When I think of the Owens Valley on the eastern slope of the Sierras, about 5 hours drive north of San Diego, I usually think of the Alabama Hills (the subject of its own gallery). But the region has much more to offer. Two towns north of Lone Pine (where the Alabama Hills are located) is the town of Big Pine. Going west of town takes you to the trailhead to the Palisades Glacier along Big Pine Creek. This area is the most like my home Rockies that I've been to thus far.
But east and north of Big Pine are the White Mountains and contained thereon are California's stand of ancient Bristlecone Pines. Unlike the Rockies where there are lots of Bristlecone Pines, the makeup of the California mountains are not so conducive to their growth. But in the White Mountains, named for the light colored Dolomite that the old trees seem to love, there are several stands of them in addition to scattered trees all along the contours at the right elevations.
Bristlecones (named for the bristles on the pine cones) are the oldest living organisms on the planet with many of them thousands of years old. Many were drinking in the high clear air and enjoying mountain sunsets when Caesar ruled Rome. Now, mixed in with the new growth are skeletons of ancestors; their bones bleached by countless suns and their skins polished into alabaster smoothness by countless grains of dust borne on the ceaseless winds. The cameras of Adams, Sexton, Weston, Muench, and many others have gazed in awe at these starkly beautiful forms. Colorado has more of them, but these trees assume tortured and grotesque forms unlike others I've seen back home.
Once again, friend and colleague Donna Cosentino introduced me to a new area to photograph when she invited me to come and help with one of her workshops ( Photographic Explorations) into the Bristlecones. I gave a talk on some digital issues but could only stay for a couple of nights since I had to get back to teach my classes at City College. This beginning collection was all shot during that three day trip. Hopefully I will be going back someday soon to add to it.
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