Horsetails, Yosemite NP
Wandering around the southern entrance of Yosemite, I found this pond with a heavy growth of these horsetail reeds. I like the pattern, but the light was too harsh. So, I waited around for a while as the sun set and the light got better.
Finding the right composition wasn’t hard, but I had to work to exclude any of the material in the background so that only the patterns and texture of the horsetails were included in the image.
Emerald Lake Reflections, Lassen Volcanic NP
I had visited this lake the day before and really like the reflections, but the light was terrible and I moved on that day. But I wanted to see the lake and hill in the morning light, so I got up early, drove for over an hour and a half to get there before sunrise.
I wasn’t disappointed. The sky lacked any character, but the lake was glass smooth in the early morning. As the sun hit the hills behind the lake, I was walking around looking for shots. Looking down, I realized the irony of the log on the shore against the upside down reflection of the hill and took the shot.
I have this posted on the wall in my class room in a poster size image. Every semester I get questions from my students asking me why I have the picture hung upside down and how did I get the log to float in the air. It makes me smile everytime when I realize that my goal when I took the image was realized.
Also, I never tell them the answer. I just say “The picture is hung correctly. Keep looking and figure it out.”
Jedediah Smith SP Leaves
Jedediah Smith State Park is probably one of the most beautiful places in the state. You can’t walk around a tree without another amazing image presenting itself in front of you. Fallen trees with fungus growing out of the trunk, ferns and endless green, huge redwoods. You even get a shot if you just look up.
These leaves were back lit by the gray overcast sky. The branches dark in contrast and dividing the image into it’s different parts. Seriously, I couldn’t take a bad picture if I took my time and looked around. This is one of my first serious image taken with a DSLR and still one of my favorites.
If you have a chance to stop by Jedediah Smith SP, don’t hesitate, do it. You won’t be disappointed.
Salt Creek Sunset
My first trip to Death Valley was busy. I spent the previous day and night driving to and shooting the Racetrack Playa. After spending a fairly cold night there, I drove back and spent a leisurely day driving back toward Furnace Creek. Because it was my first trip to DeVa I had to stop and see it all before I was forced to return home.
I stopped at Salt Creek a natural spring that breaks the ground with water that is up to five times more salty than the ocean. There is a boardwalk that circumnavigates the creek and at the time I was the only one there. The sun had set and there wasn’t enough light to light up the foreground without blowing out the sky. So, I tried some HDR bracketing.
I had to get the sky reflecting off of the creek while still getting the textures of the hills and the cloud layers in the sky. Five shots later all bracketed at one stop apart I had my shot. I didn’t think that the sky would come out to match what I saw, but Photomatix did a great job.
I know some people aren’t big fans of HDR and sometimes I agree, but if used carefully, I think it can produce a nice image.
Against the Fire
Early in the morning of November 15, 2008, I noticed a lot of helicopters flying overhead. It was unusual, but nothing allarming. What was alarming was the DC10 that passed right over the hill. It’s not everyday that a airliner sized jet flies directly over your house at a level that shakes the windows.
You see, I live right next to the Chino Hills State Park and the day that my whole neighborhood feared was upon us. The park was on fire. A brush fire started at around 8:30 that morning over 15 miles away, but the wind wasn’t in our favor. We didn’t know that right away.
I jumped into the car and drove to a great vantage point to watch the fire from the top of a hill. Two things slowly sunk. One, that the fire was moving directly toward us and that there was only one way out of where I was. If that street got blocked, I was screwed. And two, I should probably stop taking pictures and start worrying about my house. So, I drove back home.
As I got home, I noticed that the once blue sky was turning brown and the sun was a violent orange. This wasn’t going to be a good day. We packed up the important things and put them and the cats in the car. I told my wife that I would be right behind her and she left with the rest of the neighbors. I didn’t. I stayed to protect my house and the houses of my neighbors.
Four hours later, the fire had passed. In that time I had run from house to house and yard to yard putting out spot fires, helping “real” fire fighters, and making sure that my world didn’t end that day. I also took pictures when I needed a “mental break” from reality. We survived with the only damage being some burnt bushes and melted sprinkler pipe.
It was night and the mop up crews were working on putting out the spots that were still burning down the street. I was still taking pictures when I looked up and saw this flame leap off the hill silhouetting the heroes working to save our homes.
And for that, I am thankful.
Paso Robles Vineyards
In a flight with a friend, we passed over San Simeon, Hearst Castle, and the beautiful California Central Coast. I took images of friends ranches, schools, and universities. It was fun to get home and look at our world from a different view.
I had already put the camera away because I didn’t think that there would be anything to see as we got lower to the ground in our approach to the landing. I saw the vineyards and realized that they were a perfect subject. Scrambling to get the camera set up and frame the shot. Finally, as we were landing, I took this image.
It isn’t tack sharp because of the vibration of the plane, but I love the patterns of the vines against the shadows and how the road divides the image into different sections.
Sadly, I won’t be able to fly with my friend as he passed on earlier this year.
Eastern Sierra and Fall Color Near South Lake
While touring around the South Lake area west of Bishop, I found a side road that went up into a smaller fishing area that was lined with aspens in full color. Over the Sierras a storm was brewing adding a cloud layer over the mountains, but leaving us in bright sunlight.
I got out and started walking down the road looking for a nice shot of the aspen grove in full light. As I rounded a bend in the road, this view of the Eastern Sierra Nevada opened up in front of me. I love the warm golden leaves of the aspen against the cold gray of the mountains.
Fall was almost over and winter was on it’s way.
Eastern Sierra Nevada from Fossil Falls
Fossil Falls is a volcanic flow that has been eroded away by the glacier melt at the end of the last ice age just north of Olancha on Highway 395. Because it was carved out by water it offers lots of interesting rock formations, textures, and patterns to shoot. It has been part of the landscape for a long time and used by some of the indigenous people used it for hunting and left some petroglyphs which you can find if you look hard.
While exploring you can turn around on at the main falls and you get this great view of the Sierra Nevada. Fossil Falls is close enough to visit from the Los Angeles basin on a regular basis and I plan on going back several times to document the seasonal changes.
Cypress Branches at Whalers Cove, Point Lobos
Point Lobos State Natural Reserve is an island of well preserved wild on a very popular coast just south of Monterey Bay. You can walk for a few hundred yards and forget that just up the coast are some of the country’s most expensive golf courses and Highway 101 is less than 1/2 miles east.
Whalers Cove is a small cove which offered sanctuary to whalers in times past. They have preserved an old cabin used in past time. Just outside the cabin grows these cypress trees. I love the way the branches point in one direction and the tree in the background give a sense of opposite direction to it.