Nine Pictures of the Sierras

Andy Romanoff
Stories I've Been Meaning to Tell You
5 min readOct 23, 2023


Virginia Lakes — all photos copyright Andy Romanoff

At 9000 feet the light is fierce. Black is a dark hole you can’t see into, white blazes brighter than the eye can comprehend. This is light that challenges even the best cameras and surprises me all the time.
My body craves continuous small-scale stimulation and in this, I don’t think I’m alone. I am moved by the interplay of light and shade, love the sensation of wind on my face, find pleasure in my body's balance as I move through the landscape. Here, high in the mountains, my senses are alive in the world they were made for.

At home, the lack of these sensations turns me to my screens, a poor imitation of life. Here, something real is changing with every instant. My body feels good even though gasping for breath, and my senses say thank you for this. Feeling this way, pictures come easily. Here are a few made standing near the tops of the mountains.

I love standing in the midst of things that are both close and far away. The eyes respond to these extremes in ways almost impossible to experience in the city. We are made to see these things and seeing them brings me joy.

The night sky is black but also a hundred other shades. The clouds move constantly, making patterns of light that play over our heads. Here in the darkness of the mountains, the beauty of the night is revealed.

Waking, I find an early snow has left us a present. Its soft whiteness is everywhere. In a little while the snow will rise over the roofs of the cabins and people will disappear from the landscape till spring, but not yet this morning.

The new snow reveals the topography of the landscape. It highlights the surfaces and reveals the shapes of things. Under the white, some things are hidden while others stand apart.

Walking up to the lake I find a dead fish lying at the water's edge. It surprises me because there is no sign of struggle or pain, things I often associate with dying. I stand there looking at it for a long while, thinking about the rightness of taking this picture and wondering how this guy came to be here. Then I take the picture and put it here for you to ponder.

D stands gazing at the mountain. It’s a view we both know well but this morning it’s changed and new again. One of the great pleasures of returning to a landscape again and again is the collection of memories you make from it. To be here in spring is not to be here in summer. Seeing the beginnings of the snow tells me there is more here to experience than I knew.

Back in the cabin. It’s our last morning this year. The gas lamp on the left and the electric toothbrushes against the window are telltales. They mark the passage of a hundred years and more. People have been coming and going here for generations, and with any luck, there are generations still to come.

The beds are stripped. All the cloth is sealed away from the mice who will surely winter here. Soon the shutters will go up and there will be no light till springtime, so one last cabin picture till next time.

Driving home, the air is thick and warm. The Sierras are smaller, easier to take in than when we were in the middle of them. The snow surrounding us a few hours ago seems no more than a pretty cap resting lightly on their heads. But we know better. Winter is coming. Time for us to go to the desert again. California nomads on our way to winter pleasures.

Ready for more stories? Check out Stories I’ve Been Meaning to Tell You

Ready for more? Check out Stories I’ve Been Meaning to Tell You. It’s a book filled with stories of how I got here; adventures, pleasures, pain, and a guy learning how to come down the stairs the hard way. Stories is a wild tale; getting thrown out of five high schools; stealing cars and motorcycles; getting tossed in jail; getting into the sleazy end of the film business; being there for the invention of Gore Films; spending time with counterculture legends like Ken Kesey, The Hog Farm, and Nick Ray; then slowly learning about love, life, and death. If this sounds like a story for you or someone you know, or wish you knew, come along for the ride. There’s a lot of fun to be had along the way.



Andy Romanoff
Stories I've Been Meaning to Tell You

One part of me knows it doesn’t matter if you read these stories or not, the other part thinks it might be the reason I’m here.