Evolution Lake


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This is the trail that leads up to Evolution Lake from McClure Meadow. It's really spectacular country to hike in!


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Right before you get to Evolution Lake, there's a really pretty pond. Since this is late in the season, it's a year-round pond and not just a snowmelt puddle. But it's too shallow for golden trout. I looked hard.


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We hadn't even been to the lake very long before I was off to the outlet with my camera and tripod. It was tough to do, because there were all kinds of rings dimpling the surface of the lake, and I knew the goldens would be easy to catch. But I had been looking forward to standing on the precipice at the outlet of Evolution Lake and watching the water drop off at my feet, hundreds of splish-splashing feet, down into Evolution Valley and towards the setting sun. I stopped real quick and snapped this late afternoon shot from the shoreline trail that takes me to the outlet, which bends off to the right just out of sight in this photo. Our camp was on the penninsula barely in view on the left. Behind that, the lake opens up into another big section. It had been one year since Jim and I last camped on this lake, and it was great to be back. Once again, this place was one of the highlights of our trip. The second photo shows Mt. Mendel Reflections - Looking towards our campsite, evening on Evolution Lake.  The third photos shows Jim finishing filtering Water in the evening.


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This is the top of the cascade that falls down the cliff out of Evolution Lake into the valley. I spent a lot of time here, it's a great place to hang out. It's a tough haul from any direction to get to this spot. I've enjoyed a few sunrises and sunsets from this spot, as well as mornings, afternoons, and evenings. It's one of Jim S.'s favorite spots in the whole wide world of sports fans. Not only is the view looking this way very soothing, but behind you (and all around you out of view from this pic) are huge, towering peaks and high, jagged ridges. There's a certain positive energy at this spot that keeps drawing me there. Take a good look at the first meadow in the foreground of the first photo. The second shot is a zoom up on that puppy. It would be a really cool place to camp, maybe in the fringe line of trees on the edge of the meadow. The view from down there looking back up towards where I'm standing is stunning would be spectacular. The trail doesn't go near this meadow, so it would be a really cool place to stay for a bit. Well, on second thought, you never know who might be up on the cliffs watching you with a zoom lens. The creek is filled with very colorful golden trout. I can't wait until next summer already!


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Here's Dave, who had strolled from our camp to the outlet, wondering how I got to the other side of the creek. I guess it's not so smart crossing a big creek right up from a huge waterfall, but despite Bubba telling me I seem smart, I'm really not. I was taking some goofy self-portrait shots, and turned around and there was Dave, cracking up at me! I hope he didn't see me pee off the cliff. This photo was taken at 17mm to squish down the mountains so they'd fit in the frame, and partly into the morning sun, and hence it has that Velvia "blue" hue to it. Garsh I love the wilderness

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It was the night of August 27th, 2003. Mars was closer to Earth on this night than it ever has since the Big Bang Theory came into existence. I thought to myself, "HeeeEEEEeey, Buck, how 'bout a shot at a Mars trail across they, huh, Huh, HUH?". We were in a beautiful setting in a high lake, unobstructed views of the sky, and it was (for the most part) a cloudless night. We actually planned it this way, wanting to be up high on this night, so we pushed on to Evolution Lake. I love this lake. This was my first real shot at a star trail photo. I waited until late late evening, when almost all was dark, with the distant peaks barely catching light. The first stars had begun peeping. I was really pooped, but I set up my camera and tripod a little ways from camp and opened up the aperature for the night, pointed in the direction of where Mars would rise. The stars that night were glorious. A chorus of coyote howls echoed through the basin. All three of us watched the stars and counted the ones that fell. We also pointed out the many faint satellites that would slowly move through the dark sky. Dave retired to his tent to work on his journal, Jim and I stayed out for hours watching the sky and dozing off under the Milky Way. I woke up frequently and checked out the sky to see where Mars was. At about 4 a.m., in pitch darkness, I got up and closed my shutter. Mars had already made its way across the sky and was reflecting in the glassy waters of Evolution Lake. It was beautiful the way it shone brightly in the dark water. I could also see zillions of other bright stars reflected in the lake. After I shut off the shutter and noticed the battery was completely dead in the freezing night air, I looked at my lens and it was completely fogged over with condensation. SHOOT! I didn't know how long it had been fogged over, or if it ruined the shot, or how it affected the photo. This is the result. It only caught part of the rising planet. But the streak stops abruptly, so I'm not sure if it was the condensation that came into play here, or if the dead battery caused my shutter to close, or what. When I closed the shutter on my cable release, I heard it click, giving me the impression it had been still open. Also, the sky is like DAY time here? It was so dark when I started the star trail that I had to use my headlamp to see my camera, and I couldn't see nothing but darkness out of the viewfinder. Why so light? Also, I used too wide of an angle to capture stars. I can barely see faint star streaks. Next time I'll zoom in closer. I'm still learning, but it's fun to learn!

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Here's why I love Evolution Lake so much. It's deep inside Kings Canyon National Park, many miles from the nearest trailhead. It's in a stunning basin surrounded by massive peaks. It's filled with golden trout. It's perched on a ledge, so there's a big waterfall outlet that drops off the end of the lake which gives commanding views of a beautiful valley below. Looking towards the inlet are huge, pyramid peaks. And looking north, behind the lake, you get this view. You are literally surrounded by amazing scenery in every direction. This lake is so obviously created by God that it defies and mocks the name Evolution Lake. In this photo I am looking across a cove towards our camp, taken with a 17mm ultra-wide-angle lens to fit as much in the shot as I could. That's Jim S.® in the red jacket, and Dave's turqoise colored North Face Tadpole tent in front of Jim's gray Integral Designs tarp, and you can baaaarely see my MSR Heptawing tarp sticking up above the smooth granite just to the left of that little tree (left of the tent). I took this in late evening with a 2 or 3-stop soft GND to hold the alpenglow detail on Mt. Mendel behind us. This was a fantastic evening for us. It was the night of Mars being the closest to us, and coyotes yipped and howled, and the Milky Way was absolutely amazing on that clear, cold night. I'm pretty sure I had Mountain House Beef Stroganoff for dinner. It's always a good night after such a wonderful dinner as Mountain House Beef Stroganoff. Seriously. It's tied for first with their lasanga (the "g" is silent).

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Sunset at Evolution Lake, with Jim and Dave busy doing camp chores while I'm running around with my camera. This was the evening that Jim S. snapped the fising rod in two while hauling in a fiesty 6" golden trout. HA HA! Can that guy finesse a fish, or what? I bet a 9-incher would've pulled him right into the lake!


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I know, this has a lot of red and orange in it, but this is what the Velvia slide looked like, and that's how the sunset was. Dave and Jim were back at camp a couple hundred yards up the lake, and I took my camera down to the outlet of the lake to witness the setting sun over Evolution Valley. The water drops off a steep ledge and cascades many hundreds of feet down to the valley. I used either a 3-stop hard or soft (I can't remember exactly on this photo) to keep the sunlight from blowing everything out. The entire place was flush with glowing orange. I love the way the setting sun paints the landscape just as it's about to disappear over the horizon. You only have a couple minutes of totally magic light before it's gone, so you need to pick your shots quickly. No pizzas were consumed during the making of this photo.


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I did a little zoomy zoomy back out to 17mm. It makes a huge difference. Same time, same place as above. No GND's used, hence silhouetting of the mountains occurred.

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This was the next morning. We woke up that morning with everything soaked from condensation. We would have been drier if it had rained. Before I ate my Quakers Maple Brown Sugar Oatmeal®, I grabbed my tripod and headed for the outlet cove, which was catching some nice colorful reflections from the clouds. I used a 2-stop soft GND on the sky, but it obviously wasn't nearly enough to keep cloud detail. If I had a digital camera and could have instantly reviewed the results, I would have retaken the shot. I wish I could have opened up it up another stop to capture more lake detail (it's pretty darn dark), and used a 3-stop on the clouds. But hey, it was pretty being there and that's what matters most and all this technical photo stuff is boring. I have mixed feelings on my Canon 17-40mm L lens... I get consistently better photos from my Canon 24-80 "non-L" lens, and sometimes I think it's even sharper. I think it's tougher to nail an exposure with the 17mm since there is so much goin' on in the scene light-wise, especially with Velvia. But I think it's just me having to learn more and get more technical and do more manual stuff. The automatic-setting Canon gods seem to work best in mid-focal length ranges.

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Mt. Mendel is really big, over 13,700' high. The alpenglow was beginning, but there were still some misty clouds hovering over the summit. I thought it was a really cool scene, sooooOOOoo, clickity click click click. No, Jim S. is not in this picture, so no need to look.