Photo Essay

Winter Storm Clearing

Storm Breaking Basin Mountain

Winter storms in the Sierra Nevada Mountains can be exciting and dangerous if not respected. When these storms break up, they can provide some of the most dramatic landscape photographs ever captured. Ansel Adams' signature photograph was of Yosemite Valley during a winter storm breakup. The Eastern Sierras provide a unique microclimate area where a low valley lies between the White Mountains and the Sierras. Owens valley runs from Bishop California down next to death valley and has a tendency to roll the atmosphere as high winds come off the Sierras down into the valley and up again on the White Mountains. This sequence of 10 photographs highlights a mid-winter storm breakup that started at sunrise.

First, the light streams into a small valley in front of Mount Tom, a large mountain overlooking Bishop, California. The early light is naturally filtered to the yellow spectrum that picks up the dry sage and highlights the rabbit bush and others like it so they seem they are blooming. The base of the mountain is revealed, but the storm still claims the high ground.

The sun is enough to stir the air in the foothills and start the fog moving, allowing more sun into the hills and highlighting the fog with its golden rays. Enough so that Basin Mountain peaked out of the storm clouds, the photo at the beginning of this article. However, this air is unstable and the storm's cold air and clouds still have enough muster to fog out the foothills and block out the sun as it rises higher. The storm reclaims the lost ground and hides the mountains and the foothills once again. The mood changes and forces the artist to focus on shapes and shadows. The rarified air colors the light directly from the sun, but not with enough energy to color the landscape.

How long will the shadows last? By a hike to the edge of the fog, Owens Valley could be clearly seen. The answer was found -- Not very long! The sun was in the valley building large thermals as seen by hammer head clouds. Already the light was coming back into the foothills, this time with enough force to overcome what was left of the storm. The sun was once again calling the artist to alert. See the lovely canyons, see the drama in the clouds, see the shapes in the shadows, and reflect on my glory. And there is still more, I will pull the winter's curtain from the Mountains. In awe these giants can make anyone feel small compared to their magnitude.

The sun conquered the winter storm, and as it rests, it crowns it feat with its rays over the Sierras. Once again it shows its beauty in a peaceful way. The storm and sun come to a rest.

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7 responses

  • Kevin Madson

    Kevin Madson gave props (30 Jan 2009):

    wow! eye candy at its best!

  • Pongsatorn Sukhum

    Pongsatorn Sukhum gave props (30 Jan 2009):

    Great analysis for the story.

  • Lois Martin

    Lois Martin gave props (30 Jan 2009):

    wonderful images!

  • Linda Bergman

    Linda Bergman gave props (7 Feb 2009):

    What a beautiful set of images, they tell the whole story.

  • John Linton

    John Linton gave props (29 Apr 2014):

    Hell YEAH! Rad!

  • Andrea Petersen

    Andrea Petersen gave props (30 Apr 2014):

    A fantastic photo essay...Excellent collection of images. Voted!

  • Sarah Springer

    Sarah Springer (Deleted) gave props (2 May 2014):

    Agree with all- voted

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