In the Spring of 2015, I decided that my next photography trip would be to the Canadian Rockies. I wasn’t sure who would be going with me, but I decided that I wasn’t getting any younger and that if I was going to go off hiking in Canada, I would need to get on the stick. So I threw the idea out to some of my photography buddies and fortunately, three of them said yes. I immediately began scouting for shots online.
Over two years ago, I mentioned to my hiking buddy Tom Bricker that I was interested in finding some alternate locations to shoot in Yosemite as we were beginning to shoot the same locations over and over on our frequent visits. By that point, we had already been up the Four Mile Trail, Olmsted Point and out to Cathedral Lakes, but we began to look for other locations that were a bit more off of the beaten path.
A few weeks later, Tom came upon a blog post which listed several lesser known trails, some of which didn’t really exist or were difficult to find. At the top of this list was a location known simply as the Diving Board. Ansel Adams had hiked to this location quite some time ago and it was from this spot that hie took one of his most popular black and white photos in Yosemite. Both of us were hooked at this point, but we had no idea of what to expect as there didn’t seem to be a clearly defined trail to this location.
It was only a few months ago that I finally made the dirve up to El Matador Beach which is arguably the most photogenic beach in Southern California. Located just a few miles North of the glamourous movie star-riddled enclave of Malibu, El Matador boasts several hundred yards of sea stacks, hidden coves and small caves. If you are thinking about heading out there to take advantage of this gorgeous stretch of coastline, here are a few things that you should keep in mind:
For the past nine years or so, my kids and I have made our annual pilgrimage to hang out with our friends who live in Loudoun County, Virginia. Besides the fact that they are wonderful friends who live in one of the most gorgeous spots in the country (miles of long, winding tree covered lanes bordered by 18th century era rock walls and horse fencing), we always take advantage of the fact that they live just 45 minutes outside of Washington DC. Having spent the last few Summers photographing the monuments and some of the memorials around DC, I thought I would share some tips with you in case you are planning a trip there this Summer or in the future.
Great Falls may not be the largest park run by the NPS, but what it lacks in size it certainly makes up in beautiful views, scenic trails, and accessibility. Situated on 800 acres along the banks of the Potomac River, you can reach the park by traveling about 30 minutes North of the national mall. The park also includes
Here in Southern California, Summer tends to be a season which is typically wretched for landscape photography. The coastal low clouds usually roll in during the months of May and June, killing off potential sunsets and sunrises on the coast. The afternoon skies turn hazy and the hills turn brown, and most of us turn on the air conditioner and retreat indoors to work on our shots taken earlier in the year.
There is, however, one fantastic photographic opportunity to look forward to each Summer here in California. For those of us in the Northern Hemisphere, Summer is prime time to get out and shoot the Milky Way. Although the Milky Way may be photographed throughout the year, the brightest corner of the Milky Way begins to show up around May along with more reasonable times for shooting it.
For those of you who are new to shooting the Milky Way, there are several challenges to consider:
After shooting in Yosemite for several years, I began to look for locations that were more off of the beaten path. A couple of years ago, I finally ventured up the side of the valley and found an alternate location from which to shoot the Horsetail Falls in February. I also began going on longer hikes up the four mile trail, the Upper Falls trail and out to the Cathedral Lakes. After finding the alternate location from which to shoot the Horsetail Falls, I began to wonder what other opportunities I might be missing. Yosemite Falls was my next logical choice and I began to notice that most, if not all of the shots of the falls were either from the valley floor or from the Upper Falls Trail. After looking online, I finally found a couple of spectacular shots that were taken from the East, but I had no idea where they were taken from. I spent a few hours one afternoon looking for spots to shoot from in the residential area above Yosemite Village, but the angles were not what I had in mind.
Finally, my hiking buddy Tom sent me a link to an article which mentioned a location referred to as the Fern Ledge. In the article, they mentioned how John Muir had hiked out and had become enamored with this location. He spent long hours listening to the falls, and actually walking out behind them. After checking around a bit more, I found that Ansel Adams had also made the trip up and had taken photos from there. Why hadn’t I heard of this place before?
Tom and I set this as one of our goals and on our next trip, we were resolved to find the trail to Fern Ledge head on up. But we only had one article to go on, and the article stated that the trailhead was somewhere behind the Yosemite Stables. When we reached the stables, we got the distinct impression that we weren’t supposed to be in that area and we chickened out.
I spent the next year or so investigating this trail, and couldn’t find much. From what I read, the trail could be very dangerous. I could expect steep inclines, sections where the trail simply fell away over steep precipices, and rattle snakes. Others online were reluctant to give away too many details as they feared hordes of hikers would head up there and cause damage to the habitat surrounding the trail. Others were concerned that people simply didn’t understand how dangerous this route really was.
Undeterred, I made my first attempt a couple of weeks ago.
As hard as it might be to believe, there was a time when I wasn’t very excited about shooting the Eastern Sierras. I think I took my first trip up the 395 about 15 years ago as I was trying to find a way to get to the Reno Jazz festival without having to take my students through the snow over Donner Summit, and as I was the one who was driving for 8 hours, all I remembered after I got back home was seemingly hundreds of miles of unbroken, desolate desert. “Bah”, I thought to myself. Next time I’ll stick with the 99 as there are more restaurants and gas stations. Not a cloud in the sky on that trip, and it was hot. Very hot. Pfft. And who are those sad people who live in Bishop or Lone Pine…on PURPOSE?
But as I got into photography a few years later, I began seeing other photographers’ shots of the Eastern Sierra, including photos by Galen Rowell, Michael Frye, Marc Adamus, and more. I hadn’t seen anything like what was shown in these photos on that trip and it began to occur to me that I was missing out on something spectacular and that this spectacular something was only 5 hours from my house.
Late on a February afternoon in 1973, Galen Rowell was driving through Yosemite valley with a park ranger when suddenly he glanced up and stepped on the gas, driving twice the posted speed limit. He screeched to a stop in an illegal spot, grabbed his camera with a 300 mm lens, and hopped a fence. Instead of writing him several citations, the ranger simply handed Galen his tripod and watched as he snapped an image that has since become legendary among landscape photographers. You can find his image online or in his book Mountain Light: In Search of the Dynamic Landscape.
This particular effect is created by a unique set of circumstances as the last rays of the setting sun slip through a narrow gap in the Sierras sending a beam of light directly onto the Horsetail Falls, leaving the surrounding area around the falls in the shade. My shot on the left was actually taken from an alternate location which is on the South side of the valley loop in Yosemite. Galen’s shot was taken almost directly below the Falls with quite a bit more water pouring down and a bright red/orange light hitting the water creating the illusion of lava pouring off of the cliff face which is just East of El Capitan.
For the past two weekends in a row I’ve witnessed some of the most spectacular light I have ever seen in my life. How did I come to be standing on the bank of the Owens River when the sky erupted last Saturday?