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Grandview Campground, Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest
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I had the perfect plan at Grandview, a spartan campground near Big Pine, California. It’s the closest campground to the Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest, where you can see living trees that have been around since the days of the Roman Empire – the oldest trees in the world.
Grandview does have a good view. I would hope so. The campground’s viewpoint looks down into a valley holding Deep Springs Lake, a mostly dry lake bed that was filled with water this year. Death Valley is beyond that, and Mount Charleston, Nevada, sits far on the horizon.
I really wanted to do some astrophotography here. The campground is wide open and perfect for it. But we’d have a full moon overhead, making it difficult. Not to mention it had been fairly cloudy with not much sign of clearing.
So I came up with a backup plan. I studied the scene from the viewpoint and thought to myself, self, wouldn’t it be cool if the full moon came up over that lake? I could get a great telephoto picture of that, followed by a photo later with the bright moonlight illuminating the lake and mountains.
I pulled out my Peakfinder AR app and couldn’t believe what it told me.
The full moon would rise at 7:47 pm, directly over the lake and Mount Charleston, thirty minutes before sunset directly behind me. A perfect setup. I’d just have to hope that the clouds would either hold or clear out.
How to photograph it?
I saw the progression of photos brewing in my head.
A vibrant, color photo of the far mountains frontlit by the setting sun, just before moonrise.
The next photo would be both a soft color photo and a black & white photo of the full moon rising over the lake, taken with a telephoto lens for compressing the scene and making the moon look bigger than a full moon on the horizon already does.
The final image in the series, taken about an hour later, would be a black & white photo of the moonlight reflecting off of the lake and mountains.
But of course, all of this would be largely dependent on the clouds clearing out enough to let the moonlight through.
I walked over to the viewpoint to give myself some time before moonrise to set up. I soon had a feeling of disappointment as that spot came into view.
The clouds off to the east had descended and thickened. Charleston was obscured, and even the lake was just barely visible through the clouds. There was no way I’d see the moon or do anything that I had planned.
So what do we do? We adapt to the situation. Roll with the punches. I could have turned around and gone back to the campfire and wine.
I couldn’t do my “painting,” so I just “sketched” instead. And that’s the lesson here. This post is probably the only place I’ll ever show these photos since they’re not anywhere near amazing.
But I just wanted to share that even though I couldn’t get what I wanted, I stayed anyways and practiced. Instead of working with black & white distant landscapes, I instead experimented with close-up color combinations and shallow focus.
Because I love analogies – instead of playing the violin concerto to a captivated audience, I practiced the scales by myself.
And go figure, as soon as I turned around and headed back to camp, I was treated to one of the most colorful sunsets I had seen in a while. I took a picture just for the sake of taking a picture and then just soaked it all in.