Friday, November 15, 2013

The Alabama Hills

Note: all photos here were shot with my new iPhone 5s in HDR mode. Unfortunately I just discovered that Google changed the way photos are displayed.  You should be able to click on a photo and it should go to a page where it is larger, at least that is what it used to do.  Now it doesn't seem to be doing that.  IT takes you to my google plus page with all the photos in the big album.  It is one reason I am not posting my really good shots anymore on google. I don't know how to fix this but will figure it out for future blog posts. Probably have to migrate to Wordpress which doesn't do that.  Grrr!!  Anybody have an idea how to fix this? post comments
Update: I re-uploaded most of these photos so they should be clickable and work.  think issue is with my iphone blogpress app.

On with the post

Nestled at the base of Mt Whitney just west of Lone Pine in the Owens Valley, are these curious granite bolder formations called the Alabama Hills.  Curious name for a place in the foothills of the highest peak in North America (outside Alaska of course).  Apparently geologists have determined that the Owens valley is filled with up to 10,000 ft of sediment and these boulders are merely the tip of a steep escarpment.  Amazing what Divine Mother has done here.

During the mid 19th century gold fever, miners came here after the civil war, to find their fortune.  The mines they dug were named after a confederate warship called the Alabama.  So you had the Alabama XXX mine and the Alabama ZZZ mine, etc.   You drive up the hill from Lone Pine about 1.5 miles and turn right on a dirt road into the famous hills.

As I did this, I could feel the area where old miners sought their fortune and movie moguls made fortunes in talking pictures.

Hollywood, back in the 20's and 30's used these Alabama Hills as movie sets.  The original Gunga Din was filmed here. Many of you, of my generation, remember western movies with Randolph Scott, John Wayne, etc filmed on location in the rocks and boulder draws and canyons, where bandits ambushed the good guys or the good guys captured the bad guys. Indeed it is only 3-4 hours drive from Hollywood (once you get past the freeway traffic in LA, that is).

Apparently there used to be signs of the locations on which various movies were shot but I couldn't find much.  Annually a film festival happens in summer in Lone Pine.

The boulder area in which the arch (below) resides.  about 1/2 mile walk)
We drove around a couple different times looking at the formations.  BLM land allows camping in established areas so we saw numerous campsites both occupied and unoccupied.  We thought to move out here which would have been fun but all the good flat site large enough were already occupied.

One other famous spot in the Alabama Hills is Arch Rock through which, in the early dawn, photographers gather to shoot Mt Whitney as it basks in the morning sun rays.

The first morning we tried this, we were late and the su already popped up.  We arrived to find 7-8 photographers wrapping up their morning shoot and enjoying various angles and compositions of surrounding granite.  We walked around the area getting a feel for the land.  Deeply quiet and majestic. Offering a varied foreground in contrast to Whitney's backdrop.

We returned the next morning earlier to find we had the place all to ourselves which is truly amazing.

We hiked out to the boulders, In the early dim dawn light and I climbed up and lay down below the arch to position my camera just so to capture the composition and waited.  about 20 minutes later the sun began to trickle down the mountain tops.  I shot about 50 photographs.  What you see here are only iphone photos because I haven't processed the other ones yet.  Will do so and post on flickr when time permits.
My "real" camera taking a long exposure with Whitney though the arch portal
The rocks can look much different in Black and white and I would imagine what is was like to be filming movies in the olden days out here.

the Arch from below.  Not hard bouldering but you had to be a bit of a mountain goat.

We played around with different photo angles and ideas  here are a couple below

Sraddha standing over where I was shooting through to Whitney

Same shot with infrared filter applied

What was amazing is how different this geology was from the nearby mountains.  just these granite boulders sticking up out of the sand.

Next time, we hope to camp in these hills, and I will go searching for Randolph Scott's Campfire as one of the bloggers I follow did. Although no internet is something I would have to get used to.

- Blessings from the Road

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