Banner Peak Reflection in Thousand Island Lake

Banner Peak Reflection in Thousand Island Lake

full print size of 29.6x37.6 inches @304.8ppi, above displayed at 1/178
Copyright © David Senesac 2005   view detailed crop

geranium Ansel Adams Wilderness, Madera County
early morning Wednesday August 17, 2005, slide 05-Q-14
Wisner 4x5 Expedition, 150mm Nikkor, Gitzo G1325 Mk2
Tango Drum scanned Fuji Provia 100F 4x5 film to 300mb RGB file
Adobe Photoshop 6.0 processed for accurate image fidelity
Lightjet5000 printed on Fuji Crystal Archive paper
signature above bottom left          

The morning landscapes of Banner Peak and reflection rising out of the waters of Thousand Island Lake are arguably some of the finest in the American West. And of all the fine reflection images I have taken over the years during eight backpacking trips to this lake, this recent image in 2005 with a spectacular compliment of clouds is arguably the best.

It was the morning of the third day of a six-day trip. The previous day I had sat beside the outlet shores only to be frustrated by the constant slight breezes. Producing an excellent quality lake reflection requires good calm on lake waters. During nights, breezes develop that tend to flow down canyon. After the sun comes up, temperatures increase, causing air expansion in lower valleys that tends to cause up canyon breezes that increase during the day. Often there is a brief period during mornings when the two opposing breezes balance during which the wise photographer is waiting for a chance to capture a good reflection. Every lake has its peculiarities of topography that influence the potentials for quiet waters, and every day has its own weather conditions that dominate what will occur.

On this chilly morning, I rose early eager to experience this wonderful place. After packing up my minimalist camp at an obscure spot a quarter mile down river, I hoisted on my backpack and walked up to the lake outlet shores. The slight sumping night breeze was again flowing keeping the lake surface rippling with small waves. More ominous for my photography efforts, a fair amount of scattered clouds were blocking the rising sun in the east. So I set up my view camera at what was my chosen spot taking extra time to adjust a perfect focus across the image plane. Though I had several other images to take on my morning agenda, this was the most important, so I resigned myself to wait it out as long as necessary. As the sun rises higher, chances of poking through bands of scattered clouds increases.

Mid morning a nice area of blue opened up while superb clouds moving eastward over the Ritter Range appeared over the big peaks. At the same time the breezes were finally balancing so I waited a few minutes for the best calm and depressed the shutter.

This is one of the High Sierra's largest alpine lakes. It is at the headwaters of the Middle Fork of the San Joaquin River at 9,832 feet above sea level. Rainbow and eastern brook trout inhabit its cool waters, one fish ring of which can be seen in the main lake mid right. Growing on the glaciated rock are mountain hemlock, tsuga mertensiana, and whitebark pine, pinus albicaulis. A lone light magenta hued alpine aster, aster alpigenus, sticks up at center turf shore. A few small reddish hued Peirson's paintbrush aka Indian paintbrush, castilleja peirsonii, can be seen against a rock at the shore edge mid right. A few yellowish hued monkeyflower, mimulus tilingii, also can be seen at right. Above the green turfy shore 12,936 foot Banner Peak rises with part of 13,143 foot Mount Ritter behind on left complementing symmetry. Many tree covered islands dot its waters though none at this end of the lake. The land jutting out nearby at right is a small peninsula creating calmer waters in this small bay.

Geology of these dark peaks is not the usual Sierra granite but rather ancient Jurassic Period metavolcanic. Immense and deep glaciers during several glacial epochs, with the last ending about 10,000 years ago, ground and scoured the rock into these smooth shapes. Some of the larger snowfields below the peaks are permanent small remnant glaciers from colder periods during the last millennium. Below the snowfields are cascading snowmelt streams amid turf and rock. Just left of Banner is a snowy saddle before a sub-peak at left. In the saddle one can barely make out a tiny red tent.

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   David Senesac

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