Belle Grove Plantation at Port Conway, King George, VA
Birthplace of James Madison and a Premiere B&B hosted by Michelle and Brett Darnell. A verifiable gem of a place backed by genuinely passionate people.
Certainly one of the highlights of visiting The Big Island was the drive up to the top of Mauna Kea. It summits at 13, 796 feet above sea level (4205 m) and it’s possible to drive all but the last 50 feet or so. It has to be one of the more, if not mo,st accessible peaks in existence. (I stand ready to be corrected.)
There are 13 observatories up here supported by a collaboration of 18 nations. If you’re a stargazer, there is probably no better place on earth, certainly none as open as this one, to practice your obsession.
When we left the visitor center – at 7000 feet (2134 m) – the temperature was about 55 degrees F (13 C) and we expected it to be much more brisk on top. It wasn’t. The temperature rose about 10 degrees F. Bright – very bright – and balmy. It did not take long for the change in altitude to work its effects though so we spent less than an hour on top.
There are lots of things to see and do on Hawaii but this was the highlight for me. This is on the go-back list.
We lack water here in Southern California. There are lots of things all of us can live without – water isn’t one of them. It’s getting worse. We’ll probably survive it; at least my generation will. I’m not so sure about our progeny. There are some consolations. This is one of them. It won’t quench our thirst, not for hydration anyway. It might serve to inspire us to find ways to pass it on to our grandchildren.
Among the many plus points associated with Big Sur is that if you’re near the shore camping is pleasant year round. I went this past March for two days and wound up staying for four. My main mission had ben to shoot the Bixby Bridge in moonlight. Well, we had a moon, as you can see. But Bixby wasn’t located such that this particular one was going be useful. I did get a few shots but nothing I was very excited about – excuse to go back again. The beach near the campground was a different story so it became Plan B. Pretty good deal.
And then a few minutes later the storm hit…..
This One’s For Mo
Caught this on the expanse between Tallahassee and Panama City, Florida. It was a battle between me and the mosquitoes but I think I won.
I’m closing in on my goal to visit and shoot in all our National Parks – at least those in the Lower 48. Five to go and I will visit those on my trip back west which will begin in a couple of weeks. People invariably ask me which is my favorite Park and it’s almost impossible to answer that question. I’ve visited a couple that are non-favorites (they shall go unnamed) but the plus side of the ledger is more difficult to deal with. However, of those that I have visited – and realize this does not yet include Hawaii, Alaska, Guam, or St. Johns – there is one that stands out for me. Were you to ask me to name the Park I would go to, if ever I could only visit just one more, I’d say Death Valley.
It may have been the time of year I first visited. It might have been my state of mind. It might have been the way the light caught the side of the mountains in the morning and then again in the afternoon. It might have been the dunes. All those things. Other things. I don’t know. I’m sure had I arrived in a sand storm or in mid-July my opinion would be quite different. But I didn’t. And so all these things and more combine to push DV to the top of my If-I-Only-Could_Visit_One More list.
Inasmuch as my only (and favorite) daughter married a couple of days ago you might wonder just why I’m posting about Death Valley. I know I did. But you see I never post without images and the ones from the wedding will not be available for a while. That and the fact that I was scouring through files this afternoon looking for a good shot to submit for a contest accounts for this post. At some point I will link it to a gallery that will go up on my SmugMug site, but for now I’m satisfying my need to get something out in lieu of it’s creation and in frustration over not having wielded a camera at the wedding.
I was first introduced to the Mono Lake Basin in September 2011 on a trip with my son Charles and his Green Tortoise Travel bus and have since had the opportunity not only to spend a lot of time exploring there, but more importantly to become acquainted with and a part of the Mono Lake Committee, a conservancy organization co-founded by the late David Gaines that has been in operation at ML since the mid-80’s. It’s very safe to say that lacking the efforts of the MLC there would be no Mono Lake today. It would have long since gone the way of Owens Lake a little further south of the Basin. Owens, despite its ‘lake’ designation, is now a very large salt flat: Picturesque. Toxic.
Not so Mono Lake, which even bearing a salinity level exceeding twice that of the Pacific is one of the liveliest (and loveliest) bodies of water on earth. It plays host to trillions of brine shrimp which control the lake’s algae levels and provide a critical food source to the millions of migratory birds that use Mono Lake annually. The shrimp are also a staple for about a third of the world’s California Gull population that calls this place its nesting home.
I became a volunteer with the Committee this past spring and commuted up from Los Angeles over a period of several weeks to get the training necessary to the work and then to actually deliver on that investment before leaving for the east coast in mid-July. The photographic materials piled up and for the most never got posted so I thought I’d better do something about that before it slipped away entirely. I’ve culled through my logs and come up with a couple hundred shots. It’s overkill I suppose but does offer a reasonably good view of my activities over these many months. It also includes shots of the volunteer group I was a part of, led by a very dedicated former California State Park Ranger, Janet Carle. Janet, and her husband David, also a former ranger at Mono Lake, have published a book entitled Traveling the 38th Parallel which ties together global water issues common to the latitudinal band that intersects the Mono Basin. Well worth looking at.
And Mono Lake is well worth visiting. If you find yourself traveling to Yosemite or anywhere in the Eastern Sierra area you’d be well rewarded making the trip to the Lake, to the Bodie Hills and Mono Craters and to the little town of Lee Vining hard by the shoreline. If you happen there next spring look me up. I’ll be the guy hanging around the Old Marina on the west end sporting a Mono Lake Volunteer vest and a spotting scope to keep an eye on the Osprey that nest in the towers. Be happy to give you a tour. By next year I might even be able to name a few of the other species that call this place home.
You can all attest: I rarely if ever tout my work here. I just throw out what I think is proper – sometimes good; sometime not so good – and let you be the judge. Invariably the feedback adhere’s to what my mother and I suppose yours taught: If you haven’t anything nice to say, say nothing at all. It’s not well-informed, constructive criticism but neither does it trample on ego’s and good intentions.
So, having said that I think what follows artistically constitutes some of my best work to date. Most of it has been subjected to minor color correction and there is a crop here and there but a goodly chunk is SOOC (straight out of the camera). In past when I’ve examined other’s works described this way I think “Yeah. Right” because until now I’d not experienced the effect.
I can’t say that anymore.
The composition worked. The light was gorgeous. The scenes fit well into a visual description of the subject – Henlopen State Park in Lewes, DE USA. The sun cooperated. The Delaware Bay Ferry co-operated. People on the fishing pier were friendly and open and curious and did not run away or throw things at me. It was a great outing.
I went down on this past Saturday morning. I had been unable to get a campsite for Saturday but my friend Indre had so we shared it and then when she left on Sunday I stayed over another night. Indre has camped in this park for years and knew the area well so I was fortunate to have an informed guide on day one. On day two I took advantage of the tutelage I’d gotten on Saturday afternoon. Would be nice to work under these conditions everywhere I go.
And then there’s the histogram. That little graph that pops up on the back of my DSLR after each shot to tell me….
Well, until recently I had no real idea what it told me. I did not know a good graph from a bad one or why one was good and one wasn’t. I knew it must be of some value else Canon would not have seen fit to include it as a feature but just what that value was? I was clueless until I stumbled upon a couple of ebooks that talked about how to make use of the information to improve (hopefully) the outcome of my efforts behind the lens. It took a while but it seems to me to have paid dividends in this shoot.
I capture my images in RAW format. This allows me the greatest degree of flexibility in post-process by maximizing the number of pixels I have to work with. By comparison a jpeg format compresses most of those pixels into digital mush before they arrive at post-process. The histogram essentially tells me if I am capturing as many pixels across the white-black spectrum as I can. The more even the distribution the better. Do this well in the right light and you get something like what you see here and over in the gallery if you go. I hope you do.
I was very pleased and that is not often the case – I’m m own worst critic: I beat me up over this stuff all the time.
But not this time. In fact I think a couple of these are going to wind up on walls. Mine or someone else’s. Or both.
Thanks for dropping in. If you’re nearby Henlopen you’re quite fortunate. Click through the pic to see more.
If you click the photograph you’ll see what I mean.
Taken mostly near Cade’s Cove in Great Smoky Mountain National Park although toward the end you’ll notice a few I along the Blue Ridge Parkway in North Carolina
Long haul road-tripping of the type I do is not all campfires and tents and bug spray and romantic things of the sort. It’s true, I get my share of skies that extend from here to there and sunsets that chase them to wherever they feel like going. It’s a good life, no question. Although some people I run into have a hard time believing I don’t get lonely or homesick. I don’t. Trust me on that.
I send cards or letters or emails and such that from time to time contain phrasing to the effect that ‘I wish you were here.’
And it’s not you; its me. I can’t imagine there are too many people who would ever get comfortable with the way I travel. It’s just erratic. Sometimes it drives me a little batty. But as I said in some post – that never got posted – I’m never disappointed. Whatever happens is what’s supposed to happen. Do you have any idea how long it took me to figure that out? And embrace it?
Like today. I’m in Estes Park, CO which sits literally at the gate to Rocky Mountain National Park. I think this is probably one of the top five – by popularity- parks in the country. (Do you know enough about Your parks to guess the other four?) I toured it to a degree this morning. Drove up the Old Fall River Road – a one-way 9 mile stretch of unpaved switchbacks – to the Trail Ridge Rd that peaks out at 12,200 ft and parallels, in a way only engineering marvels of this type can, the Continental Divide.
Just so Chaz couldn’t accuse me of touristing the place I parked at the road peak and walked up 300 ft to the top of the hill. I found just standing up at this altitude to be difficult; I suspect most people could have duck-walked up faster than I got there – but I got there.
The widest angle lens on my Canon struggled to capture the vistas. So if this iPhone pic looks anemic Don’t blame Steve Jobs – or me. The park is all about up and boundless. Putting that in pixels ain’t easy although I promise you’ll see a few better images shortly.
But right now I’m on one of those non-romantic runs getting new shoes on the chariot. Drove through a gawdawful rainstorm to get in here last night and experienced hydroplaning at 10,000 ft. Not a good thing. Had the original tires on the car and they had reached the limit at 78000 miles.
I wish I could refresh me as quickly and inexpensively as I did the tires. They just called my name. Job done. Back to Estes.
While I was in the process of preparing the trip plan for the journey East I received an email flyer from the University of New Mexico’s Taos Summer Writers Group. I’ve attended twice in past and once on the email list, forever on the email list. My last visit was in 2009 and even though I’ve examined the annual offerings since then it’s never quite fit my schedule.
This year proved different. I noticed that the way my plan was working out I’d be quite near Taos about the time the conference was in session. My schedule is easily modified so I scanned, the classes and workshops to see what might be of interest. I quickly determined that I’d not have time for a full week session so I concentrated on the weekend workshops. One, Travel Writing, facilitated by Stephen Benz, seemed a natural. I travel. I write (well, sort of) and I illustrate and I do most of this in this blog. This looked like a good reason to revisit Taos, the Conference, to reconnect with my friends Linda and Dan and to learn a little more about what I think I’m doing with the words I throw ’round. It had been an excellent adventure the two previous visits so why not?
I signed up.
Upon arrival I was amazed at how familiar the surroundings were. The face of Taos itself has changed since 2009 – there was no casino at the Taos Pueblo then and there are several new chain stores as well as a few new motels scattered here and there – but the Sage Brush Inn, where the conference is situated, and the conference area itself, where the meetings and such are held, doesn’t seem to have changed by so much as a single slap of adobe mud.
To meander across desert and mountain for a thousand miles or so and arrive at a place that feels like coming home – for a few days anyway – is all quite comforting to me. I’m beginning to get the same feeling recently when I see various photographic scenes from parks and cities around the country. In many cases I have my version or a slight variation of those images. It always invokes comparison of course, but it also generates a degree of belonging with the area and inspires kinship with the unknown photographer.
Driving into town on Friday afternoon in a heavy rainstorm I crossed the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge. It has been on my list of things to shoot ever since I laid eyes on it during my first visit in 2008. The concept was reinforced when I saw a shot of the Bridge that had been taken by well-known Canadian photographer, David du Chemin. I had scouted the thing in ’08 but last night decided to go back and check a bit further. Much to my chagrin I found that the Gorge near the Bridge now surrounded by high fencing topped with barbed wire. There is some construction underway but not nearly enough to call for these barriers. Nonetheless it seemed no way I was going to get what I came for. I do not care to do battle with barbed wire – and possibly the local constable.
The shot you see here was taken with my iPhone from the southeast side of the Gorge. The shot I need is from here but down the side of the Gorge about 150 feet. When I scouted in 2008 there were trails that would have taken me there. But with a fence in between….
There are lots of images around the country to capture so the Bridge is not sine qua non to a complete portfolio; but I want that shot. During lunch this afternoon I was speaking with Keith and Eva who live locally and they suggested a number of alternative approaches to climbing fences. One was to raft or kayak down to the Bridge another to drive south to a road that they know is hard by the Gorge and then hike back up to it. Keith also mentioned something about rappelling but I’m not really into extreme photography. Sounds like something my son would try (and think nothing of).
I’ll have to develop Plan B because I do not have time now to hang around and follow-up on the suggestions, most of which sound quite doable. But one thing for sure: I am not writing the shot off. I’ll be back.
I had really hoped to catch up on a weeks worth of shooting today. I’ve covered a lot of territory and have more to explore before reaching home base on Friday. Two days in San Francisco that included lunch with my brother Pat and a Google + Photo Walk led by Dave Powell and Chris Cabot. Then a short drive by Pt Reyes that consumed nearly an entire day. And last night a trip up to Tahoe through a driving snow storm. Phew!
And we’re only half way.
So let me throw some iPhone pics at you for now and get some other stuff later.
This is Emerald Bay near South Lake Tahoe. The island is called the Tea House.
The pier at Sugar Pine Point State Park.
King’s Beach Launch Area
The most common view of the Lake as you circle it is through gorgeous evergreen stands like this one.
And finally a rocky out cropping near Memorial Point on the Nevada side.
Drove up to San Francisco for the weekend to participate in a Google+ Photographers Photo Walk led by Chris Cabot and Dave Powell. Dave authors ShootTokyo.com, a blog I’ve followed for quite a while and I jumped at the opportunity to meet him and quite a few other people who I’ve only know electronically. I also got to see my brother Pat for the first time in more than eighteen months.
Weather is gorgeous if a bit windy but what the heck: it’s The City. Hard not to just enjoy being in a place like this.
I ran across the Golden Gate to the Marin Headlands on Saturday evening for shots of Pt Bonita, Rodeo Beach and of the GG Bridge at night.
Here’s are a couple of iPhone pics of the beach and the point with a gratuitous cable car thrown in for good measure. The others are still processing through DxO. But I can tell you, the bridge shots are simply soectaclortous!
We’re shooting in the Marina in the afternoon. Some of those later.