In early May 2015, I spent several days photographing at Lassen Volcanic National Park in northern California. Although the area received a fraction of the typical snowfall this year, my visit was a bit too early. Many of lakes and ponds were still frozen, the terrain had an unsightly patchy mix of open ground and dirty late spring snow, and the clouds never really cleared over the mountains. I don’t believe I saw the top of Mt Lassen at any point during the visit. What this means – a challenging opportunity to push the limits of photographic creativity – a challenging opportunity to view the landscape differently. As a landscape photographer, you adapt to the conditions nature provides. These conditions forced me to think small, isolating parts of the landscape instead of focusing on the grand scale, and using cloudy conditions to my advantage.
The first image captured sunset clouds blowing over Brokeoff Mountain – the second highest peak in Lassen and the remains of Mt Tehama, an 11,000’ volcano that dominated the landscape 300,000 years ago. My initial focus was on Mt Lassen, but cloud cover and weak light shifted my interest to Brokeoff Mountain. I can’t guess the speed, but the winds were obviously blowing hard over the top of the mountain. With the sunset color and the location, you can almost imagine a volcanic eruption.
The second image was captured late morning in the Butte Lake area at the northeast side of the park – taken from west of the Cinder Cone. This is the best view I had of Mt Lassen – made more interesting by the stormy day and view from the Painted Dunes.
Neither Manzanita nor Reflection Lakes had ice, so I hoped for a decent sunrise on the last morning of my visit. The sunrise light was weak and from a poor angle for a good reflection of Mt Lassen in one of the lakes. I found, instead, the final image from Manzanita Lake. The water was calm enough for a good reflection of the puffy clouds. The log anchors the foreground and provides a leading line to the mid-ground mists and flock of ducks. Not exactly the Mt Lassen reflection I envisioned, but one I’m happy with nonetheless.