California’s Alabama Hills

My trip to the Alabama Hills was short and sweet, like a lot of the locations on my road trip. I used this area to camp when driving up to the Bristlecone Pine Forest, as there are limited RV camping options up there, and wasn’t planning on doing much photography in the Alabama Hills, but upon arriving realised there’s so much to explore here – One to come back to another day.

Having managed to spend a sunset in the hills but didn’t have a lot of time to scout a good location. There are some great compositions hidden amongst the boulders and roads in this area, but it really needs scouting, which I had little time to do.

Mobius Arch

The Milky Way rising over Mobius Arch in the Alabama Hills, near Lone Pine, California

My main target was to shoot Mobius Arch at night, which I managed (albeit with a bit of pain). California was experiencing a heat wave when I visited, temperatures in Lone Pine were clocking 45°C in the day, and it wasn’t cooling much at night.

I made the short hike to Mobius Arch and found it relatively easily, and was unsurprised to find a few photographers waiting for darkness. I had a great chat over a couple of hours with a guy from Florida, and as British people tend to do, never managed to grab his name.

We talked about mostly photography and the country, he told me about his underwater photography he did Florida which sounded awesome.

As dark hour approached, I had gotten through my 3 litres of water I had taken and was starting to feel light headed. I’ve had a mild heat stroke before, and know the early signs. I wasn’t dehydrated, I was just too hot – Even at night, it was hovering at 40°C. I wasn’t too worried as I had this guy with me should anything go downhill, but I wasn’t planning on sticking around too long.

Because of this, I rushed my photo of Mobius Arch a bit. Fortunately, it’s a relatively easy composition, most angles work with the Milky Way rising above or through it. It’s a shame I couldn’t stay to get the galaxy rising a bit higher, but I wasn’t in a state to wait any longer – Getting ill this early in the trip with one of my favourite locations the next day to look forward to wasn’t worth the risk.

I didn’t light paint the arch – I never like to do this when there are other photographers in the area, it’s annoying for everybody waving harsh light around when they’re trying to take a perfect shot. I stuck with taking a few exposures to stack the arch as foreground and limit the noise and kept it darker as a silhouette against the sky.

I made a quick retreat to back to my RV, blasted the air conditioning for a few minutes and got the blood sugar back up with a Coke. I was perfectly fine after 5 minutes – crisis averted!

Sunset over the Alabama Hills, Lone Pine, California

The next night, I returned back from the Bristlecone Pine Forest to my campsite which sits amongst the Alabama Hills. I needed an early night, but with the sky being so clear and dark, I had to take a few shots. Above you can see the Milky Way rising over Lone Pine Peak, and a star trail shot of Mt. Whitney which I took at about 100mm. Not bad considering I could take them right outside my camp spot!

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