Two views of a spectacular sunset over the Big Pine Lakes

NEW IMAGE: A massive thunderhead produces a lovely sunset over Fourth Lake in the Big Pine Lakes Basin of the John Muir Wilderness. Please see the Big Pine Lakes gallery. The sun sets over Fourth Lake in the Big Pine Lakes basin of the John Muir Wilderness.

My partner and I backpacked into the Big Pine Lakes earlier this summer. It was the first time I brought my DSLR and there was a good reason: I had just shelled out some serious clams for a Nikon 10-24 wide-angle lens.

On our first night, we decided to camp at a very not-so-great site next to Fourth Lake, figuring we would upgrade the next day. A thunderhead had been building over the Owens Valley all day but it seemed distant.

And then it wasn't. Suddenly the clouds moved up the valley and pushed out over Fourth Lake. We both grabbed our cameras and began shooting away -- the great colors lasted only a few minutes.

Above are my two favorite shots, both taken from the small isthmus on the lake's western shore. On the one hand, I like the big rock in the bottom photo; wide-angle lenses really want you close to something. I gave the photo a somewhat healthy crop to make the rock even more prominent. The crop left a small patch of blue sky in the top right of the photo. Not sure how much I like that -- it seems out of place in the overall composition, although it also shows what the rest of the sky looked like.

On other hand, I really like the shape of the trees in the top photo and I think this one looks a little more natural, although I didn't do much to either photo in Photoshop Elements -- the colors were really this vivid.

Here are some of my other favorite photos. And please feel free to peruse my SmugMug site and spend gobs of your hard-earned money on prints, photo-related gifts and digital licensing.

--S.H.

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