Photography in the Field: Giant Boulders and Mountains of Alabama Hills, California

Photography in the Field: Giant Boulders and Mountains of Alabama Hills, California

Photographing the fantastic Alabama Hills in eastern California, historically used as a backdrop for many television shows and movies

Recently I traveled to eastern California (just ahead of the torrential storms and flooding that hit Los Angeles) to photograph Alabama Hills, Death Valley and the general surrounding area.

Alabama Hills is an interesting landscape, for over the past century it has been used as a backdrop for countless television shows and movies, including classics like The Lone Ranger, Tremors (and underrated classic, IMO) and the first Iron Man movie. It is still actively used today, for when I was there, a production crew was filming commercial drone footage of a new Tesla Cybertruck (which looked far less exotic in person, to my eyes).

My interest in Alabama Hills however is the landscape itself, for it features extraordinary rock formations set against the stunning backdrop of the Eastern Sierra mountains. Capturing sunset or sunrise at Alabama Hills can be challenging, as the hills are situated in a valley that doesn't get direct sunlight during golden hour. However, with some exploration and luck, it is entirely possible to capture unique and beautiful photos that go beyond the typical arches often photographed by visitors.

Case in point, one afternoon I hiked into an unfamiliar area and came across a deep canyon. The sun was setting in the west just over Mt. Whitney, and the warm, late-afternoon light was streaming through the side. I hiked down into the canyon and captured this:

Canyon in Alabama Hills, California - Fuji GFX 100S

I knew when I pressed the shutter the image would be one of my favorites, for it is not the typical Alabama Hills shot. No Sierra mountains or stacks of boulders, rather, an out of the way canyon that could be anywhere in the world filled with warm, golden light and fantastic rocks that flow like a river towards the viewer. To me it feels like a cathedral.

This canyon also contained other surprises, namely leftovers from Hollywood's past, as you'll see in my new video:

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