Roughly four years ago, I saw an image by a photographer I know named Marc Adamus that was of a landscape that seemed to be right out of the pages of Tolkein. Marc travels the world, so I was uncertain of where exactly this image of his was taken.
A short while later, I saw the image again, but in a context that let me know that the location was somewhere in the Eastern Sierra Mountains in California. And thus began my search for exactly where that location must be.
As you may imagine, there are many, many rivers and streams in the Eastern Sierras and all of them take meandering courses as they carry snow melt away from the mountains. I studied Google Maps and Google Earth, looking for the right sort of curves in a stream or a river that happened to line up with an enormous mountain in the near distance, but could never quite find what looked to be the right spot.
Why didn’t I just ask Marc if I knew him, you’re probably asking yourself. Well, I know him well enough to know that he’s protective about his favorite locations and I didn’t want to be “that guy.”
But then, about two years after first seeing Marc’s image, I saw another image of the same location posted to a Facebook page dedicated to fans of the Eastern Sierra. The person who posted gave the location a name which gave me enough information to finally pinpoint the location! It was at this point that I began planning a trip out west to finally see this place for myself and capture my own image.
That was last-year’s trip where I visited the Eastern Sierra, Death Valley and Sedona in one two-week blitz of landscape photography. Unfortunately, the Eastern Sierra had received so much snow that year that I could not reach the magical location without hiking 3 miles round-trip in deep snow and I was just unequipped to attempt that.
So this year, I kept an eye on how much snow was falling in California and to sum up in two words, it was “not much.” This bodes ill for California this summer when I’m certain there are going to be many fires, but it meant a good chance for me to finally check this image off my bucket list.
I’m going to continue the tradition of being secretive with this location as it obviously hasn’t been “discovered” yet. I was there several times during my trip this month and each time there was, at best, one or two other photographers there other than me and the friend I traveled out with. On the evening I shot the image above, we were the only photographers present.
The mist in the image is actually steam. This location has two hot springs heated by the same magma that causes the geysers in Yosemite, which is just over those mountains. You can hear the boiling water as it sprays up through the cracks in the valley.
If you follow me on social media, you may have seen me post an image of this location taken at sunrise. The image above was taken at sunset the night before, which was my first visit and when I was able to check that item on my bucket list. I’m sharing this image through my newsletter to allow you all to see it first.
Here’s a picture of me at the magic location the next morning to prove it’s really real. My friend Trey Amick, who accompanied me on this trip, took the picture. This was on our sunrise visit to the location when it was 14 degrees. So worth it.