Lava Tubes, Waterfalls and One Huge Volcano! Mt. Shasta Photography

Published: September 27th 2007
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Many people believe Mt. Shasta has supernatural powers, from the Native Americans known as the Shasta to the multitude of residents that make their home near the volcano today. Adherents to Hinduism, New Age beliefs and Buddhist monks are drawn to the volcano's serenity and imposing presence. So are outdoor enthusiasts, because at 14,200 feet Shasta is the 2nd largest volcano in the Cascades- so high most of the time is creates its own weather.

The Japanese religion of Shugendo, Lao Tsu and Hinduism all had it right- this mountain, like many other striking skyscrapers of stone, has some sort of spiritual energy that is hard to describe. I find anything on earth described as "Super-Natural" hard to swallow, as the separation between the spiritual and the physical realm is a western concept I have long felt is untrue.

I love the father above,
his name is sky

I love the mother below,
her name is earth

each an equal,
a prequel to a sequel

neither one is good and neither one is equal

Frankly I was quite skeptical about Mt. Shasta being either jaw-dropping or enlightening. I was eager to find out, but first I had to navigate my way through countless kilometers of forest and lava.

First stop? Subway Cave in Lassen National Forest. Formed by subterranean river of lava, the cave's walls were cooler than the lava river- so when the river drained it left a perfect hollow tube. Subsequent collapses of the roof allowed for natural entrances to the tube, and many of these lava tube caves exist across the volcanically shaped western United States.

I brought my tripod, some water and some food. Yes, the self-guiding trail was a scant .5 km long- but I really wanted to spend some quality time underneath the earth. Like all of my experiences inside caves, I lost track of time and found myself sitting down and waiting for the people, voices and lights to pass me by. The darkness and silence of the cave is at once haunting and enchanting! I scouted out several pictures, and spent probably 2 hours inside a cave most people take 20 minutes to stroll through. I loved every minute of it!

Next was a cursory stop at McArthur-Burney Falls State Park. I dried out my tent from the previous days storm at Lassen NP. I went swimming in Lake Britton. I took a few pictures and a few minutes to gaze at the falls. A true miracle of nature, the river that makes up the falls magically appears from the lava beds on the surface of the earth several km's upstream. As the river makes its way downhill, it re-permeates into the lava, finally exiting over thousands of holes in the rock that makes up the cliffs of McArthur-Burney Falls. Some of the holes are small, some are large- and lots of the water pours over the lip of the cliff to a emerald blue pool.

In fact over 380 million liters of pure spring water each day gush from earth to form McArthur-Burney Falls. It's truly a sight that hypnotizes you to stay for much longer than you expected!

On to Shasta. I had reservations for a teepee at Stewart Springs resort. In the Mountains west of Mt. Shasta City, the waters of Stewart Springs are so rich in nutrients the water is almost soapy. The whole hot spring resort is a sacred collection of individuals and structures devoted to purifying the soul and respecting the people who enjoyed the
Subway CaveSubway CaveSubway Cave

Lassen National Forest
spring in the past. I did the cursory dips- 15 minutes in the hot spring bathtub, a dip in the ice cold river and a sitting in the steam room. Repeat 4 times for each of the cardinal directions- and please leave your clothing behind! Freedom rings at Stewart Springs, and the body and mind are refreshed.

As the sun was going down, I felt something was happening I should miss out on. I grabbed my camera and headed for the plains, as Stewart Springs is set in a deep and forested canyon. I was impressed by Mt. Shasta on the drive in, but lots of clouds obscured most of my views.

As I rounded the bend to the fields of grass, the sight I saw was hard to believe- Mt. Shasta in all its glory, bathing in aura of pink clouds set on fire by the setting sun. The dusting of July snow from the previous days storm seemed to be blowing off of the west face of the volcano, creating a white halo. So here I had the object of everyones attention, the sacred Mt. Shasta.

The logical side of me was thinking how novel the whole scene was- yellow fields giving way to green forests. The Forests gave way to the rocky slopes of the 4000 meter behemoth, which gave way to the snows and glaciers of the summit. High winds were blowing the snow into the air, a depression was forming in the bright pink clouds from Shasta creating its own wind patterns, and the colors were all made possible by the splitting of the spectrum of visible light from the sun setting through the atmosphere.

The sentient side of me sensed something else was at work here. Here I sat in front of a ice covered lava god beckoning me to give it my total attention. The facts of physics added up, yet the end result was greater than the sum of its parts. I can't say I was kneeling down and praying or having a religious experience by any stretch of the imagination- but this mountain is absolutely something special!


Stewart Springs:

Additional photos below
Photos: 35, Displayed: 25


Subway Cave mini-volcanosSubway Cave mini-volcanos
Subway Cave mini-volcanos

the two stumps were actually places in the tube that spurted gases and fluids after the cave was formed.
McArthur-Burney Falls, CaliforniaMcArthur-Burney Falls, California
McArthur-Burney Falls, California

ohh how I wish I was able to run down to the base of the falls to show the scale!

27th September 2007

Magic of Shasta
There is definitely an aura to Mt. Shasta and you could not have captured in better with your two sunset exposures. Nice work my friend!
27th September 2007

Nice Pics
Stephen, keep those pics coming. It's the best way for others to see the world and learn how others capture their surroundings.
27th September 2007

Circular Polarizer
I never used to use filters, but a circular polarizer is sometimes essential to landscapes. It removes reflected light- hich takes out he reflections in lakes, rivers and ponds and also deepens the blue of the sky. It also filters out light and a poor quality polarizer makes the image less sharp. I heard a professional photographer say once "why would I cover up my $1000 lens witha $10 filter?" and it makes sense. But for a wide angle and lots-of-sky picture like 'land of the free'? A polarizer made all the difference! I use photoshop, but not heavily. I noticed after I began using the Nikon d80(or any other high quality camera) the colors are more vivid and balanced, thus less need for Photoshop. The other issue of a white-washed sky or a too-dark foreground is the central issue of any good landscape shot. professionals use an ND Gradient Filter- its like a lens of a sunglasses but with a gradual fade. This way you can compose your shot on the foreground, and the ND gradient filters out the overly bright sky to balance the image. All the juicy landscape photographers of the world use ND gradients with incredible success. On travelblog you should check out Cumberland Sausage- many of his incredible sunset shots are not possible without an ND gradient! Try this trick next time when taking pictures- squint your eyes. It takes out the detail, yet will show you if there is too much contrast to capture the scene without an ND gradient. You can also take 2 shots- one metered on the sky and one on the foreground, then merge the 2 in photoshop. Its the poor man's ND gradient!! :)
27th September 2007

Im getting props from travelblog pro's like Cam2Yogi AND the Crazy Canucks?! Its my lucky day!!! Thanks guys!!
28th September 2007

beautiful Photos.
The photos are super
29th September 2007

Here here...
Yes spirituality and mountains, i have long believed in it, well since I met Fuji anyway... now when will you go there and take such beautiful photos of my mountain. PLEASE.
19th October 2007

Let me give you my Boss' phone number so you can convince him to give me 3 weeks off, because Im fresh out of vacation hours!
20th October 2007

One word Stephen..."Stunning!" You have captured some incredible images there of Mount Shasta, you have an uncanny ability to be in the right place at the right time. Well done mate,sterling work!
23rd October 2007

patience is a virtue
Thanks so much!! I guess I have a lot of luck you are right. but Sunset and Sunrise are always prime time photo ops. The rest is taking 4 hours to do what most peopel take 1 hour- that way you see things unfold more slowly!
23rd October 2007

patience is a virtue
Thanks so much!! I guess I have a lot of luck you are right. but Sunset and Sunrise are always prime time photo ops. The rest is taking 4 hours to do what most peopel take 1 hour- that way you see things unfold more slowly!
21st November 2007

Nice pics! I love Volcanos! :)
14th May 2008

thank you
your photos make me fell two ways.... 1 pride for the area that i live and grow up in! 2... motivation; you have captured moments that i don't recall ever witnessing myself.
18th June 2008

Your photos are incredible! Thanks for sharing. We live in Chico and I was wondering if the summer time would be a good time to expore the lava tubes? I'm assuming that the Burney Falls are probably not flowing as well right now... Thanks for your input!
24th October 2008

Inspiring Photos & Blog
These are some of the most beautiful photos I've seen of this area. I'm new to Nor Cal and a few years ago a friend took me to Burney Falls and around the Mt. Shasta are and I was blown away. I'm from the Yosemite area and some of this are is even more spectacular than Yosemite. I've been wanting to go back to the Burney are for quite some time now, and I just sent a link to your blog to a friend in my old Yosemite are and she's all charged up to visit, too.. so thanks for the inspiration, we're planning a trip for April!
26th November 2008

Thank you so much for the kind words. Northern california around Shasta is definitely underrated and extremely beautiful. So much lava and forest and volcanos you would think you are in chile! And no picture does Burney Falls justice. Look forward to seeing your travelblog of the area!
10th February 2009

thanks for the interesting photos you totaly showed me if I was there
14th October 2009

Lava cave E. of Mt. Shasta
Looking for a photo of a lava cave E. of Mt. Shasta. The roof has collapsed, letting in moisture and light. There is a tree growing in the bottom of the cave.
9th January 2010

you didnt give me any info thanks for n othing OMG
20th February 2010

I'm doing a report over Mt Shasta and the pictures are absolutely beautiful. Thanks for the info and pictures of Mt Shasta, they helped!
11th May 2010

haha ur so gay and u dont evan like boys:)haha

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