we were excited still more for what lay ahead in the desert and beyond.


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