Fall Colors Loop

I don’t know if all photographers feel this way but I thoroughly like to go on photography trips/hikes with other photographers. We walk at the same pace, we stop for the same reasons and we can talk gear, settings, and perspectives, amongst other things.

There are certain places to go at certain times of year. If you want to see Fall colors in Northern California there’s really only one place to go, Hope Valley, Ca.

I have a loop I use when I go to Hope Valley because it takes in many things. I asked Mr Bill Wages,  “Would you like to go along?”, and he said, “Sure”.

Bill and I have gone on a number of local photo trips. We’re both from the Bay Area and we both took up photography around the same time. Bill has become a much better photographer than I.

Art Works Gallery Co-op

Bill is so good that he has become the newest member of the Art Works Gallery Co-op in downtown Grass Valley!

Because Bill was coming along, I changed the plan a little to maximize our landscape photograph potential, and decided to leave at 5 a.m.

The plan was to leave Grass Valley and head South on highway 49, stopping in Auburn to try and catch the sunrise at either No Hands Bridge or Foresthill Bridge then head further South to Sutter Creek where we could get some gold rush town shots, then take highway 88 East over the Carson Pass. 

Highway 88 has several places to stop. We stopped at Silver Lake, Caples Lake, Hope Valley and, a secret spot just passed highway 89.

From highway 88 we would take highway 89 into Lake Tahoe hoping to score a sunset shot at Emerald Bay, then we would continue onto Tahoe City, Truckee, and finally head back home on Interstate 80.

Our first stop in Auburn, Ca.. We didn’t know what to expect but we were hoping to catch either the No Hands Bridge or Foresthill Bridge with the sunrise. We drove to both bridges with plenty of time before sunrise. Using smartphone apps, we were trying to figure out where the sun would rise and what it would eluminate.  We settled on setting up on the West side of No Hands Bridge.

As it turned out it was nothing spectacular but we were glad we tried it. Next stop would be Sutter Creek about a two hour drive South on windy highway 49. 

We decided to pull over at Amador City another gold rush town and it was a good thing we did as Sutter Creek turned out to be quite busy.

Amador City had not woken up yet and we had full run of the town. We walked down both sides of the road like two gun slingers with our cameras a blazing.

Amador city looked like a nice little community but we both wondered how busy it got with tourism. We drove through Sutter Creek but really could not find a place to park. That was okay with both of us as we were both thinking of Hope Valley.

The thing about trying to capture Fall colors is going there at the right time. Driving 5 hours and missing it would be, well, disappointing. Our next stop however would be Silver Lake.

The best shots came from a turn-out on the highway. We drove further into the lake by a closed  lodge and camp area (Closed for covid, it was funny but we both thought there was an unusual amount of traffic for a Thursday, were they all off of work because of covid?)

Driving East we get to Carson Pass and Caples Lake, the beginning of Fall colors. We entered the boat launch area at Caples Lake, and were immediately disappointed. It looked like Fall had come and gone. We didn’t even stop.

We were looking to stop for lunch but Bill thought there would be a better place, and boy was he right. Further East on highway 88, just a mile or two, was another lake entrance which was  just for day use I guess. I didn’t see any camping, and we were a 15 minute hike from the water, (As told by a fellow hiker). 

Also along this trail, we were told, was a hidden grove of Aspens in full color, so we packed up our cameras, and grabbed our lunch pails and headed off.

This little grove was about halfway to the lake, and it was absolutely spellbinding. We just stood there looking up and around at all of the color, finally taking pictures, (These photos just do not capture the feeling we had standing in the middle of this beautiful grove !).

We took photo after photo after photo and finally made ourselves continue on to the lake.

This hidden Aspen grove made the trip a success no matter what else happened, (That took a little bit of photographer tension off, now we can just enjoy any icings on top).

We said, “goodbye”, to our new find, and headed into Hope Valley, wondering how many people would already be there. It’s always a popular place but there just seemed to be an awful lot of people on the road this day. To no surprise, the side of the highway was full of cars, but we didn’t hesitate, we grabbed our cameras and joined in.

Hope Valley was everything you could hope for, (Pun intended). The colors were beautiful and the lighting was perfect.

We walked along taking photo after photo not even noticing the throng of people doing the same thing.

We watched one gentleman climb through the barbed wire fence even with NO Trespassing signs everywhere, and his daughters yelling for him to stop.

I don’t know, getting the shot is one thing but respecting one’s right to privacy is another. “Get what you can”, is what we go by.

I think by this time both Bill’s and my batteries were dying but not to worry, that’s the first thing you do as a digital photographer, bring more batteries.

Now both Bill and I had permanent smiles on our faces. It was almost like having too much thrown at us, too much color, and too much beauty. Could there be such a thing?

Bill says, “Wait till you see this next spot”. 

We were looking to stop at a place called Sorensens, which I had never been to before, but there was no where to park so we continued East on highway 88 to a little spot Bill knew about.

I’m not going to give this location away, a photographer has to have some secrets, but it was spectacular.

We brought our tripods and  climbed out on the rocks, we set up for long exposures to get a ghosting effect. Immersed in all this color, it was Heaven on earth!

It wasn’t Bill who pooped out at Lake Tahoe, it was me. We tried carrying our backpacks down a trail but the trail led us in the wrong direction, and after climbing back up we both decided we captured enough.

It was now around 5pm, 12 hours since we started our trip. My legs were done, but I was still reeling from what we had experienced. It was a good day, a successful day and you can’t beat that!

Bill Wages Photography
Art Works Gallery Co-op

Photos property of John Boyle – Lazy Fox Photography

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