Death Valley, January 2019

It took getting a new camera for me to remember that still photography is a thing. I’ve been so focused over the last few years of hauling out to a location to timelapse a weather event or meteor event that I forgot how much fun it can be to just take a single photo.

This feels like the hundredth time I’ve been out to Death Valley (and it might be), but this time it was unique: I got to take my 20-year-old cousin out there and introduce her to one of the most remote, disparately grand places on Earth.

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We started at the Devil’s Racetrack after an incredibly cold night at ~25 degrees. Waking up to the sound of complete nothingness and seeing the expanse of that valley, she was already impressed but when we reached the racetrack itself and she saw the moving rocks her mind was blown.

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With a full three days planned to see the western/northern ends of the park, I wasted no time in setting up my cameras to capture the moving skies overhead. We managed to skirt the rain all weekend, which was a blessing since I know how fast the water can accumulate and start wrecking the place.

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From there we hauled down south to Badwater the next day after back country camping in a secret spot I know. The weather did not disappoint – it was cold, but in the low 60s, which was perfect for hiking way out onto the dry lakebed itself. She really got a sense of scale after the first 2 miles and we were only a third of the way to where we were trying to be and not even close to the halfway point on the lakebed itself.

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For me, almost nothing is better than introducing a place like this to a new person who maybe hasn’t seen a lot of what California has to offer in terms of diverse landscapes and interesting places to visit. I also was able to grab about a dozen new timelapses of the various areas we visited since I was rocking my new D850. With a 90MB size for each raw still frame, though, it will be a while until I have time to edit all of them (glad for my fast processor and my 1080 Nvidia card…)

The full gallery is below.

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Ode: Domum – a visual poem-song to the Sierra Nevada (Timelapse)

An Ode is defined as ‘a poem meant to be sung.’

‘Domum’ is Latin for ‘home.’

Ode: Domum is my fifth and final entry into my Ode timelapse series focuses solely on a place I feel so at home: on the eastern and mid-Sierra Nevada range. The footage extends from the most remote places of the Golden Trout Wilderness to the south, to as far north as Yosemite National Park’s Tioga Pass Road. Some of the places will be instantly recognizable like Yosemite’s iconic Tunnel View and Mammoth’s Crystal Crag, while other places are so rarely visited like the remote Lower Hopkins Lake and Pioneer Basin. In the end, no image (animated or otherwise) can do justice in communicating the experience of being there, but I’ve sure had fun trying.

It’s a strange feeling to fall in love with a physical place, especially one as impossibly vast as the Sierra range, and any attempts to describe how that feels sounds crazy. I’ve spent the majority of whatever free time I can over the past 8 years crawling over as many of the trails that my aging knees can manage, desperate to see as much as I can of this truly infinite and deeply mystical place.

One technical note: The fidelity of this particular timelapse compilation is not as high as I’d have liked it to be, as much of the footage captured was done with a GoPro Hero 4 and an iPhone, which are much lighter to travel with when hiking long distances in the backcountry but not visually superior to my Nikons. But it depicts so many of the places I’ve been fortunate enough to visit and will never forget.

Some of the footage is grainy, some of it shakes, but all of it was captured with a deep sense of wonder and a need to share it with people who love it as much as I do and people who maybe might visit some part of it one day.

I also took care to highlight each location – some of the footage was shot years ago, so I did my best from memory (and quite a few minutes pouring over maps looking for whatever obscure trail I was on…) If there’s a mistake it was not intentional.

Soundtrack: Ryzu: Ennui (Waffle Edit)

Yours in continuing adventure,
PT

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Ode: Noctis – a timelapse of the night sky

This entry into my “Ode” series pays tribute to the night sky, which I first learned to shoot in 2013 standing at tunnel view in Yosemite. Everything changed for me when I realized photography didn’t have to end after sundown, and I’ve spent countless evenings in the high Sierra Nevada, the Mojave Desert and anywhere else I could find without too much light pollution staying up all night listening to the shutters click on my cameras. There’s something so amazing to me about capturing star trails in night timelapses, like I’m capturing a secret dance I’m not supposed to see.

If you would like to see more in the Ode series, please check out Tempus Vernum (springtime), and Meritum (deserts) on this blog page. I am currently working on my next Ode, titled Domum (home), which will be a supercut of my best timelapses of the various eastern parts of the Sierra Nevada, the place I consider home.

Soundtrack: Main Theme from the upcoming GRIS from Devolver Digital and Nomada Studios, and the game is as beautiful as the song – check it out at grisgame.com and the composer – Berlinist – at http://www.berlinistmusic.com/.

More shoddy photography work at http://www.lessthanamateur.com.

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Golden Trout Wilderness… Finally

I have wanted to see what the Golden Trout Wilderness is like for a number of years now, and this week I finally got the chance to go pretty deep into it thanks to a trip with Rock Creek Pack Station.

There will be more to come, along with footage shot for a new timelapse series I’m working on (two, actually) – a revamped “Sierra Nevada”-specific compilation, and a new compilation of just astral timelapses. I have a lot of free time on my hands this week so I hope to dig into both and have them posted up here soon.

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How the Shot Was Got Ep III: Shit Gets Weird When You Spend So Much Time Alone (behind the scenes of ODE: Meritum)

On trips over the last year or so I’ve started vlogging more when I’m out on these trips to shoot. It’s a lot of time just sitting around with nothing to do, and I get super bored really easily. I also get weird.

But the behind the scenes stuff is a neat little reminder of the end result and what was going on behind the camera at the time of that particular shot – how far I had to hike, how hot it was, or cold, and yes, in one case I felt like a van that cruised by really slowly (three times) while I was out in the middle of a high desert plain was casing my gear and I was fairly confident that I could be easily robbed that day.

While shooting the poppies I happened to have company that day along for the ride, and while out in the middle of the backroads we came across a man and a woman, the man had a camera and the women was wearing nothing except a fur coat. Super bloom, indeed.

The full film, ODE: Meritum, is here: https://vimeo.com/254797340

Enjoy my weirdness!

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Ode: Meritum – a desert timelapse film

Ode: Meritum is the second and latest timelapse film in the Ode series.

Locations for this film include the Mojave, including the Mojave National preserve; Death Valley National Park; Lone Pine’s Alabama Hills; Blythe, California; Sedona, Arizona; Cactus National Monument, Arizona; and several locations throughout Nevada and southern Arizona, including Pheonix and surrounding areas.

It is my ode to the American southwestern deserts and it’s taken an embarrassingly long two and a half years to finish. I wish I could go back to all of the people who happened upon me in random locations over the last 20 or so months who asked what I was shooting and then wrote down my URL, only to be disappointed that months would go by without an update. Specifically a botanist we happened upon who walked up to us in the literal middle of the desert during the super bloom in Death Valley because I’ve never been more shocked to see another human being in my life.

Merium means ‘desert’ in Latin. And if you follow this blog at all then you know I love nature and the mountains, but the desert holds a special place in my heart. The first time I ever went to Death Valley was the first time I had heard such enormously loud silence. The huge skies and the cloud formations that only deserts see was enough to get me hooked.

So this is my ode to deserts. I hope you enjoy watching it as much as I enjoyed making it.

– PT

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Third Recess, John Muir National Forest

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Lower Hopkins Lake, September 2017

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Flooding in the Eastern Sierra 2017

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