Finding October, Part One

“The mountains are calling, and I must go.”

John Muir, September 1873

October is my favorite month; Autumn is my favorite season. Here in Southern California, the trees do their own thing, dropping leaves anywhere between August and January. The weather can be scorchingly hot and fire season starts (actually, September is our hottest month but still, it spills over into early October).  The days can be pleasant and the nights chilly…or not. But we all breathe a sigh of relief because we know summer is over, done with, gone for six months. (Oh, wait. I forgot about those who love and adore Summer, and mourn its passing. My condolences. It’s our turn now!)

Back in May, I signed up for a photography workshop in the Mono Lake area from October 5 to October 7.  I wanted to see the autumn foliage, of which we get a more muted version down here, in addition to learning photographic techniques. During the journey, I realized that I was searching for October. And I found October in unexpected places.

I’ll spread this journey out over several posts because my search became very tangential and yet all the tangents come together at the end in the form and shape of October.  Today’s tangent centers on “The Range of Light,” a phrase coined by John Muir in describing the Sierras:  “After ten years spent in the heart of it … it still seems to me above all others the Range of Light.” I had heard that phrase many a time but didn’t comprehend it until I came to a rest stop just north of Independence, on Highway 395.  It was late afternoon and there was something about the light streaming over the mountains that made me stop and take pictures.

I’m looking southwest, across the highway here. Look, just look at the rays of light here – illuminating and softening the very air!

 Turning around and looking northwest – oh, the rays of light…I finally start to understand what John Muir is describing.

When the sun sets, the light diffuses and glows – this is just north of Bishop.

The blue in the middle? The shadow cast by the Sierras.

The workshop began the next afternoon - the town of Lee Vining, by Mono Lake, is 6700 feet high. The location of the workshop, Burger’s Retreat, is up Highway 120 (the gateway to Yosemite), at an altitude of some 8000 feet. After orientation, we settled in and headed out to an overlook point – to the east, you could see a portion of the lake and we were capturing some of the alpenglow in that direction:

You can see the very tip of the south end of Mono Lake here. (By the way, that’s pronounced mo-no, not maw-no.)


And moving the camera to the right a bit, more of the alpenglow…

The sunset was spectacular. I had a hard time selecting only three pictures of it…

Pink and purple…

And the hillside looked all lit up from within.

Part Two will show more of the light – dawn from the same location – tomorrow. Stay tuned!


  1. Oh yay… beautiful pics… and I was so calling it Maw-no before you corrected me…teehee

    • Meg, I’d called it Maw-no forever and a lot of people down here pronounce it that way also. The locals say “Maw-no, the disease and Mo-no, the lake.” Oookay. I stand corrected. More pics to come and thanks!

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