Jay Sousa: Plenty more photo spots along scenic highway

July 8, 2013 



ADAM BLAUERT — Merced Sun-Star

We continue this week with our photography adventure up the east side of the mighty Sierra Nevada.

As you head north on Highway 395 from our last photography stop in Independence, you will come to the small community of Big Pine. It is the jumping-off point to the ancient bristlecone pine forest.

For this photo stop, you will drive east on Highway 168. This winding road, only open from mid-May to November, takes you high into the White Mountain range that forms the eastern side of the Owens Valley.

The bristlecone pine trees are some of the oldest living things on Earth, some having been dated to more than 4,500 years ago. They have a unique character and are rich in detail and texture. At sunrise and sunset, they can make very interesting images.

Bishop is the next stop on our journey and is the largest town in the eastern Sierra.

The first place that a photographer or, for that matter, anyone with a love of world-class landscape photography must make in this bustling town is the Mountain Light Gallery. It is on the main drag in Bishop in an old bank building.

The gallery houses a huge collection of outdoor photography by famed photographer Galen Rowell. Rowell was tragically killed in a small plane crash in 2002, but his memory lives on through his images in this remarkable gallery.

After getting inspired by Rowell's work, those wanting to make some great images of their own can head into the high mountains up to the Bishop Creek Canyon.

Head west on Highway 168 out of Bishop on a well- maintained road up to elevations of more than 9,000 feet. On this 15-mile route, you will have many locations to photograph along beautiful Bishop Creek. The creek has numerous small waterfalls and is lined by pines and aspen groves as it cascades its way down from some of the highest peaks of the Sierra.

As you near the end of the road, you will find beautiful South Lake, North Lake, Lake Sabrina, the historic Rainbow Pack Station and the Cardinal Gold Mine. There are numerous campgrounds and resorts in the canyon.

The canyon is also a real find in the fall with blazing color igniting the landscape.

Our last stop this week is the resort town of Mammoth Lakes, just a 45-minute drive north of Bishop on Highway 395. Mammoth is a huge ski destination in the winter, but in the summer it is a gateway for photo trips into the high country.

You can drive up Lake Mary Road from town and find yourself in the heart of the Sierra. There are four beautiful lakes on this road that are all worthy of pointing your camera at.

My favorite is Lake Mamie, which is the smallest of the four. It is very peaceful, and if you photograph at sunrise on a calm morning, you can make a beautiful reflection image in the still water of Crystal Crag, which is a tall granite spire just beyond the lake.

Another great photographic location in the Mammoth Lakes area is Devils Postpile National Monument.

Going to Devils Post Pile does require a little planning as the road into the monument is closed to private vehicle traffic from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. During these hours, you will need to take a tram, which runs every 30 minutes from the bottom of the gondola at the ski area and costs $7 for an adult.

Once at Devils Postpile, you will have a lot of photo opportunities. Spring and early summer offers great wildflower photography. Devils Postpile is a series of 60-foot high fractured basalt columns.

Rainbow Fall is a 5-mile day hike that takes you to a very pretty 100-foot waterfall. Once your photographic day is done, check out the town of Mammoth Lakes for some great restaurants and many lodging choices.

Watch for the third, and last, installment of our photographic journey up Highway 395 in two weeks.

Editor's note: This is the second in a three-part series. Jay Sousa, a former Sun-Star photographer, has his own photography business in Merced, conducts private classes and teaches photography at Merced College.

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