After the stories we’ve been told and everything we read in our research about Trona Pinnacles, we were prepared for a bone rattling drive out to one of the most unique locations in California.
But to our surprise, there was no teeth chattering, bone rattling, cupboards falling off, or broken furniture like some other places we’ve been to. Five miles of minor washboard was all we had to endure to get to a sight like no other. We took it slow and made it unharmed.
Our last boondocking spot of the season, we were looking forward to some peaceful times with nature in a secluded location. On our first evening, we were treated to the day’s last ray’s lighting up the tufas in the distance while the colours of the Slate Range on the eastern side of the valley deepened to a dark purple.
The next day I picked up my walking stick and did a hike around the nearest group of tufas to scout out my location for sunset. I wasn’t planning on going too far, so it was just me, my water bottle and my walking stick. Unlike most photographers, I don’t take my camera with me everywhere I go. I like to have some time to experience a place before I start photographing and a hike to scout out locations is the perfect way to do that. I just look and listen and feel.
As I walked and the sun got higher I started thinking about how tens of thousands of years ago this used to be a lake and all these spires were underwater. Hard to believe as I took another sip from my water bottle and looked at my snake dry skin. Later in the day it soared to over 90 degrees, which probably seems nippy to the locals but was plenty hot for me.
People always say that photographers don’t make photos in the middle of the afternoon. I guess I’m not a regular photographer then, because I do it all the time! I like how the sidelight emphasizes the shapes of things, especially when you have subjects with strong shapes like the tufas. When the light is bright, it can create the perfect scenario for making black and white images.
In the late afternoon I made my way to some neighbouring tufas for a different perspective where I had some elevation and rocks to put in the foreground. I think the tufas look just as impressive from far away as they do up close.
Finally as it got close to sunset, I made my way to the spot I scouted out and chose earlier in the day. The sky wasn’t quite as dramatic as what I hoped for, but there was still lots of colour and I love the perspective with the tall spires, the road leading in from the corner, and the pretty yellow grasses in the foreground.
I could have spent weeks here, but alas our days were literally numbered and we had to start making our way back to the coast and back to Canada before we hit the magic number of 183. But I’m looking forward to visiting Trona Pinnacles again and I’ll have my fingers crossed for one of those amazing desert sunsets we were treated to so many times over the winter.
Jackson Frishman says
Very nice, Anne! I still haven’t made it down there, even though I’m living in the same county – it’s a big county, I guess. My favorite of these is actually your far away shot – the sense of scale makes the pinnacles look bigger in that one than in any other.
gary warnimont says
I very much you idea about scouting a location without carrying a camera.
My Native American friends also tell me to ask permission from mother earth and spirits to make a photograph first
Mark H. says
Very cool……no idea where that is in Cali, but I managed to get some shots in the Rainbow Basin area near Barstow last week….anyway….if I ever manage to get back out there, I’ll have to make a trip to that spot.
Harvey Abernathey says
It is a great place to shoot the Milky Way, as it is fairly dark around there at night! You really captured the essense of this old lake!
Lucile Kesterson says
I love looking at your pictures, they’re so beautiful.
Annette Johnson says
WOW what great images of an amazing bit of our planet Earth, they made me go and look up exactly where they are so I can see if I could try and get to them on my possible visit to the USA in 2016 after six mths in India and Sri Lanka.
Your images are very inspirational and make viewers want to visit these beautiful places. You remind me of a fellow American Photographer called Philip Steel, he traveled his amazing Natural Beauty of the USA and I remember how that had inspried me to visit the Natural parts of the USA too.
I really do like the way you show us what you were thinking and how you got your pictures , very insightful that makes it all the more interesting.
I am following!
David Ewers says
great photos, can you tell me what time of the year you visited this area?
Anne McKinnell says
Thanks David. It was in April.
Ken Smith says
Hi Anne, I stumbled onto your weblink via Tronna Pinnacles search. I’m going there in March and looking forward to it. I remember you on BP…those were some fun times back in the ole BP days. Take care.
Anne McKinnell says
Hi Ken, great to see you here! Yes, I remember the old BP days, those were fun. I recognize your name and I went and had a look at your SmugMug site. It’s gorgeous! I’m glad to see you are still photographing and I hope you enjoy Trona. It’s a really special spot. Keep in touch. I’d love to see your photos from Trona after your trip.
Ken Smith says
Thanks, Anne. Right now my plan is fly into Vegas, then down to Joshua Tree National Park, then up to Trona, then to Alabama Hills. And yes, I’ll keep in touch.
Anne McKinnell says
Those are all some of my favourite places that we often visit every winter in the southwest. Not this year though! I hope you have a fantastic trip.