Archive for May, 2010

Hiking Pinnacles in the Clouds

A couple of years ago on our last vacation to California we got near enough to Pinnacles National Monument to know we wanted to go back there.  We drove up the sort of scary road to the unpopular west entrance because we were killing time waiting for the Chalone tasting room to open.  It looked really cool.  Lumpish spires of rock soaring upwards with lots of trees and flowers.  The site is all that remains of an ancient and extinct volcano.  The Chalone Indians once used this as a seasonal gathering location, taking advantage of the amazing variety of plants and animals that thrive here.  When it got too hot, they would go back down into Salinas valley where the now famous Monterey Fog comes in and cools things down.


We got to the park entrance probably just minutes after the ranger opened the gate and were on the trail by 8:15.  Two elements of good fortune were with us.  First – we were the only ones there.  Miracle.  Even on a Monday morning we expected a state with a population like California’s to produce a couple more people, but no, it was just us.  Sweet.  The second piece of good fortune was the low cloud cover.  The day before we’d been to a couple of our favorite wineries and the folks there agreed the weather was unusual; it was supposed to rain.  Typically it stops raining before May in Soledad and doesn’t rain again until the fall.  Well we didn’t mind.  The cloud cover kept it from being 90 degrees and miserable and the little sprinkles that hit us were refreshing and made the air smell fantastic.

Golden yarrow on the steep slopes

At first I was a bit disappointed with the fact that I would have such gloomy skies, but soon I realized that the colors – the shy and the bold – would show much better in this bright, but nearly shadowless light.  Plus the fog and mist over the far peaks added drama that would have otherwise been absent.  So I got happy.  Especially when a new flower presented itself about every 10 feet.

Pretty Faces

Seriously I think our hike took an hour longer than it would have if I didn’t stop every minute to ooh and ahh and photograph something.  It was amazing.  All along the trail-sides the flowers greeted us and seemed to wish us well.  The profusion is startling, we just don’t have flowers like this in New England.  Our wildflowers are woodland creatures by and large and much less showy.

Paying Court (no ID yet - unknown wildflower)

Allium Crispum aka Crinkly Onion - cool huh?

According to the guide, this next flower is called the Sticky Monkeyflower.  It’s our favorite because we’re dorks and kept calling it Stinky Monekybutt for the rest of the trip.  Take that middle age!

Stinky Monkeybutt aka Sticky Monkeyflower

These flowers really liked the rocky crevices and grew everywhere, high up and even in the most unlikely places.  They were a friendly presence when the trail got steeper.

Tunnel trail gets steep

Just above this set of cut steps it started to sprinkle and the next set was more like a ladder than a staircase it was so steep.  Luckily someone had also thought to put up handrails and the smell of our hands after hanging on to those steel pipes brought me right back to 3rd grade.  Remember the smell of your hands after playing on the swings or the monkey bars?  That’s what it was like and I didn’t even mind how slippery they got in the rain.  Then we came to this –

Could I have just a little more peril?

My head knew it was safe.  I mean it looked safe and probably 1000s of people had already crossed it so it would hold.  Yeah, sure it would.  Just look at it.  It’s all tight and straight, not a bit of warp or splintery bits.  In a way it was good no adult can get across this other than in a crouching duck-walk…looking down was —- woah! —— dizzy!

Well we obviously made it.  Not that the buzzards were happy about it.  I swear they kept circling around and laughing at us.  Stupid birds.

So on the way back to the hotel we stopped to see how the abandoned farmstead was doing.  I’d shot it in 2008, but somehow missed this awesome barn –

Run Straight Down

As you can see the clouds persisted, but I like them in this.  More interesting and dramatic than just blue sky.  I keep telling myself that anyway.

There are more photos (including one of Gary the headstanding beetle) in the Smugmug Gallery if you so desire.  This was only part of our trip to California.  We did more hiking and a lot of wine tasting, so more posts and photos are coming.

Lily of the Valley – Part 6

Before I dive into my California vacation pictures and before NH History part 2, I’m getting up to speed with this project.  I’m really glad I shot on the day before I left because the flowers were at their most verdant and lush.  The raindrops really helped convey that sense of freshness I was going for and so these next ones will be even more dramatically different.

May 25 (OM 90mm alone)

The blossoms are hanging on, but not by much and they fall like leaves in the slightest breeze.

May 26 - For Miss Havisham (OM 90mm alone)

This one kept spinning on its tether –

By a Spider's Thread (OM 90mm alone)

It looks like I placed this fallen blossom in this position, but I didn’t, I found it this way.

May 26th - Last Cup of Sorrow (OM 90mm alone)

That’s it for now.  There are more shots in the gallery including one of For Miss Havisham in black and white.  There are three monochrome shots now and I really like them.  Check them out HERE.

Lily of the Valley – Part 5

As I’m leaving for California for a week starting tomorrow, I thought I’d update this study today.  Also because it rained this morning and I love including raindrops in flower photos if I can.  Plus it’s relatively still today which is good because the slightest breeze sets these leaves off.  They’re like sails, they catch the tiniest movement of air which is terrific in another way – the scent is like heaven.  Hard to believe such a powerful aroma comes from such tiny flowers.

The light in this first on is really odd, but I like it.  You know how the sky gets a bit yellow after rain towards the end of the day?  That’s what it was doing.

Quenched - May 3rd (OM 35mm f2 for a change)

Ride on Tears - May 14 (OM 90mm macro alone)

Paint the Seconds - May 14 (OM 90mm alone)

Joyeuse - May 14 (OM 90mm alone)

For this last one I couldn’t resist using the same name as Charlemagne’s sword.  It just fits.  It’s one of my favorite images in this study so far, too.

History in NH – Part 1

It’s funny.  A person can live in an area all their lives and still not know much about it.  In a total fluke I was made aware of a bit of dramatic New Hampshire history.  Husband and I were all set to hike up Mt. Moosilauke a couple of weeks ago, but a local to that area told us that the road to the trail head was closed and it would add a few miles onto an already long hike.  Being flexible we asked her for suggestions.  She asked if we wanted to go see some plane wreckage.

Plane wreckage?  Damn!  Really?

Yes.  Really.

1/2 of a B18 Bomber wing

Of course we said yes.  Hell yes.  How often do you get to see this kind of thing in the woods?

On the way up, she told us the story and I’ve since done some searching on my own as well.  Essentially, the story goes like this –

In January 1942, just weeks after the Pearl Harbor attack, a B18 bomber crew were on anti- submarine patrol over the north Atlantic.  Flying out of Chicopee Mass, they planned to be as far north as Newfoundland where enemy submarines were suspected to be.  The weather was not on their side and quickly turned nasty when a storm came up the coast.  Blown inland the inexperienced crew (they were B-24 experts, a different beast altogether) were soon hopelessly lost.  Some say the men, who had never worked together before, had trouble calculating their drift.  Visibility was nil.  Whatever the problem, it became apparent only when the plane brushed treetops that they were anywhere near a mountain.  By that time it was too late and the pilot’s evasive maneuvers failed.  They crashed spectacularly into Mt. Waternomee, waking up the entire town below.

A rescue team was rounded up and within an hour they were headed up the steep, deeply snowed in mountain.  I can only imagine the intense stress they were under, not only from the trepidation about what they would find, but because of the utter chaos of the forest after the hurricane of 1938.  Trees down everywhere, the trail obscured, deep snow drifts, camouflaged chasms just waiting for someone to fall in.  No GPS or cell phones.  No goretex or fleece either.  Amazingly, they found 5 of the 7-man crew alive.

B-18 bomber engine (one of two)

After more than 60 years, the site is and isn’t what you’d expect.  You’d expect there to be almost nothing visible, but there is due to the fact that volunteers annually clear debris from the extant wreckage.  You’d also expect there to be more wreckage than there is.  What with the Army carting off a great deal of it at the time of the crash and others carting off what they could for a museum, there isn’t a lot of recognizable stuff on the ground.  Fuselage is gone as is one wing (at least we couldn’t find it) and of course the ordinance and cockpit.  Most of the site looks like this –

B-18 undercarriage, landing gear & wheel hub

Fifty years after the crash in 1992, a memorial plaque was erected and an American flag flies from a nearby sapling.  It’s pretty startling to come across this on the trail.  On the whole it’s a very steep and rocky climb and then the next time you raise your head and there it is.  Mangled hunks and twisted metal spread over a couple of acres.  I can’t believe anyone lived, but they did.

B-18 bomber wheel hub

Unfortunately, the site was difficult to photograph well.  In part because much of the debris is unrecognizable and scattered over such a large area.  Also because it was about 90 degrees and humid as hell.  I was exhausted and hadn’t brought enough water with me (dehydration played a big part in my weariness) and so wasn’t in my best photographic form.  So I had a sandwich, mooched water off my camel-like husband and made the trip back down.  Luckily we got to stop here on the way –

Walker Brook Falls

Words fail to describe the utter bliss of being near this giant wall of cool air and misty water.  Basically I just sat one one rock and splashed my face with water, all motivation gone.  It was all I could do to get the tripod into the water.

The Lowdown

I felt like I could have stayed there all day, but eventually we got back to the car and home.  I’m glad I went up Mt. Waternomee to see the B-18 crash and remember that not all the soldiers died in battle.

Photographs from the day of the crash can be seen here – and a more detailed account of the crash, the crew and the rescue is HERE.  I have more photos HERE.

They don’t call it The Golden Hour for nothing

So yeah, you’ve read it on every photo blog out there, heard it at every workshop you’ve ever gone to, watched it on every “pro” tutorial video about landscape photography you’ve ever watched; the value, no the insistence of getting out during The Golden Hour or civil twilight.  The perfection, the softness, the detail.  That no one will take you or your work seriously if you don’t worship at the altar of The Golden Hour.  The fact that once you shoot in it almost any other light will just suck by comparison and you might as well not even go out and waste the battery in your camera.

Believe it.

Organized Resistance

Welcoming Committee

Reflected Glory

Leading the Witness


I wasn’t even particularly feeling it this morning (I blame lack of sleep, rising at 3:15 and going without coffee) and I came up with these.  With light like this and a beautiful location it’s hard to take a bad picture (I did though, trust me, I worked at it!!).  This is Ordione Point State Park – a jewel in the minuscule, 18-mile coast of NH (happy with your generous deal Maine and Massachusetts???).  Once part of the coastal defense network in WW2, it is now a protected habitat consisting of rocky coastline, salt marsh and woodland.  I’ve been coming here since I could drive and it’s one of my favorite places.  I’m going to make a point to get to the part of the park I’ve never been to – the salt marshes!  I can’t believe I haven’t been over that way…I guess it’s the lure of tidepools.  You can bet I’ll be getting up early.

All I have to do is dream

I have a longer post planned, but I shot these yesterday and I’m in love with them since they’re kind of out of my normal zone.  Several folks in my flickr circle of friends have photographed the now blooming bluets – a lovely little wildflower that comes up almost anywhere.  Their shots were lovely and since I love this flower (especially when they’re in a tight little bunch and you can pat the whole surface of the bunch at once – springy!  yeah, I’m nuts.) anyway, where was I?  Oh yeah, I love this flower and their beautiful shots forced me to rethink how I would photograph them myself.  Should I just copy them and come up with something similar?  The daffodil shoot breezed through my mind and I thought that I needed to take a similar approach with the bluets.

Macro time!

I put the 90mm on with the 25mm extension tube and shot wide open.  The results were sort of strange and I prefer the ones at f4 since there’s more definition in the OOF flowers.  While I shot the sun moved in and out of the trees shading this little bunch of flowers and the light changed dramatically.  Also the breeze blew, but I thought that would enhance the effect I was going for and so for once, I didn’t mind.


Alice's Bouquet

Through the Looking Glass