Painted with the Last Light
Last light on trees in the Painted Dunes
Lassen Volcanic National Park, California
It's been a relatively quiet photography year for me; work was busy (we bought Flickr after-all!), I got wrapped up in other life and travels and just didn't have much photo inspiration as some previous years. So when Willie asked me if I wanted to do a crazy day trip to Lassen National Park, I was absolutely in. By crazy I mean our intention was to drive 6.5 hours north to Lassen, hike to the top of a volcano, take sunset photos, then drive back another 6.5 hours all in one day!
We left early in the morning (Willie drove for once! At least for the first few hours), stopped for lunch, and made it to the north end of Lassen with plenty of time before sunset. We had read that the hike to the top of the "Cinder Cone" was going to be grueling, but having been working out a lot, I figured it "wouldn't be too bad." The hike is only about a mile but it's basically straight up 800 feet (you should see the elevation chart my phone recorded). To make it worse, we were walking up volcanic sand (aka "loose scoria"), so every 2 steps forward is one step back. With a ton of heavy lenses in our backpacks it was a grueling crawl: we'd walk 100 steps and then take a break ... 100 steps and take a break ... 100 steps.... but as "old" as we are, we made it up in record time!
Lassen Volcanic National Park is exactly as the name sounds: volcanic. Though the Volcanoes aren't active, they have left their mark on the landscape. The area before you, known as The Painted Dunes, formed when layers of oxidized ash formed into pumice fields after falling on top of lava flows that were still hot. It creates this area of crazy color, shape, and now new growth.
We had seen photos from several other photographers, particularly Brian Rueb, and been inspired by the shapes and light they captured. Though we had some ideas in mind, that all went out the window when we got to the top of the Cinder Cone and realized how many different scenes there were. Though I had initially intended to wait till the sun had completely dropped behind the hills, my favorite photos from this trip were ones like this, where the last touches of light hit the top of the growing trees and cast this amazing glow. The purple and pink cast of the setting sun contrasts well with the green and yellow tips of the trees. I know I'll be back here at some point, though hopefully with a little less weigh on my backpack next time!
Nikon D850 w/Sigma 150-600mm:
150mm, f/11, 1/100 sec, ISO 800