I had such a great time last year in Yellowstone that this year I went on another photography workshop put on by Hudson Henry (https://hudsonhenry.com) to Owens Valley, CA. Those I have talked to about the trip usually ask “Where the heck is that?”.
The maps below show where in California it is.
Once they know, the second question typically was “Why would you want to go there?”. Well, as you can see above, Owens Valley is located on the eastern side of the Sierra Nevada mountains and offers some unique landscapes along with a night sky that is dark enough to get images of the Milky Way, something that is also hard to find on the east coast.
The valley itself is very different today than it was a century ago. At one time it was littered with lakes large and small created by snow melt and streams from the Sierra Nevada mountains. The valley was irrigated and farmed and much greener than it is now. That was before the county of Los Angeles bought the much of the land on the eastern side of the mountains along with the water rights. In the mid 1900’s aqueducts were built by the Los Angeles County Water Authority to redirect the water (some would say steal) to provide plentiful drinking water for the greater Los Angeles area. Obviously, this was a problem for the people in the valley and small water wars and litigation resulted, but for the most part Los Angeles prevailed. The valley nearly became a dust bowl and it wasn’t until late in the 20th century that the valley secured limited access to some of the water. Unfortunately, by that time, Owens Lake and much of the valley had dried up. Today the only lake of any size that remains is Mono Lake in the far north and its size and capacity is greatly reduced because of water is still being redirected to Los Angeles.
On the first day the workshop headed to a place in the valley known as Alabama Hills. Not sure how or why it is called that, but it has some interesting rock formations, and the area has been used for background settings in a number of Hollywood westerns and movies including Iron Man and Star Trek V. We were headed to a particular rock formation known as Mobius Arch. It is a unique rock formation in the Alabama Hills that would make an interesting foreground for a night sky image. We got there well before sundown and had an opportunity to take a number of interesting photos here.
Unfortunately, none of my photos from that FIRST day turned out very well as I committed a beginner's error by placing a clean UV filter over a dirty lens and thus my images were pretty much useless. It was sad because I had some nice compositions, but the dust spots were too numerous to save them.
As it turns out all was not lost. As part of this trip I had made plans to visit the other side of the Sierra Nevada Mts. when the workshop was finished. which is where Yosemite is located. However, the California forest fires pretty much ruined that possibility. So instead, after the workshop was done, I returned to the Alabama Hills on my LAST full day in California for a do-over.
Here is the re-do photo of Mobius Arch I got on my last day that tried to get on the FIRST…
In a close proximity to Mobius Arch there are 3 other such arches. I stayed a while longer and got some more photos of the area, including 2 of the other stone arches. This area was very different than the rest of Owes Valley and full of interesting possibilities for photographs, so I ended up staying until dark and getting some more landscape photos. And since I had stayed that long, I decided to try for another Milky Way image as well. Those can be seen on this page (Pictures At Dat 'l Do - Owens Valley Part III (datldo.com))