Tag Archives: nature photography

Backcountry Photography Tips

nature-photography-1

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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Photographing Wildflowers

Photographing WildflowersPhotographing wildflowers is its own art form–much like portraiture or wildlife photography. With the most basic camera equipment, you can create stunning and compelling floral portraits. The key to successful wildflower photography is less about equipment and more about spending time in the field. Flowers bloom in the Spring and Summer months and the window of opportunity is often very short. More time in the field equates to better photographs.

Photographing WildflowersTechnique is the single most important component in creating any compelling image. Photographing wildflowers usually requires close focusing distances and controlling depth-of-field is critical to the final feel of your photograph. A shallow depth-of-field isolates the subject and provides a soft background, while increasing depth-of-field brings a greater area into sharp focus. Use a tripod and cable release whenever possible. Pay attention to composition. Look for simple backgrounds free of competing distractions. Shoot during the golden hours–that hour just after sunrise and the hour just before sunset. Rainy and overcast days provide a diffuse light and increased color saturation. Do your homework. Research flower-rich areas near you. Study your subject and return until you have adequately captured it. Experiment. Try different and unusual perspectives. Wide-angle and telephoto lenses can yield striking results.

Photographing wildflowers is a specialized pursuit. Three items can enhance your creative possibilities. The first item is a macro lens. A true macro lens provides magnifications up to 1:1. This means that if you photograph a small object (say, a penny) at the lens’ closest focusing distance, the image projected onto the camera’s sensor is life-size. Macros generally come in two focal lengths–50mm and 100mm (Exact focal lengths vary slightly from manufacturer to manufacturer). The 100mm lens allows a little more distance between camera and subject. You are less likely to cast a shadow upon the flower and depth-of-field is increased. Extension tubes are an inexpensive alternative to a macro lens. Extension tubes are hollow tubes which mount between your lens and camera body to shorten the minimum focusing distance. They often come in a set of 3 and can be used in varying combinations to achieve different magnifications. Extension tubes work particularly well with short to moderate telephotos. The final piece of equipment is a ring flash–a circular flash unit which mounts to the front of the lens. Low light can be a challenge in macro photography. A ring flash resolves that issue.

I welcome your comments, questions, 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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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

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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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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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