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Travel Advisory: Smoke from Sonoma Fire in Yosemite, Eastern Sierra, Owens Valley, Mono Lake Areas

I reported a few days ago on smoke in the Eastern Sierra Nevada region, which is coming from the terrifying Sonoma fires.

The situation 250 miles away in the Eastern Sierra is very fluid, changing each day; wind patterns are pushing smoke around and an area smoky one day might be clear the next.

Yesterday, I enjoyed a classic warm and crystal clear beautiful day in the Saddlebag Lake / Conness / Hoover Wilderness area—it doesn’t get any nicer than that—it was idyllic.

Sleeping bags like the Western Mountaineering Cypress GWS 850+ fill power down sleeping bag uses a highly water resistant fabric—this bag spent 30 minutes floating in the water (tethered so I would not lose it), and hardly absorbed anything—pretty amazing. This was not an overnight, but a shoot for a project with Western Mountaineering.

Idyllic mid-October day in Hoover Wilderness area
f1.8 @ 1/2500 sec, ISO 20; 2017-10-14 16:16:52
iPhone 7 Plus + iPhone 7 Plus back camera 3.99mm f/1.8 @ 28mm equiv (4mm)

[low-res image for bot]
Western Mountaineering Cypress GWS down sleeping bag floating on Greenstone Lake
f14 @ 1/400 sec, ISO 200; 2017-10-14 15:18:07
NIKON D850 + Zeiss Milvus 18mm f/2.8

[low-res image for bot]
Western Mountaineering Cypress GWS down sleeping bag floating on Greenstone Lake

October 15 smoke conditions

Just before sunrise, I awoke to a strong smoke smell and found that my anticipated shoot that day looked to be dead in the water. First of all the smoke, extensive jet contrails all over the sky by mid-morning (yesterday’s conditions left no contrails). Maybe later today conditions will change, but today will be different I think, since the contrails are horizon to horizon and that means a weather change.

Conditions as of 9:40AM:

Smoke basically everywhere:

  • Saddlebag Lake, eastern entrance to Yosemite, eastern Yosemite, Lee Vining canyon, Mono Lake all are smoky.
  • I see smoke towards Mammoth Lakes also.
  • A friend reports smoke in the Pine Creek, Mt Tom and Bishop area.

Pretty much the whole Eastern Sierra area is a mess right now. Maybe wind will help later today.

Some areas are relatively clear, as here with Lee Vining Canyon waterfall. Ellery lake is completely drained; if left that way it will be one block of solid ice and kill every remaining fish in it.

But smoke is not my main concern right now; I have a pack rat problem. I can’t go on a hike or anything until I am sure that critter is out, otherwise it could do real damage.

Lee Vining Canyon waterfall, down-canyon of Yosemite
f1.8 @ 1/1150 sec, ISO 20; 2017-10-15 08:08:15
iPhone 7 Plus + iPhone 7 Plus back camera 3.99mm f/1.8 @ 28mm equiv (4mm)

[low-res image for bot]
Mercedes Sprinter photography adventure van, Lee Vining Canyon, Hwy 120
f1.8 @ 1/6000 sec, ISO 20; 2017-10-15 08:24:30
iPhone 7 Plus + iPhone 7 Plus back camera 3.99mm f/1.8 @ 28mm equiv (4mm)

[low-res image for bot]

The problem with smoke (aside from the odor), is that any kind of backlighting shot goes extremely hazy.

Smoke from Sonoma Fires in Lee Vining Canyon, Hwy 120 east of Yosemite
f1.8 @ 1/1000 sec, ISO 25; 2017-10-15 08:12:46
iPhone 7 Plus + iPhone 7 Plus back camera 3.99mm f/1.8 @ 28mm equiv (4mm)

[low-res image for bot]
Mercedes Sprinter photography adventure van, Lee Vining Canyon, Hwy 120, smoke in Lee Vining Canyon
f1.8 @ 1/3200 sec, ISO 20; 2017-10-15 08:06:40
iPhone 7 Plus + iPhone 7 Plus back camera 3.99mm f/1.8 @ 28mm equiv (4mm)

[low-res image for bot]

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