Shasta and Shastina

Shastarama — Photos of California’s Mt Shasta and Black Butte

I first saw Mt Shasta from above, looking down from a British Airways 747 taking me from London to San Francisco in the late 1980's (the LHR / SFO route often goes right over it at altitude). I was a Londoner back then, with almost no knowledge of California beyond Hollywood, smog, redwoods, and (maybe) beaches, and I had absolutely no idea there might be this striking 14,000' high snow-capped dormant volcano standing there on its own in the top end of the state like a Californian Mt Fuji or something.

It was another couple of years before I got to see it from the ground, and it didn't disappoint. By then I was living in California, and over the years I learned about Mt Shasta, Shastina, Black Butte, Castle Crags and Castle Lake, Ramshorn Road, Pluto's Cave, the understated McCloud River falls, the semi-sacred source of the mighty Sacramento River in the City park, Whaleback, and a lot of the various logging roads and back roads around the mountain and across the area. (I also learned that although it's often referred to as "dormant", the USGS actually classifies it as a "very high threat potential" volcano, for those who care about such things). I've been going there fairly regularly ever since, mostly for hiking and cross-country skiing, but also just to relax and see the sights… and to take some photos.

The photos were never the point of any trip north to Shasta, but over the years I've taken a few I quite like, and one or two that other people actually liked as well, and I've gathered some of them into a little gallery here. It's deliberately focused only on Mt Shasta itself and Shasta's little brother, Black Butte (a mountain that in most other circumstances would be the main attraction — I've seriously contemplated doing a trip to the Shasta area and only taking photos of Black Butte as a project). I also have things to say photographically about the other bits of the broader region (including the Trinities), but that'll have to wait for another time. In many cases the photos are just snapshots, taken with anything to hand (an iPhone or a point-and-shooter or a DSLR, or, in the 1990's, a medium format film camera), so the quality is a little variable. There are some obvious themes and motifs in there as well, and a whole bunch of the photos are obviously taken from exactly the same place over the years: a bend in Slough Road, north of Weed. I found this place in the early 1990's just by driving slowly around the area thinking about the light and the relative relationship between Shasta and Shastina I wanted in the photo, and — bingo! — there was Slough Road, hiding behind a couple of hills in exactly the right place, and providing a visual lead-in in the foreground. I've been using it ever since… as, I'm sure, have lots of other photographers. Some people are going to complain that there's no photos here of the eastern side of the mountain; frankly, that's because it's not as striking from the east, and it's generally harder to see through the forests from that side (excuses, excuses). I do have some photos of the east face, but they're not really worth putting up here. I'm working on it…

One of the things that both surprises and amuses me is that you can show the above photo of Shasta to a lot of Californians… and many of them (most of them, in my experience) will not recognize it as being in California, let alone as being of Mt Shasta. This is maybe less so nowadays in the age of Instagram and Facebook, but for a couple of decades I'd get even native-born Californians asking me if the photo was of Mt Ararat (quite a popular choice) or Mt Hood or Mt Rainier (two also-popular choices). Not even close

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