Alabama Hills


Alabama Hills is more renowned for the western movies made here, with legendary actors such as Humphrey Bogart, John Wayne, Gary Cooper and so on. At the same time, its interesting rock landscape that attracted movie making also attracts nature photographers. To me, Alabama Hills arches are most interesting. I usually do free-form photography travel without clear itineraries, letting what I see and hear drive stops of the trip. However, on this trip, I had made note for a few intended destination - one of which was Alabama Hills. I had gone to this place a few times previously, but always a side stop on the way somewhere else such as Whitney Portal. This time, I visualized capturing Mobius Arch with full moon, and also attempting some light painting.

With the area so dark at night and unmarked dirt road, I opted to take advantage of the dispersed camping policy to stay near the trail for a night instead of the comfort of a warm bed at a local motel. The inconvenience of car camping was compensated by quick access to Arch Trail. I was able to scout the trail before nightfall (a rarity for me), and did two separate photoshoots - one at dusk and night, and the other from before dawn.

The weather was not great, with rains in the evening and gusts at night. The gusts were no good since I was waken up every 10 minutes or so, but the clouds created more dramatic background even though it partially ruined the intent to capture Mobius Arch with full moon. The moon did not come out until late in the night when I already curled up in a sleeping bag. My lack of planning was the other downfall - I did not look into the angle of moonrise. As such, even if the moon had appeared on time, it'd be too far to the right to capture it inside the arch.

At the end though, I was pretty satisfied , with some unconventional images resulting from planned light painting.

As it turns out, I learned on this trip that Alabama Hills is also famous for wildflowers. As I packed up to leave, I already contemplate a return to see the lush and vibrant landscape, hopefully with a full moon inside the arch.