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Eastern Sierra Air Quality September 28/29/30: Stunningly Clear, but Oct 1 brings the Nasty Stuff

After enduring nearly a week in the western Nevada desert waiting-out the unhealthy thick smoky haze in the Eastern Sierra, a cold front blew it all away for other states to inhale, setting the stage for three days of stunningly clear air and perfect hiking temperatures. And I had both Tenaya Canyon and Glacier Canyon entirely to myself too, just the way I like it. Worth the wait!

But on Oct 1, a miles-high white pall loomed from the south by 11 AM, resulting in smoke so thick in Tuolumne Meadows that smoke was visible only 50 ft away—hazardously bad*, probably AQI 300 or so for 10 miles or so. I donned a P100 particulate respirator, closed my windows, put the A/C on recirculate and drove out of Yosemite into crummy but far better air, all the way home.

Below, I would have liked to have compared a good sample of the Leica 50mm f/2 APO-Summicron-SL on the Leica SL2 to the Voigtlander 50mm f/2 APO-Lanthar on the Sony A1. But the brand-new 50/2 APO-SL is/was badly swung, and it was out of the question (weight) to carry two systems. I opted for prudence and carried the lighter and more compact Sony A1, which also offers a far more enjoyable shooting experience, IMO.

As a huge bonus, I had regained enough strength for such hikes every other day (I sensed a change starting early September). Though carrying an extra 25 pounds of body fat plus camera gear is little different than a full backpacking load by comparison to my 2019 condition. But I am thrilled that after 18 months of major impairment, I seem to be on track to working myself back to full health and fitness, albeit with still high sleep demands some days (10+ hours). Paying close attention to avoid a recovery/relapse cycle this time, so I expect it will take another year to get back to 2019 condition, as I fear to try too much too soon.

* Sad to see the highway repair crew completely lacking in lung-protective gear. It should be an OSHA violation to subject workers to such unhealthy air conditions.

Glacier Canyon, abutting Mt Dana
Mt Conness is seen near top right
f4.5 @ 1/250 sec electronic shutter, ISO 100; 2021-09-30 14:13:36
Sony A1 + Voigtlander FE APO-Lanthar 50mm f/2 Aspherical + polarizer Breakthrough Photography X4
ENV: Glacier Canyon, Mt Dana, altitude 11600 ft / 3536 m, 52°F / 11°C
RAW: LACA corrected

[low-res image for bot]

Bellow, Dana Glacier (really just an ice field now). The very large gray moraine is seen below it, parted in the middle by some remaining bedrock; a human figure on it would just barely be visible. The picture was taken standing on a smaller but still quite large moraine that creates this large upper lake. Great ice skating for a few weeks in November if the snows do not cover it. The summit of Mt Dana is up and to the right, clipped off.

Dana Lake #1, Dana Glacier and its first moraine
Mt Conness is seen near top right
f5.6 @ 1/100 sec electronic shutter, ISO 100; 2021-09-30 13:56:55
Sony A1 + Voigtlander FE APO-Lanthar 35mm f/2 Aspherical
ENV: Glacier Canyon, Mt Dana, altitude 11600 ft / 3536 m, 52°F / 11°C
RAW: vignetting corrected

[low-res image for bot]

Time to leave.

Tioga Pass entrance station with approaching heavy smoke, only a few miles from the images above
f2.8 @ 1/1500 sec, ISO 20; 2021-10-01 14:05:37
iPhone 7 Plus + iPhone 7 Plus 6.6 mm f/2.8 @ 57mm equiv (6.6mm)
ENV: Tioga Pass, altitude 9945 ft / 3031 m, 60°F / 15°C

[low-res image for bot]
Road construction in Tuolumne Meadows, heavy smoke
f2.8 @ 1/500 sec, ISO 20; 2021-10-01 14:19:28
iPhone 7 Plus + iPhone 7 Plus 6.6 mm f/2.8 @ 57mm equiv (6.6mm)
ENV: Tuolumne Meadows, altitude 8584 ft / 2616 m, 65°F / 18°C

[low-res image for bot]

 


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