Travels with Charley – The Eastern Sierras and Fall Color

This past weekend, Rochelle and I travelled over the Tioga Pass in Yosemite to visit the Eastern Sierras. SONY DSC We try to do this at least once a year, as the Eastern side of the Sierras offers much more in the way of Fall Colors than over here in the Western Foothills.  This time, we explored the June Lake Loop, just south of Lee Vining off of highway 395.

The June Lake Loop is 16 miles of the most beautiful Aspen Groves I’ve ever seen.  The groves are on the hillsides, along streams in the canyons and they surround the various little lakes along the road.  There are numerous places to pull over (our RT Agile had no problems with the turnouts) and enjoy the view. SONY DSC

There are also a large number of small campgrounds (dry camping only) run by the US Forest Service.  Many of the campsites are located right on the water. 20131020-_DSC3016 Unfortunately for us, the campsites were still closed because of the recent Government shutdown.  But fortunately for us, somebody “forgot” to put the chains up at one of the best campsites in the area.  So, we stayed for free.  I felt like such a rebel. J  For those of you who prefer hookups, I noticed at least two RV resorts along the loop.

In previous years, we would only go over to the East side for the day.  And our photography suffered for it. 20131020-_DSC2980 In a day trip, you miss both the early morning and early evening light, but with our little Roadtrek “Charley” we were easily able to shoot till dark and start up again at first light.  SONY DSCThat’s because we were able to stay near the best photography spots, and it takes no time at all to set-up or tear-down camp when you’re in your Class B.

Photographing Fall Colors in the middle of the day is mostly futile.  The bright leaves reflect the sun, giving you horrific, blown-out highlights, while the dark shadows give you nothing but blackness.  And it’s more apt to be windy in the middle of the day as well.  It’s nearly impossible to focus on a scene when there are millions of aspen leaves “quaking” in the wind.

But the early mornings and late afternoons give you much softer light, so you get “easier-on-the-eyes” contrast and nicely saturated colors.  And it’s much less likely to be windy, especially in the morning.  Just remember to bring a tripod.  That soft light is nice, but it does require longer exposures to get the shot you want.

We hope to see you there next year!  SONY DSCPlease feel free to comment and let us know where your favorite places are to view the Fall Colors.


17 Responses

  1. Gorgeous fall colors and they look good on Charley too! Yellow is a hard color to wear…not everyone can pull it off! 🙂

  2. Wish I were there!! Gorgeous color. I especially like how you captured the reflection of yellow leaves in the window of Charley. And I looooove the boat shot.

    1. Thanks Kathy. It was gorgeous over there. I have no idea why we haven’t visited it before. I thought you might like the boat shot — it’s all in focus and it’s in color. Just your style. 🙂

  3. Nice shots of color and yes I have to say Charley looks great with the fall color tree reflections.
    That would make a great advertisement photo. There is a place on the other side of our pass going towards Lee Vining that has lots of beaver evidence that is beautiful but I can’t remember the name of it. It may have been the June Lake loop. Can’t remember for sure.

    1. Hi Linda. Thanks for stopping by. I think the place you’re thinking of is Lundy Canyon. It’s gorgeous there, and there is a beaver pond. The June Lake Loop requires much less hiking, so right now I’m preferring it. 🙂

  4. HEY! Where do you find the note squares on this blog? I wanted to place a big O’ fatty on top of the fourth picture down. Gotta give you props for looking up in the tree grove. Lovely colors.

    1. hahaha. No note squares. My web site, my rules! And guess what? I didn’t look up that tree, my lovely wife Rochelle did. I’ll let her know about the fatty though. 🙂

  5. Gorgeous pictures, this is our favorite place to camp, its just a couple of hours away from home, but a world away from reality. Which camp site were you fortunate enough to stumble on?

    1. Couldn’t agree more with you Andy. That area is fantastic. Somebody left the gate open at Gull Lake, so we had a gorgeous lakeside campsite. Funny, every site was taken. I did half expect to have a ranger knocking on my door though. Thanks for checking out the site.

  6. Beautiful shots at Silver Lake! How did you get the silver trees with black background shot?
    I agree with you about mid day lighting. We stayed in a motel at June Lake one night and that wasn’t enough. Maybe next year!

    1. Hi Jean. Yes, it is gorgeous over there and I think next year we’ll be staying for a few days. Rochelle actually took the shot you’re asking about. I’ll ask her to respond a bit later. Thanks for checking out the site.

    2. Hi Jean! Glad you like the bare white aspen trees shot. I took that while we were parked at a turnout. I saw the layers of color against the white but felt drawn to the bare branches. So in Lightroom I tried to bring light, contrast and sharpness to the area and kept the background dark.

  7. Hi Kevin,
    Congratulations on your new Class B and blog. Your (and Rochelle’s) photos are superb, as always. I’m looking forward to reading about – and seeing – all your upcoming adventures.

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