October 03, 2012

Alabama Hills of the Owens Valley -- part 3 of 10


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photo by Donald Kinney

No, I didn't actually travel to Alabama--these curious boulder strewn hills are located in the shadow of Mount Whitney, in the Owens Vallay of Eastern California. In the 1850's gold prospectors sympathetic to American Civil War Confederates named this area after the CSS Alabama, a Confederate ship.



click photo for full-size image
photo by Donald Kinney

I have to thank my aunt and uncle for taking me here on camping trips as a mere lad. We did some spectacular backpacking in the eastern face of the Sierra range, which thrusts skyward from the otherwise desolate Owens Valley. Earthquakes over eons are responsible for the lifting of the Sierra, and the sinking of the valley.

Ansel Adams photographed these same exact rocks (above) in the 1950's. His image was published in PopularPhotography magazine in the early 1960's to illustrate his article on his now iconic "zone system" of exposure and development for film. Of course, Ansel Adams didn't screw around with his image in Photoshop--I'm guessing he wouldn't particularly care for this.



click photo for full-size image
photo by Donald Kinney

Mount Whitney, at 14,505 feet, is the tallest point in the contiguous United States. Sad to say that I've never made it to the top, although in the early 1960's my aunt and uncle and a cousin my same age certainly gave it a try. We camped at a base-camp about 2000 feet below the peak, planning to make the final slog to the top the next day, but in the middle of the night a horrific storm came in, forcing us scrap our plans and scurry back down the steep mountain to safety.



click photo for full-size image
photo by Donald Kinney

The summit of Mount Whitney towers 10,778 feet above the nearest town of Lone Pine on the high-desert valley floor. A tremendous amount of water drains from the Sierra range, and almost all of it is collected in an aqueduct destined for the thirst of the Los Angeles area about 300 miles to the south.

Before the aqueduct was built in 1905 Owens Valley flourished with agriculture--now it is a desert wasteland. Los Angeles could not have sustained its growth without this water that it continues to steal from Owens Valley. As you can imagine, local farmers were not happy with the aqueduct.



click photo for full-size image
photo by Donald Kinney

The Alabama Hills are a popular filming location for television and movie productions, especially Westerns set in an archetypical "rugged" environment. Since the early 1920s, 150 movies and about a dozen television shows have been filmed here, including Tom Mix films, Hopalong Cassidy films, The Gene Autry Show, and The Lone Ranger. Classics such as Gunga Din, Springfield Rifle, The Violent Men (1955 film), Bad Day at Black Rock (1955), the Budd Boetticher/Randolph Scott "Ranown" westerns, part of How the West Was Won, and Joe Kidd. (source:  Wikipedia)



click photo for full-size image
photo by Donald Kinney

And yes, at any moment I expected the Lone Ranger and Tonto to come riding by. High-ho, Silver!


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2 comments:

Sinbad and I on the Loose said...

That is a wonderful area that I never tire of seeing. I hope you show more.

AphotoAday said...

^^^me too... The Alabama Hills make me feel like a kid again... I'll probably dig up more photos eventually--would be cool to see some of yours.

 
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