Archive for the Sequoia Category

California Catchup

Posted in California, camping, Hess, luttrell, Matthews, Ojai, road trip, Santa Barbara, Sequoia, Snappers, Ventura, Yosemite on July 12, 2007 by Keith Smiley

By Keith Smiley
The guy that Brad tricked into writing

As far as road trips go, driving a few thousand miles across the country is just an appetizer. We could have spent our entire trip in Ventura County, splitting time between the beach and the hills of Ojai, and been happy with the experience. But we kept logging miles instead, taking side trips to places like Santa Barbara, Los Angeles, Yosemite and Death Valley.

A park ranger at Glacier Point in Yosemite talks about the sunset at Half Dome as the sun sets on Half Dome in the background. Funny how that works.

But anyone who’s reading the blog already knows about our excursions because Brad works so hard on keeping the blog up to date. Before the trip to California started, Brad said he would try and update the blog “3-4 times a week.” But for at least the last month, there’s been a minimum of one post each day, and they rarely come from me.

All the blog’s regular readers and everyone who’s been following the progress of this trip online should thank Brad for his dedication to keeping the blog current. I’m sure he enjoys writing and sharing his photos; otherwise he wouldn’t have started this in the first place. But I’m sure there have been plenty of days when he’d rather be out doing things instead of writing about the things we’ve done.

So I hope everyone appreciates the effort Brad puts into his work, both on the blog and elsewhere. I certainly do; it’s a lot easier to point everyone that asks — all three of them — to the blog instead of trying to recount everything that’s happened on the trip.

Everyone likes feedback, so I’d encourage more people to post comments on Brad’s  posts; something like, “Hey, thanks for all the thought and effort you put into the blog. I use it to kill time at work but enjoy it so much that I read it at home, too.”

For reference, here’s who I’m talking about:

That’d Brad in the middle; he’s the one not made of wood.

The problem with Brad writing so often is that it I don’t usually have a reason to post; he’s already covered the best parts of each day with quality writing and awesome pictures, so there’s not much room for me to put anything up. But I’ve still taken a few pictures here and there, so I’m playing catchup and posting some photos from our road trips to Simi Valley, Santa Barbara, and Yosemite.

Not many words in this one, so if you’ve had to force yourself to read this far, it’s paid off: there are only a few words left in this post and I’ll totally understand if you don’t read them.

What’s unusual about this scene? It’s not the hairpin turn, the randomly placed traffic cones or the hundred-foot drop right off the side of the road. No, it’s the guardrail that’s a luxury California doesn’t usually bother with.

This railing protects the casual hiker from a three-thousand or so foot drop. If you choose to look over the edge anywhere else, well, you’re on your own.

The scene from around where the above railing is. It’s hard to tell at this size, but there’s a spot on that trail on the right. That’s a person.

Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley

Camera, Nalgene bottle, reporter’s notepad poking out of camera bag… what else do you need?

Santa Barbara

Sequoia National Forest
That’s a pretty good sized tree sitting in that pool of light, but the sequoias on either side probably just laugh at it and call it a pipsqueak.

Yosemite National Park



The road trip within a road trip

Posted in animals, California, camping, Hess, road trip, Sequoia, Smiley, Snappers, Yosemite on July 5, 2007 by lenscapremoved

Blogger note: After looking through how many pictures I’ve actually taken over the past few days, I’ve decided that this wont be so much the whole story as it will be just to show you my best from Yosemite and a bit about Sequoia. There will be another post about Yosemite and Death Valley later.

All of my photojournalism friends who are looking at this are thinking, “Where is the runner wearing the red sweatshirt kicking up dirt while having perfect separation and framing with the trees?” To them I would say the only runner that came through wouldn’t put on the red sweatshirt I carry with me for such situations and threatened to call park services if I didn’t stop trying to convince him to change clothes and buy photos from Pictures with Purpose. This photo was taken around 7 am so he was the only one.
Keith and I were walking back to the car when he saw this picture. The blue bird that was there before flew as soon as he tried to take it. It was a nice photo and as we started walking again I saw it just in time to shoot this and completely steal Keith’s idea. I told him about it after I got a few good frames off and skipped a few rocks across the water to scare off any wildlife that might be thinking about stopping on this stump in nice light.

Elliott told me he would switch to Canon if he couldn’t push over General Sherman, one of the largest living organisms in the world. Here he is in action after hopping a fence no more than 50 yards from a park ranger. With a little spring in his step I gave him the benefit of the doubt, but he proved no match for the beast which weighs in at around 2,000 tons. After seeing how easily I overexposed these snappers, he said the deal was off and he was sticking to Nikon.

What kind of tourist would we be if we didn’t break the rules? We managed to go through three National Parks for three nights and only pay for one campsite and avoid any daytime fees for trails or parking. Since we all have a National Parks Pass we can avoid the silly 20 dollar entrance fee every time we pass a park gate. Also, we may have a few unique souvenirs in the trunk of the Volvo.

Most of my souvenirs from this trip will be my photos. I found a deal today where I can have a photo book made with all of my photos up to 100 pages for a flat rate of 20 bucks (Becky, I’m not sure if you can get this same deal but if you want to check it out click here). I think this will be the best way to show people how my trip was rather than to have to whip out a laptop, load up the 10,528 photos plus however many more I shoot, then go through the tagged ones in Photo Mechanic and wonder if they’re able to see the screen right, if I’m showing them too much or too little and if they know what they’re looking at. With a book I can do my own captions and just throw it on the table and say have at it.

Remember the post We make a scene? I had about 15 tourist standing behind me while I was over the edge and off the paved path shooting this photo. A few were starring, wondering what in the heck I could be shooting pictures of. Others just kind of stopped, glanced and walked on. I guess I stood out about as badly as this tree.

This picture of this pine tree will be one of my favorites in the book. While it may not seem like much, I really worked this frame a lot, taking 99 pictures of this one tree. Trying combinations of different exposures, compositions and focal lengths I think I finally found this frame. It’s simple, quick and beautiful. This is a sunset at Glacier Point in Yosemite.

Sunrise in Yosemite. Taken from inside the valley.

To most tourists it doesn’t matter what time of day you see something. Most people plan around how hot it will be during mid-day or try to wake up early enough to cover their planned territory. While I’m not saying you can’t shoot good pictures at mid-day or at any time of the day, the best time to shoot landscape pictures is at sunrise and sunset. This means waking up early, which sucks when you spent the night on rocks or a stump. Clouds really make or break these pictures too (so important that Elliott wanted to leave Yosemite early because the lack of clouds). Unfortunately, we didn’t see one the entire time and haven’t seen but a few in about a month.

Note to my photo friends: Yes I know I have an intersection with the branch and mountain. Its not perfect. If you’re looking for perfection and bliss click here.

When you don’t have clouds you have to work around it by either cutting out more of the sky, using its emptiness to your advantage or filling it with something else. For this picture, I picked tree branches. I’m not crazy about this frame, but I thought it helped show why clouds are important. I could have found a better foreground if I already had clouds bursting up over this mountain.  

Sunest at glacier point provided incredible light and one of the most amazing sunsets I have ever seen. I really like the second one and feel like the light hits that top left rock formation like a castle in the distance and gives the picture a surreal feeling. I hope I have a few good pictures to show for it. If not I figure I can just buy some post cards and scan them into my computer to claim and brag about.

From left to right: knee socks rolled down with apparent golf shoes, two different colors of denim on one body, rolled jeans with Hush Puppies, fanny pack and socks so high, thick and strong they can be used as a pocket and a Sari with nursing shoes.

 Like I’ve said, people are the by far the most interesting animal in the world to watch. If you want to get as many random people together as possible, or at least as many interesting characters, you should once again whip our your atlas and find the closest National Park to you. The photo above makes me smile every time I see it because it perfectly represents who we’re around at all time: total strangers. People who are leading totally different lives are in this one place to see a few of nature’s most impressive (and convenient) features.

I’m sure the person with the fanny pack was carrying a cell phone in there with all of their loved ones and friends names in it. Some of them may have their own ring tone. Maybe the guy with the shoes that look like they should have golf tread on them really is a golfer. Maybe he’s the best at his country club. I have another photo of the lady in the sari posing with a loved one for a frozen moment together that may end up on his or her work desk, in their vehicle or wallet. It’s such a heavy feeling to think about how everyone is seeing the same sights, making similar memories and yet never really acknowledging each other or sharing it with anyone around them.

The wide shot of the valley is pretty, but this girl in her red sweater sitting next to this single tree was really beautiful. She was just taking in the view and not paying any attention to me standing about 30 yards or less behind her taking this photo. Sometimes though, the people are a part of the view.

The view is divine but the massive crowd is more exciting. If you don’t like to take pictures you can at least appreciate the strange conversations you can tune in on. Look out for a blog about using your cameras to pick up dates (no this isn’t about Elliott or any of the rest of us).

After so many people gather at these places, the real feature, the land, isn’t the only spectacle anymore. The four of us have shot almost as many photos of the tourist as we have of these natural masterpieces. In some of my photos I want people I don’t know in them. It kind of seems like the opposite of what makes sense, but if you think about it that’s all part of being somewhere like this. Everyone is there for the same reason. It’s all about experiencing something so eminent and beautiful it needed to be a part of your life. All to be able to say you’ve been there. Together, not individually, people have made these world wide wonders just a bit more interesting, at least to those of us have zoomed out for the wide shot.

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Travel Journal Part Deux

Posted in California, camping, road trip, Sequoia, Smiley, Snappers on July 4, 2007 by lenscapremoved

General Sherman, largest tree in the world. So large that its volume is enough to hold a normal family’s water supply for 3 years. Estimated to only be 2,000 years old, which is young for trees this size. Its circumference is 100 feet. The tree’s diameter is a little over 30 feet. Its largest branch is 6.8 in diameter. Each year General Sherman makes enough new wood to make a normal size 50′ tall tree.

Blogger note: This is a journal that was typed on the marked date and the photos included are also from that date. Also, this is not a review of this road trip. Look for “Road trip within a road trip” later to cover everything and include all photos.

July 1

            Things aren’t always what they seem. Today we came to the conclusion that California isn’t what the rest of the world thinks it is. At first I liked the landscape we were uncovering. It seemed as if we were pioneers, and discovering new, unpublished lands. But the more and more we plowed into the vastness that was nothing but rolling, barren mountains that were baked brown from the 100 degree heat, the more I just wanted to be through it to get to Yosemite.

This was taking while going to Sequoia National Park. This is part of California that you don’t hear about and hardly ever see photos of. It’s overshadowed by landscapes in Yosemite and the glamour of living on the coast. 
            The only road we were able to take was a narrow winding path that went through miles of emptiness. We saw one cow, which I am 100 percent sure was lost from the herd. There were only two cars for around 45 minutes of driving. The road conditions made the area seem like the state of California had forgotten this piece of the land and moved it’s funding elsewhere. Were that the truth I’m not saying it was a bad decision, but it kind of seems that this is the truth about everyone.

If anyone knows what causes trees to only grow on one side of a mountain I’d like to know. I’ve seen this quite a bit and can’t figure it out.

            When you think of California you think of the coast. Even narrower you think of southern California. Take it down even more and you think of LA, Hollywood and Malibu. This isn’t fair because it’s not a representation of the state. California has a vastly diverse landscape that seems to go unnoticed if it’s not in a national park. What about the land that’s just outside of all of these cities? If I lived here I would have my project. A book called something cheesy like, “California Forgotten”.
            Almost all of the campsites here in Yosemite are full and are expected to be so all week. We found one and got here late, around 9:30. After the tents were set up and we were sitting in the dark we heard a crack and looked over and a deer was standing about 20 feet from us. Keith pointed out it was probably coming for the salt in our urine from three of us flooding a tree immediately after driving for so long.

            We plan to get up at 4:45 to go shoot pictures, and avoid having to pay a site fee. I’m sure I can’t match anything of Ansel Adams but I’ll sure as heck try.