I’ve just started going through my images from my trip west to Death Valley, the Eastern Sierras, and Yosemite. So I’ll have lots of images to share in the coming weeks and on my website which I plan to update by the end of the year. But out of the many amazing experiences I had during this photographic journey, one of the highlights for me was visiting the ancient Great Basin Bristlecone Pines (Pinus longaeva) protected in the Inyo National Forest growing on dolomitic soils in the White Mountains of California.
In 1957, Dr. Edmund P. Schulman dated the oldest tree in the grove to be 4,723 years old; “Methuselah” remains today the world’s oldest known living tree. It was discovered later that another tree had reached 4,950 years; but unfortunately, its age was discovered only after it was cut by a student as a research object. Today all the trees in the two groves are protected and the identity of the oldest tree is kept a secret.
Our GPS located us at 10,500ft when we stopped at the side of the road between the Schulman and Patriarch Groves; the altitude was giving me a massive headache and our small group of photographers decided not to push ourselves to the 11,500+ elevation since we started the morning at only 4,000ft. So we lugged our gear and our oxygen deprived bodies up a 45 degree slope to a small group of ancient bristlecones where we spent the remaining 2.5+ hours photographing well into the twilight hours.
The light at that altitude is something to experience. For this image I used some newly acquired skills that I learned from Jack Dykinga at the Barnbaum, Dusard, Dykinga Death Valley Photographic Workshop. I used my Nikon 24mm f/3.5 PC-E lens to capture 5 vertical images that I later stitched together in Photoshop CS5. This technique allowed me to get below this twisted giant and share what I saw from a different perspective.
I’ve always admired trees… just the nature of being in one place their whole life, exposed to whatever nature throws at them. And these ancient trees have certainly aged gracefully.