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#6 California, USA

Updated: Apr 2, 2020

It's the point in the year where motivation is pretty low and energy is drained, very much evident by the fact it's taken me a month to edit this batch of photos. A small road trip from Las Vegas down to San Francisco, over the space of 4 days. Arriving from Japan and crossing the date line always makes the first day a challenge, I think this day compromised of 38 hours on the go!

After waking up in Japan and getting the bullet train to Tokyo, a flight to San Fran followed by an internal one to Vegas, it was then just the small matter of a short 2 hour drive to my hotel for the night on the outskirts of the first stop on the road trip - Death Valley National Park. A place I wasn't all to familiar with but had seen a couple pictures that made it a worth while place to visit. The plan was just for one day there with a sunrise mission to Zabriskie Point. Having been on the road for 5 weeks and the need to pack light I only had two lenses with me and no tripod. The first lesson learnt was that I really need a tripod and all future trips shall include one. Trying to shoot sunrise or sunset handheld really makes things overly complicated.

Still the morning light didn't disappoint, nor did the intense heat. It's amazing how it can go from requiring a down jacket to wanting to be in an ice bath in literally the short space of a few minutes! Death Valley isn't really like any other place I have ever shot at before, it's not usually something that you would find at my usual destinations. That's one of the factors I love about the USA, the diversity in landscape, even over a short distance is incredible, it has so much to offer! Orange and yellow ridge lines stretch for as far as the eye can see, but then you reach miles of flat land and then sand dunes, it's really quite remarkable. Infact it even has the lowest point in the western hemisphere, not a place that I could get excited with a camera, but a cool spot none the less. After a morning driving around the national park with the odd short hike in the roaring sun, it was time for a quick nap before heading out and up to Mammoth Lakes the next stop. With a stop at Alabama Hills on the way up.

This is another place that completely blew my mind, I'd only seen one or two photos from there and had no idea what to expect. The area was packed with people in RVs up for the weekend, dirt bikes and quads making full use of all the trails. Not a bad place to spend a weekend that's for sure, unfortunately for me though I only had a couple of hours there whilst waiting for the sun to set!

After another long day it was just another hour up to my hotel in Mammoth, where the next days sunrise mission awaited. Probably the spot I had been looking forward to shooting the most on this short trip. Although the conditions weren't perfect, and struggling to shoot handheld Hot Creek was still an amazing place to watch the sun come up and hit the mountains behind. It was minus 9 degrees celsius as the sun came up. I mean how does that work. Only a few hundred KM's from Death Valley, the hottest place on earth (well once it was!) where I was dying from the heat to freezing conditions that make you wish you decided to stay in bed instead!

The Rest of the day was all about resting and waiting for Aurelie to arrive from South Cali after visiting a friend, Once she arrived we could head to the next stop - Yosemite. Yosemite is a place that I hold quite dearly in my heart, it's probably our trip there a couple of years ago that really inspired me to want to concentrate more on landscape photography rather than other areas. It also made me realise quite how much I love the outdoors. It has quite a lot to answer for actually - my bank balance would be a lot happier if we never went there that first time!

Last time we went was the first rain Yosemite had seen in 6 months and a lot of places were inaccessible as it was slightly later in the season. This time we went with a host of places that we wanted to visit after not being successful last time. Most notably Glacier and Taft points. Thankfully the road was open this time and we could make our way up. Taft point was the spot for the first sunrise we had in the park. But in fact it wasn't the sunrise that was the highlight that morning, rather than the guys slackening across the valley. Not my cup of tea by any means, my palms get sweaty when i'm a few meters away from the edge, let alone walking several hundred meters on nothing but a bit of rope. We spent several hours up here snapping away at the guys crossing.

With a successful sunset at Glacier point that evening as well, we had ticked all the boxes for what we wanted to see back in Yosemite. That meant a nice leisurely drive down to San Francisco the following day. It's sometimes nice not to have too much on in a day and take it easy ,especially when you are away for over 5 weeks and your only 4 days off in that entire time is spent driving across California doing ever sunrise you possibly can! Another reason to head to San Fran was to hopefully see the Golden Gate Bridge. Last time we were there we saw nothing but thick fog and rain clouds. I had a picture in my head that I was hoping to achieve before leaving.

Thankfully the sunset was one of the most beautiful i've seen and the sky went a lovely shade of pink. Once I have removed the nudists from the background of the photo it was exactly as I was hoping. Another box ticked, and the last one on this short Californian road trip.

From San Fran it was another short internal flight down to one my favourite races (and pizza) of the year down in Austin, Texas! Before heading down to Mexico City the week after.


zacharytknowles

October 2018






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