Post Trip Report: Eastern Sierra Fall Colors 2011-Oct-13 & 14

Destination: June Lake Loop, Rock Creek Area, Aspendell, North Lake, Conway Summit

I’m reposting some of the report from two nights ago now that I’ve had the chance to process some photographs.  Information from a brief look at the June Lake Loop from about 1/2 mile in from Hwy 395 and our stop at Conway Summit on the way home are included with this update.

Anyhow, my parents love the fall colors but really haven’t had a chance to see a full blown one up close and in person.  So I offered to take them out on a two day outing to the Eastern Sierras to not only see the fall foliage, but also Mono Lake.


Rock Creek, Big Meadow 2011-Oct-13
Rock Creek, Big Meadow 2011-Oct-13

Rock Creek:  I had high hopes for Rock Creek as it hasn’t been mentioned much in any reports online and it’s next up from the Bishop Creek Area going from south to north.  Reality set in when I saw brown and blown down leaves from Rock Creek Lake and above from the snow storm last week.  The campgrounds below the lake are much more promising.  The colors on the north side of the road have turned earlier than the south side of the road, where many of the trees are still green or barely yellow.  Noteworthy is Big Meadow campground where it is at least 50% yellow with patches of orange.  The campgrounds immediately up the road from Big Meadow are also worth stopping for.  I would guess this area of Rock Creek will be in full color by early next week.  And then there’s the green tree mostly on the south side of road in the Big Meadows area.  Those are at least a couple of weeks off.

Aspendell 2011-Oct-13

Aspendell:  Really impressive colors here.  The area from Aspendell to the turnoff for North Lake is really coming into color, averaging 75% yellows.  The best show is a grove of beautiful yellow aspens just down the hill from the last houses in town.  The grove is to the south/right as you are going down the hill and pass the last house.  Brilliant yellow.  Generally the best color is from Intake 2 and up to the town of Aspendell itself.  This area will remain great for at least the middle of next week.

North Lake 2011-Oct-13
North Lake Tree Tunnel 2011-Oct-13
North Lake Tree Tunnel 2011-Oct-13
North Lake Tree Tunnel 2011-Oct-13
North Lake 2011-Oct-13
Below Lake Sabrina 2011-Oct-13

North Lake:  Some parts of the tree tunnel area has turn brown or dropped due to the storm, but there were quite a few trees that were green two weeks ago and now they have turned a brilliant yellow.  It’s a little difficult to isolate out certain areas that are now brown or barren, but the tree tunnel is at close to 100% or past peak now.  The grove of aspens on the “far” side of the lake (northwest) is at 75% with large swaths of yellow and orange.

June Lake Loop 2011-Oct-13

June Lake Loop: We only drove into the north side of the June Lake Loop for a mile, up to the point a dirt road splits off and seems to lead to a swath of aspen trees in the hills.  The colors looks to be 50% in with yellows and a touch of orange here and there.

Conway Summit:  A definite surprise of color here.  The colors are in various stages of coming in and about 75% have turned or started turning.  There are beautiful layers of colors throughout the summit and plenty of photogs and casual observers stopped in the two main turnouts on Hwy 395.  But remember, those are the only and usually not the best locations to shoot from.  Depending on the stage of color and time of the day, the best locations may actually be elsewhere.  While it’s not entirely safe to park on the shoulder on the highway and shoot from the safe side of the guardrail, it’s perfectly acceptable and I and other people have done that.  At least on this day, the Sheriff’s and Highway Patrol drove by without asking any of us to move our vehicles.  Conway Summit should be in peak by next weekend.

Conway Summit 2011-Oct-14
Conway Summit 2011-Oct-14
Conway Summit 2011-Oct-14
All photos.  © Copyright Steven Tze – all rights reserved.
Advertisements

Sailboat, Fog, Shadows

San Francisco Bay

Sailboat, Fog, Shadows. Marin Headlands, California. March 27, 2011. © Copyright Steven Tze – all rights reserved.

A quick post before I start processing a few photographs from the last two days in the Eastern Sierra and put up a trip recap of the Fall Colors.

The shot was taken from the first Battery encountered once Conzelman Road becomes one-way and the steep parts of the road is past.  After a morning of breakfast and lounging around at Mill Valley Inn, in well, Mill Valley, we finally made our way to the Marin Headlands with the plan of visiting Point Bonita Lighthouse, which is only open for visitors on weekends and Mondays from 12:30-3:30pm.  After watching the fog burn off by midday, the fog started rolling back in by 2:30pm.  By the time we made our way back from the lighthouse and drove back around to this location, the fog was coming back in force with little pockets of sunlight shining through and hitting the surface of the Bay.

Sometimes it is interesting how a mood of a photograph can be changed via post processing.  If I desaturize or convert this photo to B&W, the feeling changes to a lonely, isolated boat.  By allowing the colors and brightness of the sunlight on the water and boat to show through, the mood isn’t so dark and moody anymore.  It may feel as though the sailboat is moving away or escaping the shadow and the clouds.

Alternate version of Sailboat, Clouds, Marin Headlands

EXIF data: Nikon D50, patterned metering mode, 120mm, ISO 200, 1/60 sec, f/22

Point Reyes (Boat), Point Reyes (Location), Sunrise Clouds, HDR

Point Reyes at Point Reyes

Point Reyes (Boat), Point Reyes (Location), Sunrise Clouds, HDR. Inverness, California. March 27, 2011. © Copyright Steven Tze – all rights reserved.

This photograph is from another one of those planned day trips that start early in the morning.  I search online  for sunrise times and schedule the departure time from my house accordingly, which usually means about 3 hours in advance if the destination is in the Bay Area.  I also checked the weather forecast and knew this day would have a chance of storm clouds.

Point Reyes at Point Reyes is one of those iconic locations that photographers can’t help but be drawn to.  This boat has been stuck on this sandbar for as long as anyone can remember and slowly weathers and decays.  While iconic, unless you know where to look, this location takes some effort to get information on as the official Chamber of Commerce and County websites make no mention of the boat.  If you want to locate it easily online, search on Google Maps for Martinelli Park in the town of Inverness, CA using satellite view.  There is a parking lot behind a small business that people use and a well worn trail leading directly to the location.

Aside from finding the pleasing light from sunrise and sunset, another factor comes into play here – the tide.  If I remember correctly, this photo was an hour or two before low tide.  During low tide, you can easily walk up to the boat itself as the water in the foreground is not present.

During this shoot another photog arrived and was definitely more prepared than I was.  He had NEOS-type overshoes and was directly setting up his tripod in the water.  We chatted and he told me his Flickr handle.  His photographs are worth check out.

Now back to my photograph, I shot this as an 3-exposure HDR, merged the exposures and tone mapped in Photomatix, the performed final processing in Adobe Lightroom.  The reason I shot this as an HDR is because the sky is very bright while the foreground boat is shadowed.  Shooting a single exposure would result in either having the sky correctly exposed but the boat underexposed or the boat correct exposed and the sky overexposed.  Or having neither correctly exposed!
I had another slightly different composed shot that had a much more dynamic sky but too much intruding vegetation in the foreground slightly obscuring the boat.  If only I could take the boat and composition of this picture and the sky from the other!

EXIF data: Nikon D50, patterned metering mode, 18mm, ISO 200, [1/4 sec, 1/8 sec, 1/15 sec], f/13

Trip Report: Eastern Sierra Fall Colors 2011-Oct-13

Note – A update to this post with photographs and additional location is in my follow-up post: HERE

Destination: Rock Creek Area, Aspendale, North Lake

I’m updating from my hotel/condo for the night in Mammoth, a little annoyed that Auld Dubliner is closed for remodeling.  If an establishment notes that their Guinness on tap is adjusted precisely for its high altitude, I want to try it.  But alas, I was denied!

Anyhow, my parents love the fall colors but really haven’t had a chance to see a full blown one up close and in person.  So I offered to take them out on a two day outing to the Eastern Sierras to not only see the fall foliage, but also Mono Lake.

No photos updates until late Friday or Saturday.  Sorry.  My netbook can’t handle my RAW images so I wouldn’t even think about processing them via Lightroom.

Rock Creek:  I had high hopes for Rock Creek as it hasn’t been mentioned much in any reports online and it’s next up from the Bishop Creek Area going from south to north.  Reality set in when I saw brown and blown down leaves from Rock Creek Lake and above from the snow storm last week.  The campgrounds below the lake are much more promising.  The colors on the north side of the road have turned earlier than the south side of the road, where many of the trees are still green or barely yellow.  Noteworthy is Big Meadow campground where it is at least 50% yellow with patches of orange.  The campgrounds immediately up the road from Big Meadow are also worth stopping for.  I would guess this area of Rock Creek will be in full color by early next week.  And then there’s the green tree mostly on the south side of road in the Big Meadows area.  Those are at least a couple of weeks off.

Aspendell:  Really impressive colors here.  At least 75% yellows.  The area from Aspendell to the turnoff for North Lake is really coming into color, averaging 75% yellows.  The best show is a grove of beautiful yellow aspens just down the hill from the last houses in town.  The grove is to the south/right as you are going down the hill and pass the last house.  Brilliant yellow.

North Lake:  Some parts of the tree tunnel area has turn brown or dropped due to the storm, but there were quite a few trees that were green two weeks ago and now they have turned a brilliant yellow.  It’s a little difficult to isolate out certain areas that are now brown or barren, but the tree tunnel is at close to 100% or past peak now.  The grove of aspens on the “far” side of the lake (northwest) is at 75% with large swaths of yellow and orange.

Ok, I’ll post some images, but it’s of the previously uploaded sandwich from Erick Schat’s famous Bakkery in Bishop, CA.  I had another Mule Kick sandwich and it was good.  We also stopped by Mountain Light Gallery for some inspiration.
Erick Schat Bakkery, Logo
Mule Kick Sandwich

All photos.  © Copyright Steven Tze – all rights reserved.

Rapids, Tree Branch, Merced River

Yosemite Valley

Rapids, Tree Branch, Merced River. Yosemite, California. March 31, 2011. © Copyright Steven Tze – all rights reserved.

Another photograph where a single element is focused upon.  In this case, it’s a small set of rapids across Southside Road from Fern Springs.

Reading posts by Michael Frye and other noted Yosemite photogs, they will take a river or waterfall scene and shoot multiple exposures of one composition.  And when they say multiple, they mean something like 30-40 exposures.  Each of those exposures will have just something a little different.  Then they will review those exposures and find one or two to post processing on.

Well, when I took this shot, I hadn’t read those posts and I’m naturally a little impatient and ready to hit the next location.  I compose one shot, adjust for the exposure I want and move on.  Recently, as I was shooting one of the waterfalls in Lundy Canyon, I spent a little more time for each composition and took 5-10 shots of each.  Even with just 5-10 shots, I still spent 10-15 minutes to examine each photo and choose the one I like the best.  Sure, it’s a more time consuming, but would you rather have the option of 5-10 shots or hope that your 1 shot has everything just right?

EXIF data: Nikon D50, patterned metering mode, 55mm, ISO 200, 0.4 sec, f/18

Vintage Car, Snow, Amador County

Shake Ridge Road, Pioneer

Vintage Car, Snow, Amador County. Pioneer, California. March 19, 2011. © Copyright Steven Tze – all rights reserved.

Taking photographs of a vintage car in the snow was probably the last thing I thought I would be doing on this particular March day.

I had set out with the intention of driving over to Daffodil Hill in Volcano, CA for a few hours of flower photography.  The McLaughlin family has run their pack station for miners and travelers since the late 1880’s and in their spare time planted daffodils.  Now there are 300,000 bulbs that bloom in March and April.  Unfortunately, the unusually wet/snowy winter postponed what was scheduled to be the opening day of the viewing season.  Fortunately, this was one of the rare occasions I drove my SUV that has 4-wheel drive so I continued up the hill and soon encountered falling snow.

Between having fun driving in the snow and trying to find something to photograph, I spied this unexpected scene of a vintage car in the midst of pine trees and covered in snow.  Not finding a safe place to stop, I finally found a side street 1/8 mile down and walked back to this location.  I made one giant mistake.  I only brought my 55-200mm lens and left the 18-55mm lens in the car.  This left me few options for a wide angle shot.

One final note.  In post-processing via Adobe Lightroom, greens were desaturized (is that even a word?), and the aqua color of the car was tuned up just a bit to have the car stand out.

EXIF data: Nikon D50, patterned metering mode, 55mm, ISO 200, 1/100 sec, f/7.1

Golden Gate Bridge, Bay Bridge, San Francisco Skyline, Morning

Marin Headlands fr Battery Spencer

Golden Gate Bridge, Bay Bridge, San Francisco Skyline, Morning. Marin Headlands, Marin, California. February 28, 2011. © Copyright Steven Tze – all rights reserved.

Yes, this could possibly be the longest title I have for a blog entry and photo.  Very early on in my photographic career, I applied some interpretive names to my photos and they took some thought.  Not anymore.  The names are now as objectively boring (but descriptive!) as possible.  You can only be creative that many times before you start stretching it or become more boring by default.  There are three photos I submitted into competition in July 2010 that do have interpretive names and when I eventually blog about them, I’ll use those names.

So for this day in February my plan was the following: arrive at the Marin Headlands to catch sunrise at the Golden Gate Bridge, spend the rest of the morning and early afternoon shooting at Muir Woods (since it’ll be somewhat shaded from the midday sun), eat, hang out in Sausalito and mark future photo locations for long exposures, then finish the day shooting sunset in the Headlands at Point Bonita Lighthouse and/or the sea stacks at nearby Rodeo Beach.  It was an ambitious itinerary and I should have known something would throw in a monkeywrench to jumble the day.  Due to precautionary measures from weird acceleration issues with my car, I made it to Sausalito part of the schedule, drove through Sausalito, and then drove home.

When you arrive at a location as iconic as the Golden Gate, it’s hard to find a composition that millions of people have not taken already.  But that’s ok.  It’s the same way when I go shoot at Yosemite.  Shooting those iconic shots is one way an amateur photographer can compare their work to much more seasoned professionals.  You can compare technique, composition, lighting, etc.  You can see if your photographs are as pleasing to you as the “same” photos you admire from other photogs.

So in addition to shooting all the shots everyone else has, and I will do that because how can you not, I’ll start looking for close-up compositions of specific elements.  In this case, we’re talking about close-ups of cables, bridge towers.  The second element was figuring out where to place elements in the background such as the towers of the Bay Bridge, the San Francisco skyline (such as the Transamerica Pyramid Building), and the sun.  I tried to center as many architectural elements within the Golden Gates’ lines.

Also, you’ll notice a couple of lens flares in the photograph.  This happens when you shoot into the sun, but it can also happen when the sun is not in the frame but still physically in front of the plane of the lens.  In those cases, a lens hoods greatly reduces the possibility of flares.  Of course, there might be instances where you intentionally want to have flares in your photo!

EXIF data: Nikon D50, patterned metering mode, 55mm, ISO 200, 1/160 sec, f/16