Wood & Flame by MichaelBandy

I took this a few weeks back while on a weekend photo trip to the Eastern Sierras with Roman Racela. We headed up to meet Ernie E Suto, Scott McReynolds, John DeRousseau, and Bert Dennison. This was the last night we were up there. Sunday night of the Memorial Day weekend. I received a FB message from Steve Phang that there was snow up at Schulmann Grove in the Bristlecones. The sky and clouds were looking promising and we decided to head up there and hope for a good sunset with some nice light and color bouncing off the snow.

When we got there we were at least 3 hours early for sunset so we just killed some time shooting the shit and hanging out. The clouds looked great and in hindsight I wish we had gone up to take a few mid-day shots while there was still snow, because as you can see from the photo it was all but gone by the time we shot sunset.

While waiting for sunset a dark stormy cloud cover moved in. Low and thick and ominous it looked very much like we were going to get skunked. Like really badly skunked. About 30 minutes before sunset the situation was looking dire. Ernie made the decision to take off down to the Alabama Hills and hope for better conditions. About 5 minutes later, John and Roman and I decided to do the same. As we started heading down, we stopped at the Vista point a little ways down from Schulman Grove. From there you can see down into the Owens valley and also back to Death Valley. I was impressed at the view to say the least. Also because light rays were beaming down into Bishop. It looked amazing. As we were taking shots of this John and Roman and I noticed a break coming in the dark cloud cover that we thought would cause us to get skunked on a good sunset. We also noticed high clouds where the sun would be setting over the Eastern Sierras. John and I quickly convinced Roman that there was a good chance the sunset would turn out to be pretty good at the very least.

Now none of us are meteorologists. Nor are we as skilled at reading clouds and weather as Marc Adamus. But on this evening, our read was more than mildly successful. We raced back up the hill and hiked the steep way up the side of the hill directly below this tree. It as brutal, but we thought it might be necessary since some other photogs had heard our prediction and beaten us to driving back up by a minute or so. As we were scrambling up the hillside, it started to rain. Not hard. But cold and wet. It caused the snow capped loose rocks under our feet to become even more precarious. None the less we made it. And after 10 minutes of hanging out in the rain and catching our breath, we realized the rain must have scared the other photogs off anyway as they never showed.

Suddenly the clouds parted and we sat there snapping away as the sky lit up and changed colors! It was dramatic and enjoyable and exciting! One of those you just had to be there to experience it moments. I know this location is overshot now a days. And I know this particular comp is nothing really new. But sometimes the moment and experience and the fact that you took a gamble and it paid off are more than enough to make you happy. And if you come away with an awesome shot like this…. All the better.

Thanks for your patience in taking the time to read all of this. If indeed you have. 🙂

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