Tag Archives: photography

Shooting Action Photography

action-photography-1Action can be described as any scene which incorporates movement. Action can be as slow-moving as a person walking, or as fast-moving as a race car barreling down a straightaway at 200 miles per hour. Capturing action’s peak moment is a combination of experience, artistic vision, and desired result.

Action photography requires preparedness and doesn’t wait for the photographer to ready her- or himself. Before leaving the house, I like to go through a mental checklist of the equipment I will need for an upcoming session. This might include items like a speedlight and portable light modifiers, polarizing and neutral density filters, lens hoods, a tripod or monopod, spare memory cards, and extra batteries for both camera and flash. Be prepared for any emergency. Do you need a second camera body or second flash in the event one fails? If you don’t own a spare, consider renting from a reputable company such as BorrowLenses. Be certain your gear is clean—particularly lens elements and view finder. Anticipate all the possible shooting conditions and adjust camera settings accordingly ahead of time—white balance, ISO, shutter speed, and aperture—then fine-tune as required once you’re at the event. Is the day clear and sunny? Is it overcast and threatening rain? Will you be shooting indoors or under stadium lights at night? This may seem obvious, but more than once I have begun a session with the incorrect white balance or shooting mode only to discover my error after the fact.

One of the big advantages to digital photography is the ability to take test shots and view the results immediately. Arrive early if possible to make any final exposure adjustments and select a vantage point. Use an 18% Gray Card to determine accurate exposure. If your subject is a high-speed race car or an Olympic diver, it is a good idea to position yourself so that the subject is entering the frame as opposed to exiting it. Apply the rule of thirds, and avoid placing your subject in the center of the frame. This accentuates the action, and is generally more visually appealing. If you want to freeze action, use fast shutter speeds (1/500 second or faster). If depth-of-field is critical, use small apertures (f/8 or smaller). Keep ISO settings as low as possible (ISO 100-800) to minimize unwanted noise. I always recommend shooting in RAW format, as this allows for the widest range of image optimization possibilities in post-production. The RAW file is your digital negative, and requires some kind of image-editing software such as Adobe Camera Raw. I shoot everything in RAW + Large Jpeg (See camera manual). This way, I have a workable image without having to expend the time required for processing RAW images.

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Crisp, sharp images are not always the most desirable or aesthetically pleasing, nor do they necessarily best convey action and sense of motion. Slow, hand-held exposures are a very effective way to communicate motion. Experiment. Try very long exposures (1 second or more) while panning. If you are shooting in bright daylight, you may need to use a variable neutral density filter to reduce the amount of light entering the lens. I use a Tiffen Variable ND filter. This also allows you to use larger apertures, which enable you to isolate your subject while blurring the background. If you have a zoom lens, try zooming in or out during a long exposure. Using a flash in combination with slow shutter speeds at night offers a variety of interesting effects, and the results can be quite dramatic. Be sure to turn off image stabilization when panning or zooming. Most of all, get out and shoot as often as possible—anything and everything. You will become a far more competent photographer as a result.

If you have any questions, comments, or suggestions, please contact me. Until next time, happy image-making!

Bruce

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Memory Cards—A Basic Overview

Memory cards are the photographer’s digital equivalent to film. The most common types of memory cards include SD (Secure Digital, up to 2 GB of capacity), SDHC (High Capacity, up to 32 GB), SDXC (Extra Capacity, up to 2 TB), and UHS (Ultra-High Speed) cards. Two factors determine how memory cards are rated. Speed rating measures the maximum reading and writing transfer speeds to and from the card in megabytes per second (MB/s). Class rating measures the minimum sustained speed needed to maintain an even rate of data transfer onto the card (particularly important when shooting hi-def video). Class 2 cards have a minimum transfer rate of 2 MB/s, while Class 10 cards transfer data at a minimum of 10 MB/s. UHS Speed Class (Ultra-High Speed) appeared in 2009 and utilizes a new data bus, so UHS memory cards are not compatible with non-UHS devices.  SanDisk’s recently released UHS-2 cards offer write speeds of up to 250 MB/s or faster. Note that performance may vary depending on your particular host device. Check manufacturer’s specs for your specific camera. A card’s capacity is designated in gigabytes (GB) or terabytes (TB) and refers to the amount of data a particular card can hold.

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When selecting a memory card, purchase only quality, reputable brands such as SanDisk or Samsung. Because this is your ‘film’ equivalent, you don’t want to scrimp just to save a couple of dollars. At the same time, they can get very pricey, and there is no need to buy the most expensive card. Buy memory cards from reputable dealers only, and beware of counterfeit cards. Most manufacturers offer some kind of warranty. SanDisk offers a limited two-year warranty on its products, while the Samsung 64 Pro Plus offers a ten-year limited warranty. Keep in mind that warranties are no guarantee that a card won’t fail—and should it fail, only the replacement of the product is covered. Loss of images can still occur. SanDisk claims its cards have a Mean Time Before Failure (MTFB) of 1,000,000 hours.

Like film, precautions must be taken when using and storing memory cards to avoid the corruption of data or loss of images. When using a memory card for the first time, it should be formatted for your particular camera (See owner’s manual). Be sure your camera is turned off before installing or removing the card to prevent accidental data loss. A small lock switch on the side of the card allows you to prevent the accidental deletion or overwriting of data. Do not touch the gold contacts on the back of the card, as this may cause corrosion and interfere with the transfer of information. Do not fill the card to its maximum capacity, as this may corrupt data and cause the loss of data (a mistake I have personally experienced). Avoid exposing memory cards to extreme heat or cold. Store them in their supplied case, or a quality memory card wallet, like the Pelican 0915 Memory Card Case (purchased separately). If you do happen to lose data on a card, there are several fee-based online recovery options available, including DriveSaver Data Recovery.

When downloading photographs to the computer, I prefer to remove the memory card from the camera and insert it into the computer’s SD slot. Properly eject the memory card before removing it. If your device doesn’t have an SD slot, you can tether your camera directly via the camera’s supplied USB cable. Be sure the camera battery has enough charge to complete the process. Your third option is to purchase a memory card reader. I’m a minimalist in everything I do, so the last thing I want to do is carry around another piece of gear, especially when traveling. Unless it is your only option, spare yourself the expense and additional hassle of a card reader.

Redundancy is king! Backup your images to at least two devices before erasing them from the memory card. Please note that erasing a card does not remove protected images, whereas formatting deletes all images, including protected images. It is recommended to format the card periodically to optimize performance.

Please contact me with any comments, questions, or suggestions. I’m wishing you an enjoyable Summer. Until next time, happy image-making…

Bruce

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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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Black and White Photography Basics

Black and White Photo Tips

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Black and white photography is very much its own art form. The process of creating black and white images requires the photographer to think and see differently. Even the viewer’s experience is a different one. Black and white is an especially dramatic and impactful medium. By applying a few basic principles, you can create stronger, more compelling black and white imagery. Digital cameras offer so many creative possibilities and black and white imaging benefits greatly with today’s technology.

Black and White Photo Tips The first step to improving your photography is to shoot in a RAW format, whenever possible. The RAW file is your digital negative and it gives you the most creative control over the final image. Adjust your camera’s white balance, as this is particularly important with black and white imaging. Shoot in color mode, then convert your image to grayscale in post. Use the lowest ISO setting possible. This helps keep detail sharp and noise to a minimum.

Composition is fundamental to strong black and white image-making. Be mindful of the rule of thirds, but don’t apply it mechanically. Use visual weight to create balance or tension in your composition. Look for interesting patterns and textures, strong converging lines, and contrasting light and shadow. Think and see in black and white. Look for scenes with a wide range of tones. Does a particular shot call for a shallow depth-of-field or is sharpness throughout the image a preferable choice? Experiment. Try different lens focal lengths. Bracket your shots. Many digital cameras allow you to do this automatically.

Neutral Density Filters reduce the amount of light entering the camera and increase exposure times. They are used to create the veiled effect of flowing water and soft clouds. ND filters decrease depth-of-field by allowing wider apertures. They are also used to decrease the ISO setting in bright situations. A Neutral Density filter can reduce the light up to several stops, permitting very long exposures. Use a tripod on any exposure longer than 1/30 second, and lock up the mirror and use a cable release or self-timer to eliminate camera shake. Also, be sure all image-stabilization is turned off whenever the camera is on a tripod. This will give you the sharpest possible detail.

I welcome your questions, comments, and suggestions. If there is a particular topic you would like to see covered, please contact me and I will attempt to address it in a future post.

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

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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

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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.

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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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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

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