Thursday, September 27, 2007

Rubbing Elbows at Maroon Bells

On the last Monday of September I drove straight from Los Angeles to Maroon Bells, CO. It took 15 hours and I was beat. I slept in the back of my SUV. I didn't want to miss sunrise. When I awoke it was dark and their was frost on the ground. It was an hour before sunrise as I walked down to the lake. Wow! At least 60 photographers were elbow to elbow. I grabbed a spot and watched as the conga line grow. Someone later counted 107 photographers.

I used a split neutral density filter for the first sunrise shot. It took on a nice red glow and the water remained calm for a perfect reflection. I used f22 and my focus point was about a third of the way into the picture to give me the greatest depth of field.

It was freezing cold so I took a hike to warm up. I stopped to take up near the creek and ran into Derek von Briesen. I met Derek while shooting Red Rock Crossing in Sedona. Derek gives workshops and I hope to join him on one soon. He's very gifted and has a talent for teaching too. You can check out some of his fine works at his gallery. It was great seeing him again.

It took an hour before the sun came up over the surrounding ridge and let the light poor onto the aspens. I think it was close to 10 or 11 when the pine trees on the left lit up. No filtration was needed as the light in the scene was now balanced. I tried a polarizer but the sky is already a dark blue.

I headed back down the road and spotted some aspens that I wanted to shot but it was too late. I returned the next day a little earlier and the light was just over the top of the cliff. The backlight really made the trees pop out. The stand of trees was perfect as a panoramic. I stitched them together with ArcSoft's Panorama Maker 4. For the how to's see my previous article here.

I got off to late start in the afternoon as I headed for Kebler Pass. It's about 2 hours to the crest from where I'm staying in Carbondale. Kebler Pass is a 26 mile long dirt road. When I passed over the top towards the Crested Butte side there was plenty of color but not much light. I spotted the perfect scene. It was a 30 second exposure @ f22, ISO 100. The wind blurred the leaves and gave it a painterly look. I returned the next day about an hour before sunset, but the light was never the same. I have many sharp pictures but none equal to this one.

I tried to post this while I was on the road but my server (iPower) locked up and I didn't want to spend an hour on the phone with them.

For more photos see Latest Additions on my gallery. These are straight off my laptop and need to be tweaked a little. I'll have additional photos, articles and color corrected images later this week.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Photographing the California Redwoods

California RedwoodsAs I headed back from Mt. Rainier to Los Angeles I took a chance and went to the California Redwoods. I was there as a child and I had a vague recollection of it. The best time to visit is late May through early June. Since it was August I knew I wouldn't be seeing any blooms, but there would be plenty of fog and a beautiful coastline.

I stayed in Klamath which is about dead center of the 40 plus miles of the various redwood parks. The State and National Parks have combined and now act as one big park. The 101 Freeway runs right though the park, but there's the old highway and many dirt roads off the beaten path.

False Klamath CoveOn the first night I went to False Klamath Cove. The fog rolled in and I only had about 10 minutes of color. I got a few good shots but I would not see another sunset. The fog came in every afternoon starting around 4.

California Redwoods - Coast Highway FogThe fog was so thick it made it tough to shoot along the coast. At times I wasn't able to see past the pullout. But fog and redwoods are a perfect mix. An early morning hike into the foggy woods is a surreal experience. The fog gets so thick it seems like you're walking though a painting. I went along the Coast Drive. It's a dirt highway off the 101 beginning at the south corner of Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park. It hugs the cliffs along the coastline. You can see some of my photos here on a previous post. All fog no coast.

Paul Bunyan - Trees of Mystery
Sky Trail - Trees of MysteryI headed back to Klamath around 11 and stopped in at the "Trees of Mystery". It's a tourist trap to be sure. Years ago as you traveled up the coast you couldn't miss all the cardboard bumper stickers tied to each and every car. They were yellow with "Trees of Mystery" in bold red type. The park has made improvements but it's trademark 49 foot tall Paul Bunyan statue with a 35 foot Babe the Blue Ox along his side remains out front. Loud music is playing and Paul Bunyan shouts over the P.A. to the all little kids. They look up at in amazement at Big Paul as if he was really talking. My favorite part (as if that wasn't enough) was the Sky Trail a tram ride up the mountain. On a clear day you can see the ocean from here. It was still foggy so I couldn't see the ocean but there are plenty of other views right from the platform. You can hike the trail that winds around the top too.

Trees of Mystery
ElkLast but not least there are several herds of Elk in the park. They're usually right off the 101 on Davidson Road. There are many pull outs to shoot from. I found that for days 3 bucks stayed in front of someones farmhouse. You better not get close. They're wild and (at when I visited Canada) they have been known to run down joggers.

California Redwoods
With it's rocky coastline, towering trees and plentiful wildlife you'll have a wide variety to shot. It's also one of the easiest parks to photograph as long as you play along with the weather. A rule of thumb is to shoot the redwoods in the mornings and check out the coast at sunset. Of course a foggy coast can look great if the fog isn't too thick. I hope to return one spring when the rhododendrons are in full bloom. They would add a little extra sparkle.

For more photos see my Redwood National Park Gallery.
For an excellent photo guide on California's Redwoods see Photograph America
Don Gale Workshops is planning a trip to the California's Redwoods in late spring 2008

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Photographing the Columbia River Gorge

Columbia River Gorge
The last 2 summers I stopped off in Portland on my way to photograph Mt. Rainier. I'm always trying to cram in more than I should and the Columbia River Gorge is truly worth a trip all on it's own. I was only able to stay overnight each time. I like to stay in Troutdale which is just outside Portland and very close to the Gorge. The main freeway along the Gorge is the 84 but it's better to get off at Corbet Hill Road (Exit 22) and follow the signs towards Crown Point. (You''ll be turning onto Crown Point Road.) The road changes names and eventually becomes Historic Columbia River Highway. All of the main waterfalls are along this old highway. It's 2 lanes and very narrow in spots. You'll drive under canopies of trees and cross over some old moss covered bridges.

Crown Point
Portland Womens ForumI like to make my first stop Chanticleer Point which is cared for by the Portland Women's Forum. It's a small parking lot that has a view of Crown Point. It's a great location at Sunset. Sunrise isn't bad here, but so far the early morning fog has pushed me to Crown Point itself.

It's a short drive to Crown Point and it too offers many spectacular views of the Columbia River Gorge. There's more of a crowd here at Sunset, but almost no one at Sunrise. With a long lens you can pick out the sweet spots. (See Last Shot.)

Multnomah FallsMoving down the road you'll find many waterfalls, but the granddaddy of them all is Multnomah Falls. If you're coming from town take the main exit (for Multnomah Falls) off the 84 freeway you'll end up in the lower parking lot. If you take the Old Highway from Crown Point you'll be in the upper parking lot right next to the falls. There's a large Restaurant and Gift Shop and if you arrive late in the day you'll find bus loads of people. I recommend going very early, right after Sunrise, while the falls are in shade. After you get your main shots of the falls continue up the hill. Here you can get a few shots of the upper falls as well and you can cross over the bridge.

Columbia River Gorge
It's been sunny both of the times I was there, but if it's overcast I think I'd hike in to one of the other falls there. On sunny days with the extreme contrast of bright daylight and deep shade it's best to just enjoy the hike. You'll have the place all to yourself. I've never see anyone else on the trails. I hear Panther Falls, which is on the Washington side, is one of the best locations. There's a host of other falls listed in Robert Hitchman's Photograph America's Photo Guide. These are great guides and a true bargain. Please don't follow my poor example. Take your time and gorge yourself. (Did I say that?)

For More Photos see my Oregon Gallery.
For info on Mt. Rainier see my previous post Photographing Mt. Rainier.