First, a word from your sponsor…
While I appreciate all e-mails, I appreciate even more using the Leave a Comment link at the bottom of each post. That way, everyone sees all other comments and all questions are answered once. Thanks.
Onward to Mono Lake and Bodie
After the Ancient Bristlecone Pines Forest bust, we moved on to Mono Lake and Bodie. Since we had our toad (towed vehicle) this trip, we set up camp at our favorite boondock site overlooking Mono Lake (below photo) and drove to Bodie for the day.
In Bodie, we found the parking lot filled with construction crews building new restrooms and pouring concrete. Since the old vault style restrooms were in good working order the previous year, I was puzzled. The concrete walkway leading toward Bodie seemed incongruous but the significance didn’t strike me until I spoke to a ranger. It turns out Bodie is a victim of the ADA/PC police. The vault toilets were being replaced with ADA compliant toilets, the dirt path into town was being turned into a concrete sidewalk and other ADA changes were being added. I don’t have a problem with ADA compliant toilets. The concrete walkway into town will require some creative composition and/or editing and, in general, I support ADA “when it makes sense.” What concerns me is the wording of the RFQ (Request for Quote) issued by the CA Dept of Parks and Recreation:
“Construct a new Comfort Station, boardwalk replacement, ADA parking upgrades, ADA upgrades to path of travel and various ADA upgrades throughout…“
“Boardwalk replacement” and “path of travel” are vague while “…various ADA upgrades throughout…” sounds suspiciously like, “All other changes, modifications or whatever we want, as assigned!” Look at the photos below and tell me how concrete sidewalks can be blended in without creating jarring inconsistencies with the very essence of Bodie. The ranger also hinted that a proposal to build concrete, wheelchair accessible platforms in front of several building to allow wheelchair-bound visitors to see into buildings was defeated, for this round. Look at the photos below and imagine concrete platforms in front of the iconic buildings. The last photo is the only photograph I made at Bodie this year. It represents how future visitors wanting to visit a genuine ghost town will feel.
Back at Mono Lake…
My mood was as cold and dark as the 17°F nights. Back at Mono Lake, we futzed around Lee Vining for a day and spent a few hours at the beautiful Forest Service Visitor Center where I learned useful tips for kayaking to the islands in the middle of the lake which I’ll try next summer but, overall, it was just too darn cold to make the same photos of tufas under clear blue sky that I’d already made several hundred times. It was time to beat a retreat back to Bishop.
Robson’s Mining World
Before leaving for the Eastern Sierras, we visited Robson’s Mining World near Aguila, AZ with the Wickenburg Art Club. Basically, it’s a recreated western mining town, like dozens of others in Arizona. In fact, I had visited another one, Gammon’s Gulch, near Benson, AZ last year. We plan to revisit Gammon’s Gulch in January 2014 when we go to the Chiricahua Mountains for images of snow covered rocks. I practiced my HDR techniques at Robson’s so here are the few acceptable photos I made at Robson’s.
I tried to stay on this side of realistic but a few strayed over into the Ben Wilmore Old School Hyper Grunge space. I promise to exercise more restraint in the future.
All the photos post were made with either a Canon 7D (my go-to body) or Canon 5D MkII with either the 24-105/4L or 17-40/4L. Most were on a Gitzo tripod. All processing is done in Lightroom 4 and HDR software is Photomatix Essentials. Next post, I’ll be doing some things that are definitely outside my comfort zone with Topaz Labs Adjust, Simplify or B&W Effects.
2014 Plans for Eastern Sierras
Mary and I are going back for Bishop Mule Days in May 2014 with her old church RV group from San Diego. I’m really stoked because I’ve identified Sky Rock as well as what I believe is a real photo of Methuselah tree in the Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest. I’m hoping to scout both areas and come away with photos to study before next fall’s Eastern Sierras trip.
Thanks for reading and, as always, all comments are welcome and appreciated.
Wow! It’s Been a Zoo-y Two Months
We left for the Eastern Sierras on Oct 25th and arrived in the Ancient Bristlecone Pines Forest on Sunday, October 27. Just getting there was an adventure. First, the right brake light on our toad (towed,) a Geo Tracker, didn’t work. I immediately diagnosed the problem but no one had the part or knew where to buy one. Assuming we could find the part along the way, we departed for our first overnight layover in Beatty, NV. We never found the part nor even anyone who knew what I was talking about.
Along the way, we stopped at REI in Las Vegas to buy Mary’s birthday presents (it was the xxth anniversary of her 29th birthday!) Since Mary is an avid hiker, we got her a Magellan handheld GPS and my favorite, an ACR Electronics ResQLink 406, aka, personal locator beacon. In theory, it signals the nearest sheriff/police/SAR (search & rescue) office via satellite in the event of an emergency in the back country. Hopefully, she’ll never need to deploy it but it makes me feel better knowing that Mary has it.
We got to Beatty late Saturday night and found the town has banned all overnight RV parking except at RV parks charging exorbitant prices for a place to sleep for 6 hours. Rather than submit to their extortion racket, we pressed on to Lida Junction where US 95 and US 266 intersect. There, we simply pulled off the highway, deployed the slide and spent a quiet night.
The next morning, we drove into California to the intersection of US 266 and CA 168 where we unhooked the toad for the ascent up the White Mountains. That’s when we realized the toad had about 2 gallons of gas and Big Pine, the next gas station, was 38 miles away. The toad gets 18mpg on the flats so climbing a 6800 ft summit seemed a bit dicey but we didn’t have a choice since the 5 cylinder diesel in the RV wasn’t going to be able to tow up 7 and 8 percent grades. The toad made it into Big Pine with less than 1/10 of a gallon in the tank.
We saw the above tree on the way into Big Pine. We went back the next day and made the photo. FYI, you’d think making a photo of a tree would be a slam-dunk but I have about a dozen other photos to prove otherwise. The tree is beside CA 168, about 2 miles outside Big Pine. While trying to keep an eye on drivers who were gawking at the tree, I made several photos that, when straightened and cropped, didn’t leave space between the tree and one side of the frame. Others were ruined because I wasn’t watching the sun angle and more were culled due to plain bad composition.
We had originally planned to camp at Grandview campground, about 5 miles from the Ancient Bristlecone Pines Visitors’ Center, but the weather looked iffy so we stayed at a nice county park in Big Pine. That turned out to be prescient because that night, the wind was so strong, we thought it was raining when falling leaves pelted the RV. I can’t imagine what the winds must have been like at 10,000 feet.
The reason I went so late in the season was to, hopefully, make photos of bristlecone pines in snow. Well, it had snowed about two weeks earlier but no new snow was forecast. I had hoped to hike the 4 mile Methuselah Trail in search of its namesake tree, the oldest certified bristlecone pine but it started to snow. The first photo is Mary and me about a mile into Methuselah Trail.When it started snowing, Mary, who is a much more experienced hiker than me, decided it was too sketchy to do the entire 4 miles so we cut off onto what was supposed to be a shortcut back to the trail head. It was shorter but steeper. After about 6 or 7 switchbacks that became increasingly steeper, we finally crested the ridge to find the sun coming out, bummer.
The second photo is my favorite from this session. I titled it, “Squaw Among Bristlecones.” I know the word “squaw” has fallen out of favor with the PC police but I felt it had the right connotation for this photo. Besides, the word is thought to be derived from an Algonquin word. In any case, I saw the pattern in the tree and thought it would translate well in HDR and I think it has. The other three photos are just random samples of various trees I saw. As you can see, I went a bit overboard with HDR this trip.
I often noticed Manzanar on my trips up and down US 395. As an American of Japanese descent, I had heard of Manzanar but never paid much attention. The Japanese ethos of “shigataga-nai” (can’t be helped or, in the vernacular, “sh*t happens”) kept it blocked off as just one of those bad things that happen. Two years ago, I stopped for a brief visit but didn’t see much as it was closing time and I wasn’t really that interested.
This time, we took two hours to view the museum and drive around the remains of the camp. The 20 minute video was very well done, narrated in the words of actual internees (prisoners.) I saw the whole event, not so much as a shameful period of American history but, as a teachable moment. I felt a detached curiosity as I viewed the exhibits. Afterwards, we drove around the camp and came across the old cemetery. Most of the remains were moved to cemeteries closer to home when the camp closed. Only five graves remain. As I walked among remaining graves, the one below caught my eye.
In a moment, my detachment disappeared and I was overcome with sadness as I thought about Baby Jerry Ogata, an American citizen, born and dying in a concentration camp run by his fellow countrymen, buried in a grave and left behind by his family. I wish I knew more about Baby Jerry Ogata.
More Photos to Come
I caught a bug during this trip and have been laid up for nearly a month. I still have about 450 frames to cull and process. On top of everything else, setting up my new laptop has proven to be a challenge. At this point, I’d like to severely beat the guy who came up with Windows 8 with my tripod.
All these photos were made with either a Canon 7D or Canon 5D MkII with either the 17-40/4L or 24-105/4L and processed in Adobe Lightroom 4. HDR photos were processed in Photomatix Photo Essentials. I also used Topaz Labs Adjust 5 on some.
As always, your comments are welcome and appreciated.
Annual Eastern Sierras Trip
This year, my goal is to find Methuselah, the second oldest living tree in the world at 4845 years old. It’s located somewhere along Methuselah Trail, near the Ancient Bristlecone Pines National Forest Visitor Center. The oldest is also a bristlecone pine (Pinus longaeva) recently dated at 5062 years old in the same area. This newest oldest tree was, in fact, cored in the 1950s by Edmund Schulman but undated until 2012. Both trees are still living but unmarked to prevent modern day neanderthals from cutting off pieces for souvenirs as some aformentioned neanderthal did with Metuselah.
The above photos are from 2010 and are among my favorites from the White Mountains. This year, I hope to photograph Methuselah. Time permitting, I also plan to drive the extra 12 miles to Patriarch Grove to photograph Patriarch, the largest bristlecone pine in the eastern sierras. At just 1500 years old, Patriarch is a relative youngster.
From the White Mountains, I plan to check out Bodie to see if conditions warrant waiting a few days for snow. If not, I’ll head for Alabama Hills to find and photograph as many arches as I can find in a few days. Along the way, I’ll look for opportunities along McGhee Creek, Mono Lake and Bishop.
If anyone would like to join me, send me an e-mail and we’ll make plans to meet somewhere along the way.
White Mountains of Arizona
Mary and I took Arbey the RV (get it?) up to the Show Low, Pinetop & Lakeside area of Arizona for a week. It was my first time up there so it was interesting to see a completely different side of AZ. We were amazed at the huge displays of mountain sunflowers. It turned out that the locals had never seen such a massive display either. We were told this was the tallest and most bountiful display they had seen in decades. We just happened to be there at the right time.
The first is one of the few HDRs that I like. It’s subtle enough to pass as a regular photo but HDR has added enough “pop” to make it better than the original. I used a 3 frames at 0, +2, -2 and combined them in Photomatix Essentials with Remove Ghosts checked. The wind was blowing enough that the flowers would have been badly ghosted otherwise. The longest lens I had was 200mm to I couldn’t active my “Move Horse Closer” mode. I could crop it a bit tighter but I was using my Canon 7D so full frame is 18MP. If I crop by 50% to make the horse twice as large, I only have 9MP, not enough for a large print. My other option is to print large, perhaps 24″ x 36″. Decisions, decisions!
aka, “My Bad!” or “Oh $#!*”
I sincerely apologize for the e-mail blast that went out last night from my new personal blog I was testing. I didn’t realize the new blog, titled “Right of Center,” shared the same subscriber list as my photography blog. When it’s ready to go live, the new blog will be by invitation only.
To those who sent me cogent, articulate protests, I thank you. Now, back to our original programming.
Desert Caballeros Western Museum
DCWM is one of the premiere western art museums in the country. One of the reasons we moved to Wickenburg is because DCWM was here.
I’m proud to say, three of my prints are hanging in the museum, next to American masters like Remington and Russell. OK, so my prints are in a separate building but, still, they’re in the same museum!
These three were selected as part of the West of Center exhibit of Wickenburg Art Club members. All the art is for sale and all proceeds will be donated to survivors of the Yarnell Hill fire. The fire, which killed 19 firefighters, was about 20 miles north of us. The sale of these prints will assist the families of the firefighters through the 100 Club of Arizona, Yarnell residents through the Arizona Community Foundation and their pets will benefit from the Wickenburg Humane Society which cared for them during and after the fire.
Tomorrow, I’m photographing my friend Paul and his crew fell a huge eucalyptus tree. I don’t know exactly how tall it is but I estimate it’s a good 40 feet. I’ll try to get some photos uploaded quickly.