Photographing Mt Whitney From the Air

Mt Whitney is the highest point in California and the highest point in the lower 48 states. After hiking up the mountain several times, I had the pleasure of planning an aerial photo shoot of the mountain.

The goal of the shoot was to get the façade of the mountain in morning light, with the background still in shadow. I planned this so the mountain summit and ridge line would stand out against the background, rather than blend in with it. Doing this would require getting the airplane higher than the summit of 14,494’ above sea level, and in the correct position at just the right moment. I measured the area to be photographed and came up with the correct position to be in, which I entered in the airplane’s GPS. All we had to do was to be at that correct point in space at the correct time.

We took off from Lone Pine airport, which is just 14 miles from the summit of the mountain. Sunrise that day was at 5:58 am, so we took off around 5:15 am to provide plenty of time to climb to 16,000’ by sunrise.

5:47 AM, only predawn light on the mountain.

5:57 am, the first morning light on the facade of the mountain.

6:07 am, level at 16,000′, we accomplished the goal of the flight.

6:24 am, after just 17 minutes, the color of light changed completely.

I have not done any color or white balance adjustments in the images in this post to show the changes we saw that morning.

My planning of this shoot primarily considered the sun angle on the mountain and the background. The flight turned out to be a fantastic lesson in the color of light as the sun rises. The red morning or “magic hour” light completely disappeared in the 17 minutes between the last two images.

For more information on the color of light in photographs I found some great information on this web site –

We offer these posters for sale from this shoot through the in Lone Pine and in Lone Pine. They can also be ordered through us directly through this link –

Contact Focal Flight today to discuss your aerial imagery needs

Focal Flight, LLC
226 West Ojai Avenue
Suite 101-173
Ojai, CA 93023-2406

(805) 630-0065
(805) 585-3710 Fax

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