Two Steps Forward, One Step Back………
WELCOME to my "Under the Tuscan Sun" chapter!!!! For those of you who are not avid Diane Lane fans like myself, the movie is a coming of age story about a woman who is embracing a geographical journey in the middle of her life, that challenges her to look outside her normal everyday sights and comforts, and explore the world around her and how she reacts to it. The mid-life crisis that ISN’T a crisis at all, but rather a chance to embrace my past, explore my future, and emerge as a respected multi-media artist, while I await the next wave of projects coming this fall for my architectural photography business.
I am at a place in my walk in life, where a number of paths simultaneously intersected and came to a close at the same time. The merge of these paths is allowing me a rare opportunity to step out of my normal day-to-day responsibilities and take some time for myself. My daughter, Lauryn, is calling it a sabbatical, and I rather like the inference her definition offers. With this time, I have decided to take a journey across the southern United States, photographing its beauty as I go. I plan to simply enjoy the scenery and live in campgrounds to maintain some affordability, all while I embrace some light personal introspection and strategize for my future.
My intention is to put significant focus toward publishing a coffee table book of my personal travel photographic images of Colorado; a long standing bucket list item that I have decided to check off of my list. I have spent the last five years diving into every corner of the state of Colorado, and I can easily say it has a special place in my heart. What beauty, it has become my greatest passion! I am also keeping this blog, at the insistance of friends, who feel this personal journey too may lend itself to a great read...a lifestyle driven book tailored toward the idea of taking a self-imposed, mid-life "time out" before tackling the second half of our lives.
This blog is an invitation to enjoy some of my experiences as I recall the funny and quite possibly scary tales of my exploration and be among the first to see the sights and scenery I capture and post them. Eventually, the best of the best of the images will be available in my Etsy Shop for sale; just in time for the holidays. If this sabbatical ever makes it to hardcopy, I have already decided to entitle it "Breathe".
Breathe happens to be the word I use for everything. At times it is used to calm my anxiety as I land a new and exciting project while on the day might be utilized right before I meet a blind date for our first coffee; other times it is used to control my elation when I complete the post production of an image that has just become my "best ever" compilation and yet at others to remind me that what ever the hard time I am experiencing, if I just breathe it too will pass. I’ll include some of the stories behind the photographs and fun facts about the people and places in them. I’ll also include a few of life’s lessons and funny quotes and embellishments along the way to make the blog an inspiring and compelling read worth sharing with your friends, family, and colleagues. It is my hope that those who follow me for the next few months will be inspired to embark on a journey all their own, and enjoy a purchased copy of the “photography-rich” coffee table book when it hits the shelves. My travels will take me across Southern and Central California, Nevada, Arizona and Utah; while the largest portion of journey will be spent in Colorado this summer and fall. It is my hope to stay through the color change which is my favorite time of year.....and never more beautiful than in the state of Colorado.
May 22, 2014: Travel Day
Today is the first day of my sabbatical. I am headed to California's central coastline, commonly known as Big Sur.
Orange County brought out her "BIG ORANGE" goodbye for me last night as only she could......the setting sun was so beautiful, but I could not get past the idea that she was bathing in a sea of vehicle exhaust which is why she was so orange... the sediment made me laugh, but I still felt pride in being part of the amazing community that got to watch her set this evening.
If you'd like to follow my travel blog it'll be posted on website...with occasional exerps on my facebook pages to remind those reading along that I have posted new material.
Please all, keep me in your prayers...
My Travel Blog address:
Or my website:
Well I am FINALLY off on this mis-adventure.....
Why is it, when you are heading out of town, SO MANY THINGS spring up at the last minute... It is 4:20p Thursday, so whether I like it or not, millions of people will be hitting 405 the same time I am, in a mad rush to get home or like me, get out of town for the holiday....so it is going to be slow going at best. Good thing I have download a couple juicy audiobook romances and a small business audio read or two that will help make the miles along my journey melt away.... and yes that was a play on words because the descriptions given for the romance audiobooks I purchased promised to make my hearts swoon and melt!!!
As I left town, I had my FIRST "OH NO" moment...... I expected this to happen sometime in the first week or so but not before I left town. I decided that it would not be possible to spend the summer in Aspen without my office.... I settled on a cargo bag for the roof of my lil' buggy..... so here I am settling into my tunes, chilling out and not letting the late depature get to me.....and this CRAZY motorcyclist comes up behind me.....I can hear him but can't see him because my car is so loaded down I only have rear views to use....no back or side windows....
I can hear this knucklehead and the hum of his motorcycle is driving me nuts.
......so I decided to slow down so that he would pass me, NO LUCK! Okay I decided..... well then let me speed up to get away from him; nice try, but no luck; I still hear this ANNOYING motorcycle reaving up his engine on my rear......so I slow down again, followed by speeding up and repeat this ritual four or five times..... and let me tell you by then I was getting out of the zen like state I left for this trip in just a few miles back!
I change lanes but he was following me so close I still couldn't see him. Now I realized, this guy is just messing with me, right????? WRONG! I pull over to the side of the highway into the emergency lane, ready to pull behind him and play chicken with this guy and there is NO GUY!!! Apparently the straps on my nifty little cargo bag were flapping so hard in the wind they sounded like a motorcyclist tailing me....... the irony mad me laugh! I knew I couldn't drive all the way to Monterey with this annoying hum, so I pulled into an Auto Zone to ask for help in silencing the noise. Upon asking the manager for help, he said, "Oh man, there is nothing you can do to silence that humming noise," and goes on to explain that happens to him all the time when he is going fishing. Well, leave it to a WOMAN to figure out a solution!!!
I bought 4 buffing wax cloths from the car washing section of the store...wrapped them with see through packing tape around the straps of my cargo bag and whalah!!! SILENCE!!! It totally looks like I have four baby chicks hanging onto my cargo bag now, so I have designated my vehicles name on this trip to be the "Chic-mobile".......it doesn't hurt that there is a chick inside embarking on the time of her life...... it just seemed fitting, and made me laugh thus restoring my zen like attitude and I was once again on my way.
I saw a beautiful sunset and rainbow in Santa Barbara as I passed through town and had just enough time to stop in and see a friend's little week old precious third child......so beautiful...
I couldn't make it all the way to Monterey and finally settled in Salinas. I stayed with a fellow photographer who was also planning on shooting the Sur......she had a self contained motor home... I was lucky enough to stay with her day one and two....nice to have someone to shoot with.....
For my very first shoot on this wild adventure, I decided to head to one of my favorite spots in the entire world, Lover's Point Park, in Carmel-by-the-Sea, California.... Lover's Point Park runs along a very picturesque road on the shore, aptly named Ocean Drive. There are gravel walking and running paths right on the shoreline and bike paths that hug the road. Lush grassy areas perfect for piknicing can be found every few miles, while benches that point westward out to beautiful Pacific invite one to slow down and stay awhile. There is an abundance ice plant, beautiful trees....wildflowers, and gorgeous gardens along the way with many native plants from the area....it is a MUST SEE if you are ever in the Big Sur region of California.
May 23th, 2014 Carmel-by-the-Sea
Lover's Point Park Carmel-by-the-Sea, California
Although my visit took place during Memorial Weekend, I was surprised that there were not more people at this "little known" gem!! Actually most people were at the Annual Roots Music Festival, Carmel's version of Coachella....lots of reggae this year!! I didn't mind, but rather took advantage of the empty park and spent hours upon hours photographing on the rocky beaches. There were seals barking (flirting) with each other, swallows EVERY 5 feet playing overhead...and an occasional cluster of HUGE pelicans passing through at low levels.. they always follow one another in a straight line, drafting the wind. It is such a cool sight to witness...AND YOU ARE NOT GOING TO BELIEVE THIS but there are HUMPBACK WHALES still hanging around the last days of May. I saw at least 10 flukes that first morning alone...I will post a few in my Lobos segment. I actually got two breaching..... crazy to think they are here in late May, but the docent explained there are so many plankton in this area....that each year a few stragglers stay to feast and leave much later than the masses.
A shout out to Marge, a local artist from Carmel-by-the-Sea. Marge kept me company while I was shooting telling me all about the local scene; she was absolutely delightful. We decided to have lunch and meet again on my next trip...... "Friendship" is life's most special gift...
..if not one of them!
These annonomies are beautiful to gaze at, but step on one, and the sting swells your foot for a good two weeks!! They almost have a neon glow...
Leaving Lover's Point Park, Julie, the photographer I was traveling with on the first leg on my trip, and I decided to go to Mission San Carlos Borroméo del río Carmelo. This mission is another must see located in Carmel-by-the-Sea. The mission is on the National Register of Historic Places and a United States National Landmark. I love to shoot here because I sell many of the images I capture at this beautiful mission....I have found the mission to bless people of all faiths with a sense of peace....the historic architecture is 'gentle' with many curves accenting its breezeways. On this trip, swallows and hummingbirds were playing all morning while I shot, buzzing my head as they often do when I visit the gardens of the basilica. It was quite overcast on this visit which gave me a chance to shoot the breezeways. The covered hallways are difficut to capture with bright sun due to the extreme differences in exposures between the shaded areaas and sun kissed courtyard. Everything was in bloom, from the grapevines and the roses to all the carefully placed annuals...
We were very lucky to gain admittance to the courtyards because there was a wedding commencing in the sanctuary. A glorious sound from a live choir performing throughout the ceremony danced through the halls, which lucky for us, redirected the visitor traffic in the direction of the activity and away from us.....I truly lucked out and didn't have a single tourist in any of my shots!! Thank God for good timing... :)
Carmel's Basilica was the second mission built in California. It was first established in nearby Monterey, California near the native village of Tamo on June 3, 1770. It was named for Carlo Borromeo, Archbishop of Milan, Italy. It was the site of the first Christian confirmation in Alta, California. The mission was the headquarters of the Alta California missions headed by Father Junípero Serra from 1770 until his death in 1784. It was also the seat of the second presidente, Father Fermin Francisco de Lasuen. The mission buildings had fallen into disrepair by the mid-19th century, but were restored beginning in 1884.
Restoration of the Mission began in 1884 and continues to this day. In 1933 the greatest period of restoration began. It was then that Mr. Harry Downie was put in charge of the restoration project. Due to the lack of funds, the work started slowly. Excavation of the ruins and the study of old documents, sketches and photos were necessary to make plans. Work was started on the padres’ quarters which today houses artifacts of the early mission days. Mr. Downie was able to gather these from many scattered places. It is one of the finest collections in California.
To learn more about the fascinating history behind this stunning basilica, please click this link:
This has got to be one of my ALL TIME favorite images of the mission. Boganvilla peaking in, the subtle light... So sacred and tranquil.
I captured this image at appox. 10 am...no filtration was used.
"Come to me, all who labor and are of heavy laden, and I will give you rest."
Matthew 11:28 ESV
Please help me circulate my work. An increase in followers will help me publish my first coffee table book of images...your support is greatly appreciated!!
To Purchase My Artwork:
Go To My Etsy Shop:
One of the things I have always loved most about this mission is knowing there will be a stunning variety of colorful and often flowering perennials and annuals placed beautifully throughout the breezeways, and a wide collection of flora & fauna in the many gardens located in the courtyards. In the summer grapevines teardrop down the columns and hug the roofline making photographing in the summer a true joy whereas in the late fall and winter the vines are bare and hold promise of cooler weather and fewer crowds. Thoughout the entire year, annuals are placed and well cared for in the large terracota pots you see here.. they actually line all of the breezeways throughout the entire mission...not only is it beautiful and smells "heavenly". There are roses and others flowering shrubs planted in mastered garden beds with statuaries like you see just below this image in the feed.
The picture below was taken is the west courtyard....my favorite courtyard.... I love how the spring lavender colored blooms gently soften the terra cotta roof tiles and window panes so beautifully. I feel "Him" here....as quiet as a whisper, but loud enough to know your in a safe place...........
..https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uOg-1JjAdGk&list=FL69AOdJfxLB2EV-AcDaPyBw&index=6 Let Them See You In Me....JJ Weeks Band...
This courtyard holds a very special place in my heart....above the sanctuary, IN MY IMAGE, is a figure that to any believing Christian would stop their heart....be it the Father, an angel.....or dust spots that look conspicuosly like a holy figure in a robe, it has made returning to this courtyard very sentimental for me.... the day I captured this image in 2013, someone was playing the pipe organ, which is rare~ I will never forget how peaceful it was. I was so nice to relax and melt in this space and photograph without a care in the world. Shooting brings me more peace than any other hobby or pasttime in my life....
To create this image, I combined three frames together. I did this trying to achieve a high density resolution effect which helps to balance light and fill in shadow areas. HDR also throws off a 3D effect that I like in my architecture shots. Due to the movement in the clouds during my individual captures, in my opinion, the spattering effect in the clouds resulting from the movement between frames was so noisy that it would have been very difficult to blend the clouds together to form a seamless look....and truthfully when I saw the figure in the sky....I just didn't want to change anything -- the funny thing is there are three of everything up there..but only one figure...in my mind signifying the trinity is ONE! .....I have no explanation for the figure...but testify that I did not place it into the image....it simply appeared when I blended my images.....
This is my favorite statue of St. Anthony
Protector and care giver to children..and finding lost things or people. Noted by his contemporaries for his forceful preaching and expert knowledge of scripture, he was the second-fastestcanonized saint (after St. Peter of Verona) and proclaimed a Doctor of the Church on 16 January 1946.
I love the garden he lives in....its filled with roses, colorful perenniels and fruit bearing vines. There are walking paths, little benches, and various other statuaries in the west garden. Most of the roses in this garden are 3 or 4 different colors and are so aromatic.
Some of the Images below include captures of the Carmel Basilica during my October 2013 Photographic Workshop at the Carmel Mission.
During my last visit to the mission in Dec 2013, I set this shot up in a corner, midway down the aisle of the sanctuary. When I had the shot set up, I waited until the sanctuary traffic was at a minimum, held new foot traffic at the intersection I was set up in so I could capture this beautiful interior without visitors in it, and captured this warm image. One of these days, I am going to get in trouble for doing this.....but I prefer my images to be "WITHOUT" the crowds..... often times, people will write me and say, "I visited this place or that place after seeing your images....but they'll always add..... it sure didn't look the same with the crowds of people in the space." I get a chuckle out of that....
Blessings come in all forms...
Most of the time by absolute grace, when I am capturing images at this mission, there are no visitors walking through my images when I finally get set up, dailed in and ready to expose. Perhaps that is what continues to pull me back. But I think that is a close second to all of the beautiful hummingbirds that make the mission their home... they are literally everywhere...it is so fun to just sit and watch them play with one another...and suckle the pollen out of the flowers.
The museum is full of historical artifacts and plaquards with facts and pictures about the history of Carmel, Monterey and the mission both in it current placement in Carmel and its origin in Monterey.
Upon leaving the mission, we decided to head to a national monument & park, that I'd never been to called Pinnacles National Monument. We set off on what ended up being a bit of a misadventure.... I was following her in my car because the park was a few hours inland so we decided to seek out a campground in the state park for that evening. With all of the article from my entire home office in my vehicle, I couldn't chance leaving it behind in a parking lot in Carmel. Traveling separately in an area with no cell reception posed to be a difficult experience.
The drive is a beautiful one; as you travel from the coast to this park, you'll pass a couple of historic missions, quaint little towns, and many beautiful rollling hills...there were a mixture of lush hillsides mixed with sun battered fields that had already been harvested for hay.
..... a lesson learned for me this day is never travel in separate vehicles when you are on a photo mission... it is never a good idea..... the reception out where we were was spotty at best with my provider. The tragedy of the trip was the fact I saw a million spots I would have like to stop and photograph as showers and fog traveled along the corridor we were traveling in, but due to the inability to communicate....I had to pass them up. After a couple of wrong turns, due to GPS seemingly to LOOOOVE to talk people around the long side of the bend from time to time....it was too dark in the park when we got there to shoot. So basically we wasted a tank of gas each on this misadventure having to return to Big Sur in the dark when we found the campgrounds in the park were completely FULL..... UGH!! I did grab this shot just before the sun set not wanting the trip to go without any visuals.... And I love it! The lines and subject matter are simple yet visually stunning due to the wispy clouds.
I shot this with a high shutter speed in an effort to show the contrast of late evening sun sprinkling over the plains. I shot it at an ISO 100, 250/F8 with a polarizer to enhance the beautiful cloud formations and enhance the evening glow on the dry grass. All around me there were bouts of showers and patches of fog, but I got a moment of sun and slammed on the brakes. In post production, I enhanced this with Photomatix....most people merge multiple images together in HDR programs, but this is a single image. Once I chose the effect I liked best.....I exported the image as a 16 bit TIF and imported it into Photoshop 6 where I cleaned up a bit a dust, reduced a hint of red and orange and slightly added more contrast. I love the result. Hope you do too!!
The website to the beautiful park we were on our way to...that you may want to check out due to its interesting rock formations is :
May 24th, 2014 Camping along the Sur
TRAVEL TIP: For those of you who didn't know this, and I can count myself in that category, in my understanding Americans are allowed to pull over for a night on Bureau of Land Management or state owned land and park for the evening at no cost; with the understanding that you must be self contained. That means you have no access to water, restrooms, or facilities of any kind in other words.... Julie invited me to stay in her motorhome for a couple of days, so we camped along the Sur at this beautiful and VERY QUIET bend about half way between Rugged Point and Carmel. What a joy it is to wake up with an ocean view and the warmest yellow hue sunlight...... As you can see there was a bit of marine layer threatening to take the sun away, but this spot had sun every moring I stayed there....
Big Sur Shoot
When we woke, we found a marine layer hanging over the Sur......this happens a lot in the region, at least it has on every visit I've made to the Central Coast, but it always burns off...... Julie's rig ended up needing some mechanical repair due to a tire that blew on her way up....so we decided to take the dreary morning to get that handled.....meanwhile, we played on the Sur. The following images are of this morning, as well as a few other marine layer drenched mornings (new images I have not published).... the lesson here is when you're shooting on location, or if you're not a shooter and simply traveling with family or loved one.....every day is a gift!
Make the most of it, as a photographer--even dreary foggy days can open the door to a creative playground!!
BIG SUR VISIT TIP:
I got a great shot of Julie capturing this beautiful public beach accessible by a turnout along the Sur. I turned to photograph in the opposite direction to capture this gorgeous stretch of the Sur (below)....
There are a number of wide paved pullouts along the 90 mile stretch of Big Sur...but I have found that many of the unpaved, unpublished pull outs have stunning views, paths that have been easily defined by the number of visitors who have walked them, and in many cases give you the "best" views of the length of the central coastline. The elevated cliff give incredible viewing opportunities to those who venture to their ledges. Some of the trails are a long as a mile or two and cling to the coastline, while a few venture all the way down along the cliffs to the beach.
Big Sur's flora and fauna
...is part of the allure that draws millions of people to California's Central Coast region. Sheer cliffs place onlookers at an elevation far above the water, where the land is raw and filled with a mixture of colorful plants... So often I see visitors jump out of the vehicles for no more than a minute or two as their snapping a quick pic; it amazing what presents itself if you just slow down a bit..... it is typical for the clouds or marine layer to come in and out throughout the day.....adding a gradient color filter- like peach or yellow can really help make a photograph memorable!
Borrowed from my Botanical Portfolio..to see more images like this, after enjoying the travel blog please enjoy my other portfolios. And Share, share, share......
Big Sur is notarious for having a VERY THICK early morning marine layer.... during my photographic workshops I am not crazy about the marine layer as most of my participant are excited about seeing and shooting the water, but I have learned that the thing about shooting "on-location" is that you have to work with the weather patterns, crowds, detours, traffic.....and so on that are presented on that day. I actually laughed when I saw how thick the marine layer was when I got up above it.....this has only happened one other time while I was in the area...during a New Year's trip with 3 amazing woman during my very first photographic workshop !!!
All Images on this blog are the sole copyright of Rachel Brockey
I have had the honor of accumulating numerous international awards for the work I have captured along California's Central Coast. This image (below) has been won first place in an international photography competition, has been included in online e-books as compilations of worldwide landscapes, won 7 international honorable mention awards, and happens to be one of my personal favorites... not because of the recognition is has received, but because a hummingbird was sitting on a firepoker not far from me while I shot it, just watching me work... It made me giggle and I have never forgot the morning. To see more images from my California collections, please visit my Travel California portfolio after enjoying the travel blog updates..
California's beautiful central coastline.... along Big Sur's 90-mile stretch of scenic highway twisty Pacific Coast Hwy 1
2pm...and headed for Pfieffer State Beach...... The SECRET of BIG SUR....revealed!
I always do my due diligence when traveling to a photographic on-location destination. Even if I frequent an area or garden or beach, I try and find images online that photographer's eyes have caught that perhaps I would like to immulate or seek out...... Pfieffer State Beach alluded me for nearly 4 years, before a woman finally posted directions on travel advisor (a favorite site of mine)...as to how to find this hidden beach. Most of the time, when I frequent this beach, there are only a small handful of people there....during the summer however, the locals frequent this soft sand beach so there may or may not be parking in the lower parking lot and gives visitors easy access to the beach.... If the lower lot is full, visitors have to park on PCH 1 and walk down to the beach which is a 2 mile down (and hence a 2 back up walk) that I myself would not make with my equipment; but suprisingly I see lots of people do it.... every time I driven to the entrance of the beach, by pure luck, a car is leaving or there is plenty of room for my little buggy!! Yip Yip!!
This visit was like NO OTHER visit I had EVER made to Pfieffer State Beach. There was a wind blowing through that literally cause a dust storm of SAND PEBBLES nearly the entire time I was there. I braved through, but let me tell you....if you have ever experienced acupuncture while laying out on one of the most beautiful beaches in the world.... I JUST JOINED YOUR CLUB HONEY!!!! Holy moly! The sand was blowing so hard it felt like I was being attacked by bees....... I only stayed about 45 minutes and endured this beating, doing my best to tuck into the caves and use the beach cliffs to portect me. I covered my camera using my cap; it was in the low 60's and breezy so i was thankfully sporting a cap. The sandstorm forced me into crevassas I had never gone into for one reaason or another and I am SO SO in love with these images.... I am definitely happy I braved this very uncomfortable hour..... When I left there was not a crevass of my body that didn't host a grain of sand...... you'd think I was naked out on that beach, I had sand EVERYWHERE.... it took me over a week to get the sand out of my hair..... apparently campground showers don't have the pressure needed to get a the sand out of my long, thick locks!!
You can see the wind represented in most of these images, either in the water or blowing sand.... I love the results of this afternoon experience!!!
Check out the blowing sand....I had to get right down in it to capture this image...from eye level, with the sun as bright as it was I just couldn't capture the speed at which this sand was blowing so against my better judgement, and in dedication to capturing this adventure digitally, I dove head first into the sand and stayed there for about 45 seconds while I played with exposures.. I shot this at ISO 100 | 80/F 11 handheld. No filteration, but did enhance in PS6 for warmth. Needless to say, when I got back to the car my equipment and I were covered in sand.... I had sand in places sand JUST DOESN'T BELONG....in my ears, my nose, down my pants...under my nails...ugh! My camera was fairly protected with a scarf so it didn't end up needing the cleaning I thought it would need....but I DID!!!!!!
Borrowed from my California Travel Portfolio from a visit to Pfieffer Beach in December of 2012. After enjoying the travel blog, please enjoy my other portfolios.
Photo Tip: When shooting sunsets, trying moving the white balance setting on your camera's from flash to cloudy to daylight...slightly different hues are created within the camera when you do this --notice the sand. The blue image above has warmth (flash light balance setting) & the amber sky image above has a colder grey sand tone (cloudy light balance setting). I used Cokin plastic gradient colored filters in the sky. These images were taken within just a few minutes of one another....
I hope this helps excite you about the possibilities you can achieve with your DSLR's. I teach all of these techniques in my day, weekend, and week long workshops!! Be sure to sign up for my On-location Meet-Up Collective (free announcements of upcoming outtings sent by email with free registration on meetup.com at :
or check my website at:
www.foothillzphotographic.com ...................and click on workshops!!!
Pfieffer Cove at Pfieffer State Beach
The Pfieffer State Beach is different from other public beaches in that there are huge rock formations that block most of the beaches sunset views.... This cove located on the west side of the beach has rip tides and a current that prohibits swimming, but you'll often see many wading ankle deep.... there are many "climbing" opportunities on the rocks....which I don't typically do because it is procarious with my equipment, but due to the sand storm, I crawled up on them to block myself from the flying sand and get ABOVE the bulk of the flood of sand that was rushing across the beach. I LOVE the captures from atop the rock banks... so pretty... I am drawn into the motion of the waves and the odd texture of the rocks on this beach. They photograph different then they actually look....which is hard to explain. The definition in the rocks can be seen with the naked eye, but not appreciated, perhaps because it is usually shaded when I get to the beach for sunset peaking through the HOLE!!!
All Images on this blog are the sole copyright of Rachel Brockey
I captured this image in December of 2012. "Pfieffer Rox" has won (3) first place awards in international photograpy competitions, and has been included in an online e-book as a compilation of worldwide landscapes. The image has also won 3 international honorable mention awards, is my second highest scoring image on National Geographic's My Shot. This images happens to be one of my personal favorites... I'll divulge a little secret about this image; I photographed it in December because the sun literally sets in this hole and causes the water to look like fire as it rushes through.... I shot this image a bit earlier in the day when I was deciding on composition so I 'd know where to stake out my tripod (there can be 30-100 photographers and visitors standing around trying to get the magically sunset image so staking out real estate is essential...) The hole was never quite exposed to my liking, even with the enhancements of my HDR programs so I cut and paste piece of the foreground water into the center hole making it look like sunset clouds...then I colored them to complete the effect. To see additional works like this, please visit my Travel California portfolio after enjoying the travel blog updates.. shhhhhh, the clouds are a secret just between you and I...
Sunsets at this point are gorgeous.....off the cliffs, facing southwest.
Aside from sea caves, you'll find all kinds of cool driftwood on the beach to photograph... I suggest wearing closed toed shoes to this beach... it is riddled with river rocks that are hidden by sand, but are easy to stub your toe on... It is a beach NOT to be missed though...One of the prettiest in my opionion.
Sunset from the west side of Bixby Bridge.
Most, if not ALL visitors, capture this iconic bridge from the other side (the north side or in other words the side of the bridge we are looking at). On the opposite side of the bridge, or the west side which this images is captured from, there is a VERY small pullout. The drop off just beyond the pullout is significant so slow on the bridge, approach at a low speed and use a blinker... There is room for two vehicles.... (or for those who are interested in camping~there is plenty of room for a vehicle and a small tent). Once you've safely pulled into the outcrop, you'll need to climb up the little embankment, set a tripod (longer exposures) and wait...the sun throws off an incredible glow nearly any night of the year at this location. There are bushes and ice plant to help add foreground interest, and at this time of the evening, because many visitors are weary of driving along this stretch of Pacific Coast Highway after dark, there are few cars to contend with on the bridge. There is a chance however, of many being parked just on the other side of the bridge.
MAY 25th, 2014 LOBOS STATE PARK & RESERVE
My FAVORITE stop in the entire Big Sur area is:
Point Lobos State Park Reserve
.....what a place of simple beauty.....This stunning park offers dramatic rock formations, hiking trails, mystical tress, algae, moss, frequent whale sightings, playful seals & otters, and even occasional dolphin pods just off the point with hundreds of dolphins playing leap frog with one another......Today I was lucky enough to see a dow and her fawn grazing just a few feet off a heavily travel path-content and happy to exist amongst us. I think one of the draws for me is the intensity of color not only in the water but the enhanced in the plants, rocks and clay....it is a photographer's paradise and one of the most romantic places in the Sur. The path out to the point forms a simple loop..... the following images capture a swatch of the beauty!
Photographing Tips: Notice the slight difference in the images above. As mentioned above, these are techniques I cover in my photography workshops when we are having our "MANUAL MODE DAYS" where we never take our cameras out of fully manual mode setting. Both of these images were exposed using the same color balance...in other words they are IDENTICAL except for the motion effect. Image #1 on the left is frozen with a quick shutter speed. Both images are shot with an ISO od 160, but the image on the left was shot at 250/F11 while the image on the right was shot at 30/F22. At a 30th of a second, I have a few suds appearing frozen so that I don't completely lose that awesome effect, but with the slower shutter I enhanced the movement of the water breaking on the rock face. So easy......and achievable with the bracketing function available on most higher end DSLRs and many middle category cameras as well. I like both looks...... which is your favorite??
Come and practice these simple techniques and learn a bit more about your camera at a workshop this summer..... California and Aspen workshops scheduled!!!
Beach-goers shielded their eyes and skin against the painful sand pellets racing across the beach!
Humpback Whales In JUNE????? YES, YES, YES!!
So all morning long on the south side of the park, I was trying to catch flukes and dorsal fins from a family of humpback whales that were playing in the area just off of the point by a 1/4 mile or so....the flukes are SO SMALL at that distance and can barely be made out in my shots, but I was jumping up and down anyway because seeing a humpback this late in the season is like seeing a unicorn. I was elated!! The docent explained that there was SO MUCH plankton in the Montetey Bay area this year, that a larger than normal number of whales have hung back and not yet left on their migration. I saw many many blows, which looks like a small 5 second water fountains, and occur when they surface for air; so it was easily to follow them and I probably watched them for an hour or so.....but a few hours later, unbeknownist to me, there was a humpback RIGHT IN FRONT OF ME in the cove I was photographing in and I didn't even see it, until I started to post produce this image. I laughed and laughed.....
HOW DO YOU MISS A HUMPBACK WHALE RIGHT IN FRONT OF YOU FOR GOD SAKES?
Point Lobos State Natural Reserve is a magnet for nature and wildlife lovers the world around. This area contains headlands, coves and rolling meadows. The offshore area forms one of the richest underwater habitats in the world popular with divers. Wildlife includes seals, sea lions, sea otters and migrating gray whales (from December to May). Thousands of seabirds also make the reserve their home. Hiking trails follow the shoreline and lead to hidden coves.
I NEVER visit Big Sur without taking the north loop trail inside the reserve. I want to say the loop is about a half a mile..... it typically takes me about 5 hours to go all the way around but it can be walked briskly is 20 minutes with ease.... I think in all of the world, this is one of my FAVORITE places to spend a day..... it is also one of my favorite places to shoot the sunset in all of the Sur. I didn't get to stay and shoot the sunset, but I've included a couple of my images below from other visits to this point for all of you photographers out there. ALL of the sunset images were captured on my on-location photographic workshops. During my workshops I actually host both group lessons and one-on-one independent mentor time.....I share tips on filling shadows with accesory flashes and bounce equipment, filtration in and out of the field, shooting and freezing motion, composition and framing....we really tackle a lot in a week/weekend and typically shoot in manual or aperature priority the entire workshop depending on the situation we're in.
WHAT IS THAT ORANGE and GREEN FUSS?
A lichen (the fungus you see to the left and below on the rocks and tree branches) is a composite organism consisting of a fungus and a photosynthetic partner growing together in a symbiotic relationship. The morphology, physiology and biochemistry of lichens are very different from those of the isolated fungus and alga in culture. Lichens occur in some of the most extreme environments on Earth—arctic tundra, hot deserts, rocky coasts, and toxicslag heaps. However, they are also abundant as epiphytes on leaves and branches in rain forests and temperate woodland, on bare rock, including walls and gravestones, and on exposed soil surfaces. in otherwise mesic habitats.
Lichens are widespread and may be long-lived; however, many are also vulnerable to environmental disturbance, and may be useful to scientists in assessing the effects of air pollution, ozone depletion, and metal contamination.
Lichens have been used in making dyes and perfumes, as well as in traditional medicines.
It is estimated that 6% of Earth's land surface is covered by lichen.
BEAUTIFUL LANDSCAPES CAN ENHANCE YOUR LIVING SPACE & WORK SPACE. AND BE PERFECT FOR YOUR NEXT GIFT GIVING OCCASION....
I sincerely thank and appreciate all of you who have supported my art with a purchase of my photograpic work and humbly invite all of you to consider something special for you and yours..... My prices are listed under the "about" tab and I do extend discounts for cluster purchases. You can also make a purchase in my ETSY SHOP which hosts many of my works from the last 10 years of my art career. The following 3 images are from "previous" trips to the Big Sur, Central California Coast Region and are a respresentation of what you will find in my Etsy Shop. Please share my website and Etsy Shop's address with all those whom you feel might enjoy viewing my landscapes and other works.
To Purchase Go To My Etsy Shop:
SLOW DOWN AND SMELL THE CRISP OCEAN AIR !!!
I think the lesson I value most and that I have taken away from my photographic workshops is not limiting myself to shooting only at the beginning and end of each day...... while in a workshop we literally shoot from sunrise to 30 minutes after sunset, and sometimes beyond that.....making for a VERY athletic day....both of the images captured below as well as the images just above, were captured in the middle of the day which goes to show that direct sunlight can offer interesting subject matter even if somewhat void of shadows. While I was on this path, shooting all this beautiful scenery....I notice people, one right after another, walking by looking down at the ground as the chatted with whomever they were walking with, or looking in one direction and never stopping to "look back" or in the "opposite direction". The images below is what I captured while looking out at sea....there were four or five humpback whales blowing spouts and flapping their dorsal fins while I was shooting here.....one even breached but I didn't get it on camera...grrrrrr!!!! I waited and waited and of course the minute I turn around and walk further down the path I hear a crowd of onlookers cheering.... Of course. :) But, what I did want to point out, is looking "away" from the sea you catch all of the gorgeous trees you see above..... The beauty at this location is literally better than red velvet cheesecake. (My favorite dessert!!) Whether your a shooter or just visiting..... LOOK in all directions and you'll be blown away by what you see. I talk to photographers all the time and we all agree that we SEE the world differently than non-shooters.....but that does not mean non-shooters should miss out. Photographers, even when we DON'T have a camera in hand are often disecting every little corner, branch, bend in the road, contrast of color...and framing it in their mind as though their shooting it. If you do this...just in your regular day, and notice a old barn or shed, or bend in the road you've traveled a milllion times it really will take on a whole different appeal. TRY IT!!!
The two images below are my all time best sellers and happen to be taken in the same 5 feet of real estate at the end of the point at Point Lobos Reserve.... both have won first place in multiple competitions and earned honorable mentions in many international competitions. Each, when enlarge hold unbelievable clarity, even when printed on stretch canvas and are twice as colorful as you see here..... all of the works you see on this blog are for sale- prices are on my about page!
The above and below sunset at Point Lobos images were shot just moments from one another.
Many photographers feel that filters in the field are no longer necessary with the advancements in post production software but I could not disagree more.... I feel about this, exactly the way I feel about eating and basic health.... What you put in your body, and hense put into your post production programs, is what you get out.. Healthy in and you'll be healthy.... put fast food and junk food in and you'll be lacking in the health department.... I feel the more data, color and texture you have on your file to import into your software the better results you'll get out...... for those amatuer phtoographers who have a DSLR, Cokin plastic filters are a great and very inexpensive way to achieve this level of pop in the field.....glass filtration is always best....but not always the most practical.
A few more great images from this beautiful location
MAY 26th, 2014
Well, shoot me, I am a creature of habit...
I would love to bring you something new and different, but I just LOVE this park and had to come and enjoy it one more time before leaving the Big Sur area today... (Lover's Point Park on Ocean Avenue). I had captured an image a few years ago and selieum toned image ....and wanted to take another crack at it....so the first image is from this morning ( I LOVE IT), and the second is from one of my on-location workshops in December 2012..... just before sunrise....in both cases.. There is a beautiful glow that happens a few minutes prior to sunrise and about 20 minutes after sunset in the sky, it is like a iridescnt pop ~ I love shooting during this couple of minutes in the morning and evening. For this image, I got down into the water...you can see some of the pools in the foreground of this shot if you look closely but they blend into the sand.. I took this shot with a tripod so that I had both hands free. It is shot at ISO800, 1/250 F11 - 5.6. It's a bit grainy because of my settings, but I wanted to freeze the motion of the clouds as much as possible so that I could use Photomatix HDR to blend a few exposures together.... and fill in the deeply shaded areas caused by the light starting to trickle over a retaining wall just behind me. (There are a set of stairs that lead down to this very private beach, look for them on the west end of the park, there are also stairs that face north- that go down to a wide open beach- which is where I was standing for the second image.)
These two images were taken about 100 yards from one another.
.... there is just so much versitility a Lover's Point Park for subject content, you just can't beat it.... these two shots don't resemble one another in any way....and not only because of the full color vs monochrome look but, the lack of vegetation in the one above.... The ice plant is very thick all along Ocean Avenue....grows naturally like a weed, but is just beautiful as it changes colors throughout the year. In the winter and spring is it yellow and bright green....in the summer turning to dark green and finally colors of gold, red and orange in the fall. The Cypress and Juniper trees in Carmel are gorgeous.....both of these images are looking back toward Monterey Bay. There are really cool wharfs, an aquarium, lots of whale and other ocean life (glass bottom boat) tours that all leave from MB~~
“If you want to conquer the anxiety of life, live in the moment, live in the breath.”
― Amit Ray, Om Chanting and Meditation
I decided today to visit the Carmelite Monestary
.... I'd always wanted to stop, but never took the time.. Lately, I've been on a bit of a soul searching journey, which is in part why I am taking this photography sabbatical. When i walked into the sanctuary there was nobody there...just me. And I sat there for an hour, maybe two just taking in the beauty of the chapel and meditating in quiet thought.....and prayer. It was a freeing experience. It was so quiet, and not a soul came in, even though it is open for the public. It is about 500 feet or so just short of the entrance to Lobos State Reserve and has only a small wooden sign posted at the entry. It is unassuming and looks as though it is NOT open for public use. If you look to the east, as you come upon a beach that often is pretty crowded along highway 1, and is the only public beach between Rio and the State Reserve you're there....just look though the dense trees for the steeple. There are beautiful placards showing the stations of the cross and the interior architectural details and moldings are extraordinary
A blessed place...I enjoyed my visit very much!
For more intimiate information about the daily life and contributions of the monestary please visit:
27601 Highway 1, Carmel, California. 93923
I've decided before heading to Yosemite National Park today, I'd make a quick drive through 17 mile drive.....
THREE HOURS LATER....(note to all: there is no such thing as a quick jont through 17 Mile Drive; it is just too beautiful not to stop... and after my peaceful morning at the Carmelite Monestary, I really wasn't in a hurry to go anywhere........ I allowed myself the time to just enjoy my surroundings. Living in Los Angeles, and owning a business for the last 15 years has been an incredibly fulfilling experience, and I look forward to continuing that journey after my short "mid-life adventure"..... but to own a business means to live the business. Many deadlines to meet, marketing is a full time responsibility in and of itself, and overseeing the work.....always takes a little more time than anticipated as new means and methods are continually being developed along the way... for me, this photographic journey is a step away from all of that responsibility..... time to unwind. I know I've talked about wanting so desperately to be published, and share my artwork with a larger audience, and in large part that IS my focus --- but I realized today, when I'd given myself 30 minutes to rush through this drive....that my habits are going to have to change and I am going to have to work at making this chapter of my life all that I hope it to be. No deadlines, no appointments, no daily reminders on my phone beeping at me and telling me to be somewhere in 2 hours.... just time without deadlines.
Well, I have decided it is time to hit the road....3:25pm
have 4 hours to get to Yosemite National Park, and I desperately want to get there before dark. I am staying in a campground about 13 miles outside the park and I have no idea where I am going....I am excited to get this journey started. I've made a few mixes of my favorite songs, and as mentioned earlier have downloaded a couple of steamy romance audiobooks that should keep my drives interesting at best. I am looking forward to the 200+ mile drive....
May 27, 2014
Good morning.... I rolled into my campsite last night around 7:30pm, just before it got dark..... for those of you who don't know, I am car camping for the remainder of my journey. I made a 12-layer bed in the back of my car to sleep on in lieu of sleeping in a tent because the course I have set for myself will put me in bear country for a good portion of my journey...and I am just too much of a chicken to sleep in the tent out in the elements and amongst wildlife by myself. My bed is made up of 4 thick yoga mats, an inflatable backpacker's pad, two down comforters folded into fours and a sleeping bag on top of that...over the top, oh yeah.....but I needed the yoga mats in Aspen, as well as the linens..so it just worked out that I made good use of them on my way. in order to extend my time on the road for an entire month, it was imparative that I make this trip as inexpensive as possible ; so I have gotten very creative .
Because Yosemite is vastly on national forest land, many people who visit the park in self contained motorhomes or trailers simply pull off on small public forest roads because it is free. I would love to do this but I have chose to book ahead and am, in fact, in campgrounds for the majority of my trip allowing me to emjoy the comorts of hot showers and toilets, bear boxes, picnic tables, fire pits, and small general stores....... It is my plan to stay in a hotel once a week to launder my clothes, take a REAL hot shower, and possibly even swim or soak in the jacuzzi while catching up on my Facebook entries and email.
I was told that if I didn't book my campgrounds weeks or months in advance, there was no way I would find an open space; but I am here to tell you, I am the ONLY PERSON waking up this morning in a VERY, VERY remote campground except for my amazing neighbors, Marsha and Paul. They are both retired and actually live in a nearby town 15 minutes from here. They love this campground so much that they come out here in their 32" trailer from time to time to get a change of scenerey, and listen to the beautiful brook that is a few feet behind us. Paul fly fishes nearly every day while Marsha enjoys reading, relaxing and playing with their dogs. I am happy to report that Paul and Marsha are in fact here for the entire week and parked in the lot next to me, which gives me great comfort. Paul is a published writer ( Trona, Bloody, Trona and Love Poems with Attitude and Other Ramblings). They were gracious enough to take my shampoos and food items and store them in their trailer for me last night, as there is a SERIOUS bear problem here in Yosemite.
This is the first time I've taken a short break from my architectural photography career. I have been in business for myself since 1999, and working full time as a photographer since 1990. When I took the first steps into entreprenuership, I originally worked along side my husband, who already had some experience as a small business owner. Sadly, after a few amazing years, the strains that were thrust upon us after the tragedies of 2002's World Trade Center bombing and financial fallout that ensued for America post 911 hurt our business, and in part led to our divorce in 2006. Since then, I have been a sole proprietor operating a small firm with 2 - 15 employees that is built on documenting and visually supporting large capital development projects with as-built photographic and video based documentation. (www.vantagepointglobal.net)
Owning a small business fits the very stitich of who I am. It gives me freedom to navigate the twists and bends in the road the way I see fit. It challenges me to take risks, and forces me to acquire new skills everyday. I have a passion for growth and learning. The time required of a business owner to massage, oversee and manage a growing business is not something that can be taken lightly. To be a small business owner means you eat, drink and sleep your business and for anyone who says otherwise they are not being honest. Maintaining balance in life, in my opinion, between work and play is the sweetest and most imporatant virtue to behold as a business owner. Family, friends, exercise, laughter, relaxation and community involvement are essential to a healthy-happy life. Last year I was named one of the National Assiciation of Profession Women's "Businesswomen of the Year for 2013". With this humbling milestone, and the graduation of my only daughter from college in May with high honors... there could not be a better time for me to embark on a summer away. Allowing myself this time to celebrate these milestones, explore, and strategize about what I truly desire my future to look like has been a bold move and far removed from the balls to the wall channels I exist in. At the end of May, I put everything I own into storage, and rented a beautiful loft inside a large home in Aspen, Colorado that I will use as a home base. Aspen lives in me; it is a tranquil, art-rich community, that is bustling with activity that changes from season to season. I can't wait to get there....and will be talking much more about why I chose Colorado for this new chapter of my life later in my blog....
I have always believed that we wake up each morning with a new section of life's canvas to color upon. It is my belief that if we are good with the world and focused on our own spiritual walks, while being the best people we feel we can be.....that life gives us an entire palette of colors to throw on that canvas... "WE" design and create our lives! That's not to say that a circumstances won't come along and write with a black marker all over our pretty canvases, but in the morning I truly believe a piece of the canvas will be wiped clean again, and each day we get to begin anew.
"YOU HAVE GOT TO BE KIDDING ME"
Campground bears, as they are coined here at Yosemite, visit the campgrounds daily, as well as every single night. They LITERALLY rip doors off of vehicles and knock out windows looking for food. I am so glad Paul and Marsha were gracious enough to hold anything that smelled like food for me. Apparently the bears do not break into motorhomes and large trailers..... mostly just smaller vehicles LIKE THE ONE I AM SLEEPING IN. They also rip open coolers, ice chests...anything with a smell.....
See for yourselves if you don't believe my little tale:
Last night as I prepared my camp, I took the large items out of my vehicle, including a small step ladder to access my cargo container on the roof of my car and a small folding beach chair that I brought to campfire with.....and quickly made up my bed as it was getting dark and there was not a single light for miles of this campground.... let me paint the picture for you.....
I am staying in the SoQuel Campground..... It is gorgeous...absolutely gorgeous. I am surrounded by some of the tallest trees I have ever seen and they go on for miles and miles. Every so often, there are groves of huge Sequoias growing in clusters like families, and the forest floor is lush with ground cover. To get here, you must drive 5 miles on a small back road out of the town of Oakhurst, up a mountain pass, and then another 3 miles down a dirt road that has a significant number of ruts in it; due to snow melt I imagine. With very little signage, and a few roads jetting off in different directions not much smaller than the main road~ not only giving me cause to question whether I was even on the main road, but making it feel as though I was literally driving my little city-slicker hybrid into the deep darkening forest with no idea on whether I'd ever find my way out...and NO there is not cell service out here.....I lost it about a mile or two outside of Oakhurst where it was spotty at best.... I traveled at 2- 10 miles per hour most of the way to the campground once I reached the dirt portion of the road to avoid the ruts......
So there I was laying in the dark as I tried to fall asleep, a little scared because I was so far out in the forest and it was oil-black dark outside...a black I haven't seen since my darkroom days in the photography lab.. its times like this, I wish in this chapter of my life, I had a strong man laying next to me to help watch over and protect me: but there isn't ............and I've got this....this is MY time.
I can't remember the last time I was so out of my element....going from Phoenix, to Las Vegas, to Los Angeles, to Orange County--I have been emersed in bright lights and cityscapes for far too long... the campground's bathrooms were quite far from the site I was designated to be in, so I knew I was in for the count.....after awhile, I looked out my window and saw clusters of stars, thousands of them, millions even clustered in the sky twinkling like fireflies... and it helped me to relax. It reminded me of when i was a kid, and my mom & dad and sister would go camping in a motorhome for weeks at a time in the summer. I use to stare out of the window unti I couldn't hold my eyes open any longer. At home, they could make me go to bed at 8pm which was always my bedtime, but in the motorhome.... I could crack open the curtains and just watch the stars twinkle. .....turns out, my heart was racing too fast to sleep so I started to look at this great phone app I downloaded about the park...an APP I loved with maps and pictures of Yosemite Park that was designed for photographers, something I am seriously considering doing myself with all of the experiences and traveling I am blessed to do......and I started replaying some of the day in my mind.....and ALL THE SUDDEN.....sheer panic raced through me. So much so that I could literally "hear "my heart pounding. As I was unpacking my vehicle, and ridding it of anything that smelled remotely like food, I remembered that I had put TWO, yes count them, TWO PayDay candybars on the roof of my car that I'd found in the front seat. The reason this is comical, is I never buy candybars.
I had stopped in a little town to get batteries and gas along the way and kids were giving away candybars to anyone who donated money to their sports driven, donation-only car wash so I let them wash my buggy.......and ended up with TWO candybars on my front seat that I had forgotten about. Well, crap!!! There I was, in the pitch black night, in an area that was renowned for bears breaking into cars to eat anything smelling remotely of food and I, being the unexperienced camper that I am, decided to bait them with candybars..... there I am with barely enough room to sit up because of how many layers this awesome bed has in the back of my car.... and I am trying to figure out how I am going to get to the other side of the car's roof, to grab these dog gone candy bars. There is SO MUCH stuff in the passenger seat and on the passengers side of the car all the way to the hatchback, that there was no way for me to roll down a window and reach outside..... I knew the only thing i could do was literally get out of the car, walk around it in the pitch black of night, and grab these candy bars.... and oh yes, get this, the wind has kicked up and my car was shaking. I wasn't sure whether it was the wind or a bear so I laid back down trying to hide below the windows.... as I recall the events of last night, I sit here laughing but it was definitely not a laughing matter last night I'll tell you...... the noise from the pine trees sounded like a train rushing by, and I knew it was carrying away the smell of these delicious candy bars. Not funny.... after about 10 minutes I got dressed, I was barely wearing anything because the only way for sleeping bags to work is to get down to your skimmies....and I jumped out ran around the car, grabbed these stupid candy bars, ran back around and closed the door so loud that if there was any question that my doors could sustain sheer forced being closed, I proved they could... so there I was with two KING SIZED PayDay Candybars and then I started thinking oh crap...... bears break INTO cars here, and literally rip off doors to get to food so as fast as I could I ate not one but two king sized candybars......ummmm not a good idea to eat that much sugar right before you are planning to go to sleep...
The moral of this story..... if you are donating money to a kids car wash, don't take the free give-a-ways....IT'S NOT WORTH IT!!!!! And no, I never did go to sleep last night...I just stared at the twinkling stars waiting to be attacked by a bear.
MAY 27, 2014 Hello 4:15am......
If people were meant to pop out of bed, we’d all sleep in toasters. Jim Davis
I don't know how or why, perhaps swim team in the morning as a kid, or archery practice before school as I got older.....who knows but I have always been a morning person. I wake up about 30 minutes before the sun rises without an alarm clock and it is nearly impossible for me to go back to sleep...however, when I am a good hour outside the Yosemite Park, with only a few sunrises on my schedule, I set an alarm.....so that by 4:15am I would be rolling down this incredible harry dirt road, with the same roads jetting off to the left and the right...trying to find my way out of the forest, hoping not to hit a deer, elk, or bear as I head down this mountain in pitch back darkness. I never did fall asleep last night....the sugar from the candybars and my fear of the dark got the best of me. Even with my high beams, it still looked black out... my heart was in my throat all the way down the hill until I found the main highway....by that time I was exhausted and almost just parked on the side of the road to wait for first morning's light, but there is a determination that lives inside a photographer on shoot days that cannot be intimidated....so I ventured on and I am so glad I did. My first stop was a little ways into the park...a stop called "Swringing Bridge"... Oh my gosh, it is beautiful in the morning. Make this a first stop if you get the opportunity to visit this park! There are restrooms, ample picnic tables for breakfast...it is glorious
The Magic Hour
There are a few beautiful moments in the morning when the sun has fully risen over the horizon when this beautiful blue light touches everything in its path, and makes the earth glow a little brighter than seems real. It turns greens and yellows irridescent and casts deep shadows that enhance the depth of everything it touches...or in a photographer's case...alll things it doesn't touch as well. The above image was captured around 6 am give or take...and I was the only one in the entire park to see it from this vantage point. Nobody showed up to hike, photograph, gaze...it was just me and a couple of chipmunk's that didn't pay it any mind as if they'd seen it a million times before and had more interest in playing leap frog with one another than to stare at the upper Yosemite Falls with me.
I am dumbfounded to tell you that in one of the most famous, of all of the national parks in the United States, I was ALONE nearly the entire morning.....there was not a single person at this particular stop which ON MY PHONE APP, declared it to be the prime place to experience sunrise in Yosemite.... finally two photographers who were traveling together from Vermont showed up, but until then 7:30a or so.... I felt like I had a private pass to the park, an e-ticket ride for a photographer!!!!
I captured this incredible image under the bridge, shooting back toward the parking lot, for anyone desiring to capture one just like it..... there is a trail on the opposite side of the lot....(you'll see it if you walk around the bridge).
Lose an hour in the morning, and you will be all day hunting for it. ~Richard Whately
Lower & Upper Yosemite Falls....from Swinging Bridge Lookout you can see both of the falls from different vantage points... I took time to walk the paths....cautious to watch for bears as rangers had danger signs posted everywhere....which totally freaked me out....of course, when you're looking for bears every brustle of the trees is cause for jumping left and right....certain they're out there just waiting for you to walk into their little trap.....being that is it spring, of course I have the added concern of accidently walking between a mother and her cubs. From my understanding, even if it is accidental, if you are caught between the mother and her babies, you are in deep trouble....the National Parks prohibit the use or even carrying bear spray, and though I seriously thought about not complying, the only thing I have for protection is a fog horn, which equates to a little canister of NOISE.... like that is going to protect me... but some says the noise is enough to make most bears bolt.
By 8:00a, there were people starting to spill into the park, and it gave me the confidence I needed to take off on a couple mile hike with my gear in a backpack to explore the grandier of the rock formations and woodsy terrain.... the path I took followed the river that carried the water that had just fallen to the earth from the much higher elevations of the Upper & Lower Yosemite Falls. The water was freshly thawed snowmelt so it was a clear as could be. I could make out the smallest of grasses and rocks on the river bottom. So beautiful..... AND BEHOLD I KNEW IT, I KNEW IT, I KNEW IT!!! My first encounter with a bear and I am by myself, I don't see a single soul any longer on the foot trail either ahead of or behind me as I kept stopping to photograph......and wasn't paying enough attention to the foot traffic... I froze. They say you should make yourself look big and yell to make noise when you see a black bear, others say just stand there, they'll leave.....a thousand images and thoughts streamed through my head ...... I wanted so badly to photograph him but I just couldn't move. For what seemed like 30 minutes, that was realistically more like 30 seconds we just starred at each other, each waiting for the other to make a move. He finally started inching toward me very slowly but non-agressively; I about fainted. I thought after all the time I had spent worrying about being mauled by a bear, it was actually going to happen.... He was about 50 feet from me when we started and maybe 35 ft when he stopped. I could tell he was sniffing the air to see if I had food on me. Eventually after a minute or so, he just walked away. It wasn't long after that, a photographer name Peter Coskun walked up, who was from the Sacramento area.... I told him what had just happened and asked if we could stay together. He abliged, and thankfully had bear spray on him...
We continued up the path, trying to get to the base of Lower Yosemite Falls by 8:30 a as the app in my phone said that is the time a rainbow forms each morning due tot he sun's angle of axis late May/ early June.....we made it, but we not lucky enough to see the rainbow....just not meant to be I suppose. The trail to the falls is well marked and an easy hike.....the smell of the woodsy, forest type terrain smelled delicously good, with a faint smell of nuts and honeysuckle....there are quite a few adventurous hikers that jump from rock to rock at the base of the falls and climb along her edges....though I did not see anyone try and walk under neath her at the base....... The water was cold, the mist kept sprinkling my lenses glass so I spent a lot of time wiping my lens ....(don't forget your lens cloths). The sound of the falls roared...and you could make out the sound of the Upper Yosemite Falls just above the lower....... in my opinion, a great place to start your day when in this park. As the sun rose, the scene before you changed so dramatically... I swear I stopped every 100 ft to shoot something... Here are a few of my favorites from the hike.... Notice how SMALL the people are in the image with the trees below....
By the time I was ready to leave the lower falls, Josh had already left. I learned he had recently been published in Arizona Highways and was in Yosemite working on captures for a photo contest back home. Thankfully, there were plenty of tourists milling about on the trails, so I felt condifent about walking alone. A mile or two into my return trip along the path, I decided to take a short cut across the meadow so that I wouldn't be alone in the treeline again, where I had come across the bear. It just so happened when I got to that portion of the trail, I again found myself without the company of other tourists. Having people around always proved to be a double edged sword for me. I didn't want people in my images, but I wanted them close enough that t it detour bears from my proximity.
(Below) There are so many photo opps in this lush field....it is beautiful and thick with lush tall grasses and widlflowers.... I found this old piece of wood laying in the shade and thought it might add a little interest to the foreground of my shot.... This image is one of my favorites from the morning....as is the one to the left, with the people in the foreground showing just how majestic these rock formations truly are.... I will admit I have admired images I have seen from this park for many years now, but nothing can prepare you for the "sheer size" of these rock faces. The are extraordinary examples of the mysteries of our great earth.
Upper & Lower Yosemite Falls
Yosemite Falls is the highest measured waterfall in North America. I am so glad to be here in late spring to catch the falls at their peak with the snowmelt thaw. Yosemite only got 20% of its normal snowfall this year as the historic drought continues in California, but it is still grand...The total 2,425 feet (739 m) from the top of the upper fall to the base of the lower fall qualifies Yosemite Falls as the sixth highest waterfall in the world.
Upper Yosemite Fall: The 1,430-foot (440 m) plunge alone is among the twenty highest waterfalls in the world. Trails from the valley floor and down from other park areas outside the valley lead to both the top and base of Upper Yosemite Fall. The upper fall is formed by the swift waters of Yosemite Creek, which, after meandering through Eagle Creek Meadow, hurl themselves over the edge of a hanging valley in a spectacular and deafening show of force.
Middle Cascades: Between the two obvious main plunges there are a series of five smaller plunges collectively referred to as the Middle Cascades. Taken together these account for a total drop of 675 feet (206 m), more than twice the height of the Lower Fall. Because of the narrow, constricted shape of the gorge in which these drops occur and the lack of public access, they are rarely noted. Most viewpoints in the valley miss them entirely. Several vantage points for the cascades are found along the Yosemite Falls trail. Several hikers climbing down from the trail towards the cascades have required an expensive helicopter rescue due to steep and slippery terrain and features.
Lower Yosemite Fall: The final 320-foot (98 m) drop adjacent to an accessible viewing area, provides the most-used viewing point for the waterfalls. Yosemite Creek emerges from the base of the Lower Fall and flows into the Merced River nearby. Like many areas of Yosemite the plunge pool at the base of the Lower Fall is surrounded by dangerous jumbles of talus made even more treacherous by the high humidity and resulting slippery surfaces.
Information shared from Wikipedia Online.
’Tis sweet as the day begins to dawn,
When the lark her song is singing,
To wander at will through the grassy lawn
Where fresh flowers around are springing.
’Tis sweet at that solemn hour to go
O’er the rocky slope, all alone,
Where the scattering streamlets freely flow...
’Tis well to inhale the earthly gale,
As it sweeps the green hill’s side...
Or to look on the wood in its leafy pride,
In the glen or on the grove, the dawn is fair,—
Morning is beautiful every where!
~Thomas Furlong, "Morning Meditations"