“Past Peak, Eastern Sierra” by Franka Gabler

For many years, I’ve been drawing my inspiration from subtle, moody, often intimate landscapes. Such compositions allow me to express more of my personal vision. To me, smaller scenes allow me to slow down and notice details.

Every autumn I make several trips to the Eastern Sierra Nevada mountains in California – a couple hours of drive from my home, to photograph the change of seasons. Eastern Sierra is a popular destination for fall color photography in California. Aspen groves are scattered throughout the area, at different elevations. Usually, the trees at higher elevations start to change color earlier, but there are differences between different groves – some turn color earlier than others. Although I often visit the same locations, each year they look a bit different because the weather plays an important role and influences how fall colors develop, so the vegetation looks slightly different every year.

My favorite time to photograph aspen trees in the Eastern Sierra during fall is when their color is past peak and trees have already lost some of their foliage – the trunks and branches of the trees are more visible, providing a nice structure, their fair bark glows, and the surrounding vegetation has a chance to show off its subtle hues.

On this chilly autumn morning, I noticed several smaller trees at the edge of the grove had darker foliage, ranging from maroon to almost black – probably a result of cold injury. To me, they appeared as dark pearls – providing a nice contrast with the pale tree trunks and dormant grasses. There was just a tiny amount of yellow foliage left on a few trees in the background, adding a discrete splash of warm color to an otherwise monochromatic scene. I immediately felt an influx of creativity and inspiration and started to work the scene until my fingers became numb, and I could no longer take the cold.

What do you think are the TWO most impactful features that make your image a good photograph? Don’t be shy!

I think the unusual appearance of aspen leaves made the strongest impact. The dark foliage made for an interesting visual metaphor and added to the story. It’s different than most people expect from fall color photography. In addition, the repetition of aspen trunk groupings provided a nice rhythm to the composition, adding a layer of complexity.

If you could make this photo again, what would be the ONE thing you would like to do better or different?

Photographing this particular aspen grove was very fulfilling. I am quite pleased with the outcome. If I were to photograph this scene again, maybe I’d explore different focal lengths, angles, and perspectives. If I had just had warmer gloves, I’d likely photographed longer.

Franka Gabler shared this photograph in the FRAMES Facebook Group.


Franka Gabler, Coarsegold, California, USA


Equipment and settings

Nikon D850, Nikon 80.0-400.0 mm f/4.5-5.6 lens at 80 mm focal length
F/8, 1/13s, ISO 200

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