Minaret Creek Cirque Paintbrush Turf
full print size of 27.6x35.6 inches @304.8ppi, above displayed at 1/178
Copyright © David Senesac 2004 view detailed crop
Ansel Adams Wilderness, Inyo National Forest, Madera County
mid morning Thursday August 4, 2004, slide 04-Q-10
Wisner 4x5 Expedition, 90mm Rodenstock, 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 left bottom
Turf in alpine areas is often made of a dense complex matrix of several species of both grasses and other plants. In some High Sierra areas short paintbrush wildflowers grow densely within that mix providing spectacular foregrounds for scenery. That is especially true at many higher areas in the Ritter Range beside streams and lake shores. Dominating this image is red hued species Peirson's paintbrush, castilleja peirsonii. The other species is magenta hued Lemmon's paintbrush, castilleja lemmonii, with a prominent patch at frame bottom a bit left of center. The colored parts of paintbrush are bracts instead of petals. Bracts on most flowers are short inconspicuous green leaf like structures on flower stalks between stems and flowers. At the right frame corner silhouetted against the darker stream are a couple flower heads of whitish alpine aster, aster alpigenus, which the white has a pale violet hue. The species is found over a broad area of our western mountains. A bit in front of that left flower head is one magenta hued bull elephant's head, pedicularis groenlandica, which have petal structures that with a hand loupe look amazingly like elephant trunks and ears.
Just above the lower left frame corner in front of the mass of red paintbrush are a number of inconspicuous green upright flower spikes termed catkins of dwarf bilberry, vaccinium caespitosum. Dwarf bilberry is a common alpine component of North American turfy areas including here in the Sierra above 9000 feet. The bilberry, avoiding the harsh above ground winter climate, grows horizontally within the turf instead of upward. In early September they go through a fall color change like many of their bushy huckleberry relatives. Backlit against the sun masses of red leaves can appear on fire. At frame center is a mass of grayish green water loving willow bushes. Along that same stream area are some yellow patches of alpine goldenrod, salidago multiradiata. Another prominent patch is across the creek on the right front side of a large turf embeded boulder. On the skyline mid left is a large rock tower. Below the tower and lower monolithic rock is a slope of smaller gray gravels with barely visible magenta spots.
The magenta spots are dense patches of one of the High Sierra's most beautiful flowers, Sierra primrose, primula suffretescens. Most trees in the scene are mountain hemlock, tsuga mertensiana, which is a prominent Sierra conifer where heavy snows exist. Snowfall across the Ritter Range is particularly high thus hemlock dominate its upper forests. Likely some stunted trees on ledges of the headwall are whitebark pine, pinus albicaulis.
Like most of the Ritter Range, geology here consists of dark metamorphosized Triassic-Jurassic Period volcanic rock about 200 million years old. Snow avalanches and frost wedging have quarried many rocks out of the steep headwall of this cirque however the main forces shaping this area have been glacial. During the last million years, there have been many glacial periods some of which created vast ice caps over the crest of the Sierra. The crushing weight of towering depths of moving ice entraining considerable grinding rock smoothed out bedrock features over much of the Ritter Range landscape. Here a combination of these forces has created a fine circle of craggy towers magnificent under deep blue skies. Shadowed north facing recesses between the towers hold several permanent snowfields providing nice all year flows in this small branch of Minaret Creek.
I was on the third day of a 4 day backpack up Minaret Creek, a backcountry area I have visited several times in the past and know well. Thus in frosty morning air, I waited about an hour here till most shadows at left had moved back out of the frame. Waiting any longer and the sun would start to be too harsh with the scene saturation muted. The three prominent shadows remaining actually compliment the frame geometry pointing towards cirque center. The side lighting of sunlight illuminates the translucent flowers much better than on axis front lighting would, thus providing a nice glow while maintaining decent illumination across the rest of the scene.