July Wildflowers, Horsetail Falls, Mount Baldwin Cirque
full print size of 28.6x37.6 inches @304.8ppi, above displayed at 1/178
Copyright © David Senesac 2004 view detailed crop
John Muir Wilderness, Inyo National Forest, Inyo County
mid morning Tuesday June 29, 2004, slide 04-O-3
Wisner 4x5 Expedition, 90mm Rodenstock, Gitzo G1325 Mk2
Tango Drum scanned Fuji Provia 100F 220 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
In the eastern Sierra lower McGee Creek is a well known easy to hike to location for wildflowers. Some inexpensive postcards and posters of this scene have been available to tourist for a few years. This area has generally two main phases of wildflower displays, first a massive yellow display of mule ears plus arrowleaf balsamwood, and then two or three weeks later considerable displays with pinkish red Indian paintbrush plus yellow sulphur flower. The problem is timing a visit when the wildflowers are peaking during a year flowers are plentiful which of course varies considerably from year to year. This year of 2004 had an unusually early warm spring. I hiked up the canyon a few weeks early to see a mediocre display of mule ears. Thus on this later trip I almost did not bother to make the hike as I expected the second phase to also be mediocre. Apparently the sub average rainfall and warm spring were to the liking of paintbrush.
For large format the scene has considerable potential for fine detail. With a view camera one can tilt one's lens to bring both near and far areas of a frame in focus but in doing so areas as the middle of a frame will have less detail. For this image I wanted sharpness across the full frame in order to print huge which requires minimizing tilt so decided to frame nearest foreground wildflowers a bit further back. A photographer can spend quite a bit of time at such a scene moving about trying to size up the best mix of flowers. For this image my big tripod was extended tall in order to be able to view the long plain of plants beyond the immediate slope.
Mount Baldwin at 12,615 feet is the white capped ridge top of brown strata at frame right. The southeast cirque at center is an extension of the peak's east ridgeline. The dark sub-peak at left is 11,289 feet and the white peak 11,899. Note small Horsetail Falls a bit below the snowfields on the white peak. The floor of the canyon here is at 8,430 feet is at a point where the canyon doglegs from east west lower down to north south.
The unique geology is highly metamorphosized Paleozoic Era Ordovician Period marine sediments or 440 to 500 million years old. A time when the western coastline of the much smaller North America continent was still well to the east. Some of the oldest rock in the Sierra Nevada and of considerable interest to geologists. Note how twisted and deformed strata has become from intense pressure and heat at great depths long ago.
At center is a prime patch of mule ears wildflowers, wyethia mollis, with its very large leaves and yellow flowers. Many already bloomed mule ears plants can be seen beyond. Closer yellow wildflowers are sulphur flower, eriogonum umbellatum, a quite common flower at many elevations. Pinkish red flowers are one of several paintbrush species in the Sierra, castilleja linarifolia. Note colored parts of paintbrushes species commonly referred to as "Indian paintbrush" are bracts and not petals. To left in front of the center group of mule ears are some blue flowers of silver lupine, lupinus argenteus. The most dominant plant on these well drained talus fans are the silver gray leaves of big sagebrush, artemisia tridentata. In the middle ground is a large grove of stunted water loving quaking aspen, populus tremuloides, which turn this scene brilliant yellow in early October. Below the right shoulder of the dark peak at left and the steep slopes at frame right, a few Sierra juniper, juniperus occidentalis, occupy a rocky bench. Up towards the cirque, pine and fir survive the occasional avalanches of this part of the canyon by rooting away from slide paths. While photographing here in 2002 a pack train passed by and spotted a large rattlesnake right along the trail. Of course with such lush plant growth small rodents are quite numerous. And of course a great many ever chirping birds love this part of the canyon.