Tag Archives: landscapes

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

Posted in Natural Wonders Also tagged , , , , , |

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

Posted in Mount Shasta--A Place Called Home Also 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 Also tagged , , , , , |

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 Also 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

Posted in Photo Tips Also tagged , , , , , , |

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

Posted in Mount Shasta Area Photo Destinations Also tagged , , , , , , |

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

Posted in Photo Tips Also tagged , , , , , |

Photo Tip #5: Photographing Landscapes

Photographing Landscapes

Landscapes account for more photographs, historically, than any other genre, with the likely exception of portraiture. We are all immersed in some kind of landscape. Even the city dweller resides in an urban landscape. While this particular article focuses on the natural world, everything I present here can be applied to cityscapes, as well.

Photography is all about light. Take note of those landscape photographs that really catch your eye. Almost certainly, the scene is awash in beautiful light. Light is the foundation upon which all photographs are created, and the more beautiful the light, the more visually impactful the photograph. Photographers are constantly referring to the golden hour— that one hour beginning just before sunrise and the one hour ending just after sunset. Colors grow rich and shadows long. Textures become accented. It is a rare occasion that great photos just happen. They are usually the product of hard work and committed effort–of knowing the subject, its characteristics, the best vantage point, and also the best time of day and optimal season. If you have the luxury, make repeated visits to a site. Learn it. When you get to know a particular location intimately, that begins to reflect in your photographs. Galen Rowell is an outstanding landscape photographer and high on my list of favorites. Galen’s photos of the Eastern Sierra Nevada are stunning. He has climbed, skied, and photographed on all seven continents and chose to live in the Eastern Sierra because of its unique quality of light, which he felt to be the most beautiful he had experienced anywhere on the planet. When metering for landscapes, take readings from middle tones in the landscape itself. Or, take a gray card reading, providing you are positioned in the same light as your subject (See Determining Exposure).

 

Photographin Landscapes

Composition is critical in good landscape photography. Apply the rule of thirds. I prefer to call it a principle rather than a rule. Use it as a guideline (See Composition For A Stronger Photograph). Many factors combine to influence a photograph’s composition. Determine your center of interest, whether it’s a human figure, a towering mountain peak, incredible light, or a splash of bright color. Look for interesting color contrasts, but also be aware of competing colors that draw the eye away from your intended point of interest. Be conscious in the placement of your horizon line. One-third up from the bottom emphasizes an expansive sky. One-third from the top directs attention to the landscape itself. Pay attention that oceans and lakes don’t flow down hill. Don’t restrict yourself to a horizontal camera orientation. Maybe the soaring conifers require a vertical orientation. Get in the habit of viewing the scene in both directions. If you are a professional photographer providing stock images to clients, they may request a vertical orientation, specifically. If the image is intended for a calendar, the client may require a horizontal format. If a scene works both vertically and horizontally, photograph it in both directions. It ups your chance of selling the image.

When photographing sunsets, meter the middle tones in the sky at about a 45-degree angle from the Sun. Silhouetted objects in the foreground can add visual interest and drama to a scene.You can use a flash to light up foreground detail. When properly applied, this can provide striking results. Determine the proper f-stop for your flash-to-subject distance and set the shutter speed to your flash’s sync speed (usually 1/125 sec) or slower. I will cover the use of flash in an upcoming Photo Tips.

When shooting backlighted landscapes, use your hand, or a hat, or your gray card to shade the front of the lens to eliminate lens flare. On occasion, I find lens flare adds an interesting visual component. And there are going to be those times when it is unavoidable. Note: Never look directly at the Sun through your viewfinder. You can severely and permanently damage your eyes!

Filters can help to render more pleasing results, but I recommend using them sparingly. A polarizing filter is great for reducing reflections on bright surfaces, such as water, snow, and glass. It also increases color contrast and deepens the blue sky. A rotating ring and lens adjusts the amount of polarization. It works best when the camera is pointed at a 90-degree angle from the Sun. I suggest not getting too heavy-handed with the polarizer. Skies can become unrealistically saturated. Try different degrees of polarization and see which offers you the most optimal results, but less is usually better. A note on polarizers. They have a tendency to muddy up green foliage, particularly conifers–especially when they are bathed in warm light. A second filter I recommend is a graduated neutral density filter. This filter is indispensable in balancing a bright sky and a less reflective landscape. The glass element is divided in half, one half being denser than the other. This reduces the amount of light entering through that half of the filter without affecting overall color balance. Graduated neutral density filters are available in 1-, 2-, and 3-stop differences, on up to 8- and 10-stop filters. Keep all filters and lenses clean and free of dust–particularly when shooting in the direction of the Sun. Removing filters entirely reduces the amount of reflection and helps to eliminate that washed out quality in backlighted scenes.

I suggest using a tripod and cable release whenever possible. The more stable your camera, the sharper the image. A tripod is a must if you want to create the effect of soft, flowing water that can be so appealing. Try using long shutter speeds–a second or more. When hand-holding your camera, use fast shutter speeds. The rule of thumb is: if you are shooting with a 50 mm lens, use a shutter speed of 1/60 second or faster. If you’re shooting with a 200 mm telephoto, set the shutter speed at 1/250 second or faster.

I hope this article has been helpful. Please contact me with any comments, questions, or suggestions. If you have a particular topic you would like to see covered, let me know. I will try to oblige you.

Until next time, happy image-making…

Bruce

Posted in Photo Tips Also tagged , , , , |

Castle Crags–Our Own Little Piece of Yosemite

Castle Crags

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Castle Crags, even after 31 years, remains a very special place for me. Upon moving here in 1981, it was the Crags that captured my photographic attention, not Mount Shasta. There is something very commanding about those granite spires rising more than 4000 feet above the valley floor. The complexity of this outcropping offers a lifetime of exploration and more. The Crags/Indian Springs Trail is a strenuous 2.7 mile trek (one-way) that gains 2250 feet in elevation and ends at the base of Castle Dome. For those of you able to make this hike, you will be rewarded for your efforts with spectacular views of the spires, the dome itself, as well as neighboring Mount Shasta. The Root Creek Trail is a moderate one-mile hike (one-way), largely through the forest canopy, which offers occasional views of the Crags themselves, before terminating at Root Creek. The Pacific Crest Trail also provides a variety of stunning perspectives.

Formed some 200 million years ago, Castle Crags is the result of many forces, including wind, rain, and glaciation, which have scoured and polished the granite spires we see today.

 

Castle Crags

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I never tire of spending time in Castle Crags. The photographic opportunities are infinite. I have witnessed Peregrine falcons mating in flight at the base of Castle Dome. I have seen a Northern Pacific rattler literally leap three feet through the air onto the trail and quickly coil, ready to strike. You never know what you might encounter here. Because of its relatively low elevation, the trails in Castle Crags remain open much of the year. Springs and creeks run full in the Spring. Wildflower blooms last into Summer and include azaleas, tiger lilies, Indian paintbrush, and wild iris. Black oaks, dogwoods, and vine and big-leaf maples provide colorful displays in the Fall.

To book a photo tour in Castle Crags, or a number of other area locations, contact me.

I welcome your comments, questions, and suggestions.

Until next time, happy image-making…

Bruce

Posted in Mount Shasta Area Photo Destinations Also tagged , , , , , |

Welcome to Bruce McKinley Photography

Mount Shasta Photography

Welcome to Bruce McKinley Photography and my new website and blog. In the upcoming weeks, I am going to be indoctrinating myself in the fine art of blogging. As I do so, I’d like to share photos, stories, and information with you. I want to offer photo tips–from the most rudimentary to more advanced and experimental techniques. I welcome any inquiries into any of my photographs–the hows and wheres, etc.. If you have specific questions about some aspect of the photographic process, including scanning, photo retouching and optimization, please feel free to contact me. I will also share helpful links I encounter along the way–and please feel free to do the same.

Until next time, happy image-making…

Bruce

Posted in Mount Shasta--A Place Called Home Also tagged , , , , , , |