Sunday, August 10, 2008

Ansel Adams Wilderness: Panoramic Expanse

Camping at Shadow Lake
I just came back from a backpacking trip in the Ansel Adams Wilderness. It was beautiful and refreshing. I nearly forgot that I have no job and no money. Four friends and I started from Devil's Postpile National Monument and hiked up to Shadow Lake where we camped. The area around Shadow lake is really crowded. I felt something less than isolated and alone at our campsite.
Despite the many hikers and backpackers, the area is beautiful. I slept under the stars and woke up with the morning sun. The first morning I inched out of my sleeping bag and climbed a nearby dome of rock with my new tripod and 35mm camera to catch the first rays of light as they painted the eastern-facing spires.
The panorama is my favorite format for landscape photography, and this post is dedicated to the best panoramas I made on this trip. I consider a few of them to be some of the finest panoramas I've yet taken. Many of them are were composed on film and are of a greater detail and quality then previous images. I consider these a small step forward in my development as an aspiring photographer.

The High Country
At 9500 ft. trees are rare and gnarled, giving way to inviting meadows with world-class views. In the panorama below, my friend, Jordan crouches to snap the perfect picture.
Four More Alpine Lakes
From our base camp at Shadow Lake, we climbed to successively higher lakes starting with Ediza then on to Iceburg and Cecile Lakes. Ediza Lake was lovely, nestled in among the bare peaks in a sheltered valley.
Continuing on, past Ediza and up several thousand feet, through beautiful meadows, brings you to Iceburg. While the trail to Iceburg is not on any maps, it is reasonably well traveled with only a few challenging sections. The extra distance is certainly worth it. Iceburg lake was the clearest lake I have ever seen. You could see (by my estimates) through 15 to 20 feet of water to the lake's bottom. If you make it up to this lake, make sure to stop for a cool drink before continuing on.Cecile Lake is the highest of the lot at 10300 ft. Cecile lake seems precariously perched on the side of a mountain, ready, with the slightest shift, to tumble down into Iceburge or Minaret lakes. The landscape is barren--even Martian. Scene is one giant rockfall, void of almost all life. The forceful wind seems bent on ripping you off the ground and blowing you back down where you belong. I climbed up the rocks at this lake and took the following 360-degree, 20-image panorama. It is by far the most ambitious panorama I've undertaken. Shot on 35mm film, Jordan had to hold down the legs of my tripod to keep if from blowing over while I carefully lined up shot after shot to reveal both Iceburg and Cecil Lakes clinging to the rocky spires of the Sierra Nevadas.Finally, as I hiked to the far side of Cecile Lake, I peered down at the largest of the four: Minaret Lake.

  • Devil's Postpile is located near Mammoth Lakes, CA on the eastern edge of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Check out Google Maps for driving directions.
  • has a great topographical hiking map of the area here.


  1. Fantastic! These are surely breathtaking and show me the skills you possess as a photographer! I am impressed! The panoramas are incredible! You are very talented. I just need to go back and view these once more!!!

  2. Thanks Michele, you're always very kind and encouraging.

  3. the panoramas are so picture perfect, you are very lucky to be there and witness the incredible beauty of the place that you very well captured. i do not know how to shoot panorama pictures, do you take them in several shots and then compose the picture as one? anyway, the pictures are just so lovely. i especially like the last 2 panorama, but all of them are really wonderful. maybe i should grow in taking pictures too and learn how to shoot panorama since your pictures are very awe inspiring. thanks for sharing the place.

  4. Thanks Elizabeth. You are quite right--I am lucky. The Sierra Nevadas have always been special to me.

    Taking panoramas is actually fairly easy. All you need to do is stand in one location and, using any camera, take a series of photographs that overlap, then use a program like Photoshop or a specialized panorama stitching program (there are several, and I would be happy to pass along the names of a few I've tried if you're interested) to stick them all together.

    Perfecting the process takes a little more work: You will need a tripod and--most importantly--a camera with manual controls. Feel free to email me with any questions.

  5. What wonderful photos you create and such great info! Love it, had to add you to my blogroll.

  6. Thanks Calicampbug. Right back at ya.

  7. Great panoramic pictures! I am amazed and inspired... I am just a fledgling photographer. Your pictures inspired me to just always wander with purpose. I'll add you in my blog roll...

  8. Thanks Mark. Always happy to pass on the inspiration of creation.

  9. Hi there, I love how you are presenting your photos in this post...they are panaoramic for sure...I find your blog to be fascinating and the places you go are so exciting and how your describe it all...I almost can see a sceenplay coming of it the movie into the wild....

  10. Good memories all. We'll have to go back and stay longer. I've got to hand it to you, Ben, the pictures are amazing.

  11. Really you did a good work. keep it up.

  12. It really shows the love of nature to you. I like the wonderful scenery you've shared and shown. Really is a work of art for me. Thank you for sharing your wonderful adventure to us. It is like we're on your adventure as well.

    Camille Jude
    Teen Wilderness Programs

  13. I am glad it was an enjoyable experience for you. I think that you should definitely do it again sometime and hopefully I will be able to make it to that one..