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    • I'm heading out to the Eastern Sierra and the Inyo Valley area thanks to the great advice in this conversation. My goal: make an epic photo that features the Perseids meteor shower with an creative foreground. Follow along as I post updates about the journey.

      I hope to improve upon this scene 👇

    • Today I start out on a very long journey to the White Mountains. I'll be taking the long route, going south around the Sierra, to avoid the smoke and traffic of firefighters fighting the Ferguson Fire. Am I crazy to drive this far for just one (or maybe a few) photos?

    • Exactly!

      The heat is excruciating. It’s a steady 106 degrees in the Owens valley. My AC can barely keep up. My companion, my furry pup, is overheating.

    • My biggest worry is that too much smoke will spoil the chance of seeing the meteor shower.

      Here’s the view from Alabama Hills, a couple hours from the destination. No smoke. Great sight of the Sierra. So far so good. I’m stoked.

    • We aimed to sleep at Grandview Campground last night to put us close to the ancient bristle cone pines today. But of course the first come first serve campsite was full.

      We found a spot at Convict Lake outside of Mammoth. The smoke was absolutely insane. There was a fine layer of ash on the ground and little particles floating in the air.

    • Crowley Lake has these obscure stone columns that I thought would make a great foreground to fame the milky way. They are so otherworldly and very much un-photographed. Most people don’t know they exist and it’s really difficult to get to them. A gnarly 4-wheel trail followed by a pretty steep scramble is required.

      What they look like 👇 PC: lake scientist

    • The columns were 6 miles line of sight from our campsite. Last night, it took us 2 hours to get there. I pushed my Subie to the max, zig zagging through giant whoops three feet deep. Eventually a four foot rut emerged in the road. It wasn't worth possibly slipping into one and spending days getting my Subaru out, so we hiked the last 2 miles of road.

    • We got to the beach with the columns. My plan was to light the columns from the inside with four headlamps I brought so it would look like some sort of natural interpretation of the Parthenon.

      I’d never seen so many bugs in my life. I couldn’t get a single shot in without getting streaks from bugs flying through my shot. Here's an iPhone photo above my A7RII setup.

    • Grandview is quite popular this time of year. Some friends and I got away with camping at an unofficial spot, but we had to promise the ranger to not use and disperse the fire ring some previous campers had made out of stones.

    • Grandview is quite popular this time of year.

      Indeed! We went back Saturday afternoon, and scored a spot! I was stoked we had site in the only campground in the range. Grandview's unique proximity to the ancient bristlecones and White Mountain Peak was ideal for astrophotography access.

    • Has anyone ever seen scorpions in the Sierra / Inyo Valley area? I've spent so much of my life in this area, but I've never seen a single scorpion. I didn't even know they lived at this altitude, but on Friday night they were crawling the beaches of Crowley Lake.

      I had no idea if they were dangerous, but assumed they could cause serious harm, especially to my 35lb puppy that was with me. Turning around was the only sane decision. I retreated without zero A7RII photos.

      I think this was the scorpion species.

    • I always say photographers are the biggest pains in the ass to hang out with, because they're always loitering around futzing with the details of a shot when any normal human being would already be gone on to something else. And they're always scheming some insane trip they can spend hours humping in to some site, in some god-forsaken place, just so they can come back the next night, at some god forsaken hour of the morning, just so they can catch, like, 20 minutes of sunlight the next day. :D

      The team that filmed Meru...Jimmy Chin, et al...they're basically living my dream. I love the role of the adventure photo journalist. Just as talented as the person in front of the camera...but with a job to do too. You're not doing half bad yourself, Kevin. ;)

    • Thanks for the kind words! I have massive respect for the Meru team. Not only are they the world's finest artists and climbers, they're amazing storytellers. If there's anything I can learn from them, it's passion, determination, and drive. Having worked with Tim Kemple, a contributing filmmaker on Meru and Renan's business partner, I've witnessed determination like this first hand. They stop at nothing to get the shot.

      I'm looking forward to seeing Jimmy Chin's latest production, Free Solo. A film about Alex Honnold climbing El Cap ropeless. I suspect that it's going to top Meru.

    • Friday night was a bust, and we woke up the next day to smoke so thick that we couldn't even see across the 1-mile long Convict Lake. Saturday night was my last chance to capture the meteor shower, and I wasn't going to let smoke ruin my chances. I bet that driving high into the White Mountains would get us above the smoke.

      The White Mountains are a major mountain range that often goes unnoticed. They're far from any big population centers, and the lack of state and national parks makes it a 600 square mile black hole on travel maps. Most California residents don't even know the range exists, and if they do, they can't point to it on a map.

      It's also a dead zone for internet and cell service. There's not a single wifi hotspot or cell tower in the range. That's why I couldn't report live about our that portion of our journey. I'll fill you in now.

    • The objective was to get above the smoke. The highest ancient bristlecone grove at 11,000ft was covered in a thick layer of smoke -- a huge bummer though I somewhat expected it given my analysis. My goal of using the trees to give my photos an earthly tie to the meteor shower above was unattainable. We had to go higher to find clear skies.

      Here's a massive ancient bristlecone pine in Patriarch Grove. Allie is on the right to give it scale. This would make for an epic meteor shower photo if the sky was more visible.

    • I came to appreciate the existence of this strange mountain range as we drove higher on the one and only route: White Mountain Peak road. It is a shale-covered, barren land. The range was formerly ocean bed and now plateaus with docile peaks that stand nearly three miles high. It's absolutely beautiful. There's nowhere else on earth that looks like this.

    • At 11,500ft, the skies were clearing up. Cumulonimbus clouds mostly replaced the smoke. The road was ridden with jagged rocks, so we drove slowly to avoid tires popping.

    • The road is gated at 7 miles below the 14,252ft summit of White Mountain Peak. Vehicle travel above 12,000ft is prohibited to the general public. Driving offroad at these elevations can be quite dangerous. Brake fluid can boil resulting in complete loss of brakes. Only trained researchers can use the 4WD drive road to access a series of high altitude research stations.

      It was 5pm. I was going to photograph this meteor shower, even if it meant a 14-mile night hike to a thin-aired summit. I stubbornly packed my camera gear. I knew I could do this. This was not my first rodeo. My pup, Allie, was stoked. It was her first high altitude hike.

    • We reached the Barcroft Field Station: a massive 1940's quonset hut used to conduct high altitude experiments and clinical drug trials. Half the group were UC graduates, so they were stoked to see this sign.

    • Dozens of researchers were hard at work. They invited us in. We got a rare glimpse inside the scientific laboratory. I knew medical history was made there like proving Ibuprofen prevents AMS and the clinical trials of Diamox, and I got to see where it happened.

      One woman told me they were sequencing Diamox. Does anyone have any idea what it means to sequence a prescription drug?

      Photo: an iPhone photo of their entertainment room, the one place they let me photograph. See the computer? A relic of the past.

    • These sheep were part of some sort of clinical trial at the Barcroft Field Station. They were experiencing side effects of some experimental drug so humans won't have to. They were lethargic.

    • My border collie was ecstatic. Herding sheep was her calling. She sprinted around the outside of the fenced corral. The lack of oxygen at 12,500ft didn't phase her.