The 2017 Adventure – Day 3

General Thoughts
Day 3 September 28 – Thursday
Ended up staying at Glacier Point for the night and headed down to Yosemite Valley early enough to reach Tunnel View while it was still dark. After parking to wait for some light, I noticed some folks with lights, movie cameras and suits(?) and then a TV truck came in and set up another spot, so I had to get out to ask what was up? It turns out the day before, a climber died on El Capitan from a rock slide!! So they were doing live remotes for the morning news programs. The photo above is from where I was with the reporters and a place where I’ve spent many a day watching it rain with my wife way back in the early days. So it is fitting that I was there today, on our 37th anniversary.
When it started lightening up, I looked for a spot where the side-lit Three Brothers would reflect in the Merced River. Found a good spot (I may have been there before, because it looked oddly familiar) with some green grasses along the edge of the water, and turns out the same spot was good for Cathedral Rock reflections as well. This spot remained in the shade and I was able to take pictures of the great variety of grasses, and even some flowers that carpeted the ground that, in spring, is covered with water.

The 2017 Adventure – Day 2

General Thoughts
Half Dome at Dusk - Yosemite © jj raia

Half Dome at Dusk – Yosemite © jj raia

Day 2 Sept 27 – Wednesday
It didn’t take long to fall asleep last night, but I woke up around 2am, and just laid there until I finally got moving around 3am, well after the moon finally set. Instead of Morro Rock, I decided to try to shoot the General Sherman tree with the stars and a little light painting. It’s amazing how much light is given off by only the stars, as I was eventually able to see the ground and things around me after my eyes adjusted. Tried a lot of different things with different white balances, and then headed toward Morro Rock to wait for when it began to get light. Got a bit of a fitful nap sitting in the car until it was light enough for some photography. Finally reshot the Buttress Tree after so many years, and it seemed more washed out, having lost a lot of it’s brown tones!! It was a bit disappointing. Did some bark and burn abstracts of some of the giant sequoias in the Parker Group right nearby. Did the 0.1-mi hike to Hanging Rock (much easier than the trudge up Morro Rock, which had a great view with a huge boulder perched near the edge of the cliff that had iridescent yellow-green lichen on it, and it might be a good sunset location, but better in the latter part of the year when the sun sets further south. Stopped at the General Grant tree on the way out and got reacquainted with the throng of foreign tourists from last years trip. Walked through the Fallen Monarch, a hollow sequoia that fell long ago and took some abstracts on it’s burned interior, and some with a lot of name carvings as well.
Then it was off to Yosemite, and any thoughts I had about stopping at the Mariposa Sequoias was squashed because the entire section was closed for renovation, along with single lane road construction that had what seemed like 100 cars lined up ready to go in the opposite direction when our direction was finished. Luckily these road delays have not affected me much so far.
Couldn’t really decide whether to head for the valley or Glacier Point and waffled almost the whole drive to Yosemite!! Decided on Glacier and found another mass of people standing shoulder to shoulder speaking many languages; there was even a bride and groom posing for pictures, just like last year at Schwabacher’s Landing in Grand Teton. But with no clouds at all, I don’t know what the excitement was all about. But I did get caught up in it all and zipped off waaaayyy too many shots. Trying to make lemonade from lemons sometimes works, and some times it doesn’t!
Had my very first dinner with the new stove, at the Sentinel Dome Trailhead, even though it was just Rahmen Noodles Soup, and am in total awe at how fast the water boils. Some girl came over to the car, pretty distraught and asking for help on what to do because a member of her group was missing and by now it was pitch dark outside. Luckily, that resolved itself a few minutes later when they heard him shouting!
Might go back to Glacier Point to shoot the stars to combine with some Half Dome shots I took earlier well after the sun went down, or maybe just sleep here, or go down into the valley for some more nighttime shots. So many decisions!!
Well, for some reason, after the gourmet dinner, it just seemed like the right thing was to go back the two miles to Glacier Point for some star shots. The half moon was still up, but I thought it wouldn’t make too much difference. It certainly was spooky walking back out there in the dark being the only one around but when I turned off the flashlight, I thought there was a street light on that I hadn’t noticed; but it was the moon!! It lit up the whole valley and Half Dome enough that Glacier Point cast a shadow. So I could ratchet down my ISO to only 1600 and my shutter to 15-seconds and managed a balanced shot. I even changed locations and lit a tree in the middle ground with stars and Half Dome properly exposed as well. Also did a vertical pano to try in post back home. All in all, a pretty good night in spite of the moon which I thought would drown out the stars (along with the light pollution from the city below that is Yosemite Valley).

The 2017 Adventure – Day 1

General Thoughts


DAY 1 – Sept 26 – Tuesday

On the approach to Houston at Dawn © jj raia

On the approach to Houston at Dawn © jj raia

This adventure began very early today, getting up at 3:30am for a flight at 5:30am that took off on time and landed in Houston just as the eastern sky began to light up. It was really pretty with all the lights still twinkling and commuters snaking along the main arteries of the city, and I tried to take a few iPhone shots as we landed. The next leg actually arrived early, but had to wait on the tarmac for 20-minutes for a clear gate. The bags were out really early and it was off to Hertz for the rental. Got in and out in just a few minutes and thought I would be on my way by 11:10am with plenty of time to make my rendezvous with Morro Rock in Sequoia NP by sunset. It would be at least 4-hours of driving adding time to stop at Walmart in Bakersfield for supplies. But for some reason, I just do not have any luck with rental companies. I’ve had problems in the past many times, and this time, the silver Nissan Pathfinder was supposed to be in space #408. And after trudging out into the lot with all the gear, it was an Infinity sedan!!! So trudge back to the counter and talk to customer service, finally bring another one around, trudge out again, and it wasn’t until noon that I got out of there. Then the usual heavy LA traffic, and more lost time. At Walmart, I went through my shopping list of supplies, and searched for, but couldn’t find, some camp stove fuel, finally grabbed someone to ask, and of course they were out of it!!! Had to search for a USB charger for the Nissan’s power outlet since it didn’t have a USB charger built in to charge my phone!!! No bluetooth or back up camera either!!! (it comes in handy when backing into campsites). So Walmart and Lowe’s (needed a piece of 2X4 plywood to span the large gap between the folded rear seats and the cargo area) ate up another hour and it began to look iffy to make it there before the sunset. There was single lane construction in the national park I had to deal with that could make the difference, but when I got there, the light was green; so no time lost! Finally passed some giant sequoias and they are like the Grand Canyon, well beyond our comprehension; they have to be seen in person to fully appreciate their massive stature and height.
Finally made it to Morro Rock at 6:20pm, but had to spend some time getting out some cooler weather clothes. And 350-steps at 6700-ft. elevation didn’t make the trek up there any easier for an old timer!! There were some nice clouds hanging over the Sierra Crest to the east, but all the haze to the west, didn’t allow the color to stick around.
I took some shots on the way up to the top as much for the shot as it was a chance to catch my breath. I didn’t even have the time to add a split ND filter, because if I did, I wouldn’t have made it near the top as the sun drifted behind the curtain of smog.
Stayed up there and watched the light fade, a little too long, and came down when it was dark. Ended up at the Lodgepole Campground pulled over by a large dumpster for a few hours sleep. This is the very first trip that I have not reserved a room for the first night. I was thinking about some star photography, so I may wait for the moon to set later tonight and go back to Morro Rock to try some Milky Way shots, but may try Beetle Rock as well since someone told me about it at the top of Morro Rock. We’ll see how I feel after crashing in the back for my first night’s sleep…


General Thoughts

Sentinel Dome Sunset — Yosemite National Park, CA © jj raia

Whenever it’s decided to take a trip or vacation, it’s probably a good idea to do a little research into the area to enhance the possibility that it will live up to your expectations and be an enjoyable experience with lasting memories. For a photo trip, those memories are in the form of photographs, and this research can be crucial in coming home with some good images that were in you mind before ever reaching your destination. These preparations can increase the odds of being at the right location at the right time to capture what it is you wanted in going there in the first place.

With all the information available on the internet, it’s amazing how detailed your research can be. With personal devices to use with the Global Positioning Satellites and GPS coordinates readily available on the web, you can almost find the tripod marks of photos you’ve seen if the coordinates are shared by the photographer; and in so many instances, they are!! By combining Google Maps and the satellite views, you can visually see hiking trails and specific details of the surroundings of your intended destination.

As an example, by doing a Google search of “pictures of the Egg Factory, Bisti Badlands, NM”, literally hundreds of photos will appear. By selecting a particular photo, a link is available to go directly to the web site containing the photo where you may get specific information about it’s location (GPS coordinates), how long the hike is to get there, and maybe even whether the photo was taken at sunrise or sunset.

You can even do the same type of search in The Photographer’s Ephemeris web site. Type in “The Egg Factory” and it may actually pinpoint the spot and give you the direction in degrees of the rise and set of the sun and moon for the specific day you intend to be there, even if it’s six months in advance!!

I just spent quite a bit of time doing this kind of photographic detective work for an upcoming trip through California. A big part of this trip is to explore the “Lost Coast”, one of the last remaining wild and remote areas in the continental US coastline. I found quite a few off-road possibilities to get to these off the beaten track locations looking at the satellite views; discovered an abandoned lighthouse a 1-mile hike from the end of one of these roads; and found a location with a beautiful view of Mt. Shasta, the hike to get to the spot, that it may be doable for someone my age, and that there is a small camping area right there at the end of the gravel road to the trailhead. You could probably find pictures of each campsite as well if you cared to.

So, after accumulating 26 pages of notes, information, pictures, maps, Walmart, Motel6 and other locations, and specific direction to many of the sights to visits, along with 10 separate full page maps and armed with AAA maps and two off-road guide books, I’ll leave shortly for a three-week trip through some of the finest landscapes a single state can offer. I hope to see the giant sequoias, tall redwoods and ancient bristlecone pines; the dramatic coastline of rocky coves, tide pools, sea stacks and wind-swept bluffs along with the crashing waves of the Pacific Ocean. I’m hoping to have time to visit Crater Lake in Oregon before heading back down through the mountain ranges of inland California, before ending up traveling through some desert terrain and sand dunes of Death Valley and the Mojave. The plan for the final evening is to photograph the wild architecture of the Walt Disney Auditorium in downtown LA, another item I found through the internet, before the huge task of repacking all the gear for the flight home.

If you’d like to come along on this adventure, just follow the entries here as the blog morphs into a journal of each days occurrences along with some specific informational notes for future reference. So please forgive me as it may be boring, and to fill up some of the idle time at night waiting for the next dawn, a bit long winded. And if past trips are any indication, the word McDonald’s may appear quite often.