July – Week 4

One of the wonderful things about living in San Francisco is that in a matter of hours you can be combing the beaches north or south, driving through desert, traversing the valley or hiking in the mountains.  This past week I took a couple of days off and with AWE Gallery photographers Chris and Deborah headed for the mountains, specifically Lassen Volcanic National Park.

Lassen Peak reflected in Hat Lake

“The park is located near the northern end of Sacramento Valley. The western part of the park features great lava pinnacles (huge mountains created by lava flows), jagged craters, and steaming sulphur vents. It is cut by glaciated canyons and is dotted and threaded by lakes and rushing clear streams.” Wekipedia


Snow Plant

After leaving at 4 AM we arrived at the Northwest entrance at Manzanita Lake. This part of the park was in full summer with just a few snow plants still showing, water lilies blooming and dragon flies at the edge of Reflection Lake.  I have not been to this location before and had no idea that half way into the park nearing Lassen Peak that the snow banks on the sides of the road would still be eight feet high.  The real contrast was hiking on several feet of snow packed trails and having sun warm the day to nearly 80 degrees.

The two types of images I wanted to concentrate on were expansive landscapes and wild flowers!  Obviously this was the place for both.  You can easily find places where Lassen Peak and other

Water Lily Pond is near Reflection Lake

snow-capped mountain ridges are reflected in lakes and streams. My choice of the reflection at Hat Lake at 7:30 AM positions the reflection where the streams meet – thus not a classical mirror image.  This lake is becoming a meadow.

This area became a National Park in 1916 after three years of eruptions and volcanic activity.  Now over 350,000 people visit every year.  You can see much of diverse landscape and intimate details of the park via auto tour and the many overlooks.  But it is worth choosing a couple of hikes.

For a wonderful stroll you will want to ramble around Reflection Lake. Here many different kinds of pine trees are identified for you.  The best time is in the early evening when the early evening light is on Lassen Peak and the trees and their reflection in the lake.  We did this the second day after our hike into Bumpass Hell.  So the level ground walk was a welcome relief as well as the ice cream at the Manzanita Camp Ground store!

Bumpass Hell hydrothermal basin

The Bumpass Hell trail was 80 percent under snow and made the trekking a little slippery and reason for moving slowly (not to mention the elevation of 7,000 feet or so).  The grand vistas from this trail are breath taking. Despite the fact a sign said “treacherous conditions trail not recommended” the rangers reported the trail was open you just needed to follow the foot steps through the snow.  After 300 feet of elevation drop the reward at 1.5 miles of the trek in is the hyprothermal basin where you view boiling and bubbling mud pots and fumaroles.

What you need to pay close attention to in this location is your exposure.  If you are photographing a lot of snow or your meter is reading the light on snow you need to over expose 1 to 2 stops otherwise your snow will be a “medium gray.”  And I don’t mean the dirt will be showing through.  But pay attention to the metering mode you choose.  I like center weighted or spot metering.  But if you compose one picture with snow in your metering zone and another with the dark green trees you will have to compensate appropriately!

Mule Ears on Mill Creek Trail

The Bumpass Hell hike (dedicated as a moderate trail) seemed pretty tame compared to the hike into Mill Creek Falls which is 3.6 miles round trip and at a slightly lower elevation (therefore the snow was gone).  The temperature was nearly 90 when we finished.  The first 20 minutes of the trail was my favorite as we wandered through hillsides of blooming yellow mule’s ears.  This was a wide angle paradise (except for the up and down hill part, that for me was $%^$#* – a few pounds lighter might help!)

This time of year the wild flowers are abundant and easily found along the roadsides and at short walking distances from the parking areas.  If I return to this area I would choose to stay in the new cabins at Manzanita Lake (here too is a good reflection location). So enjoy these few extra images I share with you for the 4th week of July.   This images remind me of the lyrics of Jann Aldredge-Clanton’s hymn (from Inclusive Hymns for Liberating Christians):

New miracles unfold
At dawn of every day,
Fresh beauty to behold
With Sun’s first shining ray.
Awake and see, awake and see
the whole world bloom with wonders free.
     Words:  Jann Aldredge-Clanton
     Music:  John Darwell

The Corn Lily was home and host to a wonderful butterfly.  Using a 100 – 400 mm lens with and extension tube made this image possible and helped narrow the background.  At f/11 the background rock lost all detail making for pleasant  and peace full image capturing yet one more unfolding miracle before me!

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