Spring Arrives to Mount Shasta

Mount Shasta

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Spring has officially arrived to the Mount Shasta area. With an unusually dry and warm Winter, the landscape is looking more reminiscent of May than early April. After receiving above-average precipitation in December, California experienced its driest January-February on record. Aside from the series of snowstorms in December, we never saw much of a Winter. High temperatures remained in the 50s and 60s throughout most of the season. A below-average snowpack and continued warm conditions equate to an earlier-than-normal start to the hiking season. Backcountry access is a month or so ahead of schedule.

Mount Shasta

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Castle Crags provides some the area’s finest early season hiking. Some snow still lingers on the Crags’ northerly aspects, but otherwise the trails are clear. This is a wonderful time of year to hike and climb Castle Crags, as crowds are minimal and temperatures pleasant. Creeks are flowing abundantly and Spring’s renewal is evident. With a base elevation of 2000 feet, the Crags can get quite hot in the Summer and are home to a variety of snakes–including the Pacific Northwest Rattler–so caution is always advised in the warmer months. Black Butte is another favorite early season hike. Its summit offers spectacular views of Mount Shasta and the Eddys. Some snow can still be found on the trail, though it isn’t much of an obstacle at this point. Waterproof footwear is recommended. Black Butte, like the Crags, is known for rattlesnakes, so please be aware and step carefully over rocks and logs.

Mount Shasta

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Backcountry skiing and snowshoeing on Mount Shasta’s south side continue to be good and should remain so into May, dependent on weather. The Old Ski Bowl (7600 feet) is reporting a snow depth of 104 inches as of April 1. Access to the mountain’s north aspects should open up a month or so earlier than usual–figure late-May to June. Skiing and climbing on the backside of Mount Shasta typically remain good through June. I have skied Brewer Creek as late as July 4th and found conditions to be relatively good, in spite of the sun cupping. Rafting and kayaking has seen an early start and short season on many of Siskiyou County’s rivers. The current flow (March 22) on the Upper Sacramento River at Box Canyon Dam is approximately 450 cfs (cubic feet per second)–too low for rafting. The minimum flow for hardshells and inflatable kayaks on the Upper Sac is 400 cfs.

Siskiyou County is rich with wildflowers and a few species are beginning to make an appearance, so pack your camera. This is an especially beautiful time in the northstate and photographic opportunities abound. I am offering photo tours to Castle Crags State Park and Mossbrae Falls, as well as other select destinations throughout the Mount Shasta area. For more information, or to book a photo tour, please contact me.

I welcome your comments, questions, and suggestions.

Until next time, happy image-making…

Bruce

 

Posted in Mount Shasta--A Place Called Home Tagged , , , , , , |

Yellowstone–The World’s Crown Jewel

Yellowstone National Park

Yellowstone shines as the crown jewel among the world’s national parks. It is with good reason that Congress dismissed explorers’ earliest reports of this otherworldly landscape as mere flights of an overactive imagination. Stories of spouting geysers, hissing vents, and bubbling mud pots told tale of something not of this Earth. Yellowstone defies description and can only be experienced. When President Ulysses S. Grant signed the bill on March 1, 1872, establishing the world’s first national park, he was setting a precedent for all the national parks to follow and preserving something of incalculable value for future generations.

Yellowstone is truly another world–a place brimming with superlatives. The Park is home to the highest concentration of geothermal features on the planet and claims the largest population of wildlife in the lower 48 states. Some of North America’s most impressive species reside here–including grizzly bear, elk, moose, and with its re-introduction in 1995, Canis lupus–the gray wolf. In the highly controversial program, the wolf had returned to Yellowstone for the first time in 70 years. The National Park Service, at the end of 2011, listed the wolf population in the Park at 100 animals–98 wolves comprising 10 packs, along with 2 loners. 8 breeding pairs exist among the 100 wolves.

The Gray wolf is not the only species to make its comeback in Yellowstone National Park. The trumpeter swan was driven to the brink of extinction with the use of DDT in the early 20th century. Only 69 swans were known to exist within park boundaries in 1935. The flock reached an all-time high of 100 birds in 1992. Today, the trumpeter’s continent-wide population numbers around 35,000 birds. The peregrine falcon–the world’s fastest bird–also fell to near decimation due to DDT and other pesticides. Since the elimination of these chemicals in 1972, the peregrine has returned to Yellowstone.

Yellowstone National Park

 

 

Yellowstone National Park has a history of volcanic activity dating back some 50 million years. The most recent period of activity beginning about 2.5 million years ago and ending with three massive explosions–the last, around 600,000 years ago. That last explosion created the Yellowstone Caldera and is estimated to be 10,000 times more powerful than the blast at Mount Saint Helens. Since then, alternating periods of volcanism and glaciation have shaped the landscape we see today.

More than 10,000 geysers, fumaroles, hotsprings, and mud pots are located within Yellowstone’s boundaries. The majority of these features are concentrated into nine geyser basins. Old Faithful is found in the Upper Geyser Basin, which boasts more than 130 geysers. Norris Geyser Basin is the oldest and most active basin. Situated above two major intersecting faults, it is also the hottest of the nine basins, with a temperature of 459 degrees Fahrenheit. Scientists are predicting another cataclysmic explosion in Yellowstone in the near geologic future.

Yellowstone National Park

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fire plays an important role in the natural process. A healthy forest habitat is comprised of a mix of young, middle-aged, and mature stands of trees, allowing for the widest diversity of both flora and fauna. Fire-dependent plant species, such as lodgepole pine, require high temperatures for their cones to open and release its seeds. Fire also aids in the elimination of pests, such as the pinebark beetle. In 1988, a huge blaze ravaged the Park. A let-it-burn policy was adopted by the Park Service and some 735,000 acres were ultimately consumed. A few years later, the flora was showing remarkable regeneration. New seedlings and abundant wildflowers carpeted the landscape. Numerous animal species benefited from the newly opened canopy, as well.

The majority of Yellowstone’s 3 million annual visitors arrive between June and August, however Spring and Fall are optimal seasons in the Park. Crowds drop off significantly and wildlife activity increases dramatically. Spring is the season of renewal. New babies bring an added dimension to the landscape and provide wonderful photo ops. Fall is the mating season. Male elk battle for dominance and the miracle we call life reels before us. Winter is an especially beautiful time in Yellowstone, though temperatures can plummet to -60 degrees Fahrenheit. Winter is a particularly photogenic time to visit the geyser basins. Animals cluster around the geothermal areas to stay warm and the steam generated by the many features lends an otherworldly aesthetic to the landscape. Most of those who come to Yellowstone see it from the comfort of their vehicle. Yellowstone National Park offers 1100 miles (1700 km) of hiking trails through one of the world’s most wild and striking landscapes. Few places can so profoundly transform the visitor as Yellowstone. For those who have never been, I strongly urge you to experience it for yourself.

For more information, visit the National Park Service website.

I welcome your comments, questions, or suggestions. Contact me to book a photo tour in Yellowstone.

Until next time, happy image-making…

Bruce

Posted in Natural Wonders Tagged , , , , , , |

Photographing the Urban Landscape

Urban Landscape

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Urban Design, in its finest examples, ranks among humanity’s highest achievements. An organic fusion of form, function, and aesthetics, major urban centers offer unique and varied photographic opportunities. Cities have it all–big skylines, people, traffic, and an endless source of image-making. I love photographing the urban landscape. It’s challenging and exciting. I marvel at the mix of architectural styles and each city has its own unique flavor. For me, the urban landscape is another world!

The majority of the Earth’s inhabitants live in large urban centers. Cities represent all that is great and all that is failing in human society. The larger the metropolis, the greater the disparity. It is largely people that make cities so interesting. People add a highly dynamic component to the urban landscape and are a constant fascination. All the same things that excite a nature photographer–beautiful light, color and texture, and strong composition–can be found in any city.

Photographing the Urban Landscape

I relate to the streets. Wherever I am–be it L.A. or San Francisco or Portland–I love being on the streets, feeling the city’s pulse, its energy…mingling with the people. For me, that means traveling light and shooting on the fly. A Canon 35-105 zoom mounted on a film body is my workhorse. A small camera bag with a Canon 24mm f/2.8 superwide-angle, a Canon 200mm f/4 telephoto, a flash, and, depending on the situation and location, maybe a small, lightweight tripod. The 24mm is a must-carry lens. It’s small and compact and adds a lot of versatility. The 24mm is sharp, fast, and has tremendous depth-of-field. This lens really shines in tight shooting situations and I love its characteristic distortion. The 200mm telephoto works well for photographing people and can be hand-held. This lens allows for a very shallow depth-of-field–excellent for isolating a subject and creating a soft, diffuse background that is so pleasing. It also allows for some working distance between you and a potential subject. This is helpful when you want to capture people in the act of being themselves.

Because cities are places of great activity, extra awareness, caution, and preparedness are required on the part of the urban photographer. Your personal safety and the safety of others requires it. Be aware of your surroundings, at all times. You may be walking around with thousands of dollars strapped around your neck. Pay attention. Strive to remain inconspicuous. Wear casual, comfortable clothing and shoes, and be prepared for changes in weather. A small, heavy-duty trash bag works well to keep things dry in a pinch. They are lightweight and ultra-compact. That being said, bring an extra.

Photographing the Urban Landscape

As you explore your cityscape, look for unusual perspectives and vantage points. Cities are marvels of verticality and many unusual vantage points await. Night scenes can be especially beautiful when offered in a new and fresh way. Experiment. Try long, hand-held exposures. Look for visually compelling textures and repeating patterns, as well as strong converging lines. Keep compositions simple. Less usually equates to more. Apply all the same principles to photographing the urban landscape that you would to creating a good nature photograph. Light is everything! Pay attention. It can make or break your image.

It is sometimes a fine line between creating art and becoming an invasion into somebody’s life. Please be considerate of the people you photograph. Cities are home to great suffering. Allow every woman and man their dignity. Before you take any photograph, put yourself in the other person’s place. Ask people if it is alright to photograph them. Most people will likely welcome your request.

Please contact me with your comments, questions, and suggestions. Also, let me know if there is a particular topic you would like to see covered.

Until next time, happy image-making…

Bruce

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Photo Tip #10: Photographing Wildlife

Photographing Wildlife

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Photographing wildlife is a challenging and highly rewarding pursuit. Wildlife adds a magical element to any nature experience. Most of us interact with some form of wildlife on a daily basis. With some basic equipment, a little preparation, and a focused effort, you can achieve outstanding results–and often within a relatively short distance from your home.

While wildlife photography usually conjures up images of exotic locations like Kenya or Alaska, the lower 48 states are rich with wildlife. We are fortunate here in America to have such an extensive system of national parks, state parks, and wildlife refuges throughout the country. These preserves are often havens for wildlife in a world of increasing habitat loss. Yellowstone is the crown jewel of national parks and boasts the highest concentrations of wild animals in the contiguous U.S.. The Yellowstone ecosystem is comprised of some 28 million acres and claims some of North America’s most impressive species–including grizzly bears, wolves, elk, and bison. Living here in Mount Shasta, I am blessed to have the Klamath National Wildlife Refuges just an hour away. The Klamath Refuges are a major stopover along the Pacific Flyway and home to the largest wintering population of bald eagles in the lower 48. Millions of birds migrate through the Refuges every Spring and Fall. Many areas throughout the country offer similar opportunities for photographing wildlife.

 

Photographing Wildlife

When we think of wildlife, we tend to think of the larger and more obvious species–but let’s not overlook the small and seemingly commonplace. Several photographers have opened our eyes to the beauty and wonder of the myriad tiny creatures with whom we share this Earth. Every living organism is a miracle of creation, and as unique and fascinating as any other when observed closely. Insects comprise the largest number of species in the animal kingdom–over 1 million recognized species worldwide. North America alone is home to more than 88,000 species of insects, so don’t overlook them as potential subjects. They are among the planet’s most fantastic critters. Check out The Smaller Majority, by Piotr Naskrecki. The photography is stunning!

You can shoot exceptional wildlife photographs with the most basic equipment. The majority of cameras come standard with some kind of zoom lens. Longer focal lengths have more reach and allow you to work at greater distances from your subject. Animals tend to be wary of humans and some are simply too dangerous to photograph at close range. If you are serious about wildlife photography, a 300 to 500mm telephoto is optimal. Many camera manufacturers sell telephotos up to 1200mm. These lenses get quite pricey. At these long focal lengths, you want the very best glass you can afford. Even a 200mm length can yield professional results. Roosevelt Elk (above) was taken handheld with a Canon 200mm f/4 telephoto lens. Canon now offers a 70-200mm f/2.8 image-stabilized zoom. This is an exceptionally sharp and versatile lens and is excellent for photographing wildlife or people, landscapes or cityscapes.

 

Photographing Wildlife

Teleconverters mount between the camera body and lens to increase focal length. They are available in 1.4x and 2x. A 200mm f/4 telephoto with a 2x teleconverter becomes a 400mm f/8 lens. I always recommend using a tripod and cable release with telephotos.

It isn’t necessary to spend thousands of dollars on long telephotos to capture striking wildlife images. Vision and imagination are the primary components to strong image-making. More gear does not equate to better photography–it simply means more possibilities. A 50mm lens in the hands of a competent photographer can yield dramatic results. A macro lens is specifically designed for close-up photography and works especially well with small amphibians, reptiles, and insects, as well as wildflowers. Macros usually come in two focal lengths–50 and 100mm. An inexpensive alternative to the macro lens are extension tubes, which increase the distance between the lens element and sensor, offering up to larger-than-lifesize magnification. They commonly come in a set of three (12, 20, and 36mm) and can be used in varying combinations to achieve different magnifications. Many photographers use a ring flash to light their subject. Any external flash will work if you’re in need of one. You may also want to use a flash diffuser to soften the illumination.

Great photographs rarely just happen. They are typically the product of hard work and dedicated effort–years in the field, studying and knowing the subject. A little homework here can mean the difference between seeing wildlife at all and coming away with an exceptional image. Do your homework and have a plan. For me, one of the great joys of photography is the continual education I receive. Mother Nature is the ultimate educator and we, as human beings, stand to learn much about ourselves through observing nature.

 

Photographing Wildlife

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Animals are usually most active in the early morning and evening hours. Spring and Fall are times of great activity. Fall is the mating season. Elk and big-horned sheep are in the rut and banging heads for mating rites. Spring is a time of renewal and rebirth. Moose are calving and myriad birds are hatching. These are dynamic seasons for a wildlife photographer. For that very reason, they also warrant caution. These are wild animals and the seemingly most docile creature can turn frightfully dangerous if approached. Always give animals plenty of distance, and be especially wary of animals with young. For them, survival is a serious matter.

It’s easy to get caught up in the excitement of a grizzly bear peering down your lens. First and foremost–remain aware of your surroundings and your safety. With that ingrained, pay attention to the image-making part of the process–composition and lighting. Scan the viewfinder for any distracting elements and eliminate them. Think ahead to the finished photograph. Do you want to isolate the subject against a soft background or do you prefer maximum depth-of-field for sharp detail? Do you want to freeze motion or accent it with a long exposure? Anticipate where any action might occur and be ready. As the light changes, take meter readings and make test shots. If you live in close proximity to wildlife habitat, make repeated trips and look for new and interesting vantage points. Take note of the light throughout the day and throughout the seasons. Animals, like human beings, are part of their environment. Look to place them in their surroundings. It can provide a telling insight into the nature of the animal.

A few last words–and for some of us, I am overstating the obvious–wild animals have an extremely acute sense of smell. If Fido has just ridden in your lap for the last 150 miles, any animal will know it. Avoid using scented products–shampoo, soap, and laundry detergent. No colognes or perfumes. Women should also be aware of their cycle when in the wild. It can attract curious and sometimes unwanted visitors. If you’re photographing grizzly bears in Glacier National Park, carry pepper spray and hope you don’t have to use it.

The continued survival of hundreds and thousands of species of wildlife all around the world are stressed with a rapidly declining habitat, pollution, and other environmental pressures. Please be respectful of all the creatures you encounter. Give them ample space. NO photograph is so important as to stress an animal in the making of it! We are privileged to bear witness to the processes of nature. And when it comes down to it, in the wild, we are the visitors.

Check out the work of Frans Lanting. This man exemplifies fine art nature photography in a way that few are able!

I welcome your comments, questions, and suggestions.

Until next time, happy image-making…

Bruce

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The Eddys–Worlds To Discover

The Eddys

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Eddys are among the Mount Shasta area’s truly spectacular and dramatic landscapes. Numerous lakes, breath-taking meadows, and colorful floral displays are hallmarks of most any foray into the Eddys. As a sub-range of the Klamath Mountains, the Eddys are one of Northern California’s oldest mountain ranges–dating as far back as 500 million years. A diverse geology, unique flora, and abundance of lakes make hiking the Eddys a consistent favorite.

Mount Eddy, at 9025 feet, is the second highest point in Siskiyou County, behind Mount Shasta. Because its summit straddles the Trinity Divide and the boundary between Siskiyou and Trinity Counties, it is simultaneously the highest point in Trinity County and marks the division between the Sacramento River and Trinity River watersheds. The hike to the summit comes highly recommended–certainly for the views, but as much for the experience of the hike. You pass by three lakes and an unnamed tarn on your way to the saddle. This vantage point offers exceptional views of Mount Shasta with Black Butte to the east, and the Trinity-Alps and Marble Mountains to the west. Sources are divided on the origin of the peak’s name. Some accounts say it is named after Nelson Harvey Eddy, who moved to the area from New York in 1856. Others claim the name honors his wife, Olive Paddock Eddy, the first woman to climb Mount Shasta. Still a third account names her as Harriett C. Eddy.

The Sisson-Callahan Trail was established in the mid-1800s and served as a main route between the two towns. In 1911, the U.S. Forest Service constructed an official trail linking the Callahan Ranger Station in the Scott Valley with the Forest Service headquarters in Sisson, and a telephone line was maintained between the two stations. In 1979, the Sisson-Callahan Trail was designated a National Recreation Trail. This trail follows the North Fork of the Sacramento River to the Deadfall Summit (8020 feet), then descends to join with the PCT at Lower Deadfall Lake. At the saddle, you will see the trail leading up to Mount Eddy.

A fire lookout was constructed on the Mount Eddy summit and operated until 1931. The remains of an adjacent cabin stood propped up with boards and cables until finally succumbing to the inevitable forces of snow and wind and gravity a few years ago. Many of us maintain romantic notions about what it means to be a fire lookout, but as J.S. McClemmons learned, the position can be a harrowing and sometimes life-threatening one. The Bakersfield Californian reported that on August 5, 1920, Mr. McClemmons was on the telephone when lightning struck the building, blowing a four-foot hole in the wall and starting the structure on fire (a bit of an irony). McClemmons was rendered unconscious, but quickly recovered to extinguish the flames. He then set out on foot for Sisson (Mount Shasta City), 12 miles away. There, he was treated for his burns and released.

The Eddys

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Siskiyou County is home to at least 272 named lakes, many of which are found in the Eddys. Some 60 lakes lie nestled within a 12-mile radius of Mount Eddy alone. Of these, Deadfall Lakes is probably the most popular destination. This cluster of lakes exemplifies the beauty that comprises the Eddy Range. A local’s tip: Most guidebooks give directions to the Park’s Summit (PCT) trailhead. This is a relatively level hike on the well-maintained Pacific Crest Trail. It is also the most direct hike in; perhaps this is the author’s thinking in sending you this way. A second and highly preferable option awaits those more adventurous spirits. Continue on past the trailhead parking area. In approximately 1/4 mile, the road will curve left and start to descend. At the bottom of the grade, the road then curves sharply to your right. At this hairpin turn, you will see a small, non-descript parking area on your right. Park here, then walk across the road to the sign marking Deadfall Meadows. This lower trail will take you through the meadows themselves and eventually connect with the PCT and Deadfall Lakes. While this route requires that you regain some elevation, it is, by far, the more scenic of the two trails–and the least crowded. If your interest is in photographing wildflowers, you want to take this lower trail. The first section of the hike crosses a marshy area for about 500 feet, so waterproof hiking boots are advised. Deadfall Meadows boasts one of the northstate’s most colorful and prolific floral displays. The insectivore, Darlingtonia californica (California Pitcher Plant) grows in profusion along many of the creeks. July and August are prime months for photographing the blooms. Bigelow’s Sneezeweed, Jefferey’s Shooting Stars, and Indian Paintbrush, are but a few of the species you can expect to find here. Pack a small tripod and your wildflower field guide.

The Eddys

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Seven Lakes Basin is another place worth exploring. Again, this hike offers superlative views of Mount Shasta, the Trinity-Alps, and Marble Mountains, and access to–need I say it?–a multitude of lakes. For those wanting a more physical challenge, try the hike up to Little Crater Lake. Bring your route-finding skills and leave the GPS at home. The Eddys provide for a lifetime of discovery and more. Many good local guidebooks are available, including John R. Soares’ 75 Hikes in California’s Mount Shasta and Lassen Volcanic National Park Regions (The Mountaineers Books).

Please contact me with any comments, questions, or suggestions.

Until next time, happy image-making…

Bruce

Posted in Mount Shasta Area Photo Destinations Tagged , , , , , , , |

Photo Tip #9: Using Filters

Using Filters

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Filters are an important and often overlooked piece of photographic equipment, yet they are essential to the image-making process. In this article, I will discuss a basic set of filters that every nature photographer should have in her or his camera bag. I won’t go into the use of ‘creative’ or special effects filters, as they serve an entirely different function and are not relevant here.

The camera and the human eye see differently, and filters, when judiciously applied, help to render a scene more as the eye sees it. They can help to balance exposure in difficult light, reduce glare and reflection, and improve color saturation and contrast.

The first filter any camera shop will try to sell you is either a UV or Skylight 1A filter. These filters offer mild haze reduction and slightly warm the cool bluish cast normally associated with daylight. Their biggest pitch is lens protection. One photo guide by a prominent publication suggests that “many pros keep them on the lens for protection.” I disagree–and I know many seasoned pros who will tell you ‘No’ to the UV filter. It’s another glass surface to reflect and bounce light. If a filter doesn’t serve to enhance the image, don’t use it. As for lens protection, don’t strike your lens on things. A filter is no insurance. Use your lens cap. I once inherited a zoom lens with its bent UV filter permanently affixed. Forget attempting to use any other filter with that lens. If you should crack a filter’s glass element and can’t remove the filter, how good is your lens anyway? Starting at $25 each (and up to $300), the camera salesman would love to sell you all three sizes to fit your array of lenses. If anyone needs UV or Skylight filters, I have a dozen of them I never use!

Two suggestions regarding filters. One–buy only high-quality filters. They are an optical component and all filters are not created equal. B+W, Cokin, Hoya, and Tiffen all offer professional-quality filters. The second suggestion is to avoid stacking filters. More glass means less optical clarity and the reflection issue is multiplied.

The single most important filter in your kit is the circular polarizing lens. When I use a filter, 99% of the time, it’s a polarizer. A rotating ring allows for increasing and decreasing the amount of polarization. A polarizer deepens blue skies and helps to bring out detail in clouds. It also helps to increase color saturation and contrast. A polarizing lens reduces reflection on glass, water, and snow. Try rotating the ring to get the most accurate and pleasing results. With reflective surfaces, the polarizer works best at a 45-degree angle. When shooting the sky and clouds, a 90-degree angle from the Sun is optimal. This filter can be used for both color and black and white photography.

Using Filters

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Probably the second most important filter in your bag is a Graduated Neutral Density filter. This filter allows less light to enter one half of the glass, without altering color. They come in 1-, 2-, and 3-stop differences. (ND 0.3, ND 0.6, and ND 0.9, respectively) This is extremely helpful when you encounter a scene with a shaded foreground and brightly lighted sky. A 2-stop (ND 0.6) Graduated filter will generally bring most situations into balance. If you have a question as to which filter is best for you, take a few meter readings next time you’re in the field. Determine the exposure differences throughout the scene–specifically, between shaded and brightly lighted areas, such as the sky.

My third recommendation is a Solid Neutral Density filter. The solid filter reduces the amount of light entering the lens equally throughout the image. This is especially helpful if you’re wanting a wider aperture for decreased depth-of-field, or to increase exposure time to create the soft, veil-like effect of flowing water. These filters are available in a wide range of densities, from 1-stop up to 6-stop reductions, and work very well with moving clouds and surging oceans. Cokin offers a filter system, as do a number of manufacturers, consisting of a filter holder, adapter ring (to fit specific lens diameters), and the filter itself–usually a square (4″ x 4″) or rectangular (4″ x 6″) pane of optical resin. These filters are lightweight, scratch-resistant, and optically coated. The big plus: no glass to shatter in the backcountry. This system allows you to position the filter up or down in the holder, which is nice when using the Graduated filter. And no having to buy (and carry) four filters to fit each of your lenses. Purchase the relatively inexpensive adapter ring and you’re golden.

My next recommendation is either an 81A or 81B warming filter. This slightly pinkish filter works well for portraits, as it warms skin tones and is especially beneficial on overcast days. This is one of those filters I don’t use a lot, but there are those occasions when it is indispensable. I prefer the 81B for its additional warming effect, though this is purely a personal choice.

Using Filters

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There are three additional filters which I will recommend. These are all black and white contrast filters–and while they are somewhat specialized, I want to give them mention. I suggest when you shoot black and white that any filtration occurs in the shooting process. Don’t rely on image-editing programs, such as Photoshop, to add filter effects after the fact. The #8 Yellow and #25A Red filters are both used to increase contrast in landscapes, particularly the contrast between clouds and sky. The Yellow filter darkens the sky, yielding a more accurate tonal rendition in black and white. The 25A produces a more dramatic, exaggerated contrast in water, sky, and clouds. The #11 Green filter is used to render accurate skin tones in black and white portraiture. It also improves the tonal rendition of foliage. As always, I recommend bracketing to guarantee the optimal exposure in your image.

B and H Photo/Video has an overwhelming selection of filters. Have fun and experiment. Filters add an entirely new creative dimension to your image-making. I’m wishing you well!

Please contact me with any comments, questions, or suggestions.

Until next time, happy image-making…

Bruce

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Black Butte–A Child Born of Mount Shasta

Black Butte

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Black Butte is one of Siskiyou County‘ s most intriguing and recognizable geologic features. Born some 9500 years ago during the same eruptive episode which formed Shastina (on Mount Shasta), it typifies the volcanic cone. Black Butte consists of four distinct domes that formed in a series of successive eruptions spanning just a few hundred years. As with Shastina, it is thought that explosions created a broad crater which was soon followed by an upwelling of thick, pasty lava known as dacite. The lava continued to spew forth and Black Butte was born.

 

Black Butte

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Black Butte figures prominently in Native American lore. In one such story, the Creator lived with his son and daughter and Mount Shasta was their home. The daughter wished for her own space in which to reside, so the Creator built Shastina for her. She was warned to stay away from the area to the west, as it is the direction of darkness, of the color black, and of death. But the daughter felt a strong connection to all the animals and was very attracted to the beautiful rivers, lakes, and verdant meadows to the west. During her outings, she would hear singing. It was Grizzly Bear. He began singing her love songs and, of course, she fell in love with Grizzly, who appeared human to her. They wandered the hills and valleys together–and over time, Grizzly realized that the Creator’s only daughter is used to having a home, so he built Black Butte for her. Grizzly’s claw marks are clearly visible on the mountain’s flanks.

 

Black Butte

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Black Butte has been known by a number of names, including Muir’s Peak, after the famous explorer, naturalist, and writer, John Muir. The first documented climb of the peak came in 1911, when a party of nine ascended to the summit at a time when there was no trail. Anyone who has ever hiked the 2.5 mile trail to the top knows how challenging a feat this must have been with loose scree and 40 degree pitch. It wasn’t until 1931 that the Civilian Conservation Corps began construction of a trail, with the intention of placing a fire lookout upon the butte’s summit. In October of that year, the lookout was completed. In 1950, a 1,350-acre fire  threatened to consume the lookout when flames climbed the mountain’s south flank. In 1962, the Columbus Day Storm racked the lookout, blowing off the roof and shattering windows. The Mount Shasta Ski Bowl recorded winds there at over 100 miles per hour. The structure was rebuilt and continued to operate until 1973. Now, only the foundation remains.

The trail to Black Butte’s summit is maintained and provides one of the Mount Shasta area’s truly spectacular hikes. The 360-degree view from the top makes this a particularly worthy destination. The trail is generally free of snow from May through November. A number of good local hiking guides are available, including 100 Classic Hikes in Northern California, by John R. Soares and Marc J. Soares.

Please contact me with any comments, questions, or suggestions.

Until next time, happy image-making…

Bruce

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Mount Shasta–A Veritable Winter Wonderland

Mount Shasta

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mount Shasta comes alive with the arrival of Winter. With over three feet of snow since Thursday, and more in the forecast, we are assured of a White Christmas here in Northern California. Whether you’re a family wanting to sled with the kids, or an avid snowboarder looking to rip some turns, the Mount Shasta area has something to offer everyone. Cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, and ice skating are just a few of the activities awaiting you in this Winter paradise. And needless to say, the photographic opportunities are outstanding this time of year.

Two of your best sources for area events and information are the Mount Shasta Chamber of Commerce and the Siskiyou Visitor’s Bureau. The Mount Shasta Ski Park is in full operation and will be hosting a New Year’s Eve celebration with live music, a torchlight parade, and skiing until midnight.

 

Mount Shasta

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Backcountry skiing on Mount Shasta began back in October. With the recent series of storms, we are now seeing significant accumulations on the mountain. The Old Ski Bowl, at 7600 feet, is measuring 114 inches of snow on the ground. Castle Lake, at 5500 feet, is reporting 43 inches of snow as of December 23. Both the Everitt Memorial Highway and the Castle Lake Road are currently closed due to heavy snow. For the latest information on weather, road closures, and snow conditions, visit the Mount Shasta Avalanche Center website. The Shasta Base Camp offers ski and snowboard rentals, as well as outer wear to keep you warm and cozy. Styles, Ian, and the Base Camp crew are your best source for local climbing information. Check out their climbing wall when in Mount Shasta. For those of you seeking a guided trip on the mountain, Shasta Mountain Guides is the area’s leading guide service. Owners Chris and Jenn Carr have spent nearly twenty years skiing, climbing, and guiding on this magnificent mountain.

Snowman’s Hill, on Highway 89 between Mount Shasta and McCloud, is a wonderful place to go sledding with the family. Located directly across from the Ski Park Highway, Snowman’s Hill was once a famous ski jumping destination. During the 1930’s, numerous competitions were held, attracting many of the day’s best athletes, including the women’s world champion, Johanne Kolstead. This is still a very popular spot on Winter week-ends.

 

Castle Lake

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For those of you who love to ice skate, the Siskiyou Ice Rink, at Shastice Park in Mount Shasta, is open through January 6th. This outdoor rink is a favorite with the local community. They offer skating lessons and equipment rentals–all within the shadow of the mountain. When conditions are favorable, Castle Lake provides an opportunity to ice skate in a natural environment, but caution is always advised. You are skating at your own risk.

February is an excellent time to view the bald eagles at the Klamath Basin National Wildlife Refuges. The Refuges are home to the highest wintering population of baldies in the lower 48 states. (See my blog post entitled, Bald Eagles Find Winter Home at Klamath National Wildlife Refuges.) The Klamath Basin Audubon Society is hosting the Winter Wings Festival, February 14-17, 2013. Check out their schedule. This is an opportunity not to be missed.

After a hard day of having fun, stop by The Goat Tavern, in the heart of downtown Mount Shasta. They offer a constantly changing selection of micro brews on tap, as well as the area’s best burgers–and you’ll get to rub elbows with some of the local characters, no extra charge. Hot Tip: $3 pints from 4 to 6 PM. Say ‘Hi’ to John for me!

Please contact me with any comments, questions, or suggestions. I’m wishing you all a Warm and Happy Holidays! May your New Year bring good health and abundance each and every day!

Until next time, happy image-making…

Bruce

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Bald Eagles Find Winter Home at Klamath National Wildlife Refuges

Klamath National Wildlife Refuges

Every Winter, the Klamath Basin National Wildlife Refuges are home to the largest wintering population of bald eagles in the lower 48 states. Some 500 birds migrate here in an average year, beginning their arrival in November. January and February offer the best viewing at the Refuges.

The bald eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) is the only eagle unique to North America. The female tends to be slightly larger than the male–with her wingspan reaching an impressive 90 inches. Baldies mate for life and produce a clutch of 1 to 3 eggs, which hatch in about 35 days. The bald eagle’s nest is no small affair. The largest nest on record measured 9.5 feet (3 meters) across and 20 feet (6 meters) high, and weighed more than two tons. Juveniles develop their characteristic adult plumage at around five years of age. A bald eagle in the wild can live up to 28 years. While fish generally make up the majority of its diet, eagles are opportunists–waterfowl are the predominant food source at the Klamath Refuges and constitute the bulk of the raptor’s diet here.

It is estimated that in the 1700’s, North America boasted a population of some 300,000 to 500,000 bald eagles. For decades, the eagles were hunted for sport and to protect fishing grounds. The use of DDT after World War II nearly decimated our national symbol, until the EPA banned the highly toxic insecticide in 1972. Eagle populations have since rebounded significantly, and on June 28, 2007, the Department of the Interior removed the bald eagle from the Federal List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants. Today some 70,000 birds populate the continent–with more than half of those residing in Alaska. The bald eagle, however, is still protected by both the Migratory Bird Treaty Act and the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act.

For more information on the current status of the bald eagles at Klamath Basin National Wildlife Refuges, or to reserve a photo blind, visit their website at: http://www.fws.gov/klamathbasinrefuges/

Also, see my article, Klamath National Wildlife Refuges Offer World-Class Photo-Ops.

Please contact me with any comments, questions, or suggestions.

Until next time, happy image-making…

Bruce

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Skiing Lassen Peak

Skiing Lassen Peak

Lassen Peak offers some of Northern California’s finest backcountry skiing. Located at the southern extremity of the spectacular Cascade Range, Lassen Peak is notorious for heavy snowfall. Its proximity, combined with a relatively high elevation, equates to a long season and great Spring skiing. As the Lassen Loop Road is not plowed in Winter, the approach this time of year is a long one and may warrant a multi-day trip. In the Spring, the National Park Service begins to plow the road, with the intention of having it completely opened by Memorial Week-End. With the enormity of the task, the clearing process happens incrementally, over a period of weeks, and is dependent on weather. The Park Service starts at the Manzanita Lake Entrance Station and plows south to the Devastated Area (9.3 miles). Then they move their equipment to the Southwest Entrance and work north, over the pass (8500 feet), to the Devastated Area.

Once the Summit Trail parking area is accessible, you have a number of options for skiing Lassen Peak. You can climb the 2.3 mile trail to the summit and ski the Southeast Face back to the parking lot, or you can arrange to leave a shuttle vehicle at the Devastated Area and ski the Northeast Face for a 4000 foot descent–this, after just a 2000 foot climb! This run requires additional commitment and higher level of ability, as the top 1000 feet is rated Advanced (Black Diamond). Below an elevation of 9000 feet, the skiing is rated Intermediate. Diehards can easily do laps, though a second run requires the additional logistics of placing still another vehicle at the Devastated Area parking lot, or arranging a ride with new-found friends.

The Spring corn on Lassen Peak is legendary. For me, Spring skiing is the proverbial icing on the cake. One should always be prepared. That includes expecting the unexpected. Bluebird days do not preclude the possibility of avalanches. As temperatures warm and the snow becomes saturated with water, weak layers can release wet slides. Climb early and descend early. Check weather conditions and assess the snow. If snow stability is suspect, turn around or choose a safe alternative route. Carry a beacon, probe, and shovel, and know how to use your gear. At times, an ice axe and crampons may be required. On a mid-May ascent of Lassen Peak via the Summit Trail, a friend and myself encountered a 100-foot wide patch of glazed ice on a steep, shaded hillside. As we were skinning up on tele-gear, we dug our edges into the ice and prayed. It was one step at a time–one ski placed safely in front of the other. To fall here would have meant an uncontrolled 300-foot slide with potentially serious consequences. Recounting the incident years later, my friend described the experience as “…f*cking scary.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Being prepared includes a level of physical fitness. While the Summit Trail is only 2.3 miles, it maintains a fairly consistent 15 percent grade. With skis and the necessary accompanying gear, this moderate hike requires extra exertion. Also, physical fitness allows for more laps, faster laps, which means more skiing.

Bring your camera, as the summit plateau offers striking aesthetics, and the panoramic view from the top is one of the finest anywhere. Lassen Volcanic National Park provides an abundance of opportunity to ski world-class terrain. Brokeoff Mountain, at the south end of the Park, is accessible year-round. Chaos Crags is a relatively short hike from the Manzanita Lake Entrance Station at the north end, and guarantees exhilarating skiing in a spectacular setting. Many excellent guide books offer trip information to several destinations within Lassen Park. Check out 50 Classic Backcountry Ski and Snowboard Summits in California, by Paul Richins, Jr. (The Mountaineers, Seattle). This guide also includes four very worthwhile trips on Mount Shasta.

For more information on Lassen Peak and current conditions, visit the Lassen Volcanic National Park website.

Please contact me with any comments, questions, or suggestions.

Safe skiing!! Until next time, happy image-making…

Bruce

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