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Camping in Alabama Hills (Late Dusk Shot with Sigma 28mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art), UPDATED with Reader Comment

See my Sigma SLR lenses wishlist at B&H Photo.

Having completed the Southern Inyo Double Century on March 2nd, I headed north the next day to shoot the Sigma 28mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art on the Nikon D850 in the Alabama Hills. Shown below is the main camping area, where it is free to camp. The rock formations are pretty awesome—be sure to visit the area sometime if only for the day, but allot time for one hour before sunrise to an hour after—the lighting is great then.

The Sigma 28mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art is producing some very nice results. It has some weaknesses but on the whole is looking really good. Most of what I’m shooting likely won’t appear until next week as I need to prioritize shooting over prep/publish.

There is an unwritten set of rules in areas like this, but some clueless jackasses need written ones, it seems. Most times it is restful in the Alabama Hills, but not this night in spite of having chosen a relatively remote spot: I was awakened at 2:40 AM by a car driving up and then parking 30 feet away. A man and a woman speaking some foreign language (Chinese perhaps) proceeded to slam car doors and talk loudly and continually for half an hour, then start up the car, move it 20 feet, then resume the interminable rambling discussion of no apparent import, then finally drive off at 3:50 AM (leaving some trash as a sort of “bonus” WTF). I finally fell asleep only to wake up at 5:50 AM to shoot. I’m hoping tonight goes better.

Main camping area in Alabama Hills
f1.4 @ 5.0 sec, ISO 64; 2019-03-03 18:21:22
NIKON D850 + Sigma 28mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art
ENV: Alabama Hills, altitude 5100 ft / 1554 m, 45°F / 7°C
RAW: LACA corrected
view to southwest

[low-res image for bot]

Roy P writes:

I’m planning to go to Alabama Hills sometime, probably in late April. The most efficient way to get there seems to be through Bakersfield, but I would expect driving through Lake Tahoe to be more scenic. How do you get there? Is the more circuitous route worth the effort? I was wondering what lenses to bring with me. Seeing that you picked this place to test the Sigma 24mm, I assume 24mm maps well to the landscape here. What other focal lengths are useful to bring along?

DIGLLOYD: Roy is asking about getting there from the San Francisco Bay Area in winter conditions, when the high altitude passes are all closed (November through early May or June, depending), such as Hwy 120 through Yosemite.

It’s not really more scenic through Lake Tahoe, unless you’re taking a detour to actually go around the lake. IMO, the Eastern Sierra range south of Tahoe is far more interesting than the mountains near Tahoe (dreadfully boring). Take Hwy 88 or Hwy 50, then cut down on 395.

For the fastest most efficient trip, take I5 through Bakersfield and then up 395. For a slower cutover across to Hwy 395, take the route through Lake Isabella (due to heavy rainstsorms, the roads may be iffy this year, check local conditions first).

I like both wide and long lenses for Alabama Hills. If the conditions warrant it, a 200mm at Mt Whitney can be very nice, but 180, 135, etc. I’d also take along an 11-24mm or 12-24mm lens, as approaching some formations would mean really tilting the camera up excessively. I’d say that the full range is worthwhile (ultra wides, wides, 35/55/85/100 up to 300mm).

Mt Whitney at sunrise
f8 @ 1/30 sec, ISO 64; 2019-03-04 06:18:25
NIKON D850 + Sigma 70-200mm f/2.8 DG OS HSM Sports @ 200mm
ENV: Alabama Hills, altitude 5100 ft / 1554 m, 45°F / 7°C
Mt Whitney at sunrise

[low-res image for bot]
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