Friday, October 16, 2009

Fall Color Summery 2009

2009 brought a lot of changes for me. One of them was that I had to drop my usual plans to chase the Aspen fall colors in the Eastern Sierra because in April my contract with a Biotech firm was cancelled and I joined the oodles of unemployed on May 6th. Renting an SUV was not in the budget this year, so a lot of the dirt roads I would normally explore had to wait until another year.
I was able to squeeze in four trips to the Eastern Sierra and details from three of them can be found here:

Fall Colors September 23, 2009
Fall Colors September 29 & 30, 2009
Fall Colors October 22, 2009


Fall Colors along the South Fork of Bishop Creek – September 23, 2009. © Copyright Inge Fernau .

This season in the Eastern Sierra was very different from others I have been covering. The show started the last week of September in the Bishop Creek drainage above 9000’ and it was awesome for about two weeks. The Rock Creek Canyon around the lake also turned, however it was behind in terms of color as I had seen it the year before. Heavy winds and snow flurries on September 29th started to take down some of the colors and then an early cold snow storm on October 4th did its deed. This snow storm prevented me from meeting up at June Lake with a few photog’s from the California Nature Photographers Net . It had closed the Tioga Pass as well as the Sonora Pass and I was not going to install chains on my Corolla.


A Stormy Morning at Lake Sabrina – September 29, 2009. © Copyright Inge Fernau .


Morning at Weir Pond – September 29, 2009. © Copyright Inge Fernau .

What made this year so unusual is that the Aspen groves all along the Eastern Sierra below 8500’ were still green and showed no signs of wanting to turn. There was talk about an “early fall” or was it just wishful thinking? Except for Bishop Creek and Rock Creek there was no other color worth noting during this “early fall” spell. Everything at the lower or middle elevations was not cooperating. This year was also different in terms of a lot more people started to pick up on sites reporting fall colors, which was very helpful (in some way) planning trips to where the colors were:

Dan Mitchell’s list of fall color reports has a bunch of links to current updates. (Now they might be a little out-dated)
I recommend checking the fall color reports at the CalPhoto Website or some others such as Steven Bourelle’s Sierra Visions: Eastern Sierra Fall Color Report Links before heading up to the Eastern Sierra. Networks like twitter, facebook and flickr had fall color reports as well.


Colorful Leaves – September 29, 2009. © Copyright Inge Fernau .


North Lake Road Glow – September 30, 2009. © Copyright Inge Fernau .


Sun crests the mountains and lights up these trees – September 30, 2009. © Copyright Inge Fernau .

My last trip over the mountain for this fall season (this wasn’t my last, I went one more time – go figure) was from October 7th to October 10th. My shooting partner from last year Randy Walton and his wife and daughter had come over the Sierra Mountains on Sunday taking a long d-tour after the Tioga Pass literally closed as they got there. They ended up taking Hwy 50 to US 395 to Bishop. Randy send me a couple of disappointing color reports, so my hopes were low when I started my trip on Wednesday October 7th. As suspected the Conway Summit was still asleep and the groves were green or lime green. Color along the slopes was more brown or bare, than bright orange as I have seen it. The Jordan Basin and about 1 mile into the Virginia Lakes road was lime green, yellow or had bare trees. The yellow leaves were littered with brown spots. The story was about the same along the Lundy Canyon road up to the resort (I passed on the dirt road), there were a couple of yellow Aspen in the day use areas, but upon close-up, I saw brown spots again. The views did not improve down the canyons along US 395. Some groves had potential such as Sherwin Creek and McGee Creek Canyon a mile or so up the trail. Randy, family and I went shooting on Thursday starting with a “boring” sunrise in the Buttermilks. We drove along the South Fork Bishop Creek Canyon and in desperation for color at one point gathered fallen red leaves and placed them on a nearby rock, taking images that way.


A cool reflection at Cardinal Pond – October 7, 2009. © Copyright Inge Fernau .


Sunrise in the Buttermilks – October 8, 2009. © Copyright Inge Fernau .


My Staged Leaf – October 9, 2009. © Copyright Inge Fernau .

It was great to actually put faces on people I knew from the forums, but not in person during my trips. Alpenglow’s Greg Russell and myself text each other with color locations or called the cell phones with messages on where the color is. I finally came across Greg by chance at the Cardinal Pond (in fact he was the one asking if I was Inge?). I met Kahlee and Cris for lunch at Jack’s in Bishop on October 9th and we shot for a while along Bishop Creek Canyon. Cardinal Pond and the area around the “Mist Falls” and Mountain Glenn campground were places with some color. Kahlee and I called each other a few more times with color locations – really cool.

On my way home on October 10th I took the June Lake Loop and found it promising. The Aspens along the shores of June Lake were turning yellow, however the ones along the road above the lake had a lot of black/brown leaves. Best color was around Silver Lake and Grant Lake. Carol spotted me at the Silver Lake picnic area and we chatted for a while. I planned on driving all the way to the Monitor pass and then cut over to Hwy 88. There was some good color around Lee Vining, but the Conway Summit was still mostly lime green with a few yellow areas. The Monitor pass had promise, but it was noon by then and I stopped on top of the pass only to eat my breakfast. Nothing I saw along the Monitor pass was worth my time photographing. The same was true for Hope Valley and the western slopes along Hwy 88. There was a lot of traffic going east on the road – not surprising, people were looking for the fall colors. I should have stayed around Lee Vining, not waste driving all the way over to Hope Valley! By the time I drove down Hwy 88, I was so tired of lime green, brown spotted yellow leaves and bare trees, I turned onto the Mormon Emigrant Pass to see something different. I passed this road many a times so this was as good as any for me to drive it. No Aspens here, but it is still a nice back road. Toward the end of this road I stopped at a dogwood patch that had a few red leaves.

It was an interesting 2009 fall season; not what I was used to in the past seven years. I will add on more as I check out the Wine Country and Yosemite………..
Instead of posting more images about my Yosemite Trips go to the links below:

Yosemite Fall Colors October 17, 2009
Yosemite Fall Colors October 22, 2009
Yosemite Fall Colors October 26, 2009
Yosemite Fall Colors October 30, 2009

These (digital) photographs are not in the public domain! They may not be used on websites, blogs, or in any other media, they may not be copied, printed or otherwise reproduced in any manner or form, whether in whole or in part without explicit advance written permission from Inge Fernau

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