Tag Archives: Sierra Nevada

Bonsai Rock – Lake Tahoe

Bonsai Rock at sunset, Lake Tahoe, Nevada, USA (© Russ Bishop/www.russbishop.com)

Bonsai Rock at sunset, Lake Tahoe, Nevada

Lake Tahoe is a land of superlatives. Straddling the border of California and Nevada at over 6,000 feet, it’s the deepest alpine lake in North America and second only to Crater Lake in overall depth.  It also has the largest volume of any lake in the United States behind the Great Lakes.  By day, the crystal clear waters of this mountain oasis entice with a cerulean hue that sparkles like a jewel amid the surrounding peaks.  But dusk and dawn have a special quality all their own for photography or just soaking up the magic hour experience.

Bonsai Rock shown here has become an icon of the lake, and the partially submerged boulders surrounding it make this a wonderful destination at sunset.  Located on the northern Nevada side not far from Sand Harbor State Park, it’s a bit tricky to find but well worth the short hike down from the road (providing you find parking along the narrow highway, and have a headlamp for the return).  The wind really sets the mood here for photography as it can be strong or non-existent, but a long shutter softens the scene when the lake is restless and adds to the timeless feeling of this beautiful location.

The Yosemite Grant and America’s Best Idea

El Capitan, Yosemite Valley, Yosemite National Park, California

El Capitan, Yosemite Valley, Yosemite National Park, California

June 30th marks the 150th Anniversary of the Yosemite Grant Act. Authorized by Congress and signed by President Abraham Lincoln in 1864, it was the humble beginnings that established Yosemite Valley and the Mariposa Grove as the first protected wilderness in the country. It also created California’s first State Park, and ultimately led to the creation of America’s National Park System.

In the years that followed, the tireless efforts of conservationist John Muir persuaded the government to protect the surrounding land as well and on October 1, 1890 Yosemite National Park was born. Never one to miss an opportunity to share the beauty and magic of his beloved home in the Sierra, Muir’s eloquent words convinced President Theodore Roosevelt and the state authorities to include Yosemite Valley and Mariposa Grove within the boundaries of Yosemite National Park and in 1906 it was signed into law.

As part of the on-going celebration, the National Park Service, Yosemite Conservancy, Ansel Adams Gallery, and the California State Parks are hosting numerous events throughout the year. It’s a great time to visit Yosemite, explore the Park’s history, and celebrate America’s Best Idea.

Visual Abstraction

Bare trees, Yosemite National Park, California USA (© Russ Bishop/www.russbishop.com)

Bare trees, Yosemite National Park, California USA

As landscape photographers the natural world provides us with an unlimited source of subject matter and inspiration. Much of the time we choose to let nature dictate the scene, creating “straight photography” as Ansel Adams referred to it, by selecting a lens and exposure that will faithfully record the natural beauty we see before us.

Unfortunately conditions in the wild are not always ideal and often we’re forced to adjust our approach to image making. Flat light, wind, or a recent fire can all derail our idea of the perfect landscape. But, as I’ve mentioned previously, this is where we need to think outside the box and go with the flow creatively. The pure images might have to wait for another day, but the glass is half full. A whole new world of visual storytelling is waiting to happen for those willing to give their tripod the day off and think of their camera as a brush and canvas.

The term abstraction (from the Latin abs, meaning away from and trahere, meaning to draw) is the process of taking away or removing elements from something in order to reduce it to a set of essential characteristics. Merriam Webster defines abstraction as “art unconcerned with the literal depiction of things from the visible world”. In short, we want to know that it’s a tree or a flower, but beyond that we’re free to roam aesthetically.

Abstract photography is becoming increasingly popular these days as a form of self expression. By imparting mood and feeling, in many ways abstracts provide a stronger emotional bond between an image and its audience than a straight image. Much like seeing the world through a new lens, the idea here is to intentionally create art and not document reality. Motion blurs, pans, and zooms at a slower shutter speed are typical techniques for creating natural abstracts, but the possibilities are endless.

The next time mother nature is being uncooperative and the straight photography is leaving you uninspired, take a detour and have fun with this liberating technique. Your inner child will thank you, and all you have to remember is that there are no rules and you can’t make any mistakes.


“Don’t shoot what it looks like. Shoot what it feels like”  -David Alan Harvey


The Forest Through The Trees

Giant Sequoias (Sequoiadendron giganteum) in winter, Giant Forest, Sequoia National Park, California USA (Russ Bishop/Russ Bishop Photography)

Giant Sequoias in winter, Giant Forest, Sequoia National Park, California USA

In today’s modern world of fast-paced digital photography it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the constant stream of new technology. Cameras, software and accessories are being released at an alarming rate, and it’s easy to get caught up in the race to stay ahead of the curve. But it’s important to remember that first and foremost we are artists, and that technology serves the art and not the other way around.

You can be sure Rembrandt didn’t lust over the latest brushes or Ansel Adams the latest developer or papers whenever their interpretation of light and shadow faced a challenge. Instead, they trusted their familiar tools even more to allow their hand and eye (the only lasting tools of the trade) to record the scene faithfully.

When you do upgrade your equipment (and we all do at some point) you owe it to yourself to thoroughly understand its features and functions. No one likes reading manuals, but it’s time well spent that you’ll appreciate the next time the light is fleeting and you’re focused on capturing the moment, not fumbling with dials or menu settings.

So purchase when you must, but don’t lose sight of the forest through the trees. Put your energy into developing your vision and spend less time worrying about the march of progress. Art is about the seeing and no one will ever look at your images and say “that was made with a Nikon or Canon”.  More likely, they will say “what was s/he feeling”!  The more comfortable you are with your equipment the more it becomes an extension of your mind’s eye and allows you the freedom to truly see the world around you. And that’s when your vision outshines all the other tools in your bag.