Archive for the Yosemite 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



Getting an EDucation

Posted in California, Kernel, Martha, Matthews, Snappers, Yosemite on July 10, 2007 by Keith Smiley

Keith posted this, or at least he’s putting his name on it as if he posted it.

Brad and Ed left early this morning, so early that normal college students were still awake from the night before. Brad came back in an empty car as Ed boarded what was probably an empty plane for the 5:30 a.m. flight from Oxnard to Los Angeles International Airport.

That was about 12 hours ago. Now I feel like I’m just waiting to leave California.

Ed checks to see if fire is hot during the cookout Saturday night.

It’s not that I can’t survive without Ed — I think I can — but his leaving mixes up the entire situation. All my memories of California involve the four of us exploring the state. Now that Ed is gone, I feel like the rest of us need to go so we don’t leave him out of any memories.

More feats of strength: Elliott braces himself as Ed punches through a thick, solid piece of… rotten bark.

I’m not going to lie: Ed’s departure has benefited me, at least in the seating department. Right now I’m sitting in “his” chair and throughly enjoying it; this seat is much more comfortable than sitting at the table. And earlier today I slid the seat back in Brad’s car, giving myself leg room for the first time.
UPDATE: Elliott is sitting in “Ed’s chair.” This begins a feud that probably won’t be resolved before we leave. If you think Elliott should go find his own seat and let me sit in Ed’s chair, post a comment. Think of it as signing a petition for a good cause, without the signature or good cause.

What I’ll miss the most, though, is Ed’s beard, which he decided not to shave until he got home. While he might have won the Patchy Beard Contest early on, it filled in nicely while we were in California:


Nah, I’m just kidding. The snappers are fake, remember? It looks more like this:

There will probably never be another Patchy Beard Contest because Ed has already taken the title for life.

We’re going to be in California for the rest of the week, and there’s nothing stopping me from staying even longer. I don’t have any commitments that require me to be back anytime soon, so I’ll probably take a less direct route back than Brad and Elliott and visit some other friends who are also living out west this summer. But I think I’ll still leave Ventura at the same time; after spending all my time around here with the same people, I think it’ll be too odd to stick around when all the others leave.


I don’t know what we’re doing tomorrow (Wednesday). We don’t really have anything planned, and I really feel like we shouldn’t do anything. It’s not just guilt either; it’s like we’re running at partial strength and just can’t enjoy things as much without one of our cohorts.

More than likely, we’ll run some errands, start planning routes, pack a few bags, that sort of thing. The kind of things you do when you know the adventure is just about done.

Green square or green horn?

Posted in California, camping, Hess, luttrell, Matthews, Smiley, Snappers, Yosemite on July 5, 2007 by lenscapremoved

Elliott checks out Half Dome in Yosemite with a very complicated piece of equipment too expensive and advanced to hit the public market yet. The machine consists of thousands of mirrors and inches of priceless glace and metal to magnify for your viewing pleasures. The lens and camera around his neck aren’t worth the presence of this compound scope. The automaton even has a unique tool to “make view clearer” (not focus or sharpen, for those are of the past now) to see the 3 miles across the valley to the face of Half Dome from Glacier Point.

We’ve come up with a new saying for the Kernel while we’re out here. “The Kernel giveth and Kernel taketh away.” This is true because when you come in you’re going to lose friends, girlfriends, time for other hobbies and whatever good diet you were maintaining is out the window as soon as you start. But just as this happens you will gain new friends, girlfriends, new hobbies become professions and you get to have free junk food pretty often when the Kernel orders pizza or there is left over food from a catered event in the Journalism Building.

Looks like someone got too excited to shot another picture that they left their long lens behind. Oh, hi! It was Ed.

The one thing that people at the Kernel aren’t in this business for is self recognition, because you sure aren’t going to get much. Most students don’t appreciate the fact that a student led newspaper is a daily (and the only one in the state). We know the massive hours that go into putting out a paper aren’t recognized when we see the top corner of the paper ripped off for the sudoku. Our friends joke about it and say they don’t care enough to read it, or they only look for our pictures. Little do most of them know that comments like this aren’t flattering, they’re insulting. It’s a team effort and everyone wants you to appreciate the final product, not our tiny contribution, although it is appreciated to hear compliments.

This isn’t dedication. Elliott actually stepped in front of the shot Keith and I were taking just so he could walk in the water. After he said he wasn’t going to take a picture I gave him crap about getting wet so he could just track sand into my car. I said if he was going to do it he needed to take a picture. So he did, but I’m not sure he even thought about it.

Nothing has really brought more recognition to me than Dave telling me that he thinks I’m shooting well and that I’ve made the trip worth it through a few photos. He really liked one I shot of the kitesurfers and the one of the pine tree that I loaded up on that last post. I look up to Dave more than anyone when it comes to editing photos. More than anyone I want to hear him compliment me, because he is tough to impress and doesn’t flatter. We’ve really worked hard and wore ourselves thin trying to get up early and staying out late shooting.

Above: Ed takes a break in Yosemite to try and nap during the bad light of mid-day. Below: Keith isn’t actually trying to crack into UK’s web servers or anything scandalous. He’s just watching our stuff while we take potty breaks. Photos by Elliott Hess


While cameras are a good opportunity to start a conversation, you actually have to have a personality for most situations to get beyond how much your camera cost.

This is proof that anyone can have a big expensive camera and use it about as well as Dick Cheney can use a shotgun. This fellow, who was from Ohio, was trying to use his “big zoom lens” to pick up one or both of these two girls from LA. The conversation was relatively disgusting but still hilarious to tune in on. “This is a push, pull lens. You can push it to make it zoom,” or when one asked how much it cost he said, “I’ll tell you once you give it back to me.” The guy had a 100-400 on there. He was bragging about his camera and I swear I heard him referring to his flower settings, which is “for close ups of flowers,” in case you didn’t know. I wanted to inform him that his camera (same as mine, Canon 20D) was only worth about half of its original value since the new Canons came on the market. But we all shut up and let him have his fun. He quitened down after we all stood over his shoulder and shot the heck out of the beautiful sunset when it hit.

While everyone else is trying to take landscape photos in this ugly light, I just said screw it and took the snapper. Ed mocked me for not including the subject of the shoot, but I suppose sometimes we can be the subject. If you’re interested in where this was taken click here.

I’m not sure that this isn’t an example of using your camera to hit on someone. You can never be sure. I know she initiated this conversation by asking Elliott how far his zoomed compared to her camera. She didn’t believe that 200 is 200, no matter the aperture. Elliott proved it to her and got a kiss on the cheek or something for his kindness.

No matter how professional we feel we’re never too professional to stop shooting and pose for a picture.

Once again a lens falls to the ground for the sake of another photo. This time it was me. Click here for the results.

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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