Tag Archives: landscape photography

Backcountry Photography Tips

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My Faithful Marmot Tent

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hello, I am writing from the confines of my tent and listening to the sharp staccato of raindrops pelting the fabric just inches from my ears. It has been raining for the last three days, with only brief and intermittent breaks in the precipitation. I have been camping on the North Fork of the Sacramento River for over three weeks now (the same place I camped for five weeks last Summer), and I am wanting to photograph this special area that has been my home for several weeks. Backcountry photography requires the right gear, and experience using that gear. Equally important is the willingness and mental preparedness to endure Mother Nature’s sometimes lengthy inclement bouts, for they almost always provide outstanding photographic opportunities, but patience and a sense of humor is key.

Staying safe, warm, and dry is primary. Your comfort will dictate how productive your photo efforts will be. Shelter for most people means a tent. Choose a small, quality, lightweight model—large enough to accommodate you, your pack, and your camera gear, yet light enough that you’ll actually carry it. Condensation on the tent’s interior is a natural occurrence and poses a challenge to staying dry, even when it isn’t raining. The ability to vent the space can help to alleviate this problem. Keep clothing and sleeping bags away from tent sides, and avoid bumping the fabric as much as possible. Dress in layers—and absolutely NO cotton! Cotton retains moisture and has no insulating value. Be prepared for any kind of weather regardless of the season. Don’t rely on forecasts. Mount Shasta has seen snow on the Fourth of July.

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North Fork, Sacramento River, Northern California

With today’s sophisticated electronics, camera’s are far more vulnerable to the elements than the manual film cameras of old. Even with a weatherized pro-level camera system, precautions need to be taken. Weather-resistant carrying cases add a level of insurance. I have a Lowepro Toploader Zoom 50 AW II for my Canon EOS body and moderate zoom lens. I also have small protective soft cases for each of my lenses.

I am a minimalist in everything I do. I rely on experience more than gear, particularly when camping in the backcountry. Unless I absolutely need it, I don’t carry it. I have the same attitude regarding camera gear. I bring only what I need to do the job. That means a camera body and two lenses—a 10-18 mm ultra-wide zoom and an 18-55 mm zoom. This covers the majority of shooting situations and keeps weight and space requirements to a minimum. I also carry a fully-charged spare battery and second memory card. Occasionally I use a circular polarizer or neutral density filter, but I find with digital photography that I am less prone to using filters.

Maidenhair Fern, Northern California

Maidenhair Fern, Northern California

A tripod is an essential piece of equipment. Some of the most compelling image-making happens after sunset. Many fine, lightweight tripods are available. I recently purchased a Davis and Sanford Traverse with a BHQ8 Ball Head. Turn off any image-stabilization when using a tripod. Use a remote shutter release or self-timer to avoid camera-shake. Use a lens hood to protect the front lens element from precipitation, as well as the occasional bump.

Sometimes it’s the little things that mean the difference between an enjoyable outing and a disastrous one. I always carry a large, heavy-duty trash bag in my pack. They’re light and offer excellent rain-protection in the event of a sudden downpour while hiking on the trail. That has kept my pack, clothing, and camera gear dry on numerous occasions. Also, pack a couple of one-gallon zip-lock storage bags for water-proof security. They serve as a rain-guard in drizzly conditions. Plastic film canisters are one of the greatest storage containers ever conceived. They are water-tight and pack easily. Keep memory cards, lens tissue, and/or your Bic Mini safe and dry.

Accidents do happen! When I recently purchased a new Canon system, I enrolled in the SquareTrade 2 Year Drops and Spills Protection Plan. At $92 for the two years, it’s cheap insurance. Canon will repair or replace damaged equipment, as long as the item isn’t lost or stolen.

Please contact me with any comments, questions, or suggestions. Until next time, happy image-making!

Bruce

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Lava Beds National Monument–A Land of Primordial Beauty

Lava Beds National MonumentLava Beds National Monument is a land of stark and primordial beauty. It is a landscape rich in geologic and cultural history. When Lava Beds was declared a national monument in 1925, a unique and incredibly diverse natural wonder is preserved for future generations to discover and explore. The many lava flows, fumaroles, and cinder cones offer testament to this planet’s fiery origins. More than 700 caves can be found here. The Klamath Basin is also home to the Klamath and Modoc tribes and is one of the longest continually occupied areas in North America, going back thousands of years. Their presence is evident in various locations throughout the basin, including Petroglyph Point, to the northeast of the park. A wide variety of plant and animal species reside within the monument’s more than 46,000 acres, making Lava Beds National Monument a perfect photo destination. And with the nearby Klamath Wildlife Refuges and Medicine Lake highlands, the photo-ops are world-class.

Lava Beds National MonumentLava Beds National Monument consists of more than 30 separate lava flows, ranging from 2 million years to 1100 years in age. The majority of those flows originated with the Mammoth and Modoc craters located in the southern portion of the park. A smooth, rope-like lava known as pahoehoe (pronounced pah-hoy-hoy) covers most of the monument. Some 22 caves are open for exploration, including Fern Cave. With the exception of Mushpot Cave, near the Visitor’s Center, all caves are unlighted. Bring a flashlight or headlamp and wear a helmet. Long-sleeves and closed-toe hiking shoes or boots are highly recommended.

With an elevation between 4000 feet (1200 meters) and 5700 feet (1700 meters), Lava Beds National Monument supports a variety of vegetation. Grassland and sagebrush occupy the lower elevations, yielding to juniper and chaparral at mid-elevations. Coniferous forests dominated by ponderosa pine are found at higher elevations. Wildflowers include Indian paintbrush, Mariposa lilies, and the slender penstemon. The monument is home to a diversity of wildlife, as well. Badgers, coyotes, and pronghorn antelope are among the mammals you will find here, along with a number of raptors. The Sharp-shinned Hawk, Northern Harrier, and Bald Eagle feed on the abundance of birds, rodents, and fish in the area. Several species of reptiles inhabit Lava Beds, including the Western Rattlesnake, so please use caution when hiking.

Lava Beds National Monument

 

The Klamath Basin is one of the longest continually occupied areas in North America, dating back thousands of years. When White settlers began arriving here in the early 19th century, skirmishes between the indigenous people (specifically, the Modocs) and encroaching settlers broke out. With injustices and atrocities committed on both sides, the U.S. Cavalry was sent in to forcefully re-locate the natives to the Lost River Reservation. They resisted and the stage was set for what is commonly referred to as the Modoc Wars (1872-73). Outnumbered ten-to-one, the Modocs were able to hold out for several months, before succumbing to the inevitable. Several battlefield sites have been preserved, commemorating what is considered the only major Indian war to be fought in California. The National Park Service offers Special Events, including re-enactments of the Modoc conflict. For more information on Lava Beds National Monument, visit their website.

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

Until next time, happy image-making…

Bruce

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Waterfalls of South Siskiyou County

Waterfalls

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

South Siskiyou County, with its abundant lakes, rivers, and creeks, is home to a number of outstanding waterfalls. Many of these are easily accessible, while others require more effort. With a little planning and an early start, you can visit several of the area’s spectacular waterfalls in a one-day tour.

Mossbrae Falls and Hedge Creek Falls, in the vicinity of Dunsmuir, are two beautiful and varied examples of the south county’s many waterfalls. Mossbrae Falls percolates out of a broad expanse of verdant cliffside, before joining a shallow stretch of the Sacramento River. The setting feels almost tropical, with its rich abundance of ferns, grasses, and other water-loving flora. Unfortunately, the trail to Mossbrae Falls is closed at this time, while a new and safer access trail is being considered. Near Dunsmuir’s northern city limit, Hedge Creek Falls lies nestled in the coolness of a deeply shaded basalt gorge. The falls cascade for twenty feet through some of the area’s outstanding columnar basalt before resuming the journey to the Sacramento River. Spring is an especially good time to visit, as the creek’s flow is full and diminishes later in the season. Bring your camera and tripod.

waterfalls_hedge creek_webFive miles east of the town of McCloud are the Lower, Middle, and Upper McCloud Falls. These three unique falls lie within a two-mile stretch of the beautiful and scenic McCloud River. The Lower Falls plunge ten feet through a distinct cleft in the rock before joining a large pool below. The Middle Falls is the largest and perhaps most impressive of the three falls. At 35 feet high and 70 feet wide, it provides a wonderful photo opportunity. For the more adventurous, Winter is an especially photogenic time to visit the falls. The relatively short ski or snowshoe in is well worth the effort and can yield striking results. The Upper Falls lie at the terminus of a long, beautifully sculpted basalt channel, then plunge some twenty feet to the emerald pool below.

Faery Falls, in the Castle Lake drainage, is one of the Mount Shasta area’s lesser known waterfalls. Located upstream from the once-famous Ney Springs Resort, Faery Falls rollercoasters some sixty feet over a granite cliff face, to join the Sacramento River below Box Canyon. A word of caution. While standing at the top of the falls a few years back, a friend and myself were unknowingly standing within six feet of a coiled Northern Pacific Rattlesnake. With the noise of the crashing falls, the dappled sunlight, and the animal’s excellent camouflage, we were completely oblivious to the snake’s presence until I turned and perceived a rattling tail out of the corner of my eye. Please be snake smart. Step cautiously over rocks and logs. All animals require water and tend to gather near these life-sustaining sources–including rattlesnakes.

Waterfalls

Mount Shasta is home to Siskiyou County’s most dramatic waterfalls. Mud Creek Falls, Ash Creek Falls, and Whitney Falls comprise this area’s highest and most dramatic waterfalls. This being said, they are also the most difficult to access and require modest route-finding skills. Mud Creek Canyon, on Mount Shasta’s east side, poses the greatest obstacle in circumnavigating the mountain. A truly imposing feature, this canyon cuts a dizzying 2000 feet through the soft, easily eroding volcanic strata. The 150-foot falls are dwarfed in the immensity of this chasm and not easily approached due to the steep and unstable strata. Ash Creek Falls is accessed via the Brewer Creek Trail on the mountain’s northeast side. At 290 feet tall, Ash Creek Falls is the tallest waterfall on Mount Shasta. The two-and-a half mile round-trip hike requires some route-finding and bushwacking. Whitney Falls is another of the mountain’s spectacular features, plunging some 200 feet, before resuming its course through narrow, v-shaped Whitney Canyon. The creek’s flow is seasonal and greatest in the hot Summer months. As Whitney Creek is glacier-fed, fluctuations can vary significantly with the time of day. Depending on conditions, the creek may not flow until afternoon. The trail to Whitney Falls is more obscure and seeing less use since the Bolam Creek debris flow buried the trailhead in 1997. Since that event, the U.S. Forest Service is no longer maintaining the trail. As with all the mountain’s waterfalls, viewing is a challenge and requires off-trail experience, so please use caution and travel prepared. Approximately one mile to the southeast of Whitney Falls lies Coquette Falls. While I have never visited these falls, accessing them appears to be roughly similar to the other three–be prepared for a cross-country scramble. In the Summer months, temperatures can climb into the 90s, even at elevation, so carry plenty of drinking water and/or a filter or purifier.

Two great resources for hiking the Mount Shasta area are 75 Hikes in California’s Mount Shasta & Lassen Volcanic National Park Regions, by John R. Soares, and The Mount Shasta Book, by Andy Selters and Michael Zanger. Both offer detailed hiking information to several of the destinations mentioned above.

I welcome your questions, comments, and suggestions.

Until next time, happy image-making…

Bruce

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Mount Shasta–Its Many Moods and Faces

Mount ShastaMount Shasta is a mountain of continually changing moods and faces. It is a mountain of striking natural beauty–a constantly swirling interplay of light and shadow, sun and clouds, wind, rain, and snow. Mount Shasta is a larger-than-life presence, an iconic mountain immersed in myth and legend. It is a living, breathing entity–an otherworldly landscape born of fire and ice. Hotsprings at its summit offer testament to its fiery origins living still, while glaciers continue to slowly and methodically scour out valleys as they have for centuries.

Mount Shasta

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mount Shasta is sometimes a deceptive mountain. Warm and inviting in Summer, it can turn hostile and forbidding in Winter. Temperatures can plummet to below 0 degrees Fahrenheit and winds at the summit can exceed 200 miles per hour. Weather can change suddenly and unpredictably any time of year. Mount Shasta claims the world record for the most snowfall in a single storm–nearly 16 feet in the Old Ski Bowl in February 1959. Other forces, such as avalanches and mudslides, can drastically alter the terrain with little or no warning, as with the Bolam Creek debris flow in 1997.

Mount ShastaWeather is Mount Shasta’s most exciting and dynamic element. Clear skies can quickly turn dark and ominous. Thunder and lightning in the mountains can be terrifying–yet it is intrinsically beautiful at the same time. Skies explode in a swirl of color, lightning flashes, as rain falls through a shaft of sunlight. This is the indescribable magic that is Mount Shasta. This is the drama that makes for outstanding photography. And it is precisely my reason for moving here more than three decades ago.

I look forward to sharing other photographs, thoughts, and reminiscences in future posts. I welcome your comments, questions, and suggestions.

Until next time, happy image-making…

Bruce

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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

 

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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

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Photo Tip #8: Winter Photography–Shooting in Inclement Weather

Winter Photography

Winter is an especially photogenic time of year. The quality of light, long shadows, and starkness of the season lend themselves to dramatic image-making. What better time to be out and embracing nature? For me, Winter is the season to be shooting, but conditions can be cold, windy, and wet. With the proper gear, some preparation, and a willingness to embrace the elements, you will come away with extraordinary shots–it is inevitable. Be adventurous! I love backcountry skiing and that affords me unlimited photographic opportunity.

PRECEPT #1: Keep yourself warm and dry.

The single most important aspect of winter photography is your comfort. If you’re miserable, you won’t be hanging out waiting for the clouds to part and reveal that sunlit peak. Layer up. Dress in multiple layers, starting with a capilene or polypropylene base layer top and bottom. I prefer two pairs of socks–a light liner sock and a mid- to heavyweight wool sock. Two socks reduce the occurrence of blisters and keep the feet toasty when worn in conjunction with an insulated Gore-Tex boot. In my case, I am wearing a (Scarpa T2) plastic telemark ski boot. Next, I recommend an insulated wind or snow pant, depending on the situation. If conditions are particularly cold or windy, I might add a wool pant between my base layer and my ski pants. I am usually able to stay adequately warm with a fleece pullover and breathable, waterproof ski jacket. I may add a sweater if things get extreme or I anticipate periods of inactivity. Headware is a must. 80% of a person’s heat loss is through the top of the head. Include a pair of Goretex gloves, as well as a light fleece liner glove. Keep a balaclava in your pack to keep face and neck warm.

Please note: absolutely no cotton! This is a recipe for disaster. Cotton soaks up moisture, including sweat, and offers no insulating value.

Remember your sunglasses and sunscreen.

 

Winter Photography

Because the environment is cold, and often windy and wet, I minimize my photographic gear to the very basics. A camera body and extra batteries, a 24mm superwide-angle lens, a 35-105 zoom, and a polarizing filter for both lenses. Occasionally I include a small, lightweight tripod if I know the shooting situation warrants it– i.e., I’m camping and want to shoot a sunset or sunrise. Be prepared. Be sure all batteries are freshly charged. Keep spares in an inside jacket pocket so they stay warm. Two spare batteries provide additional insurance. Bring a couple of extra 8 or 16 GB memory cards (empty and formatted). Starting out with an empty card in the camera assures a minimum of fiddling around in the wind, rain, and snow.

PRECEPT #2: Keep your camera dry.

Next to staying warm and dry yourself, protecting your camera is paramount. DSLRs are a maze of electronic circuits and connections which are especially vulnerable to moisture. Some high-end pro cameras, like the Canon 1Ds Mark III, claim to be ‘weather-resistant.’ Regardless, you don’t want to test anyone’s claims. Water’s just a bad idea! A small, heavy-duty plastic bag can provide waterproof protection both in transport and while not shooting. Because they are small and lightweight, pack a couple of extras.

While the new digital cameras are much more reliant on electronics, this reduces the number of moving parts. The result is a camera that is more dependable in extremely cold conditions. What usually fails in cold weather is the camera’s battery, so keep all spare batteries warm. Carry a soft lens cloth for drying the lens element and viewfinder. Keep your camera clean. Check to see that lens mounts are clean and free of dust, as well as any contact points. Be sure that all optics are clean prior to leaving home. This includes filters, lens elements (front and back), viewfinder, and LCD screen. A clean lens element and viewfinder are less likely to fog up.

 

Winter Photography

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

PRECEPT #3: Get out and shoot.

The more time one spends with camera in hand, the more likely one is going to capture that all-too-rare jaw-dropping shot. If you live in snow country, as I do, Winter can last up to six months of the year. I can’t afford to sit around waiting for the Spring thaw. As always, the time is now–so get out and shoot!

Best wishes for a healthy and enjoyable Winter season. Please contact me with any questions, comments, or suggestions.

Until next time, happy image-making…

Bruce

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Lassen Volcanic National Park–A Small and Shining Jewel

Lassen Volcanic National Park

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lassen Volcanic National Park is a living testament to our planet’s fiery origins. When Lassen Peak began erupting on Memorial Day, 1914, the volcano would produce more than 390 recorded eruptions before settling into dormancy in 1917. Those fiery origins are still alive and visible today in places bearing names like Bumpass Hell, The Devil’s Kitchen, and Little Hotsprings Valley. While Lassen Volcanic National Park is overshadowed by its more famous siblings, Lassen is a small and shining jewel and, in many ways, this is its appeal. As is the case with many national parks, stray from the road just a short distance and any crowds fall away dramatically. Summer is the high season and sees about half a million visitors annually. After Labor Day, the Park suddenly empties out with the exception of a few day hikers and week-end visitors.  Fall is a spectacular time to experience Lassen.

 

Lassen Volcanic National Park

Lassen Volcanic National Park enjoys many distinctions. You will find all four types of volcanoes–the stratovolcano (ancient Mount Tehama), shield volcano (Mount Harkness, Sifford Mountain), tephra cone (Cinder Cone, Red Cinder Cone), and volcanic dome (Lassen Peak is the world’s largest plug-dome). Most types of geothermal features are found in the Park, though no true geysers exist here. Terminal Geyser is technically a fumarole. Bubbling mudpots, hissing steam vents, and colorful hotsprings comprise the many geothermal areas.

Lassen Volcanic National Park possesses 51 lakes within its boundaries, most of which are the result of Lassen’s past glacial activity. Exceptions to that are Manzanita and Reflection Lakes at the Park’s north entrance. These two lakes formed when a large portion of Chaos Crags, a cluster of four lava domes, collapsed some 300 years ago, setting off a massive rockfall-avalanche, damming Manzanita Creek. Snag and Butte Lakes formed when one of Cinder Cone’s lava flows dammed Butte Creek.

Located at the southern end of the Cascade Range, Lassen Volcanic National Park lies in a transition zone for four major biological provinces–the Cascade, the Sierra Nevada, the Great Basin of Nevada, and California’s Central Valley. Over 700 species of vascular plants reside here, including the endangered skunk-leaved polemonium, which grows only at or near the summit of Lassen Peak. The Park is also home to some 200 species of birds–and mammals include the pine marten, red fox, bobcat, mountain lion, and black bear.

 

Lassen Volcanic National Park

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

While many of the major features are visible from the Park road, untold worlds are to be discovered in Lassen’s backcountry. Cinder Cone is a personal favorite. ‘Otherworldly’ best describes Cinder Cone and its associated lava flow, the Fantastic Lava Beds. This 100 foot-high mass of block lava spewed forth during one of its eruptions, and is responsible for the formation of Snag and Butte Lakes. The Painted Dunes, with its rich, multi-hued earthtones, is also the result of Cinder Cone’s two or so eruptive events. Largely devoid of vegetation, this area truly does take on a feeling of another world.

For more information contact: Lassen Volcanic National Park (530) 595-4444. Website: www.nps.gov/lavo/

I welcome your comments, questions, and suggestions.

Until next time, happy image-making…

Bruce

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Photo Tip #6: Photographing Fall Color

Photographing Fall Color

Fall is a truly magical season–a time of great movement and change. Days grow shorter and shadows grow longer. Animals migrate to their wintering grounds and the Autumn displays of color offer their final farewell to the abundance of Summer. Fall is rich with photographic opportunity–and Autumn color and slant light of the season can provide for striking imagery.

This Photo Tip is an addendum to Photographing Landscapes. While certain locations are well-known for their vivid displays, most areas of the country experience some kind of Fall color. Aspen, ash, birch, maple, oak, and numerous other deciduous trees turn ablaze with the season’s arrival of colder temperatures and waning sunlight. The first thing I recommend when photographing Fall color is to assess the scene. A few minutes spent here can make for a more efficient and productive photo session. View the big picture. What immediately attracts your attention? Does that small, isolated stand of aspens provide the bright splash of color to make your landscape pop? Or is the stand of trees an interesting and worthy subject in itself? When is the best time of day for optimal light? Consider all the possible vantage points. The best photographs are often hard-won. A little extra effort may mean the difference between an average photograph and one that really stands out. A polarizing filter can increase color saturation and contrast, but I suggest going easy on the amount of polarization you use. Too much polarization takes on an unnatural appearance and can reduce subtle detail, particularly in shadow areas. When using a zoom lens, check your composition at a variety of focal lengths. If multiple compositions appeal to you, photograph them all. If you are a professional photographer offering stock images for licensing, having several options increases your chances of selling the image. You can never foresee what might appeal to a particular client.

 

Photographing Fall Color

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Think outside the box. While sharp depth-of-field and crisp detail are usually desirable when photographing trees and foliage, you can also apply the same principles you use to create the effect of soft, flowing water. Long exposures (1/8 second or longer) allow blowing leaves to paint abstract blurs of color across the photograph. As a counterpoint, consider anchoring all that motion with a sharply focused branch or tree trunk. Try using a flash at dusk to photograph the leaves as they rain down in a windstorm. Experiment–and most of all, have fun. It’s a wonderful time to be outside embracing nature’s beauty and diversity.

Please contact me with any questions or comments, or to book a photo tour.

Until next time, happy image-making…

Bruce

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Klamath National Wildlife Refuges Offer World-Class Photo Ops

Klamath National Wildlife Refuges

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Klamath National Wildlife Refuges offer some of the finest photography opportunities you will experience anywhere. Few places in the world rival the Klamath Refuges for sheer numbers of birds, and, also, for the importance of its ecosystem as a stopover along the Pacific Flyway. Because it’s just a little more than an hour from Mount Shasta, it is a place I love to visit as often as possible.

Situated along the California-Oregon border, the Klamath National Wildlife Refuges are comprised of six refuges–Clear Lake, Tule Lake, Lower Klamath, Bear Valley, Upper Klamath, and Klamath Marsh Refuges. The Lower Klamath Refuge was established by Theodore Roosevelt in 1908 and is the nation’s first waterfowl refuge. The Klamath Basin was once a vast complex of large, shallow lakes and extensive marshes totaling some 185,000 acres. More than six million birds migrated through every Spring and Fall. Today, about 36,000 acres of that habitat remain. A variety of pressures have reduced the number of migrating waterfowl to around one million birds. The refuges are home to the largest wintering population of bald eagles in the contiguous U.S.. I was there in February of 1988, when more than 900 baldies stayed the season. December through February are prime months to view the eagles. Dress warmly, as the elevation lies around 4100 feet and Winters here can get quite cold.

Over 400 faunal species have been identified in the refuges. 263 bird species are found here, including 23 species of raptors. Mammals include mule deer, elk, and black bear. Don’t be surprised to see a herd pronghorn antelope grazing placidly in a grassy meadow. A limited number of blinds are available on Tule Lake and Lower Klamath Refuges by advanced reservation. Self-guided canoe trails are provided at Tule Lake, Upper Klamath, and Klamath Marsh Refuges, offering additional photo opportunities. Check with the Visitor’s Center (530-667-2231) for current information and availability.

 

Klamath National Wildlife Refuges

As an added bonus, make the short trip over to Lava Beds National Monument, a worthwhile destination in itself. I find myself drawn to its stark and primal beauty. View ancient lava flows. Numerous lava tubes honeycomb the area and several caves are open for exploration. A helmet and more than one light source are recommended. Captain Jack and his band of Modocs made their final stand here in 1872, in what is commonly referred to as the Modoc Wars. Five prominent sites are located within the Monument’s borders. If you’re feeling particularly adventurous, you can continue south to the Medicine Lake Highlands. There is much to discover. Check out Glass Mountain. This is an all-too-convenient addition to your wildlife viewing excursion. Please note that the road to Medicine Lake is seasonal and not plowed in the Winter.

Please contact me with any questions or comments, or to book a photo tour.

Until next time, happy image-making…

Bruce

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