Sierra Primrose, Mountain Hemlock, The Minarets
full print size of 24.6x19.6 inches @304.8ppi, above displayed at 1/138
Copyright © David Senesac 2003 view detailed crop
Ansel Adams Wilderness, Inyo National Forest, Madera County
early morning Tuesday July 29, 2003, slide 03R15-16
Pentax 67 AEII, 55-100mm zoom, Gitzo G1325 Mk2
Drum scanned Fuji Provia 100F 220 film to 200mb RGB file
Adobe Photoshop 6.0 processed for accurate image fidelity
Lightjet5000 printed on Fuji Crystal Archive paper
signature mid bottom left
On the last day of a five day backpack into the Shadow Creek drainage we were looking forward to photographing wildflower foregrounds near the stream below the face of Mount Ritter. Early morning shadows down in that canyon gave us a reason to venture elsewhere to areas already in the sunlight. I spent the time looking for one of my favorite High Sierra wildflowers, sierra primrose, which often can be found among small talus shortly after snows melt.
After about a half hour of rambling about in areas with primrose, I reached this location. Not only were there many flowers but this area also had a number of aesthetic isolated mountain hemlock along with views towards The Minarets. For about 15 minutes I ranged about the area up and down the slope and set up my tripod a few times. However each time was unsatisfied with the result of including all three elements. There were several other nearby nice looking hemlock not in this image that I attempted to include, but either the Minarets were too blocked or the resulting group of flowers without enough impact. Finally I moved further back from this set of trees, zoomed away from a wide angle to more normal that improved the relative size of The Minarets. Then I fine-tuned the frame to include the optimum set of flowers. That required stopping my big zoom lens all the way down to its minimum aperture of f32 for greatest depth of field while setting my big tripod atop a rock as high as possible in order to provide enough distance from the bottom frame edge. That all done, coincidently clouds from the south added a terrific complement to the shapes of talus in this foreground. By this time my friend had caught up with me. I took one frame and we both left as in the distance we could see sun had reached the canyon bottom.
Later I was surprised that this image and not one from the area we had been so intent on photographing was actually the best.
At mid left is Clyde Minaret at 12,263 feet with a large snowfield below avalanche chutes on its face. That snowfield drains into Cecile Lake, then Iceberg Lake, then Ediza Lake, and into Shadow Creek which is tributary to the Middle Fork of the San Joaquin River. All rock here is Mesozoic Era metavolcanic rock which has great variability in color and form. Sierra primrose, primula suffrutescens, are the highly saturated magenta wildflowers. Primrose are perennials found along the crest of the Sierra at high areas. They tend to colonize locations in front of large rocks making for an ideal element of rock gardens. The spatula shaped fringed leaves rise above roots thrust up through thick layers of old dried leaves from previous seasons. The deep saturation of opened flower buds is quickly bleached by the sun in just a few day. Thus it was another fortunate coincidence I visited this spot when all in this scene were so. The yellow flowers in the image are alpine buckwheat, erigonum ovilofolium with silvery gray wooly basal leaves. Later in the summer its umbrella like flowers change hue to burgundy. Just below the base of the hemlock are several patches of lighter magenta red mountain heather, phyllodoce breweri. Both the primrose and heather bloom soon after snows melt. Mountain hemlock, tsuga mertensiana, are the most common conifer in the upper basin of Shadow Creek where the winter snow pack is quite deep. Younger trees as those at left have drooping crowns.